Review Summary: More Wolfmother than any other garage rock pioneer band you can think of.
It’s hard to make music nowadays that sounds unique. In fact, I would go as far as to say any aspiring rock band is rooted in some sort of tracks that have already been laid out before them by another band. That’s the problem with time, for as more time passes, more and more music gets released. So it isn’t coincidental for a band like Royal Blood to garner the type of comparisons that they do. However, there is a fine line between sounding like another band and wholeheartedly ripping off another band’s sound. While Royal Blood doesn’t exactly cross that line altogether, they do straddle it very closely.
One thing you will notice from the start of the LP is that Royal Blood brings energy. “Out of the Black” is led by a loud and pounding drum intro, followed by a stadium rock chorus that you will surely bob your head and sing in the shower to. It’s a fantastic intro to the album, if only because that sound you hear on “Out of the Black” is going to be repeated on almost every track from here on out, with the exception of the high energy drumming. The lead-bass intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/outro is run into the ground to full effect, with seemingly every song trying to “out-energy” the next. Bringing energy into garage rock is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. I love my garage-rock blues to be loud, however if you don’t at least mix up your sound a little bit, or try to come up with more than one or two interesting riffs, your energy will soon turn into boredom after a couple listens.
And that’s exactly what plagues Royal Blood’s entire first half; a lack of diversity. Thankfully, it picks up the slack in the second half. “Loose Change” starts with a slower paced riff and the tone of the bass isn’t quite a loud as previous tracks, but it’s the off-kilter drumming that is really on display. That is until the second half which gives the listener an explosive solo and fantastic drum fills. It’s the album’s first real attempt at building the momentum instead of trying to sprint out of the gates with energy, and it is done with such precision and intricacy that it makes you wonder why it took until the seventh track of the album for the band to showcase its ability to actually create a decent song structure. The following track, “Careless” abandons “Loose Change’s” interesting structure for more of familiar structure, but unlike the first half of the album it brings an interesting riff that follows throughout and near the end of the track features some great drum fills. This track’s instrumentals feel like an ode to early Blue Oyster Cult albums, and it’s all the better for it. Closer “Better Strangers” is the most head-scratching track on the album. The ever changing bass-guitar riff comes in and out of focus at all the right moments, and the drumming is perfectly solemn, making for a fantastic slow-burner of a blues rock track. It’s just another area where you can really see this Royal Blood’s potential, yet it makes you scratch your head as to wonder why they can’t put this time of effort into every one of their tracks.
Royal Blood’s self-titled debut is high energy, there is no disputing that. The problem lies in the fact the energy feels forced on you, rather than built and constructed through the craftsmanship of the instrumentals. Sure the immediacy of the energy is a thrill ride at first, but it’s just that; a thrill ride. Something that lasts only a few moments before it is over and you are onto something else. That’s not to say that the album is bad however, it’s just short on surprises. And when the surprises come, like on “Loose Change” and “Better Strangers,” you will find yourself pondering why they couldn’t spend just a little more time on the other eight tracks structure as well.