Of Mice & Men Burgeon Into Their Heaviest Form With ‘Bloom’

Of Mice & Men recently signed with promising new label Sharptone Records, beginning a new era for the band. Since their signing, the metalcore band released the fantastic ‘Earth&Sky’ successor, ‘Timeless’. The band kept themselves busy during quarantine; they created three new EPs all set to release throughout 2021. The first of these three EPs, ‘Timeless’, released last February and showcased a sound that set the bar for future material by the band. Does ‘Bloom’ set the bar even higher? Or does it fall flat? Let’s break it down.

Why Are Of Mice & Men Releasing Three EPs Instead Of An Album?

For the first time in the history of the band, they are releasing music under the EP format. While the band will release plenty of music in the form of three EPs throughout 2021, this is different from the typical album cycle the band is used to. This method is a great business move. By spreading out their releases, the band can be sure that fans digest each release for what it is. Another added benefit is that the band can tap into specific lyrical content tailored to the time period. Additionally, this strategy allows for more freedom and less stress making standard deadlines. Being backed by a label willing to push and advertise three releases in one year is a huge advantage. Bring Me The Horizon and Cane Hill also plan to release several EPs in a short amount of time. Could this format become the new norm?

How Does ‘Bloom’ Stack Up?

The band set the bar high with ‘Timeless’, as fans admired the direction the band took with the EP. So is ‘Bloom’ a solid follow-up to Timeless? Yes, Bloom does everything Timeless did and kicks it up a few notches. If Timeless is the perfected sequel to ‘Earth&Sky’, then Bloom is the perfect love child between the Flood and Earth&Sky. This comparison has been ecstatically made by fans on social media. The classic metalcore sound featured in Earth&Sky flirts heavily with the crushing breakdowns found within ‘The Flood’. The EP sounds as if the bonus tracks ‘The Storm’, ‘The Flood’, and ‘The Depths’ had choruses. I don’t know what pissed Of Mice & Men off, but I sure do love the sound that came with it.

Lyrically the EP seems to be about the struggle with uncertainty and the afterlife. Perhaps the appropriately titled EP is about the growth it takes to grow and make it through a world where these uncertainties have no clear answer. The lyrics found on Bloom are definitely some of Pauley’s best to date. This is only complemented by some of his best vocal deliveries to date. This is only more impressive once you consider that the band produces and mixes their new material themselves.

Track-By-Track Breakdown

Levee:

Fans were eager to hear ‘Levee’ after the band teased the pre-breakdown on their Instagram. Fans will definitely not be disappointed, as the track delivers and more. The song is heavy and dark, yet also an energetic ride at the same time. This track starts off in a way that reminds me of their past track ‘The Storm’ and it ends up surpassing it in every way.

Levee – Of Mice & Men

The track begins with a calming but somber rain fall sample. Shortly after, a drum fill by David Valentino Arteaga joins in, but it is quickly interrupted. Most of the audio comes to an abrupt end until Pauley shouts “Feel the rain!” and a funky low tuned riff hits like a freight train. The first verse is completely screamed. It starts off like a brutal poetry slam. It reminds me of Nu-metal, but with a heavier sound and tone. The second half of the verse is faster and thrashy. It really adds to the diversity of the heavier parts of the track. Some critics found the band’s previous album ‘Earth&Sky’ to be a bit monotonous. Pauley is here to prove he has many more tricks and vocal styles up his sleeve and in his throat.

A Perfect Chorus For A Dark And Heavy Track

The chorus fits very well within this song. It is dark and the lyrics match well. “You better learn to walk on water or fly with broken wings,” Pauley warns. Of Mice & Men have never had a clean chorus that works this well within a heavier track. It keeps the energy going within an intense track. The transition back into the dirty verses is flawless here. The second verse just welcomes itself back with no apologies.

The nu-metal sound and poetry slam style comes back again during the second portion of the verse. Pauley switches up the pre-chorus and it now sounds lower and heavier than it was before the first chorus. I appreciate the switch up here, as it keeps the song sounding fresh. The second chorus is welcome here. In a genre where the second chorus can often slow momentum, Of Mice & Men prove a chorus is welcome even within heavier tracks.

The Breakdown Fans Were Waiting For

After the three-minute mark the part fans have been waiting for begins. The breakdown builds and builds upon itself. Pauley repeatedly whispers “it can only rain for so long” and progressively repeats the phrase quicker and quicker. Throughout the near 30-second build up, more chugs and drum fills start compiling and building until the onslaught begins. Pauley starts screaming the whispered phrase and adding “until it washes us away”. The shocker here is that this isn’t even the primary breakdown.

Once this dies down around the four-minute mark, the song sounds like it is calming down and ending, but this is merely the eye of the storm. The storm starts up again suddenly, as Pauley screams “Drown!” for 12-seconds. Anyone familiar with the band’s live performances knowns that the frontman has no problem laying down the long screams previously performed by their past vocalist. The track comes to an end with the rain from the beginning, bleeding into the rain from the beginning of the next track, ‘Bloom’.

Bloom:

After a storm, plants have everything they need to bloom. This track sounds less hopeless, but still aggressive and lyrically deep. The lyrics sound like the track admires and appreciates the natural beauties such as plants and fruit, and natural feelings such as love and life. The sound of the song though is less admiring, and more frustrated that these subjects can become fake and tainted.

Bloom – Of Mice & Men

Haunting Yet Beautiful Croons

The track begins with somber croons that reminds me of Pauley’s vocals from the fan-favorite track ‘Another You’. Hearing these croons help split up Levee and Bloom from each other well. It really sets a different tone sonically and lyrically. Pauley softly reveals some of his best lyrics to date “we were born to bloom, destined to deteriorate, no beauty in plastic flowers, no honey made from fake bouquets, we were born to bloom, but we were never meant to stay, no wine from fruit made out of wax, no honey made from fake bouquets”. At this point one would expect this to be the soft song on the EP, but the EP brings the energy from start to finish.

The Energy Returns

Superb drumming by Valentino leds the aggressive verse; the track picks back up on the energy Levee previously displayed. The riff is heavy and memorable here. I can’t help by bop my head to the rhythm. Fortunately Pauley takes this rhythm and runs with it. Where nu-metal often includes rapping, it sounds like Pauley is preaching his poetry while screaming. It really is an interesting style that should not just be dismissed as rapcore. This description even makes sense from a writing standpoint. In the past, Pauley has explained his lyric-writing process, and it seems he often writes his lyrics in the form of poetry. This new style adds an iconic new flavor to Of Mice & Men.

A Melancholy Chorus That Packs A Punch

The chorus is both haunting and powerful. Pauley screams the chorus of this track; proving this track is not the soft track of the EP once and for all. The chorus isn’t just screamed though, as it is layered with beautiful and melancholic vocals similar to the crooning from the start of the track but performed louder. Once again the band does not let the energy die with the chorus. They really seem to have their groove down with this EP.

The Lyrics Soar To New Heights With Bloom

Sonically the second verse plays out similarly to the first verse, but the lyrics are completely different. Allowing Pauley to express himself further. The lyrics continue to shine here. I suggest you digest them yourself, as I would have to post the lyrics for the entire first and second verse to showcase the talent here. One of my biggest complaints about the last couple Of Mice & Men albums were the lyrics. Pauley seems to have taken all of these concerns with stride and conquered them completely. If this is the new quality to expect from the band, consider myself on the bandwagon. The crushing delivery fits perfectly with the dark and pondering lyrics written by Pauley.

Love Is Watching The Petals Fall

The song doesn’t end with a third chorus. The guitar slowly leads the listener to the breakdown as Pauley screams over and over “love is watching the petals fall!”. Perhaps the biggest part of love is loving and staying even when it starts to fade and die. These lyrics of the track are dark yet philosophical in nature. This track leaves the listener with a lot to ponder and many questions to answer. Even the breakdown keeps the lyrical content going. This may be Of Mice & Men’s most perfected track in a narrative sense. However, the final track on the EP may be Of Mice & Men’s best song sonically to date.

Pulling Teeth:

Pulling Teeth could be one of the bands heaviest tracks ever. The song is the shortest by far on the record clocking in at 3 minutes and 22 seconds (which is still an impressive length honestly, the EP just have two tracks over four minutes!). The track doesn’t need more time though, as it hits every mark well within its runtime. So what makes this song so great? That would be the perfected balance between brutality and catchiness that Of Mice & Men were famous for in their heyday.

Pulling Teeth – Of Mice & Men

Double Bass Galore

Pauley shouts an aggressive “auh!” before an aggressive barrage of double bass hits the listeners ears. Of Mice & Men has never shaken the Earth this hard before. The verse is lead by rapid hits of the cymbals with Pauley delivering some of his fastest screams ever. The chorus is the catchiest on the EP in my opinion. The backing screams give it a fitting edge for such a heavy track. Despite being a fantastic chorus, it is short and sweet; ending as quick as it came, and followed by the return of the double bass.

The Breakdown Within A Breakdown

The second verse and second chorus play out in a similar way, but it is a welcome repetition. The second verse and chorus are merely an appetizer leading into the most surprising breakdown in recent memory. The chorus ends in a normal manner and without any warning a breakdown begins. What makes this song so brutal is that what you may believe is the breakdown is just the pre-breakdown. The breakdown kicks back in and Pauley repeatedly shouts “piece by piece by piece, like slowly pulling teeth” with easily his deepest screams to date.

Back when their album ‘Defy’ first released I was impressed by the song ‘Forever YDG’n’. I thought the deep screams displayed by Pauley were fantastic, and I was hoping to hear more of them. Unfortunately they were under utilized ever since. Now it is evident he is stepping out of his comfort zone and showing off exactly what he is capable of.

Forever YDG’n – Of Mice & Men

Final Thoughts:

Of Mice & Men are at their absolute peak with ‘Bloom’. Each member of the band is at their best here. Valentino has always been a fantastic drummer, but he really shines in the heavier material displayed on this release. He leads each heavy moment on the EP with a contagious rhythm impossible not to bang your head to. The rest of the instrumentation is great as well. As previously mentioned, the band is bringing levels of energy that haven’t been present since ‘The Flood – Deluxe Edition’. These tracks are what the bonus tracks on that album would have been if the band kept onward with that sound and perfected it.

Last but not least, vocalist Aaron Pauley has stepped up and made Of Mice & Men his band at long last. The lyric department has been lacking since their last vocalist left the band, but with ‘Bloom’ the lyrics have never been better. The amount of growth and dedication that is required mentally to achieve this in such a short amount of time is admirable. Along with the lyrical development, Pauley has stepped out of his comfort zone and displayed the vocals everyone who saw his debut performance at Hellfest 2017 knew he could do. This is Of Mice & Men at their new peak and that deserves 10/10 shells.

The Flood (Live at Hellfest) – Of Mice & Men

Final Verdict: 10/10 Shells

What did you think of ‘Bloom’? Are you pumped for the band’s third 2021 EP coming later this year? Let us know in the comments.