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After the near perfect album that was Royal Blood’s debut I was hardly able to wait for How Did We Get So Dark? to release. I literally listened to this album at 12:01 when it became available on Google Play Music and have spun it three more times since. This album is fantastic, although it is a little bit different than what I was expecting from Royal Blood.
My biggest complaint with this album is that the weakest tracks are all towards the beginning of record. The title track is a legitimately good opener but then Lights Out and I Only Lie When I Love You are the two weakest tracks on the album. Lights Out isn’t bad, it’s just kind of boring to me; after only hearing it a handful of times it already feels like it’s been overplayed. I Only Lie When I Love You has really poppy sounding vocals and production, although I will admit it gets slightly better everytime I listen to it.
She’s Creeping is a mixed bag that I’m not really sure what to make of, I think I like it but it doesn’t move me the way some of the later tracks do. The main riff and use of a major scale on the chorus is actually really cool, but it lacks the energy of their other tracks. On top of that they do one of my most hated musical tropes on this track; the fakeout buildup. The bridge is entirely a buildup that after 30 seconds just goes back into the chorus.
Track 5, Look Like You Know is where the album starts to pick up steam and never slow back down. Look Like You Know has a some really nice melodies over the top of the brutal pounding bass playing, with Kerr’s affected vocals working really well in the context of this song. The next track Where Are You Now reminds me of The Black Keys and The White Stripes, having that really steady punk blues trashy feel both bands are known for. There are a few breaks that bring to mind Muse or Queens of The Stone Age, but even with all of these elements the track is 100% Royal Blood.
The last 4 tracks are far and away the strongest ones on the album and well worth the wait. Don’t Tell is a powerfully thick stoner rock track that shows what Royal Blood do with a slower song. Kerr’s falsetto vocals on the chorus are of particular mention, especially in contrast to the thick bass riff underneath him. The buildup to the bridge is well executed and gives a smooth transition to the crescendo of the bluesy bass solo that leads back into the final chorus.
Hook, Line and Sinker is the track that is the most like the songs off of their first album and also one of the strongest on this album. The way that the vocals and the bass follow each other throughout the verses and chorus give the feel of a musician who is fully in sync with his instrument. One of the common threads I’m finding throughout this album is that I really enjoy Kerr’s falsetto vocals, it's likely the contrast against the thick bass riffs and pounding drums that I enjoy so much.
Hole In Your Heart is probably the coolest track on the album as it features Mike Kerr playing electric piano on the verses before shifting back to bass on the choruses. While he’s just pounding out chords on the piano while he sings over it, the piano adds another layer to the track that I honestly wouldn’t have expected to work this well. A small detail that I applaud them for is closing the track back out with the electric piano as well instead of just going full rocker until the end.
The closing track Sleep is really the only song that could close this album out as it does the job perfectly. The main bass riff in this song has a neo classical vibe that wouldn’t sound out of place if played by a string section. It’s a very dramatic riff that builds tension behind the vocals. The reason why this track is the perfect closer though is the way that it fades out for the last 40 seconds, with short bass stabs (reminiscent of a cello) as the only accompaniment to Kerr’s vocals as the track fades out.
Overall this album is great, even with the weaker moments early on. With a band that I know I’ll listen to the whole album I’d prefer the weaker stuff first so that it gets better as I listen, but to anybody who isn’t a fan it could be a deterrent to keep listening. It’s difficult to compare this album to their first one because where it was solid all the way through this one has highs and lows.
The first album was a pretty steady level of rock all the way through and it was great because of it. This album has songs that are better and worse than a lot of their first album, and by law of averages probably winds up about even. If the entire album sounded like the second half it wouldn’t even be close as to which was better, but tracks 2-4 drag it down to just as good as their debut.
Album on ITunes
Album on Google Play