When I first heard about Caricatures, I was hyped to learn that Ashes of My Regrets had frequently been recommended to Of Mice & Men fans, such as myself. Now, for those of you who don’t know, OM&M is a metalcore band fronted by Austin Carlile that has become increasingly popular these past few years. So, as a huge OM&M fan, I couldn’t wait to hear some powerful fry screams and some really moving clean vocals.*
TLDR; I had high hopes for this album.
And the first track, “Caricatures”, was a fairly good instrumental. But from the next track onward, let me just say that my originally high hopes were shattered into smaller and smaller shards with each song I listened to. Okay, so to explain why, first picture this: Imagine a beefy man in fight mode as he runs something over with a rugged monster truck. Now imagine an emotional preteen with school problems who is whining to an equally pubescent and whiny friend. The first of these two sounds badass, right? But what about the second one? Not so great, huh?
But wait—let’s add another twist: we’ll create a story with these two people. (Yay, storytime!) Imagine that said beefy man and said emotional preteen are best friends and that they’re heading to the movies together one night (just go with it). Beefy man revs up his rad-ass motorcycle and hightails it onto the lamp-lit highway… with the aforementioned lanky preteen hanging onto him from behind.
Now, stop for one second: sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
Continuing onward. So they get to the movies, and Beefy decides that they’re going to watch a violent war movie tonight. During the movie, Beefy licks his manly lips in appreciation of the blood and gore, and Preteen Kid makes “tough” comments about battle scenes that he’s not even watching—he’s covered his eyes for nearly the whole duration of the movie. When they get out of there, Beefy goes on about his favorite gory scenes in the movie, and Kiddo can’t quite keep up a conversation so he starts babbling about something else. Beefy doesn’t want to hurt his friend though, so he just continues with the conversation acting like nothing’s wrong; meanwhile, Kiddo keeps unknowingly fucking up the conversation by plugging in random things about his own shit. Girl problems maybe, or a dead pet lizard.
Since this isn’t English class, let me tell it like it is: Beefy represents the dirty vocals in the songs while Kiddo represents the clean vocals. The dirty vocals in Caricatures are actually quite amazing; the lead vocalist Chris Ferland has quite a knack for sounding vicious as hell and still unique in an indescribable way—maybe it’s the sound of force that’s conveyed even when you hear little strain on his end. But I strongly believe that Chris Ferland, who does both dirty and clean vocals, should just stick to dirty vocals for now. He’s undoubtedly talented for being able to do both, but he does dirty far better.
On that note, did you feel deeply uncomfortable—or maybe feel like laughing—while hearing my beautifully spun story? If so, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I felt DEEPLY uncomfortable hearing the odd juxtaposition of Ferland’s screams and whiny singing in the song. Ferland’s unpolished, teenage-esque cleans don’t belong next to his brutally powerful screams; I felt like I could destroy some shit while listening to the screams, but then listening to the melodic singing, I felt like I’d been plunged into the mind of a complaining boy with a bad case of puberty’s voice cracks. Not a fun sound. (Not a fun time, either, for you boys out there, I suppose.)
If you want to get the most out of this album without totally feeling torn about metalcore for the rest of your life, I recommend listening to just “Caricatures” and “Incorruptible”, though I will warn you that “Incorruptible” is simply just the most tolerable of all the songs with actual singing in them. Otherwise, I advise you to look elsewhere for metalcore! (Norma Jean** is an amazing start.) Or maybe you could write a passionate letter addressed just to Ferland—not to the rest of the band, since the bass, guitars, and drums all sounded quite fine, but just to Ferland. (Ruth Xing)
*I highly recommend that you listen to OM&M’s first, self-titled album or just any of their earlier materials. This was when Shayley Bourget was still the clean vocalist in the band… These are manly tears, my friend. Manly-ass tears.
**Honestly, one of the best metalcore outfits I’ve ever heard. I cannot believe how amazing the lead vocalist is. He has a breathy, relaxed scream that comes out so, so naturally; it sounds like he just opens his mouth and a natural flame just bursts forth; when he closes his mouth, it sounds as if a small wisp of smoke slips out—just a hint of it—before sound and fire fade out altogether. The best. Try “Wrongdoers” for a start.
For Fans Of: The Word Alive, Crown The Empire, Of Mice & Men