How Did We Get So Dark? – Royal Blood (album review)

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(official album artwork from How Did We Get So Dark?)

With my recent review of The XX, I have gone from one band I once loved in their early days of few studio releases and fast-growing fan base to another, I find myself in the position of rediscovering a band I once enjoyed – this time discovering a higher level of disappointment in them. Given that this album was released six days ago (at time of writing), it will be hard to approximate the level of success this album will get – but my opinion may be altered by my sheer lack of exposure to its marketing and general dissatisfaction of the album.

Royal blood is a name that will likely be familiar to a lot of people, given that they are a very recent band and, in the past few years, they received a sizeable amount of attention from general mainstream music fans and continued to spread beyond that. The band have enjoyed a reputation as being a Hard Rock/Blues Rock band reminiscent of older bands such as Wolfmother and have been appreciated by many for their take and homage to acts like this and, by many musicians, for the sound they achieve as a two-piece band.

My general opinion of Royal Blood has previously been positive, but the fact I did ease out of them speaks aloud to me. Though I have a respect for the band and I enjoy their older music, I just feel like they’re a bit of a one-trick pony and, despite the quality of their music, they never seem to stray far from a dynamic they’re obviously more comfortable with. I’ve always considered them to be a consistently good band, which is a good thing in many ways- but it seems to lack humanity when they can’t seem to perform better than this standard and don’t ever fall below into mediocrity. I just feel this makes it harder to develop a personal connection with them.

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(image sourced from Consequence of Sound webpage)

Another issue I have with Royal Blood is with the length of their albums. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have heard albums around the 40 minute mark which were absolutely phenomenal, and one might appreciate their desire to keep it short at the risk of compromising album quality, but 34 minutes? That’s just insane. I consider this, and then relate it to the Opiate EP by Tool which, as an EP, is a total of almost 27 minutes and I just feel faced with an overwhelming impression of laziness – especially when you consider the album before came to a total of nearly 33 minutes. Now I know that you’re thinking it’s not that much of a deal and I’m just being neurotic but I’m about to explain why that train of thought is totally wrong.

This album sells at approximately the same price as any other studio album, retailing at £14.99 – ten pounds more than their previously released self-titled album would cost to buy now, which is of drastically superior value with a stronger track listing and a far more organic, raw and energetic feel. This makes for a far smaller return for the money invested in the album and just makes it impossible to recommend for purchase, especially when you can find copies of albums like Dark Side of the Moon, OK Computer and Hatful of Hollow (listed as some of the best albums of all time from various sources) for far less than this.

But I digress, value for money aside, I can’t recommend this album to anybody apart from existing fans of the band. From a production point it is really good, the music sounds pretty cool in places – but there aren’t any songs I can put above anything from their self-titled album. They started off well with their previous album, and I would recommend that for a great many reasons, but it was clearly too much for them to follow and I just stand really disappointed. Part of the negativity behind this review stems from the fact I did really enjoy Royal Blood in the past and now I’ve just seen them fall from that standard. That all said, the album still shows their ability to write hard-hitting drum grooves, cool riffs and maintain a raw drive, which leaves them capable of a return to form in their next studio release if they stay true to what gave them their character in their earlier days.