Of Monsters and Men Beneath the Skin
    • FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 2015

    • Posted by: Patrick Pilch

    On Beneath The Skin, the sophomore LP from Of Monsters and Men, the Icelandic quintet find themselves not straying far off the path their previous release, debut My Head Is An Animal, journeyed on. With sonic, thematic, and lyrical elements containing similar traits of their previous output, Of Monsters and Men resort to rebranding their nature-inspired lyrics, releasing a safe record filled with numbers that could pass for stylistically darker, B-side cuts from their first record. Their stick-to-what-we-know formula produces a recording that blends as a whole, which unfortunately makes some tracks undistinguishable and easily forgotten. Because of their sonic resemblance and interchangeable lyrics as a result of similar song arrangement, the tracks seem to be deja vu over and over again. Their sound merely scratches the surface of the groups musical capability, as they sadly never break the musical skin they seek to travel beneath.

    Of Monsters and Mens main goal is apparent, as they attempt to recreate their previously established, charming, folk pop melodies found on their debut album that proved successful on tracks like the chart topping "Little Talks" and "Mountain Sound." While this theme is one that undoubtedly garners listeners' attention, the monotony between Beneath the Skins tracks blandly mixes the album together. With a routine song structure of similar initial buildup and development, the tracks are diminished, as they become less distinguishable individual pieces. For example, songs like "Hunger" and "Empire" follow the same pattern of an opening that sets the three or four chords that will make up the melody of the track, leading to the inevitable kick drum that encompasses the monotonous vitality of each song, a quality found in most contemporary folk pop acts. While individually, these two songs aren't bad, they are of the same consistency and formula, making them difficult to identify, and fall through when attempting to make a powerful impression.

    While certain tracks contain this sense of lacking distinguishability, others successfully capture the folk-pop nature Of Monsters and Men attempt to attain. The track "Black Water" extracts the blue print of previously mentioned songs, "Hunger" and "Empire," while going on to achieve the momentous and hummable melodies that effectively stick to the brain. Between Ragnar þórhallsson and Nanna Brynds Hilmarsdóttirs semi-raspy, accent-tinged voices, the track proves to be a crowning moment of the groups release. With an anthemic chorus and arrangement that follows the bands song template, "Black Water" builds upon substantial layers of melody that represents the groups finer work.

    Black Water is also joined with opening track "Crystals" in being the two strongest pieces on the album. Like "Black Water, "Crystals" follows a recipe similar to other tracks, containing a rolling drum beat, scattered with a rousing chorus led by the ensembles choral O-ohs. This song represents the most noticeable shift in lyrical style from their debut, as the album is generally much darker as a whole. The opening track, Crystals provides hope for the rest of the album that regrettably falls short of any accomplishments Beneath The Skins opening achieves.

    While some artists have the ability to create a variation on a theme as their sound progresses from album to album, it seems that Of Monsters of Men have only taken a retrogressive step, placing them in the realm of where their past accomplishments exceed their latest effort. There is no doubt that the group has talent, but they are never found pushing their sound into a different direction on their latest, as they limit themselves as artists.

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