Album Review: Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

When Royal Blood dropped their self-titled debut in 2014, it lit a fire in rock music. Their raw aggression and heavy sound quickly earned them the title of best new rock band. But when a band earns so much praise in a short amount of time, it’s easy to cave under pressure when it’s time for the follow-up. Expectations were high for How Did We Get So Dark? and while it’s not a bad record by any means, you can hear the band struggling to meet expectations.

The opening title track kicks things off right with an upbeat vibe and gruff riffs we come to expect from the band. It’s not as heavy or in-your-face like their past efforts, but it still packs a punch. It’s fiery, energetic, and has a great hook you’ll be singing in no time. The band cranks it up on the blistering single “Lights Out.” The song is smoldering and intense with Mike Kerr’s screaming bass riff and Ben Thatcher’s pummeling drums.

“She’s Creeping” grabs you with its sneaking riff perfectly matching the song’s title. The mood is sexy and seductive as Kerr sings “She’s creeping/into my bloodstream.” The track sounds slinky and smooth as if setting the mood for a romantic night. The riff is unforgettable and slightly rough around the edges. It’s a stand out track that’ll instantly lodge itself into your head.

“Hook, Line & Sinker” is an absolute beast. It has all the qualities that make a badass Royal Blood song: killer riff, aggressive sound, brutal vibe, and rough, dirty music. It’s a punch to the gut with the wild, roaring riffs and explosive energy. This is a song that commands your attention and won’t let go until it’s over. It’s the heaviest track on the LP and reminds you why Royal Blood garnered so much praise when they first came out. These tracks are stellar and find the band doing what they’re good at: rocking the hell out. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t follow suit.

Whereas their first album was exhilarating, heart racing, and just all around good, this one feels like something is missing. While there are a number of badass songs that get you pumped like “I Only Lie when I Love You,” “Where Are You Now,” and “Look Like You Know,” the others are sadly unremarkable.

This album finds the band struggling with sticking to their rock formula and trying something different. The first half of the album sounds like business as usual albeit not as raw, but midway they tweak things slightly. “Don’t Tell” is a slow burning track that finds Kerr switching to falsetto vocals. While it sounds good during the verses, it sounds off when we get to the hook. Something about it feels forced and boring. Also, it’s Royal Blood talking about a love affair but with a sappy vibe. It just doesn’t work.

The last two songs are particularly forgettable. “Hole in Your Heart” and “Sleep” aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re not interesting. There’s little about them that makes them stick with you. You’ll be hard pressed to remember what they sound like once the record ends. The band clearly holds back and soften up their sound a bit, but the result is dull. Unlike the stand out songs on the LP, these aren’t exciting or thrilling. They’re just there. Still, Royal Blood opted to try something different making sure the album wasn’t a carbon copy of their previous release.

How Did We Get So Dark? is a solid follow-up from Royal Blood, but it fails to capture the raw energy and excitement of their first release. While there are still tracks filled with top-notch riffs, pure rock n roll attitude, and a touch of seduction, something is missing. The band dials it back in terms of sound leaving for songs that are kind of lifeless. You can hear their struggle to stay true to themselves yet tweak just enough to rise above their debut. Even though they miss that mark, the album is still enjoyable and shows Royal Blood still know how to rock out.

How Did We Get So Dark? Tracklisting

  1. How Did We Get So Dark?
  2. Lights Out
  3. I Only Lie When I Love You
  4. She’s Creeping
  5. Look Like You Know
  6. Where Are You Now?
  7. Don’t Tell
  8. Hook, Line & Sinker
  9. Hole in Your Heart
  10. Sleep

Ashley

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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