Beneath the Skin starts off well enough, with the first three songs, particularly the single "Crystal," showcasing OMAM's trademark lush instrumentation paired with great vocal melodies and harmonies. From then on, however, it falls flat. The same tribal, punchy drumming becomes tiresome, the lyrics become more cliché and gimmicky and excessive reverb overwhelms the songs, making the rest of the record blur into one. OMAM aim for a dark and unsettling record, but it's hard to shake the feeling that they're sacrificing what they do best to accomplish it. They nailed their previous feel-good record; this change in pace seems forced.
The six-piece Icelandic band have really honed their larger-than-life sound, which sits in the same vein as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros or Florence and the Machine, and this is no doubt a beautifully engineered record — there's a real balance in the contrast of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir's sweet and highly articulated singing with the booming background — so if you're already an OMAM fan, then you'll likely find something to like in this record. Otherwise, Beneath the Skin is too humdrum to garner any new acolytes. (Republic)