Icelandic quintet Of Monsters And Men have been flying between studios in Los Angeles and Iceland ever since 2013 to perfectsecond studio album, Beneath The Skin. The group are mainly known for their free-spirited, festival anthem hit ‘Little Talks’. However, Beneath The Skin takes us to darker, enclosed spaces revealing a raw vulnerability.
Album opener ‘Crystals’ demonstrates immediately that the veil of rousing instrumentals masking bleak lyrics, which was the basis of their debut album, My Head Is An Animal, is lifted, as they indulge themselves in minor keys which sets the precedence for Beneath The Skin. ‘Hunger’ follows this example with it’s waves of melancholia as Nanna pleads “I’m drowning… I’m drowning” as the guitars push forward in the chorus in an attempt to lift the mood. One of the many likeable qualities of the group is an innocent charm that radiates from both their sound and themselves as a band, which is brought forth in the beautiful ballad, ‘Wolves Without Teeth’. It’s native beats, alongside Nanna and Raggi’s voices, perfectly complementing one another makes a strong album filler before the brighter outlook on life in ‘Empire’. This injects the album with much needed motivation before the experimental distortion of ‘Slow Life’.
‘Organs’ shows to us what Nanna’s unique vocals are capable of as it forces Of Monsters and Men fans to take them more seriously than they ever have done. The orchestral joys of My Head Is An Animal is left long forgotten and buried in the past as the minimalism of vocals, piano and acoustic guitar gently grips our attention and the sad softeness takes hold. However ‘Black Water’ lifts us from this with Raggi’s smoky vocals as he takes control, bringing with him a presence of ethereal calmness before ‘A Thousand Eye’s envelopes the album back into claustrophobic darkness. Drums and violins build up such a high anticipation that you almost begin to panic that all the angst is about to explode, but yet when it does so there’s a sense of relief as it clears the air for the refreshing ‘Of The Storm’.
Of Monsters And Men would have done well to have ended the album on ‘We Sink’, as they return to their roots in a strong track with an explosive chorus propped up by dedicated guitar riffs. By the time the album reaches ‘Human’, you’re so far sunk into the melancholia of it all with a heavy case of the blues that you’re impatient for it all to end. Beneath The Skin certainly shows what Of Monsters And Men are capable of, but those already in a sad mood should approach with caution.
Beneath The Skin is released on 9th June via Republic Records.