Review Summary: The UK's premier rock outfit (it says here)
Royal Blood were your classic old fashioned word of mouth hit back in 2014, winning over an audience with their unassuming approach to both music making and self promotion. Despite the success of acts like The White Stripes and Sleigh Bells the two-piece set up was still somewhat of a novelty and thus managed to spark more interest than you'd perhaps expect a standard up-and-coming rock group to garner; to seal the deal this enviable hype was further bolstered by a steadily growing reputation as an intense live act.
The 'two-man band' approach lends itself to a tight live show of course, though such benefits are likely to come with manifold associated costs, the impact of which will be particularly swingeing if the band in question shy away from overlaying live-recorded riffs or taking a second guitarist on the road. Yes, this act are resolutely (stubbornly") a two-piece to their very core, always keeping their compositions as simple and riff-centric as humanly possible; in short, Royal Blood songs are numbingly predictable and any surface level appeal they generate tends to fade lightning flash quick, sometimes before you can even finish an introductory listen. As laudable as it is that this band have stuck to what they believe to be their unique winning formula, in this case the result is pure undiluted tedium.
Lead singer Mike Kerr is one of the least inspired vocalists and lyricists currently operating. Listening to him toil away fruitlessly on this material you'll soon have a newfound respect for the likes of Josh Homme and Alex Turner; the latter can't claim to possess a voice that's even particularly well suited to heavy rock in this stoner-ish style, but when compared to what's on offer here the king of the Arctic Monkeys (eh) can hold his head up high. Rock lyrics in 2017 don't need to reinvent the wheel but surely there's no need for them to be quite as generic and meaningless as this; what we have here is a never ending assembly line of empty rock n' roll platitudes coupled with a charisma-free voice that knocks stone dead any chance this band had of being anything more than a stock riff machine.
So how do they rate as a riff machine" On the debut they scored high enough in this regard, the sped up outro to 'Figure it Out' was of course an old trick, but an established classic for a reason. Other straightahead rockers like 'Little Monster' never approached the level of the best material by peers Queens of the Stone Age but had some charm about them nonetheless. What's shocking on 'How Did We Get So Dark"' is how just a couple of seemingly minor calibrations to the machine has resulted in total catastrophic failure; noticeably fewer memorable passages, a little less bite in the mix, that's all it took for the wheels to drop off. Tellingly, there's barely a song here that ups the pace beyond a plod and those that do make some effort ('Where Are You Now"' springs to mind) come across as utterly flaccid irrespective. The Josh Homme style backing vocals are so prevalent on this release they end up stealing the energy out of each and every song like some kind of ginger haired, desert dwelling succubus.
So at the final count what does this release amount to" Well, at a push you have one relatively catchy song in the shape of 'Hook, Line and Sinker' delivered by a band so shamelessly in thrall of their American peers they'd make Gavin Rossdale's pubic bush blush a burning bright crimson.