27 June 2017

Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark?

Second albums by hyped bands, they are a difficult beast to pull off if everyone is honest.  Generally (for any act) this is because you have a lifetime to create your first album, but the second one is produced on demand and it tends to be done on the fly or with tracks which were deemed unworthy of being on the first album, so catching that lightning is harder the second time around.  But for a hyped band, the pressure is double, nay it is trebled as they must live up to their hype for a second time or they are sunk in some people’s eyes.  And this is where we find Royal Blood, they are releasing their second album and the follow up to the monster that was Royal Blood’ (our review cleverlylinked here).  I was really looking forward to this one, but something has been moving in the waters to make my enthusiasm stall.  I think it is some of the single that have been released, also their performance at last weekend’s Glastonbury festival (watched from TV) did not translate too well for me.  Also, I have seen many hyped bands over the year fall on their own sword with their second album, even ones which have reached the top of the charts.  So, how has this album turned out?

01 – How Did We Get So Dark?

Without being cynical here, what has changed from their last album to this one with their opening track?  The riff is loud, the drumming is tight and it is a decent number.  But I am sitting here with the song being repeated and it feels like I am not hearing anything that they have not done before and it is also something that they have done better as well.  I was not expecting something different, but not something that familiar.

02 – Lights Out

Familiarity to their sound seems to be a little dangerous on this number, it reminds me of ‘Name the last track on Royal Blood’ from their debut a little too much for its own good.  The riff is really good, it sounds powerful and it makes the right noises, but they are revisiting their own tracks here, rehashing old glories a little bit too soon.

03 – I Only Lie When I Love You

I have to admit that this song really disappointed me when I first heard it, it is something that the band have done before and they have done it better as well.  It is their standard big hook, plenty of sing along room, stage stomping song that they have been doing for ages.  But they can create better songs than this, it is just a little average for them.

04 – She’s Creeping

This is a poor song, no two ways about it.  They say the words ‘It’s so boring, being what you want me to be’ and I whole heartedly agree, it is piss poor on this song with all the sounds quality of a demo before it is beefed out.  Onto the next song……

05 – Look Like You Know

There is a lot to be said for ‘Look Like You Know’ on this album, it is the first song which feels like it is bring something different to this album if the truth be told.  The stomping riff of the verses is strong, the lighter chorus sections is different and adds a layer of interest and it bounces along with the energy that we have come to expect from Royal Blood.  It is the first song which genially engages the listener and it is also the halfway point of the album too.

06 – Where Are You Now?

Once again, it is an incredibly familiar sound on ‘Where Are You Now?’, one that would have once excited and now it merely entertains and feels like it is old already.  It should not be this way for a brand new song from one of the hottest acts out there, it should not feel like a set of comfy shoes.  It is good, but far too familiar to be honest.

07 – Don’t Tell

Everything has been slowed down on ‘Don’t Tell’ which is about a secret relationship that is keeping you up at tonight, as you are having to do move around in the shadows.  It sounds like quite a macabre and secretive relationship, but I have never been one for keeping a relationship secret, so I do not get the context of the song.  The music itself is one of the best of the album as it at least changes their sound slightly, keeping it tight for the faithful and the bass is singing like an angel in the darkness.  I really like this song, it truly stands out from the pack on this album.

08 – Hook, Line & Sinker

One of four songs that were released before the album was released, ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ is the best of those releases.  Another song about a torturous relationship, Royal Blood keep things simple on this song with a back to basics attitude.  Due to this, it has the familiar feeling that has been the plague of this album and that is a bit of a shame.  However, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album as well, I cannot deny when the riff kicks in that it hits the sweet spot, even if it reminds me of ‘Figure It Out’ in places.

09 – Hole in Your Heart

The penultimate song of the album has gone all Desert Rock on this album, it once again follows their familiar pattern of quite verses and stomping chorus sections, adding synths and percussion to their sound to beef it out.  It is another song that feels like those comfortable, old jeans that you like so much, they are your go-to piece of clothes and there is nothing wrong with them.  But as much as enjoyable as this song is, it is hardly pushing the dynamics of the two piece act to the raggy edge of their sound. 

10 – Sleep

Ending the album is ‘Sleep’ which does not follow the exact pattern of their first album, as ‘Better Stranger’ was a massive beast of a song.  ‘Sleep’ is the sound of a man in torture as his lover is out with a new spouse and desperation is gripping his soul.  It is a slower number, one that has a dirty sound to the music, the bass rumbling is great for the most part and it is another decent number from Royal Blood.  However, the music ends suddenly and then it drifts away towards the end which hinders the end result of the song and by extension the album as well.

OK, let’s get this over with – this is an album that has not reinvented the wheel, it is well played and it has some decent songs.  The final half of the album is much stronger than the first part, which is in keeping with ‘Royal Blood’ as well, it just seems to be their calling card.  Also, keeping the album to ten tracks is a good thing, it keeps everything short and punchy for them, which is probably their biggest strength.  But (and it is a big but), ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ has also exposed the weakness of Royal Blood, they are a one-trick pony show, an act which make every song sound familiar to the point where they start to merge into one and this album also follows the law of diminishing returns.  I know that there are a ton of bands who have made a career of doing this – AC/DC, Motorhead, Megadeth to name three – but that is after years of trying different things as well.  I know asking a two piece to create something different is like asking a child to build a skyscraper without training, but they are so big on the power of the two piece act that you sort of expect them to follow through on that boast.  This is only the second album from Royal Blood, it is the number one album in the UK as I write this and it is weak sauce when you compare it to their first record.  I am not doing this to be hip and slate the band, but their initial buzz was so big that it was probably impossible for them to release another stone cold killer that soon.  As I stated on the 'Royal Blood' review, it was great to hear a hyped band who did not turn out to be a pile of bollocks, something I still believe.  But they do need to do something with their sound, they cannot stay in the same place forever and this album is proof of that.  The echo of excitement from that first album is diminishing, the second album has turned out to be a bit poor, so now it is down to the third record of Royal Blood which will either make or break them.  Here is hoping that it is the former and not the latter as I do like Royal Blood, but this album is not as good as their first.

6 out of ten – Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there

Top track – Don’t Tell

You can purchase How Did We Get So Dark? on Amazon here.

You can visit the Royal Blood website here.

You can follow the activities of Royal Blood on Facebook here. 

You can stream How Did We Get So Dark? on Spotify here. 

You can stream How Did We Get So Dark? on Deezer here. 

You can stream How Did We Get So Dark? on Tidal here. 

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