Although we write a lot of information for people visiting Iceland (we are a travel blog after all), every now and then we like to discuss other aspects of the country such as its history, culture, and everyday life on our small Nordic island. Today we’d like to highlight one of the more famous musical acts to come out of Iceland in recent years: Of Monsters and Men. Often referred to as OMAM by their legions of fans, the five-number group out of Reykjavik is a band you should definitely know. While many people recognize the group’s 2012 indie pop breakout hit “Little Talks”, there’s so much more to discover when you dig beneath the surface. From raised social consciousness to a unique music video color scheme to cool Viking artwork on their albums, let’s learn more about this Icelandic band.
OMAM and The Refugee Crisis
Of Monsters and Men is quite socially aware. They chose to highlight the refugee crisis in the lyric video for their single “We Sink”. The heartbreaking reality of this humanitarian crisis sets in from the opening moments of the mellow ballad with the lines “All those eyes on me…as I sink into the open sea”. The camera then pans across the faces of various refugees of different ethnicities currently living in Iceland and receiving assistance from the Red Cross. It’s quite easy for many of us to take our relatively comfortable lives for granted and turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Of Monsters and Men chooses not to do that and instead tries to help by keeping refugees as a part of our collective consciousness. They also set up an International Red Cross donation page where their fans can give to the cause.
Together with the UNHCR and Red Cross, the band had this to say:
“They, like most of us, have stories of love, pain, family, loss, and happiness. But unlike many of us, they also have a story of needing to leave their home countries in search of a safe place to live. [It’s] something that should be a given for all of us and sadly isn’t”.
According to the statement given to HuffPost in the same article, the band wants the video to remind us all that “although we may not choose the situations we are born into, we can choose how we help and treat those in need. And that no matter our differences, we all deserve to live in a world without violence and hatred and in one with more peace and kindness.”
We couldn’t agree more and hope the refugee crisis is resolved soon.
Current Album – Beneath The Skin (2015)
The album artwork from their second studio effort seems to pay homage to their Nordic roots. Looking at the symbols, they seem like a modern take on the ancient Viking symbols in the runic alphabets. The band’s sophomore album features their trademark soothing, haunting melodies coupled with socially conscious lyrics on tracks like “We Sink”. Those accustomed to the pop-influenced, energetic vibe of “Little Talks” will be surprised at the deeper feel and more somber tone of some of the band’s other tracks.
Their sophomore album was both a critical and commercial success. The group toured in August, September and October of 2015 and even dabbled in the world of television. With cameo appearances as stage musicians on two episodes of Game of Thrones and the song “Thousand Eyes” featured in ads for Netflix’s show about Marvel superhero Jessica Jones, the band began their Hollywood crossover. They also played at famed California music festival Coachella in 2016.
According to the band’s Instagram account, they started working on their third album in May of 2017. While there is no official release date for the new songs or a first single, we’re very excited nonetheless to see what this creative group of Icelanders comes up with.
Of Monsters and Men Black and White Lyric Videos
Another thing that sticks out about this band is the particular style of their videos. While the group has only released a handful of official music videos, on their website you will find more than a dozen video versions of their songs shot in black and white. These monochromatic lyric videos, featuring everything from fantastical kingdoms, creatures and locales to regular people, have become one of the band’s signatures.
How They Got Their Start and Band Name
Of Monsters and Men originally formed in Reykjavik in 2010. While there have been some changes to the lineup, the current band members are lead singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer and guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson.
The origin of the band’s name is rather simple. They used to describe themselves as songbirds and over time that changed to being monsters. When trying to think of a name for the group, someone suggested Of Monsters and Men. They all liked the way it sounded and said they “just ran with it”.
In 2010 they won Iceland’s annual Músíktilraunir Battle of the Bands competition. After releasing their debut EP Into the Woods in 2011, the band skyrocketed to fame with the success of their first album, 2011’s “My Head is an Animal”. It topped the charts in Australia, Iceland, Ireland the U.S., Canada and the UK with Little Talks as its lead single. They’ve been going strong and haven’t stopped since!
Icelandic Bands: Of Monsters and Men
If you’re into alternative rock or indie folk music, OMAM is definitely a group you should know. They’re cool, socially aware, make great music, and come from Iceland. What more could you ask for?