Back in a 2012 interview, Dave Grohl commented on the state of rock n’ roll, claiming the current musical climate was not unlike it was in 1991, right before Nirvana broke through. Three years later, the type of band he’s talking about would be opening for him on a stadium tour across America. The band I’m talking about is Royal Blood and they’re here to remind everyone what rock n’ roll is all about.
The sophomore slump is a dreaded curse for musicians and fans alike. The stress of following up an incredibly debut with something equally impressive, if not more, can really make or break a band. Royal Blood’s self-titled debut boasted a bevy of signature riffs and drum fills, dirty and catchy enough to make the most casual rock fan turn their ear. And when you found out Mike Kerr was playing a bass? How is this even possible? The band seemed to pull the best aspects of some of their clearest influences, namely The White Stripes, and the Queens of the Stone Age. All of these elements combined to make one of the greatest debut albums of the decade thus far, but could that carry over to a follow-up?
Yes. And then some. How Did We Get So Dark is the perfect example of a band adding onto their previous sound, while pushing forward into unfamiliar territory. The first two songs released, “Lights Out,” and “Hook, Link and Sinker” are amongst the number of songs that most closely resemble the songwriting on display in their previous effort. These songs, as well as HBO’s Vinyl soundtrack contribution “Where Are You Now?” feature bass riffs dirtier than backdoor politics, and pulsing BPM’s that are sure to fill out action movie scene’s for the next few years.
Single “I Only Lie When I Love You” is a great example of the gap bridging on this album, mixing the familiar sound of the band, with a new almost traditional blues formula approach. This song would fit perfectly on a Black Keys album, and is one of the immediate standouts from the album. “Don’t Tell” is another different one for the band, maybe the slowest they’ve written to date. The verses are filled with hushed vocals over sludgy bass lines.
While the album isn’t perfect, it’s damn near close. The sequencing keeps things moving, and feeling fresh. Royal Blood sound like they’re having fun, which is rare in these over produced days of music making. There’s a reason that by 2018, they’ll have served as the opening act for two of the best modern mainstream rock bands on the planet. If you act fast enough, you might get to catch them at a club, before they become the massive rock group shepherding in the new talent.