Album Review: Of Monsters and Men - 'Fever Dream'

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Of Monsters and Men are back after too long a wait with their third album; one a lot more ferocious and introspective than the two that came before.

Arguably best known for their instant classic ‘Little Talks’, the Icelandic indie-pop band have backed away a little from the acoustic, catchy folk-sounds of ‘My Head Is An Animal’ and embraces a more electronic, almost dance-music oriented spirit for ‘Fever Dream’.

It opens with lead single ‘Alligator’, a song that broke a four year gap since sophomore album ‘Beneath The Skin’. Right from the offset it reflects an entirely new band.

The track is, much like its namesake, scaly, snappy, biting. It’s a lot more rock oriented than anything of theirs that came before, while still retaining them instantly anthemic choruses that’ll have their tracks ringing in your head for ages. ‘Overdrive’ is the name of the game for the song — overdriven guitars, visceral shouting and pounding drums make up the backbone of the track, yet it reflects a band still in their prime.

The other single that has so far been released, ‘Wild Roses’, is closer to the harmonious, haunting ‘Beneath The Skin’. It still comes across a lot more polished, though. It seems to have been carefully crafted so as to ensure that no sound is out of place. Co-lead vocalist Nanna Hilmarsdótti confesses, in her distinctively husky crooning, that she’s ‘wild eyed’, ‘wishing she could fly’. That idea seems to reflect the ideals behind the album, propelling the band to a more mainstream success to soar ever higher. The polish, though, seems almost a shame! Half of the draw of Of Monsters and Men is their rawness, and the beauty in their vulnerable, intimate sensibilities.

This idea ebbs and falls throughout the album. The third track, ‘Róróró’, for example, is imploring, almost despairing. It’s a lovely track, just one that seems to this listener to be a little over-produced.

‘Waiting for the Snow’, is the same. It’s lyrics, asking ‘did I love too hard?’ over some beautiful piano accompaniment, could easily be stunning. But the addition of electronic beeping and vocal distortion just seems to prevent it from being genuinely transcendent. Not to suggest that they’re still not brilliant songs — this is Of Monsters and Men we’re talking about — and it may be borne from a love of the tracks that have come before, but sometimes the seemingly unnecessary additions fail to add anything. If the track had been just Nanna’s vocals over the piano, it would probably be heart-wrenching. Scratch that, it definitely would; every listener would have trails of tears streaming down their face. Instead it’s merely beautiful.

Same with ‘Stuck In Gravity’, this time a Ragnar Þórhallsson led venture. Lyrically, it’s a stand out. It’s an incredible track musically, too. Simply just a little let-down by over-production.

Live, the entire album promises perfection, and is sure to be incredible. Acoustic versions of any of these tracks would be contenders for the best music ever released by the band. And new listeners to the band will probably be blown away by the album. ‘Fever Dream’ reflects a band confident in their abilities and in what they want their sound to be. They’ve shed their rugged reliance on the sound that people know them for and instead grown a new, more polished carapace. It may not appeal to all who were enchanted by the almost magical ‘My Head Is An Animal’, but that’s their choice! It simply proves that the band are constantly evolving and not prepared to simply stay in stasis, motionless husks releasing the same music. ‘Fever Dream’ is a monumental credit to the band, and in all honesty I’m just happy that they’re releasing more music as their live show is incredible. But only time will tell as to how it’s received.

Words by James O’Sullivan