It’s never a bad idea to slightly reinvent yourself from time to time. Restructure, retool, and reintroduce. Doing this helps to redefine who and what you are, as to never pigeonhole yourself into one stale category. The events that could lead to such a transformation could be of ones own choice, or other uncontrollable situations. In reality though, it’s not the path that counts, but the end result. Of Mice & Men have definitely been through a multitude of changes over the years, and due to that have had to reinvent themselves a few times over. The biggest change of late came with the (second) departure of founding member and vocalist, Austin Carlile. With both personal health issues, and conflicts between himself and the band, it was inevitable that a change was to come. Stepping up to the plate of frontman duties was bassist/clean vocalist Aaron Pauley. After what seemed like an album or two of trying to really figure out what Of Mice & Men were supposed to sound like, Pauley’s new role, and the bands refreshed sense of direction, it seems like this is exactly what the band needed. Defy is exactly what the fans needed.
The album begins with the title track “Defy”. A song remincent of The Flood or Restoring Force. A palm muted guitar swiftly kicks into a full onslaught of the band hammering through your eardrums in defiant glory. The song is fast and heavy, without feeling to intense or dark. Pauley shows he has quite the range with his screams (his cleans were already known to be quite stellar). The breakdown hits hard with Pauley screaming “I refuse to march into an early grave”, giving the listener a bold sense of a defiance of their own. It gives you a sense that no matter what stands in your way, or tries to hold you back, you will also defy till the bitter end.
“Back To Me” was one of the initial tracks to show the world what Of Mice & Men would sound like with Aaron Pauley taking over Carlile’s role. The song itself leans more towards a straight up rock song, with that added edge of post hardcore, providing a sound that Pauley’s cleans fit so fantastically. The overall feel to the song and the lyrics is one of hope and positivity. The message of the song seems to say that no matter what hardships you may face, you must strive to remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. This was a strong introduction to what the future held for Of Mice & Men.
“Unbreakable” was the first single from Defy, as well as the first song the world would ever hear with Aaron Pauley taking over full vocal duties. This song more than proved that he had what it takes be the lead of what was already a strong band, and if there were any doubts that he could fill those shoes they were quickly swept away. The song was heavy, intense, and gave the fans exactly what they were hoping for after a poor taste that had been left in the mouth of some with Cold World.
One of the softer songs on the album comes with “Vertigo”. Do not take that as a bad thing for one moment, because it is also one of the strongest songs of the whole LP. Pauley truly shines with his incredible vocals soaring high above the beautiful sounding instrumentation. As previously stated Pauley is very well suited for these more rock-esque tracks due to his amazing sounding voice and vocal range, which perhaps is what was missing on similar tracks that had Carlile at the forefront.
“Money” is easily one of the biggest surprises of the album. For those that are unaware (due to perhaps living under a rock, or being one who truly knows nothing about the origins of modern day rock and metal music), this is a cover of Pink Floyd’s 1973 hit of the same name. One thing that makes it such a surprise addition to the album is the song that was chosen to be covered in the first place. An absolutely amazing song from one of the greatest rock bands of all time for sure; just not an obvious choice. Another reason it may have come as a slight shock is one might question if using a cover song as a standard track on an album that is to be basically a bands rebirth is the best idea. Regardless this is a more than solid rendition of the song and doesn’t feel out of place. They stayed true to their own sound, without sacrificing the beauty of the original.
“Warzone” was the third single released from Defy, and what a tune it is. This is possibly the heaviest song on the entire album, and done with such vigor and finesse. It does exactly what any mosh-inducing song should do; hits hard, instills you with an explosive rush of rage and adrenaline, and has every beat needed to headbang and kick to your hearts delight. It does have a surprise breakdown that would possibly be lighter than some would like, but in that moment of mosh, although not the intention of the lyric, it does remind you to ‘Just Breath’.
The album closer, “If We Were Ghosts” is a somber one. Being on the softer side, it presents a slow pace with lyrics that speak to not being able to say goodbye to someone before their passing. A sentiment that many could sympathize with. It is sure to bring a tear to the eye of some, but in a way that you’ll be able to connect with the song on a more emotional level. The song promises to leave its mark, and that is exactly what a closing track should do.
Sometimes a reinvention is exactly what is needed. To hit that restart button and see what comes of it. When it comes to a band like Of Mice & Men it is proving to be the best move yet. With a multitude of member changes and new sound directions (don’t worry though…they’re still YDG’n), it feels as if with Defy, they have finally found who they truly are. This album will connect both new and older fans. It brings back some of that heaviness that may have been lacking on the last album or two, but with Pauley taking over the full array of singing, the music itself feels more accessible as a whole. Did they reinvent the wheel with this album? Nope. But what they did do was release a more than solid album, with some insanely good tunes on it. Of Mice & Men are back with rock ‘n’ roll vengeance!