Royal Blood were winning the plaudits of those in high musical places over a year ago. When Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys takes the stage in one of your t-shirts – he did exactly that at Glastonbury last year – you know you’re a decent band. Well, that’s band loosely speaking. Strictly speaking, we’ve got a duo on our hands here, but a duo that can occupy as much space with their sound as a lesser band can with its personnel. Just like the mosh pits they’ve been inducing at festivals all summer – more likely to be visible from space than the ones Kasabian boasted they’d create – this album sounds HUGE.
More sounds than ever imagined were possible from a bass guitar, pinpoint precision drumming and largely sinister vocals result in the most bracing and substantial sound to erupt from these shores this year. The hair-raising intro to album opener ‘Out of the Black’ should put first time listeners under no illusions as to what to expect from Royal Blood as they’re hurled unceremoniously into their splendidly dark world to the sound of hammer-like drum hits and savage bass lines. “I’ve got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it” snarls Kerr to a backdrop of his own riffage and Thatcher’s dogged work with the sticks. They don’t mess about.
Kerr’s lyrical rage spills over into track two ‘Come On Over’ and its chorus sign-off line of “Well there’s no god and I don’t really care”. Why should he care? This music’s not going anywhere near a church after all. There is, however, as you’d expect, a multitude of blues-infused hard rock on this LP capable of shaking the foundations of many a grand auditorium. It’s a wonder the tents of festivals up and down the country can contain the likes of ‘Figure It Out’ and its brutal bass barbs.
The same can be said just as easily for ‘Blood Hands’. Starting humbly enough with Kerr at the higher end of his impressive vocal spectrum, it’s Royal Blood’s bluesiest song, undulating from solemn lows to heavy highs. It’s the perfect dose of utterly immersive rock before the untamed vivacity of ‘Little Monster’, arguably the Brighton boys finest outing to date, its rousing chorus creating shockwaves everywhere it goes. It equally exhibits some of the finest purely instrumental passages the record has to offer.
It’s crystal clear to the ear that the many works of a certain gentleman by the name of Jack White have had a fair amount of influence on Royal Blood. Kerr and Thatcher don’t just channel the White Stripes; ‘Loose Change’ sees them replicate the punchy sound of the Dead Weather’s 2010 hit ‘Blue Blood Blues’ and White’s Blunderbuss solo LP. Jack, if you’re reading this, give these fellas a listen.
The unrelenting nature of this record holds strong to the bitter end. Penultimate track ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ forces you into a state of rock-induced petrification, leaving no option but to brace yourself for the finale, ‘Better Strangers’. It plays like a medley of all that’s gone before it, almost as if the guys feel the need to squeeze out every last smidgen of energy somehow not yet expended. And yes, there are still only two of them.