Fever Dream: a title that creates a tone in itself, sets expectations… will this album be a collection of songs that will raise our pulse and catch on like a fever, or will it be more of a nightmare that leaves us with cold sweats? The answer unfortunately is neither.
The Icelandic indie folk/pop band, Of Monsters And Men have had much international success in the past with Little Talks reaching the UK top 40 back in 2011, and single ‘Dirty Paws’ made it to number one in their home country.
This new record however feels like the band have moved away from the original warm acoustic guitar/kick drum driven sound of their debut, and opted for a more clinical pop production. Featuring programmed and electronic drum sounds, which result in a slightly out of character aesthetic, this record strays from the aspects of the sound that might have drawn fans to the band initially. This perhaps has been a tactical decision by the producer in pursuit of more mainstream chart success, but feels in this case in a sense contrived.
Fever Dream would make more sense coming from a completely different band. With melodies that come across on first listen as slightly non-descript and lacking the character and hooks the band have delivered in the past, the energy here comes from the drums and bass, which sound powerful and crisp, yet lay a bed of energy that feels like it is not matched by slightly disparate and lacklustre vocals.
The arrangements at times favour long synthetic pads in place of melodic hooks and this adds to the feeling of the songs drifting by without any climactic moment or excitement. Having said this, the songs are by no means bad, but just don’t meet the expectations set by the band in the past. Which again may be no bad thing, as bands can face criticism for repeating themselves or retreading old ground that may seem safe as it has yielded success previously. In this sense the album is an evolution for the band and pushes their sound in a new direction. It would be interesting to see the band’s live show to find out if the energy levels exceed those found in the record, perhaps breathing life into the songs.
Old fans will definitely find something to love in this record, with songs like ‘Alligator’ delivering a strong chorus and the vocal interplay that has become a hallmark of the band’s sound. The album also abounds with danceable beats, which contrast nicely with the more downtempo numbers, and create on the whole a cohesive body of work that flows well and sounds complete. Some of the best albums are growers, so maybe this has more to deliver when the listener spends a bit more time with it. It will be interesting to see in future if the band take their sound further down this avenue, or return to their roots.
Shannon Pearl Powell