On My Playlist: Top 5 Of Mice & Men songs on Defy

Of Mice & Men. Photo: Lindsey Byrnes
Of Mice & Men. Photo: Lindsey Byrnes

Of Mice & Men has experienced a lot of unexpected change in the past year and a half, following the departure of the vocalist and founding member, Austin Carlile, due to illness. Uncertainty surrounded the band and critics wondered if the band could ever scale the heights again. It has now almost seamlessly evolved from a five-piece to a four-piece with bassist and clean vocalist, Aaron Pauley taking on frontman duties. The result is their fifth album, Defy, which showcases the band back to full form. Here are my top 5 songs from their new album.
Honourable mentions: ‘Back To Me’, ‘Money’, ‘On the Inside’, ‘If We Were Ghosts’.

5. Warzone
The frantic and out of control nature of this track, in combination with the visually impactful music video, makes this a solid smash hit on this new album. The main themes of depression and being trapped are being explored here, which is fantastic as it explores a real problem in society. The opening riff and lead guitar riffs from Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby are what keep moving this track forward as Pauley screams ‘This is a Warzone’ in a fractured and visceral manner. The outro to the song is also a masterpiece as it brilliantly showcases the dark nature of the track before Pauley sheds light and resistance with repeated screams of ‘I Keep Fighting Back’. The track is an emotional rollercoaster that will definitely keep you headbanging − one of the most aggressive tracks on the album.

4. Sunflower
This is one of the more interesting tracks in Of Mice & Men’s catalogue with a slower and more melodic approach. Pauley’s control of both his clean and unclean vocals works perfectly here. This is especially apparent in the chorus when he sings, ‘can you break away from it all?’ with clean notes before transitioning to the second part of the chorus with a gnarly deep growl: ‘before it drags you under?’
The slow bridge where Pauley sings ‘break and separate’ in combination with an interesting drum piece from Valentino Arteaga is also one of my favourite parts.

3. Defy
The palm-muted guitar riff at the beginning of this song opens up this song’s excellence right from the get-go and is another lyrical example of Of Mice & Men’s positive messages that are spread throughout the album. This track is a force de resistance of everything that is wrong in the world and getting things right by being defiant against the world’s negative nature. Pauley shines in the chorus where he sings and screams ‘I defy, this hopelessness I defy, your callousness, I defy, irreverent, I will rise I see through all your disguise, and all your lies I defy’. This defiance is further amplified when Pauley growls ‘But I refuse to march into an early grave!’ − A great message from the band when listeners are in dark times.

2. Instincts
‘Instincts’ caught my attention right from the start with its multi-layered sound and groovy, grunge sounding guitar riff. This is another fast-paced track with some pulsating blast beats and double bass drumming fill in for great measure. Top that off with Pauley’s long, winding growl and screamed verses and you have a near perfect track. The chorus is another brilliant example of how effortlessly this band switches between hard and heavy verses and melodic choruses. The positive nature of this track is showcased with the lyrics, ‘The answer lies within’. This is also the only track on the album with a guitar solo and the drawn-out nature of the wah-wah pedal does a great job in bringing more shine to this epic track. One of the best guitar solos that this band has produced – you wish they would do more solos on the album. ‘Press on and trust in your instincts’, sings Pauley as the song comes to a memorable close.

1. Unbreakable
The first single from this album is, to me, still the best track from the album for numerous reasons. The guitar riff and audible nature of the bass guitar introduce this song perfectly. The subtle guitar work and guitar licks in the verse are brilliantly done and the transition to the chugging core rhythm in the verses is brilliant. The chorus where Pauley sings ‘I’m not afraid… I’m unbreakable Can’t defeat me… I’ll never break’, is one of the best-delivered pieces of music on the album and has a fantastic sing-along quality. Another reason why this song is number one is the hard-hitting breakdown, which is the best on the album. It has a great flow with the emphasis placed more on the screamed and growled lyrics than chugging instruments as found on many breakdown sections in this genre.

Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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