Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-06-16

This album is everything it doesn’t pretend to be.

But How Did We Get So Dark is a big monster of a riff-meister. The music has the density of one of those black holes lurking around in the universe just waiting for some unsuspecting star to pass the Roche limit point of no return and be sucked into its dark vortex. This one exerts heavy gravity, and the apples are just forced to fall faster.

The duo, Michael Kerr on bass/vocals and drummer Ben Thatcher, create quite the eruption of sound. The songs are relatively short, with everything near the four minute mark. In fact, the whole album clocks in at just less than thirty-five minutes. The songs are all constructed around pretty great but simple riffs, with the bass guitar assuming lead responsibilities. The drums are loud and paramount to the initialed sound. It’s all very simple. And it’s not an hour’s drive away from other bands such as Graveyard, Wolfmother, Canada’s Tea Party, or for that matter, Bad Company from those long ago years of my youth.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, told me that she once dreamt an alien landed in her backyard. She figured in her dream that the alien was here to destroy Earth or at least ask directions to some other more interesting planet; but instead, the alien wanted her to give a definitive definition for “hard rock” because, apparently, said alien had tried to explain it to an alien girlfriend back on the home planet but was at a loss for words and figured he’s come to the source. Let’s face it: Dreams don’t make a lot of sense, but this one was the equivalent of going to Greenwood, Mississippi and visiting Robert Johnson’s grave.

I once had a dream about giant weeds attacking me with big razor blades on a golf course. That one made some sense because I had cut my grass during the day. But it should be noted, I hate the sport of golf.

Dream or no dream, all good rock records may well be about trying to find that grave of Robert Johnson. And hard rock is difficult to define. I mean, Led Zeppelin found time in between the rocking grooves of “Black Dog” to include “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” and “The Battle of Evermore” just to lighten the load. How does one explain “Going to California” to a hard rock novice? Even Uriah Heep, for crying out loud, had “The Wizard.”My beloved Budgie gave us both “Slipaway” and “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman.” How are those wonderful quiet interludes explained?

Truthfully, this album doesn’t raise that concern. There are no soft spots, no acoustic interludes. There is no “Cheap Day Return” that somehow makes the over the top ringing rock of “Aqualung” less abrasive. Sometimes, it’s the acoustic bits, amid the tough coffee of hard rock, which probe the depths of a old grave better than the dark heavy notes that suck everything into its dark density. That may be a complaint about the record.

Ah, but the songs are good. Lyrically, they seldom veer from the before-mentioned Bad Company’s motto of “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.” The riffs, though, are massive. The title track says it all: Aggressive drums cut a pathway for the heavy bass and vocals with attitude. The backing vocals throughout the entire album are impressive and manage to lighten that load a bit. “Lights Out” is even more determined to rock my Polk audio speakers. And that two note guitar bit is great.  “I Only Lie When I Love You” is just exciting music. “She’s Creeping” slows the pace and gets bluesy. The song also introduces Kerr’s lovely falsetto into the mix as a counterpoint to the bass heavy solos. The song “Hole in Your Heart” adds a keyboard into the fray, which may point to a future direction.

If anything, Royal Blood are the masters of tension and space. With the limited instrumentation, there is so much room, and in a way, that space makes up the difference for the lack of acoustic respite. And that space is free to create “tons of sobbing” drama.

So, in the end, this record simply rocks. The final song “Sleep” is a plea to “escape that same ugly dream.” Yeah, this one is a big heavy album with dark dream of its own, and that dream is a pretty good encounter with a few of those old blues guys’ graves.   

 

 

 

 

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