If truth be told, Of Mice & Men lost their way long before frontman Austin Carlile came to the conclusion that this part of his journey was at an end. 2016’s Cold World had its moments, but it was lackluster at best, failing to surf the wave created by the nu-metal thunder chunky that was Restoring Force. It felt like an “important” and necessary album rather than a memorable one, with Austin’s wouldn’t-wish-this-on-anyone health issues forcing the band to rally round each other and pump the brakes, slowing their natural exuberance to a restrained grind. Only the world’s biggest dickweed would bemoan the intentions, or even the results to a degree considering the torment Austin was putting himself through night after night on tour, but even so it’s hard not to feel a git of relief when pressing play on Defy for the first time, which bursts out the speakers like a sheer force of nature. Relaxed, rejuvenated and reluctant to let anything hold them back, the band sound more alive than ever before, going back to what they do best, focusing on the music first, and atmosphere second. Bangers like Instincts and Warzone breathe new life into a lumbering metalcore formula showing that old dogs don’t necessarily need to learn new tricks, they just need to remember what made them exciting to witness in the first place. And then do them right up in your grill whether you like it or not. Reminiscent of the hunger with which Bullet For My Valentine and Beartooth flew out of the traps with their debuts, Defy throbs with intent, vocalist/bassist Aaron Pauley and drummer Valentino Arteaga in particular creating a right old racket. If Restoring Force was nu-metalcore, and Cold World blu(e)-metalcore, then Defy is gru(ve)-metalcore, producer Howard Benson giving the band a thumping stadium-friendly kick while allowing them to still just rip it the fuck up, giving tracks like Forever YDG’n and a monumental cover of Pink Floyd’s Money the space to swing like a hulked up Nickelback in a way that really works for them. Pauley ultimately says it best in the accompanying press release: “We didn’t want to become a new band; we just wanted to be Of Mice & Men”, and in that respect, mission forcibly accomplished. Defy deserves to do for OM&M what Ire did for Parkway Drive, or what Restoring Force did for OM&M…again. A return to Brixton Academy on this run is surely a dead cert, but with weapons this strong in their arsenal, Wembley Arena is well within their sites. Welcome back boys.