Album Review: Royal Blood’s “How Did We Get So Dark?”

With the release of the first three singles off “How Did We Get So Dark?” and their accompanying music videos, it was clear that this album was going to be dark. The visuals are stark and dramatic, and the album cover is more off-putting illusion than image. Once the music hits, all the visuals are justified. The distorted basslines are just heavy enough to drag on the vocals and emphasize the tension between the clean vocals and brutal instrumentals. Tracks like “I Only Lie When I Love You” and “Look Like You Know” would be quintessential indie rock, but the power and noise is multiplied by ten, bringing a whole new feel to the jaunty riffs. The balance between rhythmic assaults and quieter, bleak moments is exepertly done. On “Hole In Your Heart,” the opening draws the listener in, wrapping them in a sinister groove before expelling them straight into a pit of violent noise. Mike Kerr’s vocals drift between a stricken drawl and high-swinging harmony. Musically, “How Did We Get So Dark?” is based around blues and indie rock, but between the immensity of the riffs and the lyrical content, the album comes out sounding like a cross between Queens Of The Stone Age and Spoon. All the hallmarks of indie are there: grumblings about lost love, catchy bluesy riffs, and rumbling vocals. But Royal Blood are evidently not indie. The catchy riffs are amped up until they are almost unrecognizable, contorted and twisted into a heavy, driving backbone. The lyrics are delivered not whiningly, but with directness and intensity, and the vocals are varied throughout. Then the whole thing is drenched in darkness.

By the end of the album, you feel like you’ve been possessed by the demons haunting Kerr. The softer moments opened you up, then the riveting choruses swarmed in to fill you up with everything he’s trying to get out of his system. When the lyrics are discernible over the ferocious instrumentals, you get snapshots of heartbreak and loneliness, before the fierce basslines kick back in, drowning the vocals out in favor of dark, brutal soundscapes. Each non-heavy element, from the floating vocals on opener “How Did We Get So Dark?” to the sparse verse of “She’s Creeping” feels like a breath of fresh air. This isn’t to say that the heaviness is overpowering, but 40 minutes of straight riffage does eventually get old. It’s the eerie diversions from sheer power that give this album its strength, and make it feel like something more than a repeat of “Royal Blood.”

“How Did We Get So Dark?” is wonderfully dark and dramatic, and allows Royal Blood the chance to explore the effects of different genres and elements without losing the heavy, insane power that made them such a phenomenon.

Similar to: Band Of Skulls, Nothing But Thieves, Queens of the Stone Age

Favorites: “Hook, Line & Sinker,” “How Did We Get So Dark?,” “She’s Creeping,” “Hole In Your Heart”

Listen to “How Did We Get So Dark?” here.

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