Whilst Beneath The Skin continues the enchanting melodies of Of Monsters And Men, it lacks the progression that you might want for a second album- but there are gems to be found among the crystals.
The Icelandic five-piece, Of Monsters And Men, first emerged in 2011 and released their successful debut album, My Head Is An Animal, in 2012. Their debut album was spear headed by the success of the catchy ditty ‘Little Talks’, the sound of which has continued to their sophomore album, Beneath The Skin.
Co-produced by Rich Costey (of Interpol and Muse acclaim), and recorded in both Iceland and Los Angeles, we might expect some definitive progression between the chamber pop group’s two albums. Of Monsters And Men, however, have chosen to stand by their melodic sound that worked so well on My Head Is An Animal, and only glimmers of a new direction feature on this album.
Beneath The Skin‘s release was headed by ‘Crystals’, which features as the opening of the album and gives it a racing start. It emerges to listeners with a punchy but distant drum beat, functioning as a call to arms. The track reaffirms the sound associated with the band: pleasant melodies offset by rhythmic percussion and aroused by vocals from Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson. With such a distinctive sound, maybe it is not necessary for the band to stray from it with their new material. ‘Human’ opens with distant cooings and emits an enchanting aura – but this is disrupted by the insistent drum beat that runs behind almost every track. ‘Hunger’ is a song of desperation, with the repetition of “I’m drowning” that runs throughout it.
‘Organs’ is the highlight of Beneath The Skin. It is raw and melodic, enchanting and beautiful. It strips away the omnipresent drum beat and focuses on the lyrics and melody, allowing the album to blossom at its centre.
With ‘Thousand Eyes’ Of Monsters And Men introduce a punchier, darker and growingly menacing tone as the album concludes. It seems to answer the war-like drums of ‘Crystals’ that open the album and spark more force from the band. It is seamlessly intertwined with the penultimate track ‘I Of The Storm’ through a lyrical bridge that joins the two.
Beneath The Skin concludes with ‘We Sink’, which ends the album on a promisingly powerful note. It features soft vocals from both singers, leaving listeners with the melodic sound associated with the band – but the chorus combines all of the instrumentation on the album and envelopes you in a wave of sound. ‘We Sink’ wistfully finishes on an isolated piano melody, which marks a definitive end to the album.
The pace of Beneath The Skin is not all that different from the band’s debut album. In fact, you could probably listen to both of them side by side and it would work as a double album. That said, if you have a sound that works, and is distinct to your band – as Of Monsters And Men have created – is it necessary to change it? Perhaps not, but perhaps what Beneath The Skin needs is more ‘Organs’ and less ‘Crystals’ in order to give it more of that enchanting edge that would make it a truly great album. It’s a shame, because this album is a lovely listen – but it isn’t quite progressive enough to be hailed as great.
Beneath The Skin was released Friday 5th June via Republic Records.