Band of Skulls - By Default - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Band of Skulls - By Default

by Nathan Fidler Rating:7 Release Date:2016-05-27

You can tack on a bunch of different genres to ‘rock’ to try and quantify a band; blues-rock, garage-rock, indie-rock, pop-rock. The truth is that Band of Skulls must be confused about where they sit, since they’re regularly pegged with such labels. It’s easy to see why they get these labels attached, but in not solidly embodying any of these, could we not just say they’re ‘rock’ and have done with it? Surely it refers to the most modern and of-it’s-time music?

On By Default it’s clear the latest inflection of Band of Skulls’ rock journey is for some slinky riffs, something to twist to if you will. ‘Back Of Beyond’ is pumped up by that energy, while ‘Killer’ is leant a meaner, sexy vibe - much in the same way Royal Blood have had success through dark, heavy but melodious tracks.

Adding even more sultry attitude to tracks, Emma Richardson takes the lead on ‘So Good’, and it’s clear from this that the band are hitting a recognisable stride. They’ve been comfortably good since their debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, but it might take this self-realisation to really give them a kick.

‘Bodies’ might get overlooked in what is a pretty solid set of tracks. Setting a solid, powerful beat and offering a gentle chime to mirror the gruff guitars, it’s a peach. “Bang your head on the bottom of the ocean” is the repeated message on ‘This Is My Fix’, taking things back only to blast them out of the water again, while ‘In Love By Default’ shows more of British twang than any other song - some of the verses have a Turner-esque ring to them.

Where the album might be lacking - and it’s in evidence on the aforementioned track - is the band’s love of bringing a song right down to push it forward again. While it works on certain tracks, it can often falter, leaving you with the impression that the writing was somewhat rushed. Meanwhile on ‘Embers’ they can’t seem to decide what they’re creating. At times it feels like they’re shooting for something along the lines of what Biffy Clyro achieved on Puzzle, but more often than not it ends up feeling ponderous.

There won’t be many albums by British rocks groups this year more enjoyable than By Default, but it’s yet another label and yet another feeling of not quite smashing it out of the park in the way you feel they must be capable of.

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