Interview with OF MICE & MEN at Louder Than Life 2017

Rei Haycraft spoke with OF MICE & MEN drummer Valentino Arteaga this year’s Louder Than Life festival about the band’s forthcoming album which will be OF MICE & MEN‘s first full-length release without vocalist Austin Carlile, who left the group due to his ongoing battle with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. After Carlile’s departure, bassist Aaron Pauley stepped in on vocals.

“We’re always looking for that challenge,” Arteaga said of the band. “This one’s our fifth one, and we’re really excited. We’re so proud of it. We think it’s gonna show a good amount of growth.”

“There has been a lot of change, but, for us, like anybody, you’ve gotta roll with the punches and you’ve gotta create your own destiny, you’ve gotta do this. And so for us, we really wanted to channel that into our music and create the next chapter of OF MICE & MEN, to truly show what we’re about and what OF MICE & MEN is about — all the way back to referencing stuff from our first albums.

“Everything about OF MICE & MEN is a collective with everyone that we’ve ever encountered at our shows and everything, and everyone’s so important to us, and we try to really channel that into the music.”

According to ArteagaOF MICE & MEN recently shot a video for one of the tracks from the forthcoming album, and “it came out really, really awesome,” he said.

Valentino also talked about the OF MICE & MEN songwriting process, saying: “We write whenever. If an idea hits, with technology these days, we’re all pretty well faceted with our iPhones, with our Macbooks, with our instruments. There’s V-Drums, there’s little guitars that we have on the bus that we can plug into the computers and they sound like huge guitars.

“This is our life, so whether we’re on tour or we’re at home, it’s so difficult to try and get yourself into, ‘Okay, now I’m gonna sit down and do my homework,'” he explained. “It’s not like that. We try and do it as we go. And we wrote almost half our album on tour this last summer. Inspiration strikes whenever.”

OF MICE is always writing. We’ve already kind of started some new stuff. We just write and then we kind of put an album together with the best songs that we feel [we’ve come up with]. We had over forty [song ideas] for this album; there were so many. So it’s all a process. And we try and be so in tune with each other that we all know, ‘Yeah, we all love this one. Yeah, we all love this one.’ And then putting together the album becomes a little bit easier in that sense.”

An OF MICE & MEN documentary called “Unbreakable” will be released on Friday, October 13. The short film, which was directed by Johann Ramos, follows the band across multiple continents on their tour earlier this year.

Arteaga said: “That documents our summer playing festivals and going and playing small club shows overseas and just really reconnecting with our fans. For us, that’s so important, and our love for our fans and just music — not even just fans. Those are people that support us and support our vision and our dreams, not to mention music lovers.”

OF MICE & MEN in May surprise-released its second new song, “Back To Me”. Like “Unbreakable”, the new track was recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (IN FLAMESALL THAT REMAINS), mixed by Grammy winner Chris Lord-Alge (DEFTONESMUSE) and mastered by Chris Athens (DRAKEOZZY OSBOURNE).

Downfall 2012 – We Welcome the Pain review

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Review by William Dibble, images provided by Downfall 2012

Houston, Texas, is perhaps most famous for being the site of NASA control. We all know the phrase “Houston, we have a problem” so well that it has become part of our national daily lexicon for when something has gone wrong. Houstin-based metal outfit Downfall 2012 hopes to change that somewhat. They want to make a huge splash in the rock and metal scene, releasing their new album We Welcome the Pain on November 8th of this year. The album comes in at eleven tracks and forty minutes in length, and focuses on how Downfall 2012 believes we bring most of our pain on ourselves.

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“Take Control” is an excellent name for the opening track of the album. It immediately gives you an audible image of what this album will sound like. It has a very distinctive bassline, and a rousing rhythm. The instruments are reminiscent of the 90’s and early 00’s nu metal movement, while the vocals are reminiscent of early-era Mushroomhead. The mix of screams and vocals is certainly well balanced. “Find Your Enemy” starts off with another heavy intro before launching straight into a rapped verse, calling the earlier vocal comparison back to mind. This is not a bad thing. Downfall 2012 definitely possesses a very distinctive vocal style. The song also makes good use of the nu metal/metalcore trope of a muted section of instruments with a more “distant” sounding vocals. “Attack Point” is a slightly different beast from the first two tracks. Rather than launching into the body of the song with a guitar assault, it starts immediately on the first verse, and goes straight into the chorus. “Attack Point” simultaneously preserves the vocal styles of the first two songs while firmly establishing a sound unique to Downfall 2012. One of the interesting things about this song is that there are only two short breaks in the vocals. Once at the middle, and once toward the end. This song feels like its name- an attack point where the band firmly wants to establish their uniqueness.

The title track, “We Welcome the Pain”, starts off with cleaner guitars before launching into a stop-and-go drum and guitar rhythm laid out behind a quickly rapped verse. This song is more of a blending of musical themes from rap metal and nu metal, focusing more on the rap side of it, which is a very good thing. It is not a song that a person can mistake for the work of any other band. “Fooled Once” follows a similar formula, but the rap influences aren’t as apparent here. This song mixes in more clean vocals and guitars between the heavier screamed verses, providing an aural contrast. Track six, “Save the Queen”, changes the formula back to the earlier one. It starts out with heavier guitars and rapped verses, and mixes in a much longer clean verse than many of the other songs. Despite feeling slower vocally, this clean verse is paired with the fast beat-beat-beat of a bass drum, making it feel almost urgent or rushed, which pairs well with the song.

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“Don’t Give In (Nine More Lives)” pairs synths with the musical sound that Downfall 2012 has developed over the prior six songs. It also continues the increased use of clean vocals found in “Save the Queen”. By this point in the album, it is without a doubt that they have achieved their vision of developing a distinct and unique sound. “The Mission” is very different from the prior few tracks. It blends in influences of faster-paced bands, and even a little metalcore influence, to inject a massive amount of energy to the album. If anything inspires a mosh pit on this album, it will be this track. “Forward Movement” is a slower, clean-vocals track that serves as an intro to the penultimate song, “Make Us One”. The slower intro, paired with the fast intro riff and drums, make an excellent song with played one after the other. Surprisingly, “Make Us One” features a lot of clean vocals, which isn’t what the intro would leave one to expect. This makes it a positively surprising track before it launches into its rapped verses. We Welcome the Pain closes the album out with “End Credits”, a synth-heavy last song. At first, the song might lead a listener to believe it will be a fairly generic song, but that notion is dispelled within moments. A lightning-paced rap verse paired with clean vocals.

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It takes a little bit to build up, but We Welcome the Pain does achieve Downfall 2012’s goal of establishing a unique sound and musical vision. Artfully mastered, it offers a look at how nu metal can evolve and grow as a genre. There are parts of the album that begin to sound formulaic, but it is an excellent addition to any music library and these parts are vastly outnumbered by the songs that sound completely and totally unique. Pick up We Welcome the Pain on iTunes and other services on November 8th!

Interview with NEW YEARS DAY at Louder Than Life 2017

 

Rei Haycraft got a chance to catch up with New Years Day after their set at Louder Than Life in Louisville, KY about their time headlining Warped Tour, collaborations with other artists, their upcoming “Covers EP,” recording their upcoming album, and what’s left on their band bucket list!

For more information about New Years Day, including tour dates, upcoming releases, and more, visit them at facebook.com/nydrock

Dead End Scene – Dead End Scene EP review

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Written by William Dibble

Many of the bands we cover are locals from North Carolina or all over the southeast. We recently covered Shatterproof, a folksy punk band from New Mexico, and today, our journey takes us far across oceans and mountainscapes to the distant Helsinki, Finland. Despite what some conspiracy theorists claim, Finland does, in fact, exist. Dead End Scene is a metal band hailing from this Scandinavian nation, and today their self-titled EP, Dead End Scene EP, was released. They played in the finals for the Emergenza band contest, and even the Wacken Metal Battle of 2016.

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Dead End Scene EP wasted no times in assaulting your eardrums with brutal riffs. The very first moments of “Order in Chaos” sound like the perfect track to open a concert and mosh pit with. The instruments of the album are heavy loud, reminiscent of bands like Motorhead, Iced Earth, and other earlier heavy metal groups. The songwriting is also of high quality. The singing doesn’t disappoint, either. Dead End Scene mixes melodic vocals with occasional screams and even a few gang vocals. There are several parts of the song where they pan the vocals across the left and right stereo channels, something that isn’t used very often any more. If the verses and chorus of “Order in Chaos” don’t have the audience too busy moshing, fully expect to see finger-guitars held up in the air at any shows during the blistering solo. “In Disguise” is the followup second track, and it neither gives quarter nor asks for any. This song really helps cement the heavy metal feel of the album. This album would feel at home in the height of the late 80’s and 90’s heavy metal movements in the best ways. The lyrics themselves are also powerful, discussing our obsession with hiding who we are and putting on a show for the outside world in hopes of receiving outside approval that is, ultimately, a lie.

“Dance in the Rain” is one of two singles from this EP. Opening with keys and softer vocals, the intro gives singer Mikko Kylmänen a chance to really show off his vocal chops. He uses this chance to great effect before the metal riffs cut back in. Dead End Scene shows off their superb songwriting in this one, combining a catchy metal song with powerful lyrics about accepting ourselves. The guitar riffs in this one are spectacular, combining the hard edge of the lower notes with a higher melody throughout. “This is the End” continues this, alternating behind cleaner, higher guitar notes with the heavier melodies, and introduces synths behind the chorus.

Track five, “Bite of the Underdog”, launches straight back into the heavier sound introduced in the first two tracks. The song features several mosh-inspiring bridges, especially the one that leads into the first verse. A person at one of their concerts should be ready for an energetic crowd for this one. Musically, this track continues the careful application of synths introduced in “This is the End” to augment the sound of the guitars and Teemu Haataja’s drum work. The final track, “Dawn”, is the second single released off this EP. Like their other single, this one also opens with keys and synths, but has a more cinematic approach to the intro. “Dance in the Rain” almost had a ballad-like feel to parts of it. “Dawn” is more similar to symphonic heavy metal, on the other hand. Olli Salmi really gets to show off his lead guitar skills in this song with an absolutely devastating guitar solo. “Dawn” is an excellent choice to cap off a very potent album. It really shows off the best skills of the entire band, and has a very climactic feel to it.

 

Dead End Scene EP is an excellently written and produced album. The professional sound and mastering, mixed with expert songwriting, guarantees that this will be a crowd favorite, and that seasoned fan and newcomer alike to Dead End Scene will be pleased. In the United States, many associate Finland, Norway, and Sweden with heavy metal, and this EP will certainly be a proud torchbearer for that legacy. Buy it on iTunes, listen to it on Spotify, and other services today!

Shatterproof – Shatterproof review

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Written by William Dibble

Nobody can deny that the internet has revolutionized music. The number of independent artists out there is exploding, and shows no signs of stopping. The question becomes, with this influx of new artists, how does one stand out? How does a band differentiate themselves from the competition? Shatterproof has certainly figured it out with their new EP, Shatterproof, available now. Shatterproof is a punk band that brings something new to the scene, that’s for sure.

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Right off the bat, “So Punk” launches into some sick fast riffs, combined with violin. Violins and cellos have been making inroads into the rock scene for a decade now, with many bands using them as backing or even primary instruments. Shatterproof uses violin to great effect alongside their blistering punk sound, giving their songs an almost folk-music tinge. Shatterproof is an album that is, ultimately, about the struggle of the working artist. “So Punk” starts off talking about what it is like to be a ‘starving artist’, going into great detail about the state of their life. Following this is “Cookie Cutter Life”, which starts with a keys introduction that brings to mind old movies and circuses. This melts into a low set of vocals and muted guitars, before taking off into the bulk of the song. “Cookie Cutter Life” is an energetic punk song through and through. It borrows traits and techniques from several genres, and features a chorus that the audience will likely sing along heartily to.

 

“Karma” starts off with soft vocals and clean guitars, but quickly jumps into a track that is best described as ‘bouncy’. Even sitting down listening to the track, one feels compelled to bounce or jump along with its jaunty rhythms and violins. The violins make a noticeable return after being absent in “Cookie Cutter Life”, lending both rhythm and soaring melodies. “Definition of Fine” is a softer song overall, about the what it means when you tell somebody “I’m fine”. This song isn’t just about artists- it is so much more. The soft vocals and guitars build to an almost overpowering drum climax, before dropping back into the older rhythm. The EP closes out with “Lykos”, which closes the album with a rousing punk song that is reminiscent of the emo-punk movement of the 2000’s while remaining distinctly Shatterproof in essence.

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Shatterproof is an EP with, well, shatterproof quality and songwriting. The songs are catchy and unique, and offer a lot of energy. While it only clocks in at under twenty minutes, it features more musical talent in those twenty minutes than some major label bands put out in an hour. Musical creativity isn’t dead, by a long shot, and Shatterproof is clear and present evidence of that. Shatterproof is now for sale and streaming on most major platforms. Click here to grab it on iTunes!