Review: Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

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Absolute rock

It's unapologetically heavier and more ferocious than the band's 2014 debut, and is all the more thrilling for it.

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Royal Blood‘s self-titled debut made one hell of a splash when it dropped in 2014, instantly elevating the Brighton-based duo to the top of the British rock scene, culminating in their pulsating performance on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury earlier this year. So there can be no exaggerating the expectations riding on their second album – would the band prove to be a one-time wonder, or could they truly announce themselves as one of the greats in British rock? Fortunately, drummer Ben Thatcher and bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr looked at what worked on their first album, turned it up to 11, and produced what should turn out to be the finest rock album of the year.

Whilst some bands like to keep things lighter and more “radio-friendly” when playing around with rock, Royal Blood are unafraid to go heavier and more brutal in their search for the perfect guitar riff, and it’s this attitude which explains the album’s opener, ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’. Ostensibly delving into a souring relationship (“How did I become a lookalike / Of someone you used to love?” Kerr screams in the opening verse), ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ goes further than that, asking how the band got so popular, how they got so original, and yes, how they got so dark. It’s the titular question that’s never truly answered, with Thatcher and Kerr instead deciding to find out how much fun they can have in this darkness for the 34 whirlwind minutes of their tempestuous LP.

And what fun they end up having – this really is Royal Blood 2.0, with the band taking their riff-making to another level and layering a drum beat heavier than your dad’s old record collection over Kerr’s feral dog of a bass guitar. It’s thrilling stuff  (I still have no idea how Kerr fights with his bass to make it produce such a noise) and when all’s said and done you’re left just wanting to go back and listen to the whole goddamn thing again. Back to the fist-pumping rhythm-switch & guitar solo of ‘Lights Out’, back to the infectious giddiness of ‘She’s Creeping’, and back to the imperial march-like undulations of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. True, there is a slight mid-album lull as ‘Where Are You Now?’ and ‘Don’t Tell’ struggle to stand out from the crowd, but that’s pure testament to the sheer quality of the surrounding noise. What you’re left with is an unapologetically theatrical 10-track heavy rock workout that will leave you buzzing for months to come.

British rock has seen a real revival in recent years, with Sundara Karma, Nothing But Thieves and The Amazons all vying for chart space for the last 18 months. But it’s Royal Blood who have always led the way, and with How Did We Get So Dark? the highly-talented duo continue to show why. Unafraid to go that little bit heavier in their search for that perfect motif or drum beat, and with the ability to craft absolute monsters for the festival fields (see: ‘I Only Lie When I Love You‘, ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’), there’s no sign that the British rock flag-bearers have any intentions of slowing down. So, how did they get so dark? Well, who really cares, when dark sounds this good?

How Did We Get So Dark? is out now via Warner Music

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

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