Of Monsters and Men blindsides fans with risky genre change on ‘FEVER DREAM’

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Grade: 3.5/5.0  

After four years of virtual silence, Icelandic folk band Of Monsters and Men has completely stupefied fans with its new album, FEVER DREAM. Released Friday, the album completely abandons all hints of the band’s previous sound in a mix of arena rock, soft ballads and effervescent dance tunes.    

This album is unlike anything Of Monsters and Men has released so far — so much so that it’s hard to believe this band released the album in the first place. The work takes a more classic rock approach and includes almost no notes of folk; it is quite unlike the group’s most popular album, its 2012 My Head Is an Animal. While the band’s sophomore album, Beneath the Skin, hinted at a shift toward alternative rock, FEVER DREAM’s sound is a force that Of Monsters And Men fans haven’t reckoned with previously.    

It doesn’t make much sense why the first song on the album is called “Alligator,” as it neither  includes references to the animal nor ties into a central reptile-related theme. The song refers directly to the title of the album, though, with its lyrics describing losing control in a fever dream. 

Ahay” is about as different from the first track as adjacent tracks get. A softer alternative ballad, this more monotonous track is tonally matched by “Róróró.” Both of these songs follow themes of being in nature and being cold (the band is Icelandic, after all). 

One of the most beautiful songs on FEVER DREAM is “Waiting for the Snow,” an OK Computer-esque piano ballad with poetic descriptions and simplistic electronic sparks. This song is a somber expression of uncertainty and self-reflection: “I used to make mountains / But then they grew bigger than me,” lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir sings. Throughout the song, the singer poses questions and seems to gain clarity. This lullaby is one of the highlights of the album for sure.                 

One of the songs that has garnered the most popularity off the new record thus far is “Wild Roses,” which was released as a single July 12. This song is the most illustrative of the album: It tells of how roses “don’t mean a thing” if you’re just pretending and sleep doesn’t come so easy when you’re feeling aimless. The hopeful vein of the upbeat instrumentals drives forward the rock influence of the album as a whole, but this song has a more radio-friendly, single-characteristic pop vibe than the others on the album. 

Stuck in Gravity” may start off slow, but the clap tracks and heavy synths eventually lead listeners into a nostalgic outro of “Head is still an animal,” in reference to the band’s first album. This chaotic ending section is also the climax of the song and quickly falls into “Sleepwalker.” Fittingly, many of the songs on this record mention concepts of dreaming and connecting with nature. While “Stuck in Gravity” embodies the more restless elements of fever dreams, the lackadaisical drift that is “Sleepwalker” winds through listeners and brings a tranquility to the listening experience.           

The album cover itself mirrors its songs’ more psychedelic sounds; it looks like it’s on drugs. Showcasing a deep ruby painting of a white lined eye, the image seems to be dripping as the intense blue of the iris melts into redness. The image connects to the feelings of disarray that accompany restless dreams and that many of the songs on this album allude to.      

Of Monsters and Men should be commended for taking risks with FEVER DREAM. While the new style doesn’t hit quite as effectively as when the band sticks to its folk roots, there’s nothing wrong with the new album if you aren’t comparing it to past works. Although the album includes disjointed sounds that may not be palatable for die-hard fans, a change of pace can be refreshing every so often — no matter how much remains unexplained.    

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.