More about: Of Monsters and Men
Back in 2011, it would have taken a concerted effort to avoid listening to Of Monsters and Men’s hit single ‘Little Talks’, which propelled the band into the mainstream conscious with seemingly endless airplay. Thanks to ‘Little Talks’ and later singles such as ‘Mountain Sound’ and ‘Dirty Paws’, the general preconception is to label Of Monsters and Men as a folk group. But Fever Dream is an opportunity for the band to showcase their rock and pop influences, to express more sinews of their creative fibre.
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On Fever Dream, the band have started to draw from styles that are completely different from their previous work, with a greater emphasis on using synth. Take the track ‘Wars’, which has one of the most prominent basslines on the album, that ties in nicely with the rhythm set by various clicks and hand claps throughout. But it is the constant blushes of synth which tie the track together, dripping lavishly in to the song’s various pores. On ‘Alligator’ both electronic elements and rock are fused together. Tectonic drumming sets a foreboding atmosphere throughout, as electronic guitar riffs zip around like freshly lit fuses.
Fever Dream is an album that harnesses its power from intrinsic thoughts, whether it be an empty and decaying relationship, feelings of not being present in certain moments or about lust and desire for the adrenaline rush of love. Each track tries to disperse the various emotions that come with these thoughts in different ways.
‘Vulture, Vulture’ for example is the equivalent of reaching a high place and screaming into the void below. The nasal tone of Ragnar þórhallsson and the inflammatory vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir collide in a hail of frustration in the chorus, as they wrestle with their compulsions towards having negative thoughts.
There are more emotive moments on the album, with a few piano-led tracks. At times the song ‘Waiting For The Snow’ feels a little cliché as it sounds similar to a lot of sad ballads but the lyricism has its quirks. When using the cliché metaphor of a mountain to describe challenges in life, the archetype is to think about external challenges that have gotten in your way.
Nanna however, confesses that, “I used to make mountains, but then they grew bigger than me”. She is the perpetrator of her own misfortune, a unique take on a common metaphor. There are a couple of interesting textural choices the longer the song goes on, as auto-tuned backing vocals arise and drip textures appear, which are so fluid that you can visualise each drop slowly break free from suspension. Other tracks such as ‘Ahay’ and ‘Rororo’ feature some of the group's better lyricism, particularly the latter which uses a lot of descriptive lyricism to engross you in the track’s narrative.
There is a sense of missed opportunities however on Fever Dream. The penchant for emotive ballads becomes a little repetitive, on ‘Under A Dome’ there are a couple of intriguing textures in the background, but an attempt to be a bit more ambient fails to spark empathy. ‘Stuck In Gravity’ falters on the confusingly odd choice to include a reverb texture that can only be described as a dysfunctional mechanical budgie.
What is perhaps the most disappointing moment, is the album’s climax on ‘Soothsayer’, which starts by going in a lot harder on 80’s synth influences, with the occasional lick of electric guitar building towards an epic climax that never comes. Just as you think there’s going to be that final expulsion of the emotional frustration felt for the entirety of the record, the drumming reaches a crescendo and simply drops back in to the same hook played throughout the song. The ending simply does not typify the pain, longing or restlessness so often portrayed on the record.
To an extent, Of Monster’s and Men have shown that they are much more than a standard folk band. They are more than capable of tapping into electronic, synth-pop and rock elements to be able to keep on evolving and growing as a group. The vocal dynamic between Nanna and Ragnar is a powerful maelstrom, which can be devastatingly effective and at times enthralling to listen to. Perhaps Of Monsters and Men tried a bit too hard to come up with new directions for their sound, a couple of the song’s here easily get lost in translation with either odd and confusing experiments with texture or songs which fail for the emotional resonance to which they aspire.
Fever Dream is released on 26 July 2019 via Republic Records.
More about: Of Monsters and Men