Raw, no-nonsense rock bands with real clout, especially those comprising of just two members, are hard to come by in the beige vocoder-inflected millennial music industry. So when Royal Blood cropped up at No.1 with their synonymous debut album in 2014, it gave the classicists something to really pump their fists at. Two minds are certainly better than one as Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher have shown, but on their follow-up How Did We Get So Dark? they seem limited by this same numerical deficit.
The album starts off promisingly enough; The opening trio of tracks begin where Royal Blood left off, but the middle section seems entirely devoid of any those bristling hooks and melodies. And for all the brute force that Royal Blood feed into their songs, the lyrics are extremely flaccid and predictable: ‘I’m just waiting for an answer to a question that I already know… But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m always living in your shadow/When you’re not around’. Especially on the second album, there’s always the struggle between embracing the mainstream gracefully and maintaining your signature sound whilst still managing to develop and improve as an artist. Royal Blood still have all the surface appeal of a blazing hot-rod but there’s very little under the hood. I’m sure that the album will sound better live, but this sophomore effort doesn’t do much to convince us to listen beyond that stunning debut.