[28th January 2014]
01. Public Service Announcement
02. Feels Like Forever
03. Bones Exposed
04. Would You Still Be There
05. Glass Hearts
06. Another You
07. Break Free
08. You Make Me Sick
09. Identity Disorder
10. You’re Not Alone
11. Space Enough To Grow
Of Mice & Men have done something special with Restoring Force, creating what is arguably the best example of tepid, inoffensive, assembly line metal you will hear coming out of Rise Records all month.
Restoring Force marks a shift from the standard metalcore fare of the band’s first two albums to metalcore with overt nu-metal influences. This is hardly a dramatic stylistic reinvention, but it is nevertheless notable for being one of the first albums to resurrect the tired and true formula that bands like Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, and Trapt rode to great success a decade ago.
Make no mistake; it is a formula that Of Mice & Men have got down to a science. It is sure to bring them continued success with their target audience and expand their fanbase. The question is then, dear reader, could Restoring Force be worth your time and/or money? Not even a little.
At thirty-eight minutes in length, it’s a somewhat brief affair. Each song clocks in at about three and half minutes, with only “Bones Exposed” edging over the four-minute mark. The album swaggers out of the gate with three convincing tracks in a row – “Public Service Announcement”, “Feels Like Forever”, and “Bones Exposed” – which represent Of Mice & Men at their most captivating and hard hitting. The production throughout the album is stellar, especially the drums and bass, with instrumentation and vocal work that is solid but achingly predictable. It’s unlikely that you’ll remember any of the riffs or vocal patterns even after repeat listens, but the first ten minutes truly are adequate!
Shortly thereafter, however – starting with the radio-friendly/brain-unfriendly “Would You Still Be There” - Restoring Force devolves into clichéd songwriting that is a chore for those who have heard it done better by bands that are nothing to write home about in the first place. “Another You” is indistinguishable from “Would You Still Be There”; both are verse-chorus-verse radio ploys that lazily invoke second-person pining to dilute the tune for mass consumption. “Break Free”, “You Make Me Sick”, and “Identity Disorder” are as similar thematically as they are in structure with absolutely nothing you haven’t heard before driving the songs forward. There’s nothing wrong with the using a well-worn template to make music, but it has to be at the very least memorable and that’s where Restoring Force falls short.
If this all sounds fairly disparaging, take solace in the fact that your teenage sister could be listening to much worse. The lyrics, tritely uplifting and generically rebellious in equal measure, are sure to resonate with kids who project their own high school drama onto what Austin Carlile, Aaron Pauley, and Alan Ashby have penned. As for the rest of us, their platitudes will probably ring hollow. For example, “You’re Not Alone” features such encouraging words as:
“Don’t let the world bring you down
There’s always hope for the willing
Don’t let the world bring you down
It’s not over, you’re not alone anymore”
It’s sure to be anthemic in concert halls throughout America and all over Tumblr— these are the kind of vaguely positive, strength-in-numbers pap that kids create gifs of. As for the rest of the lyric content, Of Mice & Men are clearly on the side of teens raging against their oppressive parents in “Break Free” in which Carlile screams:
“You won’t break me
Or silence this heartbeat,
Your words—they mean nothing.
I will break free
From the walls that surround me,
I’m sick of this feeling, I will break free from you.”
It may be a great gateway for a 14 or 15 year old to find something more substantial as tastes inevitably become more discerning. For the meantime, Of Mice & Men are more than happy to fill the niche of safely rebellious music that defines Restoring Force.
Of Mice & Men check all the boxes and offer no surprises. Everything on display here is stock. There is nothing wrong per se with Restoring Force, but is that all you ask from your music? For it to merely be competent? Consider instead that in 40 minutes you could either listen to Restoring Force or you could call a few people to tell them how much you love them. For $10 you could either buy this album, or feed a man for a day. If you’re looking for something recent in a similar vein, Bring Me The Horizon did the same thing better on last year’s Sempiternal. Maybe Of Mice & Men cannot do better than this, but you can. As it is, life is too short to give much attention to Restoring Force.