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Album Review: Of Monsters and Men - Fever Dream


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Of Monsters and Men soundtracked road trips of summer 2012 for many with ‘Little Talks’ – a song that is now seeped in nostalgia. Fever Dream signifies the band’s departure from their old sonic identity; perhaps ‘Little Talks’ has grown old with us.

Album Art 'Fever Dream' (2019)

Bursting onto the scene with their hugely successful debut album, My Head Is An Animal, the band made their mark on the music world by reaching number one in Australia, Iceland and Ireland.

In 2015 came Beneath The Skin, signalling a move into the cinematic and majestic, laced with intricate rhythms and soft vocals. The band's second album offered a more refined take on the bolshy brass and enigmatic charisma that characterised My Head Is An Animal. Their latest album drives even further away from their debut, so much so that Of Monsters and Men are almost unrecognisable. If Of Monsters and Men told the story of a night out, My Head Is An Animal would be the talkative pres, Beneath The Skin would be some of the best parts of the night out itself, whilst Fever Dream would be the early morning come-down.

The lead single, ‘Alligator’, alluding to the album’s title in its lyrics, is arguably the strongest track on Fever Dream. Led by distorted electric guitar and emphatic drum-bashing by Hilmarsson, lead vocalist Hilmarsdóttir is in her element with her domineering ‘huhs’ which begin the track. Her trademark soft and throaty vocals are doused with a sultriness that gives off a new kind of energy - more grungy and less quirky.

Ultimately, however, the tangible bombast from the band’s previous albums is missing and the potential directness of the track ‘Alligator’ is partly inhibited by the band’s detour into inoffensive, drifty synths. There are, however, tantalising glimpses of the band’s old self throughout. Although the group seems lost in piercing synth pangs initially, the dual vocalists find themselves on ‘Vulture, Vulture’ once again, rising above the mix for a grabbing, climactic chorus.

In ‘Wild Roses’, Hilmarsdóttir demonstrates her delicate tones. She delivers the romantic lyrics in an emotionally vulnerable half-whisper as synths and soft beats collide in her midst, crescendoing into another power chorus. In contrast, ‘Soothsayer’ is presented with attitude and boasts bold rock guitar hooks.

Of Monsters and Men continue to show their softer side on ‘Stuck In Gravity’. Þórhallsson’s vocals are rich and velvety and combined with distant piano chords, the track encapsulates a late-night romance. The song walks the thin line between filler ballad and an essential part of the album's substance, which is only because the rest of the project is ultimately underwhelming.

Starry-eyed piano ballad, ‘Waiting For The Snow’ and the twinkly chords of ‘Róróró’ once again shoot for a sense of romantic vulnerability but this seems uninspired and lacklustre in comparison to more successful tracks. Chock-full of wistful lyrics, such as the former's – “did I love too hard”, many of the songs fail to rise above "generic" and drown in over-saturated production.  

Subtle electronic experimentation does, generally, work in the band's favour. However, ‘Under A Dome’ is steeped in vocal distortion and monotonous beats. It's almost as if the song is physically trapping the brilliance that Þórhallsson demonstrates in ‘Stuck in Gravity’.

Fever Dream is a somewhat fitting name for Of Monsters and Men’s offering: the sonic display of merging synths and piano certainly has a drifty, romantic feel, but much like a dream, many of the tracks seem to blend together. Few tracks contain the band’s well-loved charisma and lyrical substance to ignite any sort of fever. All of this leaves one pondering - what will be remembered when the dream is over?

Fever Dream is out now via Republic Records.

Lead image: Album Art 'Fever Dream' (2019)

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