Back in May, I went to see Arctic Monkeys play in Finsbury Park, London and Royal Blood were a support act although I didn’t see much of them. However, the Sheffield indie kings have been fans of theirs since the beginning with drummer Matt Helders wearing a Royal Blood t-shirt before they’d even released their debut single Out Of The Black.
So who are they? Royal Blood are singer and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher from Brighton. Gaining early recognition, they were nominated for BBC’s Sound Of 2014 award but lost out to Sam Smith. Now with their debut self-titled album released, Royal Blood look set to make big waves in the second half of the year.
The album kicks off with first single Out Of The Black, an energetic alternative rock introduction. Slamming drums, plenty of guitar fuzz and Mike’s drawling indie vocal characterises them to a tee. The darkness oozes through in the instruments and with its catchy rhythm, it’s ideal for playing live and causing some serious frenzy amongst gig-goers. It’s followed by its B-side Come On Over which has arguably the catchiest chorus on the album. A fast fuzzy guitar and mechanical rhythm give it bags of sex appeal and the tricky guitar whines become as commonplace as the hook “So come on over”.
Royal Blood have earned themselves comparisons to The White Stripes and on Figure It Out, it becomes clear as to why. Mike’s vocals do enter the whimsical area that Jack White so often frequents and with the song’s quirky rhythm and an electronic-metallic hybrid of a guitar, there are some definite resemblances. In comes the familiar staccato guitar along with some thundering drum rolls to introduce You Can Be So Cruel. Here, a more calm melancholy vocal is adopted while the throbbing beat on the chorus adds to the spooky atmosphere created by the creeping rhythm.
Halfway through is a stripped back interlude named Blood Hands. A simple riff exposes the vocals and a soft drum grounds them as they soar through the melody. An ominous guitar seems to pursue it before an explosive instrumental leaves the listener feeling pumped for the second half of the album and in a dream-like state thanks to the atmosphere created. Wake up to second single Little Monster as it’s a huge festival track that features dark grinding instruments and quirky lyrics with a huge catchy chorus. Alternative mechanical riffs power it along as does a steady constant drum.
The White Stripes similarities continue in Loose Change with a spiralling rock guitar and Mike’s vocals taking on a kooky falsetto vibe. Halfway through it kicks up a gear with a shift in the drums and the passion in the vocals is allowed to really shine through. Another quirky alternative rock song is Careless which is based on strong drums and a dark guitar with a whining riff interlaced over the top. A catchy riff interjects each vocal line in the chorus and the rise and fall of the song is something that works great on stage. No doubt it will be a great crowd-pleaser!
Perhaps the most dramatic song on the album is Ten Tonne Skeleton. Crashing drums and a bouncing screeching riff keep repeating throughout the track and the pace of it resembles a wild beast on a hunt. It’s dark and dangerous with a whimsical haunting interlude with choral sounds at the two minute mark before reverting back to the screeching riff. It’s weird but wonderful and is certainly the most interesting song artistically. The album ends on Better Strangers, a song that encompasses all that Royal Blood are about. The staccato steady drum, magical shimmers from cymbals and the fuzzy guitar back up the drawling sexy vocals that we heard at the beginning of the album. It is a little bit Band Of Skulls-esque but with a more theatrical feel. It’s darker and more serious than any recent indie-alternative band have delivered before.
On their debut album, Royal Blood have given us a plethora of high-energy, at times strange, alternative rock songs. Of course, we can see influences from various other bands in the genre but they’re certainly not re-branding what we’ve heard a million times over. Songs like Come On Over and Little Monster are sure-fire hits that have a unique edge to them. A valiant first effort from the duo who have been named as the biggest alternative hopes of the year.