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If something in 2016 earns the privilege of being tagged as "nu metal", you know it's going to be a disaster. Of Mice & Men have done it. 2013's Restoring Force was a powerful and emotional record, full of anger and loss. You could feel its big moments bombarding you and you'd remember them vividly.
Their fourth album Cold World is not Restoring Force. It doesn't even sound like Of Mice & Men. It's a bunch of songs that bring to question where the line is drawn between "influenced by" and "copied from". It started with the lead single 'Pain' (see our review of it here), which basically ripped off the old sounds of Slipknot, probably so that they could appease the crowds of their opening slot with them. It only gets worse.
I've never heard an album where every song sounds like a carbon copy of a different artist. I'm really not sure what they were doing here. The album starts off with 'Game Of War', which is literally just a worse version of Puscifer's 'Grand Canyon'. It's an awful intro, too - it's four minutes long and incredibly underwhelming. 'Real' features Austin Carlile singing, which is cool, if it wasn't clearly trying to be a heavier version of Minutes To Midnight-era Linkin Park. Maybe the boys spent a little too much time with them on tour in 2014... There's also the complete mess of a Limp Bizkit song with 'Relentless'. It's the most nu-metal thing to be released since nu-metal died. That is not good.
To it's credit, it's not completely horrible. Just mostly. 'Like A Ghost', the one track on the album I can actually say has some substance. Aaron Pauley's singing in the verses are a bit odd (it sounds like he's trying to imitate Marilyn Manson), but Austin Carlile screams powerfully in the background as he sings, making those powerful accentuations that made a lot of the vocals on Restoring Force so great. It's the first energy with raw energy, too, but it's a bit too late. By the time you get to this song you've already lost hope in the album. At least the interlude '+' has nice strings.
When the band isn't copying another, the tracks are just painfully average. There is absolutely nothing special in songs like 'Down The Road' and 'Away'. They're boring. They don't even have the quality of another band for fans of that particular band to enjoy. The album ends on 'Transfigured', sounding like even they gave up on this record. Where is the soul of the album? What happened?
It doesn't feel right to assign blame to any band member; after all, an album has to be a team effort. But it's hard to ignore the overwhelming presence of Aaron Pauley on the album. It feels like he took this album over. It has his sweet singing parts that featured in a few tracks on Restoring Force (most of which were really great) and gives himself a part in almost every song. It feels less like an Of Mice & Men record and more like a demo CD of a solo Pauley record. His highlights on Restoring Force were so good because they were refreshments between brutal screaming and metal tracks. Now that he's in literally every song, it's hard to enjoy his voice, which is a true shame. Of Mice & Men has Austin Carlile for a reason, and it's not to make him sing. It's to let his screams make the music stronger and more vivid. Why silence him?
Cold World feels like a step in the wrong direction. It's hard to even call it an Of Mice & Men record - it sounds like Aaron Pauley featuring a backing band and a guest screamer sometimes. It's a sad and boring record. It's nu-metal moments don't help, either. Of Mice & Men had finally found their signature sound, and after building on it for a single album, they dropped it almost completely. The only response I have to this record is a question: why?
Favorite Track: Like A Ghost
Least Favorite Tracks: Relentless, Down The Road, Transfigured, Away
Rating: 52 / 100