Album Review: Of Monsters and Men, ‘Beneath the Skin’
The second album from Of Monsters and Men sees the Icelandic folk-rock quintet looking inward and attempting to render that most rocky and scarred of landscapes: the human psyche.
As frontwoman Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir explained in a recent making-of clip, she and the band pointed their collective pen at the unattractive qualities that lurk within. Charmingly, the entire band sits in a circle over chocolate and coffee and ruminates over lyrical imagery and the overall feeling they're trying to convey in a given song. The five members often do this for hours, and sometimes do so in relative silence, which just goes to show how much thought and effort goes into their creative process.
This highly-collaborative approach gives the music on Beneath the Skin a clear sense that it's coming from a band that's put in the requisite time to gel as a unit. But don't get the wrong idea -- on paper the charcoal-toned cover art, the lyrical references to storms, and the general undercurrent of inner tension may give the impression that Beneath the Skin would be a solemn affair in terms of its sound, but the opposite ends up being true. Sure, co-producer Rich Costey (Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol, Foster the People) helps bring out the atmospheric side of the band on the album's more reserved passages, but in the end Of Monsters and Men's stock and trade remains a sprightly, acoustic guitar-driven sound. This time, though, by holding back just enough, the band brings out the strengths in its trademark marching groove.