With Austin Carlile’s departure at the end of 2016 due to health issues, the future Of Mice and Men looked grim. Carlile’s falsetto vocals, combined with the band’s heavy fast-pace metal-core instrumentation, helped them initially stand out within the scene, rising alongside similar bands Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce the Veil. Without this fundamental part of the band, it seemed collapse was imminent, but thanks to bassist and now current frontman Aaron Pauley, their future seems saved. Originally supporting as backing vocals, Pauley now takes centre stage in their latest album Defy. Being teased with various singles such as ‘Back To Me’ and ‘Warzones’ throughout 2017, the album exceeds expectations and introduces audiences to a new mixture of old and new OMAM.

The album bounces between heavier metalcore elements in songs such as ‘Warzones’ and ‘Instincts’, relying on thicker and faster paced guitar riffs and aggressive vocals; and lighter more melodic heavy-punk “singalone” types, such as ‘Vertigo’ and ‘On The Inside’. The lightest of which is the acoustic finale and most poignant song on the album ‘If We Were Ghosts. The band dedicated the song to the late Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, who was found dead in July 2017. As Aaron Pauley said in an interview with Loudwire: ‘I never did get to say goodbye’ and so he dedicated the song to Chester himself, conveying through lyrics that the two would hopefully meet again.

Pauley’s new vocal tone offers a new element to the band, drawing them closer to other modern metalcore outfits such as We Came As Romans and Memphis May Fire. This may seem, especially to older fans, as a negative, but its result in the song ‘Unbreakablecannot be denied. This song stands out as a prime example of their development, with guitar riffs that echo older OMAM songs supplemented with a new vocal style, offering a unique contrast to their original. It has quickly risen to become the staple song of the album, even prior to the albums official release, with fans ranking the song No. 47 in US Rock Charts upon it’s single release, and placing it as the third most popular song of all time on this Spotify page.

There is little to criticise, despite perhaps the ordering of songs. To begin the album, OMAM choose Defy, and although still a remarkable song, its intro with the gradual guitar build lacks the punch to break in the new album. A more significant introduction in the following track Instincts, with its fast and powerful drum and guitar intro, may have proved more potent.

Regardless, Defy is a breakthrough album that sets a good foundation for the next era of OMAM. It’s mixture of old and new, as well as heavy and light, and both add to its impact within the scene. Although not their best work, it comes very close. To play on the Carling Beer tagline, ‘It’s good, but it’s not quite Carlile!’ – It’s difficult to even label this an OMAM album, simply due to the radical change in vocals, but if we were to, it would be placed as another chart-topping success that ranks highly among their previous works.