Thursday night’s O2 Academy was alight with fans of all stripes, folks eager to witness Iceland’s greatest export since Sigur Ros. Of Monsters and Men Rating: , now more of a ‘stadium’ band than their ‘folkster’ beginnings let on, have had a busy year of tours and festivals, taking them all around the globe. Following the sweeping success of 2012’s My Head is an Animal, the band are currently touring Beneath the Skin (Republic Records), their second studio album. On this tour, one with a string of sold-out UK nights, their Birmingham gig had Norwegian indie pop band Highasakite Rating: as support. Lead vocalists, Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson and Nanna Hilmarsdóttir, explained the process, aesthetic, and background to their latest release, as they sat down with us ahead of their anticipated West Midlands show.
Highasakite stood among oversized lightbulbs and churned out a collection of bold, yet strikingly familiar, pop songs. The group centre around delicate vocals and cerebral synthesizers, lyrics emoting frigid heartbreak and a driving kick drum. The band seem like a fitting opener for Of Monsters and Men, and played through a set of forlorn songs soaked in warmth.
Lights dimmed in preparation for Of Monsters and Men, crowd bubbling under anticipatory reverb. The band—all nine of them—walked on to rapturous applause. “Thousand Eyes” opened the show, bringing the audience straight into the mind-set of a band worn from the road and ready to show crowds who they really were as musicians. Thudding drums echoed throughout, as Hilmarsdóttir danced around the drum she was to bash during the show, whilst lead guitarist Brynjar Leifsson pulsates an ominous melody.
The band’s new material goes over well, with crowds enthusiastic about the group’s darker direction. Of course, fan-favourites like “Mountain Sound” and the sing-along “Little Talks”, the atmosphere erupting euphorically as the crowd belts out every word. Of Monsters and Man are a band that coat themselves in mystery, they make music with an overwhelming passion, yet there is still an air intimacy that draws their crowd in. The brooding nature of new album, Beneath The Skin meant that the mood of the night often shifted, sometimes inducing a sea of clapping hands and flailing arms, sometimes merely eliciting a subdued sway but always keeping the crowd enraptured. At points the band became lost, their sound not hitting every corner of the room instead bouncing off the edges and gently rolling away. Throughout the evening it felt as if the band were teetering on the edge of excellence, always just about to overwhelm us with sound, but never quiet taking the leap to do so. Despite this, the band left an impression, playing through their diverse and intricate catalogue faultlessly, accompanied by an impressive blinding light show. Of Monsters and Men are slowly carving out their sound, nursing it until they’re sure it’s a perfect representation of who they are. Having putting on such a mature, well-crafted show they are sure to only improve and move forward as a band as time stretches on.