Tag Archives: drums

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

15 Dec

Royal Blood

In 2014, Royal Blood was the subject of a massive amount of hype. On the back of a truly electric debut, the band rapidly built a fanbase comprising drunk teenagers, rockstars and living legends alike, and Royal Blood truly deserved all the hype. Their music is elemental testosterone with enough energy to consume stadiums, but it shocks the senses to realize that the sound comes from two people. Mike Kerr shreds a distorted bass to fill the dual role of a guitar and a bass, while being canny enough to sing great tunes as well. Ben Thatcher launches an array of weapons into your eardrums through, well, his drums. And that’s it. No other instruments, no other people.

Royal Blood sounded like the perfect mix of a grittier White Stripes, a leaner Queens of the Stone Age and a more masculine Franz Ferdinand. How Did We Get So Dark?, their sophomore album, doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but don’t get us wrong – that’s a good thing. While most bands tour to promote their new album, Royal Blood literally releases new music to get more people to come to their live shows. So yes, this album feels similar to the first, but that’s entirely by design. And given the fact that the moshpits have gotten bigger and crazier, we’d say Royal Blood is doing very well.

While the sound is similar, their talent has really progressed. The eponymous track starts off with the three Royal Blood tenets – sneering voice, magnetic riff, crazy drumming – but picks up texture through polished vocal layers. “She’s Creeping” slows down the pace, with Pixies-style languid vocals melting into an almost bluesy chorus. If you soften the bass, “Hole in Your Heart” almost becomes radio-friendly indie rock, a la Kaiser Chiefs or the Killers.

The lyrics have changed, too. Royal Blood seethed with the violence of an abusive relationship (“I’ve got a gun for my mouth and a bullet with your name on it,” went one memorable line), but they seemed to have moved on to a richer story. The title track paints a picture of a fitful relationship, and we learn on “Sleep” and “I Only Lie When I Love You” that both parties are cheating on one another. Kerr realizes that she’s not much beyond her looks (“Lights Out”) but he can’t just stay away (“Hook, Line & Sinker”).

Of course, being a Royal Blood album, the lyrics matter only to a certain extent. At the heart of it, the band makes absolutely kicker songs that can rev up large masses of humanity into a rock-induced frenzy. “Lights Out”, for lesser bands, would be a career-defining array of riffs and raw sex appeal; for Royal Blood, it’s just their first single. The opening riff on “Hook, Line & Sinker” might elicit a tear of pride from Ozzy’s eye. The galloping drums on “Where Are You Now?” give way to a riff so classic-rock that the Stones are probably head-banging to it somewhere. Need we go on?

On their sophomore album, Kerr and Thatcher espouse a very similar sound to their lean debut album, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Queens of the Stone Age continue to be a key touchpoint for Royal Blood’s sound, but there’s a happy evolution in the vocals, writing and arrangement to portend a thrilling future.

Best songs: “Lights Out”, “I Only Lie When I Love You”, “How Did We Get So Dark?”

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