Review: Of Monsters and Men @ Manchester Academy

It won’t have been the first time that the Manchester Academy, which doubles as a student union, has seen frantic swigs of electrolyte-laden energy drink.

But the electric-blue chugs gulped down by the Of Monsters and Men drummer, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, that punctuated the tribally rhythmic and ethereal tracklist were laced with an unexpected fervor that defined the Icelandic band’s first UK gig on their tour for their new album, Beneath the Skin.

Appetites for an orchestral rollercoaster were whetted admirably by the dulcet lilts of Ingrid Helene Håvik, the impressionably impeccable lead singer of support act, Highasakite, who slowly climbed a crescendo of percussion, teasing the audience with undulating vocals married to a frankly wonderful accompaniment of, amongst horns and delicate keyboard rifts, an electric guitar played with a violin bow to quirkily excellent effect.

NORDIC SENSATION: Impressive visuals were bettered only by the music

Then came Of Monsters and Men. The indie-folk vein that defines the band could lead some to anticipate an intimate live experience, characterised by a closely-knit, warm, and introvert performance, but the six-piece purveyors of Nordic sensation were invigoratingly lively, rousing primeval spirits immediately with the stirring Thousand Eyes as the strobe lights screeched in time with the pulsating bass drums.

Lead singers Ragnar Thórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir dovetailed well, Nanna’s sweetly soothing inflections packing a substantial punch sure to infect any audience with an un-itchable desire to sing along, while Ragnar’s uniquely rusty timbre conjures images of bleak icescapes speckled by the shrapnel of the elemental themes that define the band’s lyrics.

Song after song from the new album flowed forth from the now blood-red lit stage, as Human, Crystals, Hunger, and I Of The Mountain slowed the pace, expertly choreographed by Arnar the drummer: comfortably the most Nordic-looking man outside of Reykjavik.

Tank-tops look as if they were designed specifically for Arnar, stood on his drum stool, swaying his sticks and singing along from behind a thick blonde beard as the performance embraced the gossamer purity of the music, coaxing a hushed reverence from the crowd as Nanna’s juxtaposed soft swaying created a harmonised picture on stage.

Widespread elation spluttered around the venue at the famous trumpet blasts of Little Talks, as OMAM ramped up the performance’s gait prompting unbridled rhapsody for the classics from the band’s debut album, My Head Is An Animal, as King And Lionheart and Mountain Sound met a similarly wild reception, the wonderfully crafted setlist dancing between songs old and new.

Wolves Without Teeth, their new single from Beneath The Skin, was received with wild adulation as the zealous duet between Nanna and Ragnar coupled with the thick beat and mellifluous chorus prompted an almost embarrassed ‘thank you’ from Nanna in a playfully timid voice at the end of the song.

An encore was not so much requested as demanded, as chants of ‘we want more!’ were met with a cheeky ‘you will have more’ from a beaming Nanna. Pouring her soul into Organs slowed the pace to a nuanced sombre effect, before the genius opening guitar plucks of Dirty Paws rang true, capping off a truly magical glimpse into the intricate passion that Of Monsters And Men can comfortably call their own.

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