Album Review: How Did We Get So Dark // Royal Blood

Aside from a few obvious exceptions, rock bands rarely make the headlines nowadays, with public attention turned to celebrity musicians such as Kanye West and Taylor Swift. Royal Blood, however, proved to be an exception to the rule in 2014 when their debut album sold 66,000 copies in it’s first week of sales – a remarkable benchmark in the age of Spotify and illegal downloads.   

Rock fans all over the world were sitting on the edge of their seats, was this to be the new dawn of British rock n roll? Will heavy arena rock rule the charts once again?  

In short… no, it didn’t.  

Once the initial buzz of Royal Blood’s self-titled LP died down, there was little buzz to be heard from it’s immediate legacy, proving that- whilst the public were once again ready to invest in the muscle-rock genre, the duo needed just a little bit more to there work, before truly leaving a footprint on the world stage. 

Cue album two; this record was a chance for the Brighton duo to show the vastness of their strengths. Royal Blood had the platform and the talent to produce a huge record that would capitalise upon the successful foundations lead by their previous release.  

The record opens with it’s two leading singles; title track ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ and ‘Lights Out’.  

HDWGSD is a promising single, it doesn’t stray very far from the duo’s previous work, yet it’s still catchy, loud and infectious – which is what Royal Blood do best. 

‘Lights Out’, however, can only be described as similar, but lower in quality. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the single is merely a rejected contribution from the debut album and one can’t help but fear for the lack of variation that the remaining 8 tracks may offer the listener.  

These fears are justified as the record unfolds, reeling off one 3-minute, verse/chorus/verse after another. All of these tracks are adequate in every way and Mike Kerr’s abilities as a musician never in question, but with no variation in the tracks, none are given the chance to be appreciated individually.  

Track number 4, ‘She’s Creeping’, proves to be an exception to the rule, with a welcome change in tempo and a dragging, Weezer-esque riff supporting Mike Kerr’s lyrics from the first moment of the song. 

One or two album tracks, such as ‘Look Like You Know’, offer a little taste of melodic pop in the pre-chorus, showcasing a sense of variety which could have been accentuated to far more effect.  

How Did We Get So Dark? Seems to lose some of the charm possessed by it’s predecessor, vocalist Mike & drummer Ben Thatcher show a little less heart in the record’s lyrical content, settling for relatively predictable messages that don’t seem to say a lot. 

The album, as a whole, delivers exactly what many would have expected from the follow-up to Royal Blood’s debut – nothing more and nothing less. I think this will disappoint a handful of fans who truly believed that arena rock could have snatched the summer headlines.  

Alone, these tracks are fine; they will receive some good radio exposure and light up a few main stages at festivals across Europe, but there is undoubtedly a feeling of missed opportunity in this LP.  

Rock and Roll will never die, but as it continues to lay in a comatic state in the eyes of the charts, How Did We Get So Dark? will do little more than keep the life support plugged in for another year. 

Royal Blood’s How Did We Get So Dark? comes out on June 16 via Warner Music, and can be pre-ordered over here.

Words by Matt Ganfield

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Matt Ganfield

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