Of Monsters And Men

Beneath The Skin

Written by: HES on 25/06/2015 11:17:32

I lived for a period of time in Berlin, cut off from my usual social circle, barely holding on to it through a DDR-quality WiFi connection, and in the few dark moments of this amazing adventure I would cling on to Of Monsters And Men's pompous and melancholic folk-rock, blasting all doubt away into the Neuköln night. Needless to say the first album of the Icelandic ensemble "My Head Is An Animal" still has profound meaning to me, beyond the radio hits "Little Talks" and "Mountain Sound". Many songs from that album still to this day would be on my shortlist of the most well-composed folk rock songs, and following up on an album like that almost seems an impossible feat, yet now 3 years down the road the band is finally ready to give it a go.

“My Head Is An Animal” was an album dominated by easy melodies and upbeat sing-alongs but with melancholy always lurking somewhere in Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s hoarse but effortless soprano. Personally I preferred the darker songs like “King and Lionheart” or the more introvert “Slow And Steady” over the up-tempo, very folksy and bright “From Finner” or “Your Bones”. The new “Beneath The Skin” is an album that works consequently with these darker notes, which is quite surprising in comparison to the popularity of the more upbeat songs. This makes “Beneath The Skin” sound like an extremely big jump from carefree adolescence to a more contemplative adulthood and even though it doesn’t make for a very catchy recipe, the eminent songwriting saves the album from ever becoming sappy.

Whereas some of the other folk rockers have gone for an increasingly electric sound, Of Monsters And Men have kept the album acoustic and the feat of this is best exemplified by the hauntingly beautiful ballad “Organs” that features a beautiful cello-backdrop that slowly builds the tension as Hilmarsdóttir sings “So I take off my face. Because it reminds me how it all went wrong. And I pull out my tongue. Because it reminds me how it all went wrong. And I cough up my lungs. Because they remind me how it all went wrong. And I leave in my heart. Because I don't want to stay in the dark”. Yet I don’t think that “Beneath The Skin” is an album lacking the mountainous grandeur of “My Head Is An Animal” – it is just dark and majestic instead like one of the album’s best songs “We Sink”, with the roaring chorus: “We are the sleepers. We bite our tongues. We set the fire. And we let it burn”.

Thematically Of Monsters And Men still make fantastic use of Icelandic inspired nature-centered lyrics – most of them circling around the more eerie and dark parts of the landscape this time, rather than the bright skies of “My Head Is An Animal”. Songs like “Black Water” describes being swallowed by murky waters and “Thousand Eyes” whirls us into a thunderstorm. All of this makes for a complete universe of sound and narration that still avoids becoming tacky or obvious. I sincerely question how many among Of Monsters And Men’s former audience will really like this sophomore album, but personally I have been more convinced of the band’s longevity in this genre, where bands are prone to spit out radio-friendly hits albums with no interesting points of view.

Download: Slow Life, We Sink, Organs, Black Water, Wolves Without Teeth
For The Fans Of: Mumford & Sons, Imagine Dragons, Noah and The Whale
Listen: facebook.com/ofmonstersandmen

Release date 09.06.2015
Republic Records

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