Live Review: Of Mice & Men @ Melkweg, Amsterdam, 13.3.15

Not too long ago, Californian metalcore quintet Of Mice & Men was still struggling to sell out venues half the size of Amsterdam’s 1,500-capacity Melkweg Max. On Friday, though, it was their turn to sell out the venue they’ve been working their way towards in the last few years. What started as a headline set at the Sugar Factory (just over the road from the Max) became the Oude Zaal of the Melkweg, now culminating in a headline set in one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious venues. They’ve not done it with ease, though. Constant touring and recording has helped them get to a point where they’ve now become one of the frontrunners in their genre. Read on for a live review of the sold-out show, for which Of Mice & Men was joined by Volumes and The Amity Affliction.

Fans had been queuing in the cold for up to eight hours before the show when doors eventually opened, with Volumes’ brutal-yet-melodic metalcore opening the whole evening. Perhaps still a little bit rough around the edges, co-frontmen Michael Barr and Gus Farias’ vocals intertwined smoothly as they took turns in screaming over a mixture of to-the-point hardcore and ambient djent-style metal. Set highlight Erased encompassed a mixture of downbeat percussion and guitar licks alongside a massive chorus which saw Barr scream, “I thought you hated me when I needed you”. Their 30-minute set drew heavily on debut album No Sleep, showcasing selected elements of potential. The crowd, for the most part, were generally receptive of the quintet despite it being evident that a majority of the crowd were definitely not there to see them. For now, though, Volumes are still a diamond in the rough with a long way to go until fully polished.

Brisbane metalcore quartet The Amity Affliction drew a larger and far more enthusiastic crowd for their 45-minute set, something which was expected considering their subtle rise in popularity the last year. Hats must go off to frontman Joel Birch and backing vocalist/bassist Ahren Stringer, whose vocals complemented eachother extremely well for the duration of the set. Brutal set opener Pittsburgh saw Birch scream, “I’ve been searching for answers, but they’re lost inside my head” ahead of Stringer’s clean chorus, before the likes of Open Letter and Never Alone saw plenty of pits emerge on the densely populated Melkweg floor. Set closer Don’t Lean On Me received the biggest cheer of the evening thus far, with every moment from its opening piano line to catastrophically epic outro resulting in fantastic reactions from the crowd. “There is soap in my eyes, there is soap in these wounds” screamed Birch before Stringer accompanied him for the chorus as 1,500 hands were launched into the air. “I really need you here, I need you suddenly” vocalized Stringer as the band left the stage to screaming fans.

Of Mice & Men took the stage thirty minutes later, with frontman Austin Carlile walking onstage by himself with a customized Dutch flag in tow as he kicked off the show with Public Service Announcement, taken from 2014’s Restoring Force. His four band mates soon joined him as they kicked into the upbeat metalcore banger with utmost technical precision. Glass Hearts, also lifted from the now-reissued Restoring Force, opened with an ambient keyboard and electronic drum intro, before it broke into a chaotic frenzy of Valentino Arteaga’s speedy drumming and Carlile’s fierce howls. Bassist Aaron Pauley’s clean vocals contrasted well with those of Carlile, although Carlile took it upon himself to have a go at singing on recent single Broken Generation. The track, lifted from the recent reissue Restoring Force: Full Circle, is more accessible than the older Of Mice & Men tracks, perhaps lifting some inspiration from their time on tour with Linkin Park last autumn. Older track OG Loko ensured that the first manic pits erupted in and amongst the predominantly teenage crowd, before Let Live made for the first big anthem of the evening. Taken from 2011’s The Flood, Let Live was one of the more ferocious tracks of the evening as it contrasted with the newer, more radio friendly Of Mice & Men songs.

You Make Me Sick’s brutal riff and chaotic outro saw the whole band (completed by guitarists Alan Ashby and Phil Manansala) run and jump around stage, before taking it a step further on This One’s From You, lifted from their self-titled debut. It’s one of many songs that the band hasn’t played in a while, with a selection of old songs being pulled out of the bag for this tour. Recent single Feels Like Forever hit the crowd with Linkin Park sized stadium choruses courtesy of Pauley, combined with raunchy verses laced with distortion, whereas Bones Exposed (complete with extended intro) saw the band flick the switch and go back into full-on metalcore mode. There wasn’t an awful lot of crowd interaction, although Carlile did take out a moment later on in the show to personally introduce the whole band. It’s moments like this that show you how much the band has progressed and grown as not only musicians, but also as performers. The anthemic single Would You Still Be There preceded the balladry of Another You, which saw all hands and lighters in the air as Pauley emotionally sang, “and so I’ll carry you with me”. Identity Disorder saw Pauley teach the crowd how to sing along to its catchy intro, with the whole room obliging in loud unison, whereas the brutal combination of Those In Glass Houses and The Ballad of Tommy Clayton & The Rawdawg Millionaire harked back to the quintet’s early days. Second & Sebring, also lifted from that debut album, closed the main set as it received one the biggest crowd reactions. Its piano-led outro saw the band leave the stage one by one, with the full room shouting for an encore as the lights dimmed.

Following a couple of minutes, the band returned to the stage for two more songs, first launching into the brutally heavy The Depths, a song capable of breaking necks with its heavy riff. You’re Not Alone, the lead single from Restoring Force, closed the show with one of the most anthemic and euphoric sing-alongs of the night. “Don’t let the world bring you down” sang Pauley, before Carlile and 1,500 fans joined him as they continued, “you’re not alone, you’re with me”. The band left the stage once more, having just cemented their status as one of the best metal bands around today. Of Mice & Men won’t be returning to Holland for a while yet, having now played five Dutch shows in the last 11 months before they head back into the studio for their fourth record. By the time they return, expect them to be a whole new monster with a lot to prove.

Click here for more pictures from the show.