Album Reviews

Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin [review]


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Unless you were under a rock for the past 3 or 4 years, there’s no way you could have missed Of Monsters and Men’s meteoric rise. They made that song that you couldn’t escape from. You know, that song that got stuck in your head. C’mon, you know you loved to hate “Little Talks”.

They also served as the soundtrack for Walter Mitty’s excursion (which was an enjoyable movie by the way, idc what critics say). When the hype built, this Icelandic band made an EP, and from that EP and album named My Head is an Animal. This album was well received and they instantly were hailed the new Arcade Fire. Well that was in 2012.

After a few years of touring, they decided to hit the studio for their debut. Will this one live up to the hype?

Where there comes that time in every artist/group’s career where they evaluate themselves and ask “Well what now?”. For Of Monsters and Men, success didn’t necessarily come overnight but it came swiftly. So how to top that?

Long story short, this album suffers the same pitfalls as most sophomore albums: Trying to do way too much. OMAM leave their beaten path for a new one. It’s totally unfair to compare this album to the last one but when your debut kicks in the door like theirs did, it’s kinda hard not to.

This album isn’t bad by any means. The problem comes from trying to go in a totally new direction artistically and make knock the gimmick band label, so it kinda ends up not going anywhere altogether.Sorry, this means no more “HEY!” ad-libbing. But this light tone and whimsical songwriting is what drew in fans in the first place.

(Seriously, what’s more whimsical that using a beach ball to keep the beat?)

Enough about My Head is an Animal though, let’s get into the new album.

This album is darker in tone and more personal. Well, it’s supposed to be anyway. However, it seems as if they’re telling us “Hey, we’re a serious band now!” instead of letting the music tells us.

The album opens with “Crystals” which sounds like it could be a B-Sides of My Head is An Animal. It’s not a bad song, just not anything you’ve never heard before. Next up, is “Human”. This song features the lyric that contains the album’s title: “Plants awoke and they slowly grow beneath the skin”.

Skipping ahead, the main problem with this album is that the middle of it really doesn’t differentiate itself. You have to trek through songs that are ok but don’t really standout to get to the meat of the album. “Empire” through “Organs” is pretty much the slow and steady portion of this album (Unintentional My Head is an Animal pun). Part of you will want to become disinterested but please, don’t.

The real fun starts at “Black Water”. Another gripe I have, and it’s a minor one, is that these songs feature either Nanna or Ragnar heavily, there’s none of that fun back and forth. Well they share the stage on “Black Water” and it’s one of the beautiful songs of the album. This song is probably the best representation of their new direction. They still hold dear to the nature motifs that are inspired by being from Iceland, but this is the “serious” material that they long to make now. It also features their chant-style singing and it doesn’t sound like we’ve heard it before.

“Thousand Eyes” continues intensity. We hear something that wasn’t expecting of them. This song ends with a pretty bad-ass crescendo that will give you some pretty good air guitar material.

“I of the Storm” is another strong point of the album. Nanna gives her strongest performance here and steals the show. This track is another example of this group at their best.

My closing thoughts on this album is that while it won’t blow you away or make newcomers wonder what all the fuss is about, there’s still enough here to make a solid outing. While I’m not crazy about this album right now, it seems to be one that’ll grow on me. I can tell, I’m already listening to it more than I did the first week. I think we haven’t seen the best of this band and they’re still discovering themselves. Once the find their true direction, they will be a force.

Final Grade: 3.25 – 5. Hey, it’s still a passing grade.

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