Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark? Review

How do you follow a hugely successful debut album, one which became the fastest-selling British rock debut back in 2014 and appeared on so many adverts and TV shows that tracks were a part of everyone’s day whether they wanted them or not? Well if you’re Brighton duo Royal Blood, you don’t mess with the formula.

After attempting to mix things up just a tiny little bit, by testing out female backing vocals and even being tempted by a touch of synth and, perish the thought, guitars, Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher decided that a certain old cliché had lasted for a reason. Their signature sound wasn’t something to be broken but refined.

Sticking to the Royal Blood formula ‘How Did We Get So Dark’ is crafted with the same grit and focus as their 2014 debut, so pretty much exactly what you might expect, wonderfully heavy bass lines that beguile the duo format and the kind of relentless cluster-bomb percussion that sends your blood pressure rising.  

Opener and title track ‘How Did We Get So Dark’ might start things off slowly, but there’s more than a little sleazy brooding in the vein of QOTSA and Muse, building towards ‘Lights Out’ as Kerr and Thatcher continue to darken the atmosphere, this time with a little more punch and some squealed bass. ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ struts with a curled lip and a lethal focus on intensifying the simplistic power of Mike Kerr’s distorted riffs and Ben Thatcher’s unrelenting percussion.

Things fall into a kind of shadowy stumble as ‘She’s Creeping’ and the Arctic Monkeys infused ‘Look Like You Know’ trip sulkily into your ear drums. Beginning intentionally staggered rhythms, which continue within tracks like ‘Don’t Tell’, ‘Hole In Your Heart’ and album closer ‘Sleep’, as things retreat further into the shadows, walking home after closing time in desperate jealousy engulfed insomnia. Though keeping things crawling in the darkness these tales of moody heartbreak aren’t as stirring as album highlights, such as the enigmatic return to QOTSA immersion of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’.

Overall ‘How Did We Get so Dark’ is Royal Blood letting go of second album stress by embracing what they love. Tracks don’t really come to life through earbuds or weaved into TV trailers but are about live sets. These are about the feeling of standing in a crowd of people as Kerr’s bass and Thatcher’s drum rumble through the air around you, with the kind of visceral power that could knock you off your feet. 

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark? = 8/10

Hayley Miller

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