Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below

Photo Credit: Tom Beard

Royal Blood are back. One of the UK’s hottest rock bands have just dropped their fourth LP.

Ever since their self-titled debut which shook the UK music scene, the duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher have just gone from strength to strength.

They showed no signs of second album syndrome in How Did We Get So Dark? And their third sonic express LP Typhoons was a masterclass in electronic rock.

Now onto the fourth – Back To The Water Below. Well, the first track and lead single Mountains At Midnight certainly feels very early Royal Blood vibes. That riff, we mean that riff is just a great start to any LP, and perhaps is a sign of things to come for the rest of this album, or at least it would be great if it was!

Shiner In The Dark feels so Jack White, with all sorts of guitar tricks coming from the sleeve of singer/guitarist Mike Kerr. You will 100% love the way Kerr sings “Bruuuuuuuises”.

Up next, Pull Me Through perhaps slows down the momentum of the album with a primarily piano ballad, although it has got far more groove than your stereotypical ballad, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that the piano piece this song prances around is fairly boring.

The Firing Line seems to indicate another change of pace in Back To The Water Below, with a long high pitched synth played through the chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place in a slow song from a modern Foals record. It’s a gentle track that has a pleasant finale. It doesn’t blow you away, but it does indicate to you that Royal Blood are once again changing their sound.

Although Tell Me When It’s Too Late sounds like the Royal Blood you may know and love at the start, it develops into a slightly alternative grungy track that seemingly does not know what it wants to be. Following that is Triggers which is technically pretty sound, but also hosts yet another chorus based around a lot of extended “ooooos” (see Shiner in the Dark and Pull Me Through for reference) – it is slightly repetitive.

Approaching the back end of the record, How Many More Times is a rock ballad that fails to really get going and slightly passes you by. High Water is the same sadly, you’re starting to get the impression that Royal Blood have lost their attitude in this one, and replaced it with a piano – naturally, it’s not the same, and the lyrics are not much to brag home about.

Another “ooo” chorus anyone? Well Kerr has got one more in him, as we slowly amble through a very similar song to Pull Me Through. Both Kerr and Thatcher are extremely talented individuals, but you know this is not Royal Blood at their best – leave the Queens of the Stone Age-ing to Josh Homme.

However, will finale Waves provide a saving grace? Not quite, but it’s certainly one of the better songs on this record. Lyrically, it’s improved, and it does mash together the bass and piano a lot better than any other track on this album, although the final crescendo sort of leaves you there thinking “Eh”, which we’re not sure any artist wants their listener to think at the end of a record.

So that was Back To The Water Below. Of course you cannot fault an artist for experimenting, but the nature of experimenting means that it is not always going to work – and this album exemplifies that.

It was smart of the band to release Mountains at Midnight first as they are evidently self-aware enough to know that track will be the most popular song on the LP, as it is what they do best. It’s just a shame the rest of the record does not follow suit, as it does start very strong.

We love Royal Blood, but this album misses far more than it hits and in terms of getting to that next level for the band, there is still work to do.


For Fans Of: The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures

Standout Tracks: Mountains at Midnight, Shiner in the Dark

Written By: Joe Loughran