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ALBUM REVIEW: Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

Royal Blood 2017

Photo Credit: Press

Here’s a teasing question for you – when you have a formula as simple as Royal Blood, how do you keep it fresh without ruining your whole sound? This is the dilemma that the Brighton duo came up against when writing their second album How Did We Get So Dark?, and it seems like they came up with a very simple answer – don’t do anything at all. After their self-titled debut topped the album charts and scooped a Mercury Prize nomination, it seems like it would be hard to argue with assessment too. So why then – and here’s the second teasing question – does this sophomore release feel just a little bit underwhelming?

Because make no mistake, there is very little change on this album. With the exception of an added keyboard on penultimate track Hole In Your Heart, Royal Blood are still just drums, vocals, and a bass hooked up to enough effects pedals to give Matt Bellamy a raging hard-on. The album starts off well too. How Did We Get So Dark? has a lovely slinking guitar part behind its verse and great AM-era Arctic Monkeys backing vocals, and leads into the huge chorus and mosh pit-ready breakdowns of lead single Lights Out. There’s no messing around here – it’s everything you’ve come to expect from the duo, and everything you already know they’re good at.

The problems come once you get a few songs in, because although there are highlights, there are no really huge anthems to hook you back in when you start to fade. That is not to say that How Did We Get So Dark? isn’t worth your time – it certainly is. Those high-range backing vocals scattered throughout the album are a nice addition, and there are huge riffs all over the place, with the ending breakdown to Hook, Line & Sinker topping them all. Lyrically Mike Kerr is treading a lot of the same ground with personal relationship stories, but he’s stepped it up a notch this time around – on Where Are You Now? he pines after an old flame saying “You’re a teardrop in an ocean I’m still drinking through.” But while Lights Out, Hole In Your Heart and centrepiece Look Like You Know are good, there is just nothing here that reaches the same heights as Out Of The Black or Little Monster. Admittedly that is a very high bar for a band to set themselves, especially on their first album, but when you know that Royal Blood can write songs as good as those, anything else just feels like a little bit of a let down.

7/10

Standout Tracks: Lights Out, Look Like You Know

For Fans Of: Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age

Written by: Josh Prentice

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