If great art truly follows great suffering, then this album should slam. Austin Carlile’s endless and wince-inducing health issues have provided a rather grim subplot to OM&M’s ongoing success story, so one can only imagine the kind of frustration he’s had building inside him after a particularly gruelling last 12 months.
As it happens, Cold World – a telling album title – holds off from any raw, emotional deluge, instead starting with what feels like a lengthy prelude in Game Of War. It’s a subtle opening gambit packing a slow, repetitive guitar line peppered with ambient flourishes and, eventually, a militaristic snare march, milking that slow build towards the album kicking off proper. ‘Old bones can’t take the weight – though I still try’ croons guitarist/clean singer Aaron Pauley, his frontman’s personal struggles already looming large. By the time The Lie kicks in, you’re left practically salivating for something savage and angry to burst out of your speakers – something, anything like the kind of pay-off such a brutal backstory of pain and desperation would merit.
Confusingly, neither The Lie nor its follow-up, Real, satisfy in that vein. The former is a mid-paced, bouncy number that builds to a no-nonsense, festival-friendly breakdown; the latter’s an even slower, clean-vocal-heavy jam boasting riffs so fluffy there’s barely any sense of the kind of cutting-edge heaviness that made OM&M’s early material stand out in a scene full of metalcore also-rans. It’s not an insult – they’re solid songs for what they are – it’s just hard not to feel like they could have floored the gas a littler faster.
That said, when the album does begin to ramp up the crunch on the awesome Like A Ghost, featuring one of the best riffs of the band’s career, things really pick up. Contagious and Pain quickly follow in a similarly crushing vein that will doubtless please those who most love the five-piece at their heaviest, while fans who approved of the surprising nu metal left-turns on 2014’s Restoring Force will also find plenty to love. Smidgens of Hybrid Theory-esque scratches and barked half-raps are sprinkled over Contagious and full-throttle rager Relentless, while Pain’s industralised stomp and chainsaw riffing pays homage to the more guttural end of that scene in fine style.
The record then dips back into much safer territory. David Bendeth’s soft production deftly eases the band through three catchy but inoffensive tracks in Down The Road, Away and the emotionally charged, swaying power balladry of Transfigured – all easy arena fodder should the band ever make that Holy Grail step-up, but doing little to stand out on an album whose midsection easily offers its strongest material. Ultimately, Cold World is a decent, box-ticking Of Mice & Men album that will please fans of all eras, and while it doesn’t pack the grit and stomp of The Flood or the heart-bursting anthems of Restoring Force, it’s hard to see it delaying what seems like an inevitable charge to metal’s summits.
AARON PAULEY (bass/vocals)
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO FINALLY GET THE NEW ALBUM OUT?
“It feels great to sit in a studio and hear these ideas finally committed to tape. It’s been such an amazing recording process, we’ve really pushed ourselves and I think you’ll be able to hear the results of that.”
WHAT NEW ELEMENTS HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THE BAND ON THIS RECORD?
“We’ve tried to challenge ourselves and do new things on each new album. I’d rather leave it for the listener to discover them, though. We made ourselves completely open to suggestion and that’s culminated in a record we’re really delighted with.”
WILL THIS BE THE ALBUM TO PUSH OM&M TO THE HIGHEST ECHELONS OF THE METAL SCENE?
“I don’t know, man, we’ve already exceeded any of our expectations. We just wanted to make a record that our fans would be as stoked on as we are. We just take the rest of it in our stride.”