By Zanda Wilson
How Did We Get So Dark? Is the second album from Royal Blood and it utterly exceeds expectations on every level. It seems completely obscene that the English rockers, who leapt onto our radar with their debut self-titled album in 2014, could only be two people – such as the ability of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher – to create the sorts of musical textures that would be a good achievement for a band with five or more members.
Their debut record was so well received that it was a definite possibility that this would fail to match those heights, but Royal Blood have pretty much done the opposite of suffering ‘second album syndrome’, and pulled out a record that, if it’s even possible, is more diverse and explores even more of their incredible sonic spectrum.
At A Glance
How Did We Get So Dark? is quite a consistent record, and yet at the same time shows off the amazing ability of Royal Blood to explore variation. Like their last album, it is built around thick, heavy riffs like those that prominently in Where Are You Now?, Hole In Your Heart and of course the title track. Rather than composing stark differences in how theses riffs and the accompanying vocals and rhythm initially present in each track, the guys instead create distinction within songs by subtly changing how textures and melodic space are presented, and along the way create some stunningly captivating timbres that will leave you wanting more as each track wraps up. Some of the best tracks see Mike Kerr really explore the range of his voice in ways we haven’t seen before.
The Best Song
The whole record is chock full of gritty, grungy goodness, but it would be impossible to not mention the title track How Did We Get So Dark? It encapsulates everything this record is about, combining raw and heavy instrumental with gorgeous layered harmonies and every some great falsetto responses. Keeping with the heavy side of the record, the half-time riff in the already-released single Where Are You Now? is simply flawless and adds another whole dimension to the record as a whole.
The record has some slow burners too, with Don’t Tell being a particularly captivating tune in the back end of the album that sees Royal Blood really slow things down and contrast the huge space in pitch and texture between some upper register falsetto vocals and their bass-driven melodies.
The Worst Song
This is a near-impossible task; given how diverse and well-put together the album is as a whole. Although it’s undoubtedly far from a bad track, the only song that could potentially fit into this category at a pinch is I Only Lie When I Love You which feels somewhat repetitive and also which threatens to morph into a real romper only to wrap up super early. Essentially it just needed to be longer!
There’s simply nothing to disappoint with Royal Blood’s second album. Not only does each song make sense on its own, but the record rises and falls as a complete work of music. There’s a reason that almost everything Royal Blood have done since originally forming in 2013 has been amazingly successful, and their incredible chemistry can be heard in each and every track on How Did We Get So Dark? This is a proper rock album.