Whether fans of “core” music want to admit it or not, the audience and reach of their beloved genre and bands are incomparable to more straight edged rock and metal. That is to say that the allure of radio broadcasts, background music for sports highlights and award shows have a much wider appeal to the mainstream. This onus then places bands in precarious situations as they attempt to maintain the balance between keeping their old fanbase happy while bringing in new fans from across the globe. Metal outfit Of Mice & Men have found themselves in this situation for the past few years as their last outing, Restoring Force, saw them drift away from their metalcore sound into the realm of rock and nu-metal to high praise while drawing longtime fan disdain. Two years later, the band has returned with a follow-up as their highly anticipated new album, Cold World is set to be released. The lingering question though – does the record continue to shift further and further away from their old sound or truly embody what the band have been aiming for over the past few years?
Opening up the record is “Game of War”, which relies on the utilization of a deep and broody, yet atmospheric induced aura created via a blend of simplistic keys, subtle and building snares and a repetitive sounding guitar line. Accompanied by a softer sung, yet crooning vocal approach, one would be led to believe the intro is either relatively short or picks up halfway through – neither of which actually happen. This use of a calmer and ambient opener will leave listeners chomping at the bit for crunchy riffs, pulsating drumming and massive breakdowns, and while “The Lie” offers a bit of a ramp up in sound and harkens back to the older style that helped thrust Of Mice & Men into the spotlight, it lacks that extra oomph to push it into the memorable realm. “Real” continues showcasing the band’s confused direction as they opt for a radio-friendly rock sound that yet again, lacks any sort of memorability and leaving a sinking feeling with listeners, almost as if it was a throwaway song. That isn’t to say the aforementioned tracks, or the rest of the record isn’t worthy of being called music, but when compared to the band’s previous work, there’s a feeling of an identity crisis and it’s more prevalent than ever on Cold World.
That being said, there are moments, however brief, of a stronger, clearer focus in sound and approach, displayed prominently by the brilliant “Like A Ghost”. Not only does this track ramp up the tempo and harness one of their strongest riffs, it’s home to the best chorus and singing-screaming approach on the record. “Away” and “Transfigured”, the album’s final two songs are further examples of the capable and coherent sound that Of Mice & Men clearly want to move towards as they’re more intricately woven leading to a different sound compared to the radio friendly or nu-metal Korn and Slipknot-influenced vibes. This is where the dilemma and the two biggest issues with the tracks that make up the entirety of Cold World lie; they either overstay their welcome by being far too long or are overly influenced by other bands coming across unoriginal, ending up on the emotionless and boring end of the spectrum. The end result is an album that lacks a true direction, underwhelming almost everyone who at one point used to enjoy the band’s output.
Of Mice & Men seemingly was lost in a forest with multiple branching paths and instead of picking one specific way, the band ventured partly into each path coming back to the initial fork. Due to this, Cold World comes across as an amalgamation of sounds and styles as it desires to be a rock, nu-metal and metalcore album all in one. The end result is a less than memorable 13 track (11 if you ignore the two interludes) that tries too hard to capture the essence that made other bands special, resulting in the band themselves losing their own identity, thus leaving a record as true as any to its name – a cold, empty and lifeless world.