Live Review: Of Mice & Men w/ Wage War & Sylar | O2 Academy Ritz, Manchester | 23/04/18

After releasing their 5th studio album Defy earlier this year, the now 4-piece Of Mice & Men return to the UK with some of their American metalcore buds in tow for a full headline tour. We managed to haul ass along to the O2 Ritz in Manchester to check out their new live dynamic.

Opening the show, Sylar [7] don’t mess about, with industrial style cymbal smashing, crunchy guitar riffs and nu metal-esque Papa Roach style vocals, things get heated pretty quickly. Seeing the first band of the night manage to kickstart a huge mosh pit spanning almost the entire width of the crowd was no small feat, almost certainly winning the New York metalcore quintet some new fans in the process as they tore through the melodic ‘Soul Addiction’ and hard slamming ‘Pleasure Paradise’.

MANCHESTERRR... GET UP! growls Wage War [9] frontman Briton Bond as the teasing build up of ‘Alive’ reaches eruption point. The crowd-surf crew bust loose and it becomes very apparent that a good portion of people in attendance tonight have come specifically to see the fast rising Florida heavy mob. The onslaught of noise is relentless as the devastatingly loud ‘The River’ and ‘Never Enough’ bleed out of the amplifiers.

Photo Credit: Elliot Grimmie

The room is treated to the sing-along chorus of ‘Don’t Let Me Fade Away’ performed beautifully by guitarist/clean vocalist Cody Quistad shortly before an emotionally charged ‘Johnny Cash’ moves a select few members of the crowd to tears. Of course no Wage War performance would be complete without a romp through the absolute rager that is ‘Stitch’, as Briton throws himself on the floor during the climactic breakdowns harrowing lyric drop; ‘You were the light I could never see in myself, I would’ve stood by you until the gates of hell’. And with that, there is a good chance that Wage War may have just stolen the show a little bit.

After a good twenty minute gap, Of Mice & Men’s [8] Mohawk topped Valentino Arteaga appears onstage behind a glowing drumkit filled with lights, as the intro riff to newest album title track ‘Defy’ creeps in. The Orange County metallers keep a steady pace with a few more songs from their latest release, ‘Warzone’ and irresistible sing-back tune ‘Unbreakable’.

They are playing to their strengths here, with Aaron Pauley recently being promoted to representing frontman of the band, as they launch into the fan favourite ‘Would You Still Be There’. Aaron, for the most part of the bands career, has been known for his exceptionally strong clean vocals and his bass playing, but the departure of their former harsh vocalist has given him the chance to show his capabilities performing this style of vocals on top of his other performing roles. Of Mice & Men take the opportunity to destroy any scepticism you could have about how their older songs may be performed with a brutal, guttural delivery of ‘You Make Me Sick’.

Photo Credit: Elliot Grimmie

The band continue to discharge pounding drum beats and heavy riffage as they ravage their way through ‘Pain’, and Alan Ashby steps into the spotlight for the screeching guitar solo in ‘Bones Exposed’. ‘Instincts’ really showcases the true strength of the bands new material live, giving every member of the band a chance to shine with its meaty harsh vocals, powerful chorus, churning guitars and intense drumming. Before lashing out with a triple punch romp of ‘YDG’, Still YDG’n’, ‘Forever YDG’n’, Aaron demands (on account of their sound tech’s birthday) a huge circle pit, and seeing as nobody brought cake, a circle pit would have to do.

The final song of the night comes from moshers anthem ‘The Depths’, as the venue erupts into pits and crowdsurfers galore. Of Mice & Men are nowhere near done yet, and despite various shake ups to the bands member line up over the years, 5 albums into their career they’ve still got a very bright future ahead of them. [8]