Throughout history there have been numerous bands we are constantly being told to like, as new darlings of the press continue to come and go in a blaze of hype that eventually fizzles out. Brighton duo Royal Blood were afforded this overblown treatment prior to their 2014 eponymous long player. Despite concerns about the one dimensional approach – bludgeoning bass riffs played through pedals and other sound effects coupled with thunderous drumming – a Mercury Prize nomination, platinum status and the Number 1 spot pointed to justification for the hype.
This year the duo are looking forward to playing Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage on the night Radiohead top the bill. They will no doubt be plugging follow-up album How Did We Get So Dark? as much as possible, seeing as the duo are now finding their earlier songs a little boring to repeatedly play live. Unsurprisingly, though, this second collection sounds like Royal Blood Part II, although to their credit, the pair did try out new avenues before continuously reverting to old, as that is at their core, and not many bands are able to pull off sizeable stylistic changes whilst retaining their appeal.
After demos were laid down in Los Angeles, Royal Blood decamped to Brussels to record How Did We Get So Dark? with producer Jolyon Thomas (Slaves, British Sea Power) before the album was mixed in London by Tom Dalgety, producer of their debut. Once again, subject matter revolves around relationship experiences.
Like the debut’s Figure It Out, the new album has one particular standout track that seems ahead of its companions: lead single Lights Out. Monster riffage and a huge chorus prove the power is still as strong as ever. The opening/title track also impresses, albeit on a slightly lesser level, notably with its greater melody amongst the giant riffs.
Some rather unexciting moments fill out the first side, with I Only Lie When You Love Me’s decent, heavy bass hooks disguising a weaker song whilst She’s Creeping wields considerably less power, and despite raising the bar again considerably with its decently melodic chorus, Look Like You Know’s guitaring again dominates when perhaps you are becoming a little tired of the familiar routine. The second side, however, is collectively stronger.
Firstly Where Are You Now? sets a faster tempo with its pitter-patter drum pattern and short sharp hook while the slower Don’t Tell sounds like some of Muse’s better cuts. Hole In Your Heart boasts a solid melody and, for once, less crunch as staccato synths create verses more reminiscent of Supertramp than Black Sabbath before the chorus reverts to type. Perhaps the only track to mount a serious challenge to Lights Out is closer Sleep; “I don’t wanna sleep ‘cos I’ve had enough of the same ugly dream, I just can’t switch it off,” sings Mike Kerr against a quivering hook before the song goes for broke with its powerful chorus.
Dalgety has also worked with Band Of Skulls and, despite constant comparisons to artists like The White Stripes and Queens Of The Stone Age, it’s the power trio from Southampton the band are perhaps most similar to. Heavy riffs and powerful percussion has often been Band Of Skulls’ calling card, yet they don’t receive as much credit as they probably should. How Did We Get So Dark? has plenty of appeal, possibly just edging the debut, and is the sound of a band enjoying their niche, but how long that can last has to be the concern here.