Personnel: Austin Carlile, Aaron Pauley (vocals); Alan Ashby, Phil Manansala (guitar); Valentino Arteaga (drums).
Audio Mixer: Aaron Pauley.
Recording information: O2 Brixton Academy, London (03/28/2015).
Director: Jon Stone .
Orange County metalcore quintet Of Mice & Men brought their formidable live show to London's O2 Brixton Academy on March 28, 2015 to chronicle their Full Circle tour, an international jaunt in support of their third studio effort, Restoring Force. The band performed ten songs from that album, with a few representatives from melodic sophomore offering The Flood, and a pair of crowd pleasers from their self-titled debut added to the set list. Directed by Jon Stone, Live at Brixton is a primer, both as a snapshot of the band's evolving style, as well as an example of their stage chops. Opening with the punishing "Public Service Announcement," the band stake claim to the turf right alongside expert performers like Slipknot and Bring Me the Horizon, with vocalist Austin Carlile taking reign as the pit master. His extended screams are impressive, stretching out to painful lengths. As a frontman, his recorded banter is kept to a minimum on Live, but in the moments when he introduces the band, incites the pit, and engages the crowd, his genial manner adds an incongruous yet refreshing brightness to an otherwise crushing set. The band also prove that they can play just as well live as in the studio. Valentino Arteaga's drums pound harder, Phil Manansala and Alan Ashby's guitars slash more sharply, and Aaron Pauley provides enough bass rumble to bolster the low end, making for an extremely physical listen. Pauley's clean vocals also contribute a refreshing clarity on the high end, encouraging crowd singalongs and some joy in a surprisingly positive and profanity-free performance. As a live recording, the visceral moments translate best. Pit churners like "You Make Me Sick" and "Bones Exposed" leap from the speakers, but it's the live standard "The Depths" that truly whips up a typhoon of fury as Carlile instructs the crowd to crouch and bounce on command. It's thrilling to imagine and even more exciting if a listener has experience in an Of Mice & Men pit. Elsewhere, atmospheric embellishments from their studio recordings are retained ("Glass Hearts" and "Identity Disorder"), re-creating the aura from the concert setting. The best aspects of their gig are preserved, allowing listeners to feel the anticipation, tension, and release from each explosive breakdown. "Let Live" and "Broken Generation" are two highlights that illustrate this palpable electricity. At the close of this relatively short set -- 15 cuts clock in at a little over an hour -- the band ends with "You're Not Alone," a melodic anthem that elicits a unified crowd chant of "Don't let the world bring you down/It's not over, you're not alone anymore!" After a torrent of guttural screams and instrumental assault, listeners in this imagined crowd can feel the full force of the band, not only in their bones but also in their guts. Live at Brixton serves as an apt document of Of Mice & Men's first half-decade as technically focused and proficient hard rock purveyors. ~ Neil Z. Yeung