Date: October 1st 2016
Venue: O2 Apollo, Manchester
Support: Hands Like Houses / Crown The Empire
Of Mice & Men‘s ongoing surge towards the front ranks of modern day metalcore in the past few years has been, if nothing else, remarkable and commendable. In just the past couple of years they’ve toured alongside giants of the genre like Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, and Linkin Park. Now with ‘Cold World’ under their belt, an album that builds on their ambition to fill arenas, a good place to start is playing their biggest headline UK/European tour to date.
At the O2 Apollo, one of Manchester’s biggest venues to offer, and literally on the other side of the world, Aussie boys Hands Like Houses  are greeted quite early on to an already formidably sized and continually growing room. The last time they were here they were headlining the Academy 3 room, so this is a significant venue upgrade, but they’re well suited to it. Their leaning to a heavier sound with latest record ‘Dissonants’ sits very well with the mostly Of Mice & Men fans sat in the crowd, and songs like ‘I Am’ and ‘Colorblind’ even manage to get a few sing alongs. A great foundation to the night ahead.
Crown The Empire , who turned from a sextet to a quintet just last year due to some line-up shifts, are a man down for this tour. Co-vocalist (predominantly hard/unclean) and rhythm guitarist David Escamilla is sitting out the run for undisclosed reasons, and the fans are noticing, with a few yells of “Where’s Dave?” between songs during the set. To their credit, the temporary quartet manage to hold their own regardless; frontman Andy Leo flips between soaring cleans and gritty screams on the likes of ‘Voices’ and ‘The Fallout’ with swift ease, and the choruses from ‘Retrograde’ cuts like ‘Hologram’ sound colossal. It just appears that the circumstances have left things lacklustre, and it shows.
Raring to dominate stages this size and move onto the next, Of Mice & Men  prowl onto the stage to waves and barrages of cheers and screams. They’ve got the huge choruses (‘Broken Generation’), the sharp hooks (‘Feels Like Forever’), the menacing screams (‘The Storm’), and the bludgeoning breakdowns (‘The Flood’) across their repertoire to please fans of any stage during their career, and that strength is exactly what they play to. ‘Pain’ sets us into their 15 song set, with which there seems very little breathing room.
Surprisingly, Austin Carlile manages to hold more than his own when it comes to singing, proving that he can do it live just as well as he can on record. Bassist/vocalist Aaron Pauley obviously has more chops when it comes to that department, and ‘Would You Still Be There’ along with fresher numbers ‘Real’ and ‘Away’ really shows him off to be one of the best singers in the genre right now. It’s not until we reach the encore and go into curtain closer ‘Second & Sebring’ that the true potential and impact of Of Mice & Men becomes fully fledged. The closing chorus refrain fills every space of the room, and the crowd easily overpower the mass amounts of amps and speakers on the stage.
Evidently, Of Mice & Men are on the right track to finally wedging themselves into their own arena tour, they just need another album or two built for that, and another handful of tours to prove they’ve got it in them.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)