When we talk about dynamic duo’s it’s hard to think of anyone but Royal Blood. I mean, yes, we have the likes of Slaves and The Black Keys, but, personally, no one even comes close to these two. The duo are back with their hotly anticipated second studio album, How Did We Get So Dark?
The Brighton boys Mike Herr and Ben Thatcher started playing together in 2013 and quickly released their debut self-titled album, which featured some of the greatest hard-rock songs of this time such as, “Out Of The Black,” “Figure It Out” and the famous, “Little Monster.” If you’re not sure where you have heard these tunes, then try every advert for Reading and Leeds Festival.
They then did their fair share of festivals with impressive sets at Reading festival, T in the Park, Glastonbury and Download. The boys began to build a diehard fan base after supporting Foo Fighters on their 2015 tour.
In late 2016, they began recording their second studio album, much to the delight of fans around the world. One of the most defining things about the band is the fact that they only consist of a bass and drums. I myself was surprised to find out that the gritty solos were not the sound of a guitar but a bass.
The album starts strong with “How Did We Get So Dark?” It begins with a strong drumbeat and quickly moves into the “in your face” vocals of Kerr. The chorus is particularly addictive with high pitched backing vocals and regulars “ooh oohs.” This one is sure to be a hit for the band. Kerr never failed to impress with his sultry bass lines. A great introduction to the album.
Next up is the first single of the album “Lights Out.” A grungy steady bass line starts the song but it’s not long before we are thrown into the madness of the chorus, a stark contrast from the preciseness of the verse. “You don’t matter that much to me,” sings Kerr before throwing all his emotions into the chorus.
We hear a side of Kerr’s vocals that we haven’t heard much before. Another perfect drum break down brings us into a fantastic electric/wavy bass solo with a genius use of the high hat from Thatcher. This is a strong contender for best song on the album.
However that title, for me, goes to “I Only Lie When I love You,” which has an overall sensual vibe to it. The vocals are particularly engaging as Kerr gives off a sort of rebellious attitude with lines like, “and now I’m wishing you were someone else.”
The song seems to express the poisonous side to relationships with, “got a suspicious but you just can’t find it up your sleeve.” Kerr lets loose and doesn’t try to contain the bass. It takes on a life of it’s own towards the end.
The record takes a change of pace with, “She’s Creeping.” This song is slightly slow than the others but by no means any less aggressive. The bass line takes on a bit of a funky twist with the use of an electro filter, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix.
Once again, Kerr proves he is not just a brilliant drummer but also a talented singer. He taps in to the higher notes perfectly in the chorus, which reminds me of Alex Turner’s vocal styles in the album A.M.
“Look Like You Know,” plays next and sticks to the slightly slower pace than the others. Thatcher speeds up on the drums on the chorus with this one, leaving a sort of exasperated feeling to match Kerr’s vocals.
Half way through we are met with one of the famous Royal Blood break downs, leaving the track silent for just a few seconds, I find this very clever and leaves you wanting more from the music.
Past the half way mark, we are met with the brilliant “Where Are You Now?” In my opinion this song has a Black Keys vibe to it, the background is littered with extremely high bass notes, which could easily be confused for a guitar. The chorus completely chases up and has you banging your head from side to side with gritty fret slides from end of the bass to the other.
“Don’t Tell” is up next and is again filled with sensual bass lines. It is a nice change of pace, it doesn’t feel rushed, and we are just left to enjoy the calm beating of the drums while nodding along.
Kerr plays nicely with the high and deep notes of his vocals tones and it implies you are listening to two sides of his personality – the innocent and the naughty side, so to speak. The song ends with a single note ringing out and then quickly throws us into…
“Hook, Line and Sinker” is next, which is my second favourite of the album. This song for me is more of a bluesy rock song and tackles issues within Kerr’s personal relationships, presumably a girlfriend with unapologetic lyrics like, “I’m a slave to your addiction” and “honey no second chances.”
The bass line is definitely the strong point and once again Kerr is perfectly all over the place and lets it roam to the highest points then back to the deepest, moody notes.
Track 9, “Hole In Your Heart,” feels slightly experimental for the band. It begins with what sounds like the use of a keyboard over the kicking of the foot pedal on the drums. However the chorus then hits with quick distorts before we are gently placed back into the calm of the verse. The album feels like it is slowly coming to an end with the heavy breakdown towards the end.
And last but certainly not least is, “Sleep.” This song seems to battle the pressures of insomnia and is probably very relatable most of Royal Blood’s listeners. The emotions are left to run free with paranoid lyrics like, “I just can’t help myself thinking you’re with someone else.”
Kerr channels his uneasiness into the bass solo and once again the distortion perfectly captures his emotions. This is definitely one to sing along to. It slows down a lot towards the end and we are left with the whispering tones of Kerr. “I can’t switch it off” then everything goes silent. It is a strange but cool ending to an album.
I would give this album a 7 out of 10 purely because I found some of the songs were a bit similar to each other, but what Royal Blood lack in diversity, they make up for skilful and awesome solos. Not much has changed from the first album but it is just as good as their earlier stuff, it not a little bit better.
If you’re looking for something to head bang in your car to or play at a party then this is the album for you. One other thing I like is that Kerr really made use of his lyrics and channeled all of his emotions into them, something I feel he didn’t really do on the first album. As always Royal Blood continue to impress.
Royal Blood How Did We Get So Dark? is out now via Warner Bros. Purchase on iTunes here.
Words by Georgia Hampson