Review Summary: Uninspired and massively far from their stellar debut, on this album Royal Blood begin resembling a one-trick pony more than they'd like to admit.
Following up a commercially successful debut release seems to often be an intriguing endeavor for artists: do you take risks and explore your sound further, or play things safe and try not to stray too far from your already-established style" This question definitely posed a serious challenge for Royal Blood - trying to cautiously add sprinkles of different elements to their music but ultimately reluctant to distance themselves from their tried-and-true formula, How Did We Get So Dark
seems to not have a clear identity and is a mess of an album that sees this England duo in need of serious reflection at an early stage in their career.
The heights set by their energetic 2014 record are never quite reached this time around, and How Did We Get So Dark
ends up being quite a bit of a chore to get through. The subtle organ touches and background vocals that have a presence here make for a partially glossier production, but it neither suits Royal Blood very well nor is enough to differentiate this from its predecessor in a significant manner. The album doesn't even feel like it's 34 minutes long at certain moments: overusing song ideas and running their appeal thin in little time, Royal Blood just can't seem to find enough resources to craft a fully encapsulating affair. The relentless riff attack almost feels redundant by its middle section, and after closing track "Sleep" ends, one can't help but feel it's all a bit too repetitive for it to feel like a fully fleshed out project.
Tracks such as "Don't Tell" and "She's Creeping" - atypically insipid and among this album's list of main offenders - are unprecedented mediocre territory for them, while most songs feel so devoid of character sometimes that there almost isn't enough to differentiate Royal Blood from just about any other derivative rock act currently operating. "Where Are You Now" benefits from its groovy verse but soon turns into a by-the-numbers rocker that feels pale and keeps its potential from flourishing. Fortunately, "Hook, Line and Sinker" picks things up rather nicely, and "Hole In Your Heart" is legitimately close to their debut's best offerings, driven by an interesting piano line and making good use of dynamics. But coming in at tracks number 8 and 9 respectively, it's a case of "too little, too late": How Did We Get So Dark
feels rushed and uninspired, and comes across as a wrong turn in Royal Blood's path. A lack of vision and evident inconsistencies plague all their best efforts, meaning it may be a good time for Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher to rethink their approach.