"Hybrid Theory made me realise metal wasn't this weird, ostracised subgenre": Of Mice & Men's Aaron Pauley picks the 10 records that changed his life

Of Mice & Men Aaron Pauley
(Image credit: Press/SharpTone)

Aaron Pauley had already proven his vocal prowess before he joined Of Mice & Men in 2012. The singer of post-hardcore group Jamie's Elsewhere, Pauley was initially drafted as a temporary bassist before joining the band permanently in time for 2014's Restoring Force, contributing clean vocals that helped propel the album to a top 10 position on the US Billboard charts.

Stepping up as the band's frontman in 2016 after the departure of Austin Carlile, Pauley has since been the powerhouse behind the band's buoyant metalcore bangers. With new album Tether out in the world, we caught up with Pauley to find out which records set him on the path to following his passion. 

Metal Hammer line break

Papa Roach - Infest (2000)

Papa Roach are and I from the same small town in Northern California; our families went to the same church. When Last Resort became a worldwide phenomenon, that was a tangible thing to latch onto for inspiration: that you can make something that changes the world even if you’re from Vacaville. It was super-inspirational to me pursuing music."

Tool - Aenima (1996)

"Ænema was probably my first exposure to Tool. It exposed me to their whole catalogue and made me want to learn about music theory. It ignited a curiosity to learn more so I could create those things. Nobody does it like them – they create musical odysseys that are complex but you can still follow."

The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium (2006)

“I heard Inertiatic ESP by The Mars Volta at the end of freshman year in high school. My buddy gave me the CD and said, ‘You gotta listen to this!’ The experimental nature of that record, plus the way that it’s mixed, means you can define every instrument and every member doing something. I was still recording on a little dictaphone and it opened my eyes to how you can mix and produce."

Sigur Rós - Takk... (2005)

"Sæglópur by Sigur Rós showed me you don’t really need words to tell a story. It’s a very emotionally rich listen, it evokes a lot of feelings. Sigur Rós are an amazing example of honing in on the universal language of music… Listening to that song reminds me of driving round my hometown when it’s rainy."

Pressure 4-5 - Burning The Process (2001)

"I listened to Pieces by Pressure 4-5 a bunch when I was in eighth and ninth grade. I’d just moved away from my middle school best friends [in Clearlake] back to my hometown [of Vacaville], I was readjusting. I hadn’t gone back to school or made friends yet. It felt like company when I was skateboarding alone, before we had iPods."

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

“I got into heavy music a year or two before One Step Closer by Linkin Park came out. When it came out, I remember thinking, ‘This is amazing!’ And then the whole world basically decided the same thing. That was the first time I’d ever seen heavy music that I liked connect with so many people. I thought, ‘Oh man, people get this! It’s not this weird, ostracised subgenre! People are starting to understand what this music is about because of this song.’"

Slipknot - Iowa (2001)

"When Slipknot's Left Behind debuted on MTV, that was the first time me and my friends all planned and waited on something related to being a fan of a band, or heavy music in general. We knew when it was premiering; we were all gonna be at my house because we had the music channel, we set it to record. I remember we watched it with my parents and they were like, ‘Jesus Christ! This is what you kids are listening to?!’"

Norma Jean - Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child (2002)

“Norma Jean’s Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste reminds me of hardcore dancing in high school! That was in the age of making playlists, with HXCMP3 and Pure Volume, all those websites. This song was on every playlist – it’s such a classic vintage banger. It reminds me of friends sharing music we’d discovered from those websites. It’s one of the most important historical songs for where this all came from

Converge - Jane Doe (2001)

"Concubine by Converge is quintessential; it reminds me of my friends and I in our local band, driving around in the van and hoping it didn’t break down. It’s pure unbridled rage, and the emphasis is on teetering between being more organised and being chaotic. It was really formative too for me, because it made me realise you can make extremely chaotic music that’s easy to follow because there’s that tangible emotional thread."

Mansions - Dig Up The Dead (2011)

“Me and my buddies used to play Mansions’ Dig Up The Dead acoustically and sing it with each other. It reminds me of being with them, drinking whiskey and singing sad songs. We’re like trees that keep growing, and songs carve their initials in us. We get older and more weathered, but some of them cut deep and you still see them there.”

Will Marshall

Will's been a metal obsessive ever since hearing Trivium’s Ascendancy way back in 2005, and it's been downhill ever since. Since joining the Metal Hammer team in 2021, he’s penned features with the likes of rising stars Lake Malice, Scowl and Drain, and symphonic legends Epica. He’s also had bylines in Stereoboard, covering everything from Avenged Sevenfold to Charli XCX.