review

royal blood – how did we get so dark?

Released: 16th June 2017

Although Iron Maiden, Linkin Park, Foo Fighters and Muse still pack out stadiums around the world, traditional heavy rock seems to have taken a backseat in the charts in recent years.

Even Royal Blood, whose self-titled 2014 album was the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years, recently admitted to NME that they’ve been listening mainly to R&B on their tourbus. The Brighton duo’s long-awaited second record, however, shies away from these influences and continues with their streamlined, punchy yet high-gloss rock sound.

The opening title track is more ambitious than their previous work, with falsetto harmonies, demonic-sounding chord sequences and a complex structure. Mike Kerr’s growling, effects-heavy bass – covering all frequencies – is still thrilling to hear, even if it’s puzzling how he and drummer Ben Thatcher will recreate these live without triggering samples and using backing tracks.

Elsewhere, they stick rigidly to their formula, despite experimenting with synths and guitars during the writing and recording process: She’s Creeping is reminiscent of modern Muse, while Look Like You Know recalls Arctic Monkeys in its glammy stomp, watery guitar effects and nonchalant, earworm melodies.

Most of the time, though, Royal Blood sound more like Queens Of The Stone Age than ever – Don’t Tell apes the group’s groovier work, such as Make It Wit Chu, while Kerr’s phrasing on Hook, Line & Sinker is so Homme it hurts.

Originality might not be Royal Blood’s strongpoint, then, but the energy they mainline into these 10 tracks is their trump card. Every track sprints in at less than four minutes, and the hooks are precision-cut and razor-sharp, with not an ounce of fat. Jimmy Page might have been wrong when he claimed the duo were taking rock “into a new realm”, but the powerful How Did We Get So Dark? shows that progression isn’t always the answer.

Tom Pinnock


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