It was approximately this time last year when – pardon the pun and reference to Royal Blood’s signature tune – the Brighton duo erupted with ‘Out of the Black’. Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher announced themselves, fully formed with just a bass guitar and a drum kit but with an almighty roar. Since The White Stripes it’s been common place for a two piece to forge a sound that doesn’t equate to the sum of its parts, but Royal Blood take this sonic battering to new levels. The seasiders have drawn plaudits from all and sundry, with Arctic Monkeys being early adopters and most recently, Jimmy Page has expressed his devotion towards Kerr and Thatcher’s guttural rock ‘n’ roll.
Undoubtedly there is something very special about Royal Blood, with guitar music seemingly in dire need of a defibrillator shock to the heart, the pair’s cacophonous juggernaut feels like the last vanguard of hope where rock is concerned. With a heavy expectation weighing on the band’s debut LP, it’s with baited breath we tip our toes into the record’s filthy waters. Suffice to say, ‘Out of the Black’ sets the bar for Royal Blood’s first offering and is the clarion call that kicks off this self-titled LP. Akin to the band’s theme tune, like an opening credit reel, the album’s first moments are a bowel loosening affair that sparks an image of a thousand Josh Homme’s leading a Queens of the Stone Age battalion into war. There’s a sleazy stomping groove, driven by a band that is all rhythm section making for a hip shaking aesthetic but with a punishing panache. The first half of ‘Royal Blood’ will be familiar for anyone that’s embarked on having their hearing decimated by the brothers of bass and drum propelled noise as singles ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Figure It Out’ factor next to live staple ‘Loose Change’, which injects a grubby level of pace and urgency to Royal Blood’s dirty manifesto. ‘Come On Over’ spasms like Kerr and Thatcher are thwarting Homme and his QOTSA enforcements with a weaponized Muse. It’s a gamble front ending the LP with a clutch of tracks already in the public domain as Royal Blood could have spunked their load to soon but it’s testament to the quality of their wares that ‘Royal Blood’s first half acts like a recap as to why these Brighton noisemongers are worth your time.
Five of ‘Royal Blood’s aural detonations are hot off the press, with ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ shimmying with a slinky, almost soulful swagger. The latter can be attributed to Mike Kerr’s bracing vocal, which can swing from sultry to gruff. ‘Blood Hands’ is another moment where ‘Royal Blood’ dips into something slinky but altogether moody and sinister. Royal Blood channel their inner Matt Bellamy and Jack White on the abrasive chainsaw basslined ‘Better Strangers’. Ben Thatcher’s pummelled drum licks give the track a robust backbone ensuring every beat punctuates Kerr’s ode to escaping a poisonous suitor “I am thousand miles from danger/if I make a better stranger of you” declares Royal Blood’s frontman.
‘Royal Blood’s lifespan is just over 30 minutes but in that time, the intense shockwave of noise is enough to knock the wind out of you. It’s with an enticing vigour that the band rattle off into jerking breakdowns or the shift in time signatures can easily blind side the listener into receiving another sonic buffeting. A few instrumental interludes would have added a nice conceptual layer to the duo’s debut and a factor that would have delivered a further added impact to the south coaster dwellers ram-raid rock.
It’ll be interesting to know where Royal Blood go from here as they’ve mastered the ‘less is more’ route to market. A more awkward sound, one that pushes them into math rock territory seems like a natural progression or like the reference to Muse, something elongated and epic could be a possibility. For now we’ll take these sub four minute bruisers but evolution is key to Royal Blood keeping things fresh.
They may not be rulers of the kingdom just yet but these princes aren’t too far away from being kings.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams