It's been almost four years since Iceland's Of Monsters And Men released their debut album My Head is an Animal. Last week they returned with their sophomore release Beneath The Skin. Though their new album does display many elements similar to their debut release, they have presented a body of work that is deeply personal and immensely heartfelt. Below is my first impression thoughts of Beneath The Skin after a single listen.
'Crystals' was the first track released from the album. The festival-ready track features a dramatic build up of bass heavy drums. The lyrics of the track are emotional, particularly the evocative words of the chorus "cover your crystal eyes / and let your colours bleed and blend with mine." Towards the end, the drums mellow out and you can hear Nanna singing about forgiving the past and how the relationship has seen a house turn into a home. The track doesn't end without one final build-up - very true to the style of Of Monsters and Men.
This intoxicating track's overall message is to ensure that we remain human despite the inhuman nature and dehumanising times we live in.
The song's title provides clues of what this one could be about - 'Hunger' suggests feelings of wanting more, or that a need isn't being satisfied. This desperation could be associated with the feelings of wanting more from a relationship. Whereas much of their music focuses on heavy instrumentals, it's the powerful vocal harmonies that dominate this one. The repetition of "I'm drowning" at the tracks conclusion hints that the relationship is making them flounder and that theres probably no way out.
Wolves Without Teeth:
Commanded by tribal-esque drums, they're both erratic and ticking - reminiscent of an irregular heartbeat providing a hint that something ominous is approaching.
Like much of their music, this one features elements of romanticism - the idea of connecting real human emotions and feelings to the beauty of nature. This is clear in the first verse, Feel the ocean as it breathes / shivering teeth / See the mountains where they meet / As the wind fends off the waves."
This one is probably my least favourite track from the album thus far. Though it does remain consistent with the idea of connecting their feelings to nature which should be commended. We see this a few times such as in the chorus "You caught me in the tide / and I caught you / sheltered by the night" and also in the third verse "Between the daylight / and the deep sea / lies a swarm of silhouettes."
There is something hauntingly beautiful about this track. The upbeat sounds of their usual material has been replaced with a much more stripped back Of Monsters And Men, there is a melancholy tone swarming from the words Nanna is crooning. Again, we see them relate to nature - this occurs in the opening verse "‘the wind blows loudest when you’re got your eyes closed."
We see them become much more vibrant again - but only slightly. I think this was a wise choice as going back to full forced energy would have killed the beauty and subdued tones of 'Organs'. This track is all about losing yourself and your sense of identity - we see this in the lyrics of chorus "In the deepest depths I lost myself, I see myself through someone else". The ending of the track reminds me of the '"I'm Drowning'" part of earlier in 'Hunger'.
The ideas and images of water and storms continues into this track. 'Thousand Eyes' starts off with the soft sounds of the piano and gradually builds up to intensifying beating drums that are reaching an menacing and dooming climax. Once the darkness subsides dramatically, we return back to reassuring and soothing vocals.
I Of The Storm:
This track opens up hauntingly like the previous one, but instead with patterned military-esque drums. The song continues with the theme of a spiralling relationship. Here we've got an individual who is losing their sense of self. They're fragile and though they are choosing to leave (or they've been forced to), they're afraid of not feeling wanted or being loved anymore when they leave this person. They compare the panic to the extremes of winter - frostbite, debilitating chills etc.
This one is a powerful closer for the album's final track. The last thirty seconds feature a glistening piano - hinting the light of the end of the tunnel after riding through the motions of heartbreak, loss, and hopelessness.