The Icelandic quintet Of Monsters and Men have been working on their new album, Beneath the Skin, set to release on June 9th. From the upcoming album comes the single “Crystals” which was made available this last March. The song is the first taste of what’s to be expected from the band’s new release.
An aggressive drumming rhythm starts off the song. The drums quickly build up and release at the onset of Nanna’s silvery voice, but continue to sound on a lower level. Nanna begins singing out beautiful imagery of “skies of powdered gold” and “clouds of silver ropes.” But even with the beauty found in the words, the character of the song is falling down through all of it.
The next verse culminates that feeling with joined harmonies by co-singer, Ragnar: “I know I’ll whither so peel away the bark/because nothing grows when it is dark.” This is great metaphor that the band presents. Bark is what covers the exterior of a tree, keeping the inside hidden or “dark.” By peeling away that bark, the “inside” is exposed. When you think about this on a personal level, the “bark” is a hard exterior that you put forth that’s not really you. By pulling that away, an individual would expose their true selves and then begin to experience true growth.
We then venture to main chorus of the song where Of Monsters and Men ask you to “cover your crystal eyes/and feel the tones that tremble down your spin/cover you crystal eyes/and let your colors bleed and blend with mine.” This chorus is complimented by a slight disconnect with the guitars and keyboards that were strong in the long refrain, putting emphasis back on the drums. If you have ever looked through a crystal ball, you would know that it reflects back what you’re seeing, but upside down. So you are seeing the image clearly, but in the wrong way.
With your eyes covered, you are then forced to look inside yourself. Here the band is asking you to free who you really are and feel your full potential. Stop comparing yourself to the worlds’ projection of what you should be and take on, with confidence, your actual self. Don’t hide it; let your colors shine. The next verse pushes these ideas further as Nanna is expressing what it feels like in the beginning when the “bark” is initially peeled.
The bridge is the first time the drums leaves us completely, knocking the sound down to focus on Nanna’s confessional like lines. Rhythm is still kept on chords with the guitar but it is much quieter and almost reverent like. “But I’m okay in see-through skin/I forgive what is within” is a strong emotion as she is accepting herself for who she is. There is also an understanding that others will now be able to see her true being as well. It’s a challenge for most people to even get to this step. Often people worry about the world’s opinion of themselves and allow someone they don’t even know to control their internal emotions. Of Monsters and Men are trying to help people push past that as you finally let it go and your “colors blend and bleed” with theirs.
“Crystals” is a lyrically beautiful song. Of Monsters and Men have a history of mixing colorful words with music, a prevalent feature of their first album My Head is an Animal. While the band has been noted to say that Beneath the Skin is supposed to be a new, evolved sound from the first album, “Crystals” feels like a continuation, not a new direction. Even so, it’s still a great direction to be going.