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Of Mice & Men bring unfamiliar sound

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In the last six years that post-hardcore vocalist Austin Carlile has been around, the man has definitely made a name for himself – or rather, a sound.

A sound so distinct that even he may not be able to measure up to it anymore.

Carlile, now in his fifth year fronting Of Mice & Men, had tremendous pressure to deliver something great on the band’s third studio album, after the dramatic departure of clean vocalist Shayley Bourget in February 2012.

Early leaks of new material post-Bourget caused speculation amongst devoted fans, when the lack of any clean vocals was very clear.

However, after stand-in touring vocalist Aaron Pauley (ex-Jamie’s Elsewhere) was confirmed to have gained a permanent spot in the band, faith in the original sound was restored, along with even more pressure put on Pauley, by fans that held Bourget so dearly to their hearts.

After the release of two separate singles over the winter, first “You’re Not Alone,” a heavier toned song compared to previous tracks but nonetheless keeping the uplifting theme that lives in many OM&M songs, and “Bones Exposed,” the second single and the first song that features Pauley singing entire verses, fans were able to get the feel for a more radio-friendly version of the band.

This time around, Of Mice & Men chose to stray from their original producer, Joey Sturgis and go with multi-platinum award-winning producer David Bendeth, who brings with him a successful track record ranging from pop-punk act Paramore, to metalcore outfit Killswitch Engage.

Although the promising sound of Pauley’s melodic voice, paired with improved guitar riffs written by Alan Ashby (rhythm) and Phil Manansala (lead) create a catchy balance, it does not quite do the band’s claim of  “new balance” much justice.

The weathering of six years of screaming is unfortunately very apparent in Carlile’s voice on several of the tracks, mostly on “Feels Like Forever” and “Break Free,” and when listeners hear this and come to the realization that the lyric material has gone a bit more generic since the departure of the band’s main lyricist, it becomes a tad bit difficult to call this record an improvement, or even a change at all, for that matter.

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