Following their meteoric rise to the top three years ago, Royal Blood stick to their guns and offer up more punishing riffage on ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’
With their self-titled debut album going straight to the top of the charts in 2014, Royal Blood have become one of the biggest rock duos since The Black Keys, and even The White Stripes. Moreover, Mike Kerr’s bass distortion’s magnitude delineated them from the nominal guitar and drums combination of their peers. At Reading and Leeds Festivals in 2015, they were given a main stage spot prior to metalcore titans Bring Me The Horizon and heavy metal Big Four royalty Metallica.
In 2017, they will be at Glastonbury on the Pyramid stage, prior to breakthrough pop act The xx and alternative rock megastars Radiohead. Now, who would not want to miss that? Considering that they have also opened for Iggy Pop and Foo Fighters on tour, it is no surprise that this amount of stage time among iconic bands and artists has had profound upshots on their following. But the fact of the matter is, Royal Blood have already been considered British music forerunners in very little time at all.
This duo mentality has effectively made rock music ever more appealing in today’s music industry. What is astonishing is that singles perform nowhere near as well as albums do in the charts. Have rock duos, both past and present, given ‘the album’ concept the required re-appeal, if you will, amongst the popular music culture? Well, Royal Blood has been certified platinum in the UK and shifted 66,000 copies within the first week of its release. Incredibly, it performed better within its first week than an unholy number of classic debuts that have been released in the last 20 years. Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, Muse’s Showbiz, The Strokes’ Is This It and even Arcade Fire’s Funeral all performed worse than Royal Blood. This only emphasises the scale of success that Royal Blood have achieved and could go on to achieve in their future career endeavours.
Royal Blood was a shrine and epicentre of riff utopia – an album equivalent to the Taj Mahal. Kerr’s ability to sing and play on songs like ‘Loose Change’ thrills every time without fault. Meanwhile, Ben Thatcher on drums works tirelessly to provide the “fire triangle”, if you will, to the album’s gigantic furnace. ‘Out Of The Black’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Figure It Out’, and ‘Little Monster’ are instantly recognisable. The popular American channel Comedy Central has used ‘Come On Over’ to advertise stand-up comedians programs and it’s guaranteed than one has come across some of, if not all of, the other tracks on TV at some point. The incredible sonic construction of Royal Blood makes a two-man band sound like a regular four-man affair. Their live sound rivals, and sometimes betters, the topmost bands going. Naturally, Kerr is quite enigmatic about exposing his rig but it’s clear that he uses an innovative array of guitar pedals to facilitate Royal Blood’s persona. Honestly, it would not be a surprise to see Royal Blood headline a festival in the next five or ten years at this rate.
The new album, titled How Did We Get So Dark? , will make Royal Blood’s fanbase gleeful. The opening title track begins the onslaught with a magnificent bass riff which backs off until the chorus and then diverges through the listener’s headphones with brute force. ‘Lights Out’ was the first single to be released prior to release date. The track is a quintessential Royal Blood anthem with memorable lines like “My eyes are still burning red / So turn the lights out”. In addition, the mind-twisting string bends add little shots of authority and prowess to the synthesis. If one likes the title track then ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ will also satisfy with Kerr’s melodramatic vocals.
Much of the lyricism, when compared to the debut, is relatively similar. They have supplanted themselves, once again, on defiant and sadistic themes. ‘She’s Creeping’ signifies this in the first verse: “She’s creeping / Into my bloodstream / Then crawling / Out dead as a battery.” Imagery like this is central to implicating Royal Blood’s sound and entailing their façade. The closing track ‘Sleep’ is akin to ‘She’s Creeping’ musically as Kerr explores the upper end of the fretboard again to gratify listeners with more churning riffery. Here, Kerr exclaims lyrics of jealously: “I just can’t help myself / Thinking you’re with someone else.” There is a possible conjunction with ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ as these tracks have a conspicuous lyrical resemblance between them. The artwork for this album, with the same primary black and white ethos, and the album title itself connotes these emotions and reflections thought-provokingly well.
Thatcher’s drumming on ‘Where Are You Now?’ is his best performance on the entire album. The switching between assorted percussion beats and rhythms adds a hint of sophistication. For Kerr, the third single ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ depicts his most erupting guitar fabrication since ‘Loose Change’ from the debut. It secures its place as the most supreme track on the album without hesitation.
Royal Blood’s second outing firmly attaches itself to the hearts of their fans and what they expect. Fans going to Glastonbury this weekend will undoubtedly provide their support for How Did We Get So Dark? without even thinking about it – almost by default. This new LP is a blistering whirlwind of a ride – an album to surge one’s anger through after your boyfriend/girlfriend dumps you. How Did We Get So Dark? is a critical implementation to popular music. (8/10) (Harry Beynon)
Listen to How Did We Get So Dark? here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Ben Thatcher, Harry Beynon, How Did We Get So Dark?, Mike Kerr, review, Royal Blood, Warner Bros
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