The Brighton power duo's turbocharged debut drags heavy-riffing rock out of the genre ghetto
It’s all in the details. There’s a moment about halfway through Royal Blood’s self-titled debut towards the end of the creepy ‘Blood Hands’ when, rather than his usual skin-pounding assault, drummer Ben Thatcher reverts to a surprisingly hushed tap-tap-tap to accompany Mike Kerr’s drawl and low-slung riff. Much of what has been written and said so far about this Brighton duo focuses on the noise and guts of their two-pronged assault and the idea that it amounts to far more than a two-piece should be capable of. But their excellent debut proves that‚ like all the best heavy music, it’s the moments of vulnerable calm that elevate noisy bands highest. There’s light, shade and careful nuance throughout. The crushing riffs of ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Out Of The Black’ might turn heads, but it’s the dynamics of ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ or the deft melody in ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ that hold the attention.
That’s not to say ‘Royal Blood’ isn’t an absolute turbo-bastard of a rock record, though. Supercharged early singles ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Come On Over’ have blasted their way to the forefront of both rock and indie circles largely because, even at their simplest, this band are startlingly effective. Thanks to their employment of the base constituents of what is, at heart, an extremely simple genre, it’s possible to throw a dart at the listings for any local venue in the country and find a band who sound similar to Royal Blood. Crucially, though, most of those will have less than one percent of the power.
That’s down to the fact that, in songs like the pneumatic ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’, ‘Careless’ and punishing closer ‘Better Strangers’, they hit upon the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone and transform what they do into much more than the sum of its parts. ‘Blood Hands’ coils and uncoils itself so confidently that it feels like it could be the work of a band with twice the experience. Royal Blood pull it off easily. In the wrong hands, the riff on ‘Loose Change’ could have fallen into a box marked ‘Jet Offcuts: DO NOT TOUCH’, but they execute it with a fluidity that rewards repeated listening. ‘Figure It Out’ also edges towards the predictable, but the elastic groove threaded throughout is the mark of a band who really know their shit. The result, as with much of the album, is a track that sounds and feels like much heritage rock. Influences trip from The Bronx to Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page doubtless saw something of himself in Kerr’s riffs when he watched them play in New York in May), but they’re delivered with an edge that confirms why Royal Blood have been hyped quite so hard.
Led by avidly followed big hitters like Bring Me The Horizon and You Me At Six, the rock landscape they’ve gatecrashed is in rude health. Their album is no salve because there is no wound. Their genre has become marginalised and largely unable to reach out of its own narrow confines. But Royal Blood aren’t here merely to drag rock music out of the ghetto. Their impact will surely stretch beyond rock’s confines. The cool swagger with which they dispatched meat-cleaver riffs and juggernaut choruses in front of 80,000 people when supporting Arctic Monkeys at London’s Finsbury Park in May proves it can.
Unconcerned with anything other than how fun the shared language of rock can be, ‘Royal Blood’ is here to convince everyone in its path that loud is good.