Photography and review courtesy of Joe Stadele for TWTHS. Published October 7, 2015.
Of Monsters and Men’s performance at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium is testament to how the band has grown and evolved in sound. From the Fine Line to First Avenue to the Roy, the band’s audience has swelled. With their latest album, Beneath the Skin, the band built upon their Icelandic folk sound with a more electric and percussive sound — fitting for an arena. (I have heard comparisons to Imagine Dragon in conversations, but let’s be honest, Imagine Dragon could only wish to have the depth and nuance of OMAM.) Surprising for the former ice rink, Of Monsters and Men sounded incredible in the typically muddy lowend of the Roy.
In front of bear-covered speakers and giant “MMMM” lights, OMAM took stage with an expanded ensemble of musicians; 9 total. Lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir stood center stage coo-ing the lyrics of “Thousand Eyes” over a layered, yet subtle undertone. Ragnar þórhallsson joined in on the vocals as the song exploded with strings and percussion. With a snare drum to her left, Nanna beat the drum to a pulp as the song built and built until falling silent into the sound of the audience’s cheers.
OMAM’s set was heavy on Beneath The Skin. While vocals are still the defacto emotional force behind their songs, the back and forth boy-girl acoustic storytelling between Nanna and Raggi has largely taken a backseat to layered guitars and the driving-to-gargantuan drumming of Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson. Arnar pushed “folksy songs” like “Empire” and “Black Water” into stadium level singalongs. Yet songs like “I of the Storm” are served best when the OMAM cast support Nanna’s beautiful voice. In a venue like The Roy, striking that balance was key to drawing in the audience and keeping the momentum alive.
After the gorgeous “I of the Storm” and solemn “Backyard”, there an obvious energy shift with pounding anthem “Crystals.” The audience got involved. The band more talkative. Overall more interactive. Raggi invited the audience to sing along to the “woah-oh-woah’s” of “Slow Life.” Agnar’s drumming on “Wolves Without Teeth” sounded downright sinister among the back-and-forth vocals of Nanna and Raggi. On several occasions throughout the evening Arnar stood from his chair behind the drums to get the audience clapping and waving. With his assistance, songs like “Lakehouse and “Dirty Paws” took on an anthemic vibe. The biggest moment of the night was reserved for the song that started it all…“Little Talks.” The audience jumped to their feet, the crowd on the floor jumped and dance and nearly everyone from the stage to the roof sang along. The rest of the evening felt like a victory lap as the energy between the audience and band only grew.
Perhaps it’s the volcanic waters of Iceland that inject such beauty into the music of the land, but like Sigur Ros (and perhaps, Bjork) before them, OMAM only get better as they evolve their sound and explore a more layered sound. Like the Arcade Fire, if OMAM continue their trajectory I wouldn’t be surprised to be hearing their anthemic sound in an arena down the line.
While the current leg of Of Monsters and Men’s stateside tour wraps up October 18th Los Angeles, the band will return in December for a handful of radio and festival dates. Check www.ofmonstersandmen.com for tour updates.
King and Lionheart
I Of The Storm
Wolves Without Teeth