Of Mice & Men, Live in London

Orange County metalcore crew prove their star power

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A quick, cursory glance at the queue outside the Brixton Academy tonight will tell you two very telling things: firstly, that this is a band that appeal almost exclusively to a very youthful demographic; and secondly that, from the sheer length of the line that almost stretches back onto itself at the venue’s entrance and the crackle of excitement that is palpable in the air, whoever is playing here tonight doesn’t attract casual fans.

That band, of course, is Of Mice & Men. Ever since the release early last year of third album Restoring Force, their climb up the ladder of metal’s foodchain has really shifted through the gears. Ten minutes after the doors have opened and this, their biggest-ever UK headlining show, feels less like a gig and more like a coronation./o:p

Inside the venue this feeling is only heightened as kids in their hundreds run – literally run – down to the front of the stage a good two hours before the band are due to perform. There they are met by VOLUMES [7], who impress the rapidly swelling crowd with a set of pumping, pummelling metallic riffing.

Think of any type of bawdy and obnoxious music and there’s a very good chance that the LA quintet are influenced by it; there’s the swaggering fronting of hip hop in the dual vocals of Michael Barr and Gus Farias, the bruising beatdowns of metalcore and the lucid, instantaneous bounce of nu metal. The excitable audience lap it up, and Volumes leave with a couple of thousand new fans./o:p

Even though everything is then taken up several notches you’d be hard pressed to say THE AMITY AFFLICTION [8] win over any new fans tonight, mainly because, if you didn’t have evidence to the contrary, you’d assume they were headlining. To see a now-packed Brixton jumping and singing at the top of its voice to nigh on every moment of the Aussies’ set truly does knock you for six.

Even vocalist Joel Birch seems speechless by the reaction, stalking the stage with eyes wide and grinning from ear to ear as he screams himself hoarse to his bandmates’ sleek metalcore. Tracks from last year’s Let The Ocean Take Me are made for this sort of environment, the melodic chorus of The Way Down prompting a deafening singalong that all but drowns the band out. Next time The Amity Affliction are in Brixton they’ll no doubt be topping the bill.

Despite this, you never fear for OF MICE & MEN [9]. This is a band on a golden run, in the sort of form where they can do no wrong. From the moment that Austin Carlile strides onstage alone to the sorts of screams you would normally associate with a One Direction concert and begins to bark out Public Service Announcement, Of Mice & Men are on fire.

Usually these days when a band step up to this level there startsnto be some reliance on a stage show, but this is a refreshingly stripped-down affair. A bare stage and a minimalistic light show is all that is necessary here as they connect firstly, and most crucially, with their music. New song Broken Generation may have only been available for the last few weeks but it’s greeted like a decade-old staple and already sounds like a three-minute-long greatest hits album, while Feels Like Forever shimmers classily throughout the hallowed walls of this historic venue.

While bassist/vocalist Aaron Pauley sings those brain-dominating choruses with a passion that most modern metal bands can only dream of, and drummer Tino Arteaga pounds his kit as if he’s just caught it in bed with his wife, there is no doubt that Austin is the star here. Sometimes there are no words that can explain just what it is that makes someone special: you just have to see them to understand.

Austin just looks right onstage. He commands the sold-out crowd with an instinctive nature and has the unique ability to appear as both the coolest rock star on Earth and yet just as much a fan as those in attendance. Even when imploring everyone to sit down during The Depths, an overused move that has become tedious over recent years, he is totally hypnotising.

After 75 minutes of futuristic, grooving metal, Of Mice & Men bid their new followers farewell with an explosive rendition of You’re Not Alone, everyone in attendance, onstage and off, throwing themselves wildly around in one final outpouring of emotion.

You only needed a quick look outside to learn a couple of things about this band, but to come in and see the full picture would reveal all manner of revelations about, not just Of Mice & Men, but the direction metal is heading. This is a band on unstoppable form, destined to become the defining voice of their generation. On this evidence the future has just been written./o:p

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.