I of the storm
Photos by Nick Tomecek
“Beneath the Skin” is fierce.
Of Monsters and Men’s follow-up to its debut album, “My Head is an Animal,” was jarring in the best way. The Icelandic folk group replaced cheery folk singalongs with edgy lyrics and punchy choruses.
In other words, it’s less Mumford and Sons and more Florence + the Machine.
While I indulged in the first record, I’d been on the fence about the group until “Beneath the Skin.” I’ll never question it again.
The 2015 album even swayed me to buy concert tickets, another powerful life decision. Like female lead singers tend to do, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir stole the show with relaxed confidence and what I’m pretty sure was magic. With a full, clear voice and a petite frame, Hilmarsdóttir comes across as a woodland fairy, using her powers for both light and dark.
Co-singer and guitarist Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson also sounded flawless.
Of Monsters and Men started its concert at the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with “Crystals,” the first song on the record. Listening to the record on my iPhone versus the live performance was completely different. “Crystals” and “I of the Storm” stood out much more at the concert.
I played "I of the Storm," a slow-burning, emotionally driven track, on my turntable at least 10 times after the concert, loudly, which I'm sure my neighbors appreciated. The emotional song is consequentially my favorite on the album.
I am a stranger
I am an alien inside a structure
Are you really gonna love me when I’m gone?
—“I of the Storm”
When Hilmarsdóttir sang this, I could feel the pain in her voice. To a steady drum rattle, she confronts past mistakes and expresses doubt that anyone loves her or will love her.
The anguish in holding onto regrets and self-doubt is a powerful message to which many can relate. Perhaps I revel in this song most because it hits so close to home.
This is the song that, to me, truly edges “Beneath the Skin,” what the album is all about. It’s a trying journey. Tearing through the skin and revealing the true identity clawing at your insides is tough.
Of Monsters and Men gives your dark side a voice and a rhythm.
You hover like a hummingbird
Haunt me in my sleep
You’ll sailing from another world
Sinking in my sea, oh
—“Wolves Without Teeth”
“Empire” and “Wolves Without Teeth” are the catchiest tracks on the record, falling closest to where the group began. If you tend to latch onto singles, start with these.
It’s no surprise Of Monsters and Men spends much of its time touring. Seeing its live performance emulated the grandness of its lyrics. Many different instruments were used on stage, and all the band members had a powerful presence.
The group is busy “working on baby #3,” according to its Facebook page, and I can’t wait. I can honestly say I have no idea what to expect from this group.
Will it bring a joyful, uplifting record with a message about love, or will it unleash another darker assemblage of captivating tracks? Either way, I know where I will find myself.
In the "I of the Storm."