Royal Blood’s second album was awaited with high expectations after their critically acclaimed self-titled debut, released in 2013. ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ won’t disappoint loyal fans whowant to hear more of the same powerful riffs and drum beats, and it’s also guaranteed to gain the English duo some more followers. However, it’s likely not to impress those who prefer bands to incorporate new and different ideas into their existing sound with every new album.
That being said, there’s only so much that can be done with a drum set and a bass guitar, and this recordis undoubtedly very good for what it is: a familiar blend of pop music and hard rock with a hint of blues. Although the band doesn’t reach the high bar they previously set for themselves, there’s no reason why Jimmy Pageshould change his opinion about them, having stated that Royal Blood have “taken the genre up a serious few notches”.
As a whole, ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ has the same character, energy and fullness of sound as ‘Royal Blood’ did. Singer and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher work very well together, and one could easily expect them to have a lot more experience than their young age suggests.
A very apparent Queens of the Stone Age influence can be heard throughout the record, more so than in the duo’s older material. The first and title track is one of the highlights, and it could easily be one of Kerr and Thatcher’s best. ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ is the other one that truly stands out: it brilliantly combines the catchiness of pop with a heavier sound. ‘Hole in Your Heart’ is another noteworthy song, and it’s also the most unique, with a chorus that’s hard to forget.
The album’s first single, ‘Lights Out’, is memorable, if not outstanding, with a change of pace that adds some excitement. ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ was the second single released, which is quite surprising, because it’s one of the more mediocre tunes. Another song that we have heard before is ‘Where Are You Now?’, the soundtrack from the HBO series Vinyl. This might be the simplest track on ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’, and it certainly doesn’t do justice to what the band is capable of.
Lyrically, the record deals with the breakdown and the end of relationships, and it comes across quite weak and even silly at times. This is a shame, because music of this quality would deserve words that are a little more thoughtful and polished. But this detail is easy to overlook, given that the emphasis is clearly on Kerr’s masterful riffs and hummable vocals, and Thatcher’s skilful and incredibly versatile drumming.
Overall, for a record that doesn’t aim any higher than to serve as a continuation of what came before it, ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ is a pleasant listening experience, but it’s unlikely to become anyone’s favourite album of the year. Nonetheless, Royal Blood deserve credit for their expertise in deliveringcompelling and accessible rock tunes that are fun to listen and sing along to.