Music is often presented to the public as egalitarian but the truth is rather more prosaic. Whether we release it or not music is hierarchical: we worship the singer, swoon over the guitarist and thrill at the movement and dexterity of the drummer and usually in that order. We are vaguely aware of the bass. I will declare a personal interest here: I am a bassist so I might be slightly biased. Why bring this up in a review of Royal Blood’s (duo Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher) second album How Did We Get So Dark you cry? Well the lead instrument of the band is the bass and in case you didn’t know the bass is a low-end instrument and this album is full of low-end tunes that will rattle your speakers and ear-drums.
‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ has that circular riffing, heavy distortion, tight drums and even tighter vocal harmonies that just make you want to nod your head and move your body. It is a statement of intent: we have a formula and you either strap yourself in and come along for the ride or move along. Big riffing continues on ‘Lights Out’. With a quick stop-start chorus and the theme of moving on from a relationship it was a safe bet for a single. What is most impressive is the wall of sound the band creates considering they are only a two piece.
‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ sees the ‘hooks in your face’ formula continue, it is only with ‘She’s Creeping’ that the pace of the album changes; it is a low down and filthy groove of a tune with a melody reminiscent of Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age at their best. ‘Look Like You Know’ starts with a stomping beat that gives way to another big chorus of crunch bass, sixteen beats and falsetto backing vocals.
‘Where Are You Now?’ highlights the versatility of the duo bouncing from the straightforward to a more complex time signature in the chorus and breakdown. A bowel rattling opening on ‘Don’t Tell’ remind the listener that they are in sub-sonic bass territory, however at this juncture the songs begin to sound a bit familiar. It isn’t that the song is weak but a distorted bass can only convey so much nuance before it begins to sound the same.
Having said that ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ has a riff that a thousand bands would kill for and there is no doubt that Royal Blood can throw out a riff like Apple can produce endless IOS updates. ‘Hole In Your Heart’ and ‘Sleep’ keep it up and finish off the album on a strong note. This is a competent and confident showing from a duo that know what their audience like. However, it will be interesting to see if they can branch out and expand on the tried and trusted with future releases.