Of Mice & Men – O2 Academy, Bristol – LIVE REVIEW

Of Mice & Men, O2 Academy – Bristol, 21.04.2018 Photo Credit: Hayley Smith

For years Of Mice & Men have fought a tough battle just to write and play music. Now armed with a new album and the future theirs for their taking, they took off on a UK tour stopping at Bristol’s O2 Academy.

Many will tell you that the New York Hardcore scene was a phenomenon exclusive to the 1980s and 90s. They’re wrong.

Born out of Queens, New York, Sylar are carrying the torch for rap based metal and are every bit as uncompromising as you want them to be.

Vocalist Jayden Panesso leads the way in Sylar’s genre morphing genius – launching around the O2 Academy stage, pausing only to stare the front row in the eyes.

Next up was Florida’s Wage War – a perfect example of how double vocalists can hit the mark.

Their mixture of clean and dirty vocals fill a void with tonight’s crowd whilst Briton Bond matched Sylar’s Panesso in his ownership of the stage.

Both Sylar and Wage War were on top form energetically tonight, bringing all of the dynamic energy that their respective genres crave. They were both hard acts to follow.

To lose any band member inevitably changes the dynamic of the band and impacts their live performance. But not all musicians were created equal. The departure of some would have a far greater shock impact than others.

To lose a lead singer is about as drastic as it’s going to get.

To lose an unbelievably energetic lead singer who didn’t also play an instrument and so was free to roam the stage and connect with fans – that could be catastrophic.

Of Mice & Men, O2 Academy – Bristol, 21.04.2018 Photo Credit: Hayley Smith

It’s not un-heard of. The UK’s own Mallory Knox have very recently lost Mikey Chapman. Not only was Mikey incredibly vigorous on stage but his voice is very distinctive and was a huge factor in the bands personality.

Luckily Mallory Knox have unleashed a vulnerable, impressive, raucous new line up with Sam Douglas up front and have successfully squashed any speculation that the band couldn’t possibly push forward.

Unfortunately, Of Mice & Men haven’t had the same success.

Austin Carlisle left Of Mice & Men in December 2016 as a result of ongoing medical issues.

Since then the band have released an album, Defy, and graced the mainstage of Download festival in 2017.

Six of tonight’s tracks hailed from that latest album and three of those tracks were played in quick succession to get things started.

Defy, Warzone and Unbreakable are certainly a formidable opening hat trick but they do a limited amount of favours for the band’s new line up. Largely they’re very similar to the older material and it can’t be said that OM&M have gone to many lengths to redesign their approach now that their band is significantly different in personality.

The other half of tonight’s set list was pulled from across all four of their previous studio albums – something that most other bands are begged for but rarely deliver.

But that didn’t mean that the OG Of Mice & Men fans couldn’t find fault. Whilst tracks like Of Mice & Men, The Depths and The Flood are still getting a live airing – there’s something missing in all of them. What they’re missing is glaringly obvious.

Aside from the absence of meaty unclean vocals, there’s a physical gap in Of Mice & Men’s live show. Even with a huge backdrop and a transparent double bass drum kit complete with lights, the stage seemed far from full.

When they chose to push forward as a four piece, Of Mice & Men must have known what sort of uphill climb they had ahead of them. They’ve not managed to find their new niche, or fill the emptiness left behind by Austin – but they could.

First step? Lose the platforms you’ve all got one foot up on and explore the incredible stage that your fans love to see you on.

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Of Mice & Men, O2 Academy – Bristol, 21.04.2018 Photo Credit: Hayley Smith