ALBUM REVIEW – “Royal Blood” (Self-Titled)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the next big thing.

Bridging the gap between indie and “proper” rock music has always proven difficult, but that’s exactly what Royal Blood are looking likely to do. Incorporating both the innate coolness and universal melodicism of indie, and the balls and bloody-mindedness of all good rock music, the inventive Brighton two-piece are being trumpeted in the British media as the saviours of guitar music. Curiously, this is despite not including a six-string guitarist in their lineup. Instead, frontman Mike Kerr wields his bass as the central bludgeoning weapon in their musical arsenal, through a haze of thick distortion and effects pedal wizardry. Backed up by the considerable percussive talents of Ben Thatcher, the result is an impossibly huge-sounding self-titled debut.

An initial brace of the punchy ‘Out of the Black’ and the rollicking ‘Come On Over’ is a sublime introduction. The former balances enormous Led Zeppelin grooves and dark, dynamic verses in an anthemic melange; the latter roars into life with a spiralling riff and refuses to let up for a second, the distorted rumble of both tunes offset by Kerr’s soft but strong vocals. Influences as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age, The Black Keys and Jack White are hinted at, though perhaps the most obvious comparison is to Muse, from whom the fiddly pre-chorus and charging final section of ‘Figure It Out’ could have been directly plucked. Intriguingly, the group’s undeniable heaviness is expressed in different shades through different tunes – where ‘Little Monster’ is appropriately beast-like with a twisted bent and sinister lyrical content, ‘Careless’ feels almost playful with its whimsical ‘lead’ parts and jaunty rhythm.

On the other hand, more subtle and understated textures are also brought into play that provide Royal Blood with variety and balance. Whether it’s the ice cool bluesy tone of ‘Loose Change’ (complete with the album’s best lyrics) or the menacing, stalking closer ‘Better Strangers’, the songcraft remains excellent throughout the more intimate moments. Best of all is the calculated march and siren tones of ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’, boasting both a stunning, infectious chorus and a glassy, spacious bridge that sets it apart from both anything else on the album and anything on any other album. The depth and tonal variance expressed by just two people is astonishing, and though the limitations of their palette occasionally reveal themselves, the decision to limit the record to just over half an hour in 10 songs is a sharp one as it keeps them from overstretching their bag of tricks.

A supremely accomplished debut full-length, Royal Blood lays down the gauntlet for the rest of the rock world to produce music that’s both as accessible to those outside its sphere of influence, and as bracingly ferocious. The balance of the two, as well as the sheer wall of sound created by just two musicians, is what makes this such a high watermark in the modern scene, and what sets apart Royal Blood as a band from pretty much everything that surrounds them. Having already proven their live mettle through drawing huge crowds at the Download and Reading & Leeds festivals in the UK, now they have the album to take on the world. It’s only a matter of time now.

Rating: 9 / 10

Michael Bird

‘Out of the Black’

‘Little Monster’

 

RoyalBlood

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