Having recently released a deluxe edition of their 2014 album, Restoring Force, Of Mice & Men were not only able to bring with them a selection of new tracks, but they also managed to pick up a few of their mates on the way round the world too. The Full Circle tour is in Birmingham tonight with support coming from Volumes and The Amity Affliction.
Arriving to a full room at a show that is not sold out is a rare thing. A lot of people must be fans of the 8 string onslaught, Volumes. Opening with The Mixture they establish their style very quickly. Everyone was having trouble banging their heads in time due to the odd time signatures and randomly placed breakdowns that the quintet execute exquisitely. Slowing things down slightly with Erased, vocalist Michael Barr is given the opportunity to showcase his excellent vocal ability. Edge Of The Earth and Wormholes see the crowd go insane and the pit grow in size. It is in Wormholes that the dual vocals provided by Michael Barr and Gus Farias really get the chance to shine. A six song set performed faultlessly makes for a brilliant opening band.
Australian mob The Amity Affliction are up next and as Bring Me The Horizon’s latest album, Sempiternal plays through the PA, the anticipation rises. Opening with Pittsburgh, they too establish their sound very quickly. Pummelling breakdowns interspersed with catchy choruses is what this Australian quartet are all about. On record, it works. Live however, bassist/clean vocalist Ahren Stringer struggles to hit the notes, leaving vocalist Joel Birch to pick up the pieces. With a call for a circle pit at the beginning of Death’s Hand, the energy levels are high. Introducing the ‘dance number’, Never Alone, I was expecting a softer track, however as the heaviest breakdown of their set kicked in, I was proved wrong; very wrong indeed. Penultimately is Open Letter, which sees the biggest sing-along so far in its anthemic chorus. Their last track Don’t Lean On Me, infuses their post hardcore sound with electronic samples and a piano track. Playing their, arguably, most accessible track last was a clever move as it left everybody with a catchy melody in their head that they would be singing for days.
With several sweaty bodies heading towards the back of the venue, Volumes and The Amity Affliction seem to have done their job properly. It is clear that Of Mice & Men have a mixed fanbase. There is no vast majority of any demographic. Some are young girls, sporting the all black ‘bands are my life’ look and there are some middle aged men sporting the ‘Metal or die look’; diversity at its best.
As Of Mice & Men took to the stage, the screams of the crowd tore the roof off of the O2 Academy. Opening with Public Service Announcement, the energy levels sore straight up after the lull between sets. Vocalist Austin Carlile calls for “phones down, feet up” as the breakdown approaches. Two tracks in and Aaron Pauley has a chance to prove himself as the clean vocalist, and he does. Track four comes in form of the ‘old song’, OG Loko, complete with Warped Tour remix. This is followed by ‘the sing along’, Let Live, and then ‘the one for the metalheads’, You Make Me Sick. Carlile would be great at naming episodes of Friends. However, he’s not so great at reaching his full potential, whilst his unique phlegmy high screams are able to cut through the music, his lows are not. They are getting lost due to a lack of power; this comes as no surprise though, he is unable to produce lows on record too; consistent.
Of Mice & Men are drums and riffs, there’s no doubt about it, but this is really highlighted in a live setting. Axemen Alan Ashby and Philip Manansala alongside drummer, Valentino Arteaga are the powerhouse behind every song tonight. Every breakdown, chorus and verse is carried by this trio. As the opening riff of Bones Exposed kicks in, the Full Circle backdrop falls to reveal the Restoring Force album cover, to the delight of the crowd. Carlile, standing at well over six foot, is making great use of the risers at the front of stage making for a captivating performance. Track eleven requires some crowd participation and so Aaron Pauley sings the melody unaccompanied before kicking in. After a slow start to the track, the crowd wake up in time for the breakdown, pleasing Carlile greatly. The last track is Second & Sebring, the track that made Of Mice & Men. Inevitably, the band had to do very little as the crowd were more than happy to sing it for them. The Depths and You’re Not Alone make up the encore. In true Slipknot style, Carlile asks that for The Depths everybody gets down on the floor and then on his command, jump up. Chaos followed. You’re Not Alone sees the final sing along of the night.
As the final notes resonate around the O2 Academy and the band leave the stage, there is a sense of enjoyment in the air. Everybody in attendance can truly say that Of Mice & Men are top of their game and as they move further away from their post-hardcore roots, experimenting with new genres and distinctive sounds, they are determined to remain the kings of what they do for a very long time.
Of Mice & Men Setlist:
Public Service Announcement
You Make Me Sick
This One’s For You
Feels Like Forever
Would You Still Be There
Second & Sebring
You’re Not Alone
Review: Dan Wilson
Photographs: Katie Foulkes