Courtesy: Warner Brothers Records
Late this past June, British rock duo Royal Blood releases its sophomore album How Did We Get So Dark to the world. The album’s title may not reference its overall content, but in listening through the record’s 10 song body, it seems fitting. That is because it is a direct contrast to how bright this record proves to be in the end thanks in part to its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The album’s lyrical content makes this record shine just as much as its musical arrangements. It will be discussed later. The album’s sequencing rounds out the most notable elements that make it such a bright new effort for the fledgling rock duo. Each element, by itself is critical to the album’s success. All things considered, they make How Did We Get So Dark a bright new effort from Royal Blood.
Royal Blood’s second full-length studio recording How Did We Get So Dark is anything but a dark new effort from the British rock duo. This 10-song record is a shining new collection of songs that listeners will agree offers plenty to appreciate beginning with its musical arrangements. The album’s arrangements are critical to the album’s success because of the growth that they exhibit from the pair’s self-titled debut. From start to finish, listeners get plenty of songs that stylistically sound very similar to that 2014 full-length record thanks to so many driving, blues-based, almost Clutch-esque compositions. At the same time, the band doesn’t stick to what it knows here. Case in point is the stylistic change audible late in the album’s run in ‘Don’t Tell.’ This slow, grinding song’s stoner-sludge rock styling is, while not stark, still a noticeable departure from the songs included in the band’s debut. It clearly shows the band growing and taking a new risk; a risk that works quite well. ‘Hole in your Heart’ is another obvious sign of Royal Blood’s musical growth in this record. That is evident in the juxtaposition of the song’s softer, keyboard-driven verses and its heavier choruses. This crossing (and the general sound of the song) is something that was hardly as present in the band’s debut. It makes this record all the more entertaining, too. If that is still not enough example of the growth evident in this album, ‘She’s Creeping’ shows that growth, too. Stylistically speaking, the song comes across in a slightly easy-going fashion without losing the sound that has made the band so beloved. It is just one more way in which the album shows the band’s willingness to take risks and grow. Keeping that in mind, the record’s musical arrangements do plenty to make this album entertaining. They are, collectively, just one part of what makes the record entertaining. The album’s lyrical content is just as important to its overall presentation as its musical arrangements.
Throughout the course of HDWGSD’s 34-minute run time, it offers listeners just as much to appreciate lyrically as it does musically. By and large, this record seems dominated lyrically by themes of relationships both good and bad. While that doesn’t seem like much to discuss, the different ways in which the subjects are approached in each song is what makes the album so lyrically interesting. ‘Don’t Tell’ is a prime example of how the variance in that familiar theme stands out. Vocalist Michael Kerr sings here, “Everybody saw you get your coat/And everybody heard your bad excuse for leaving/Say “I’m going out for a smoke”/No one has to know about our little secret/Meet you there in the dark/I won’t say anything/If you don’t.” This presents a little bit of a naughty vibe, and that vibe doesn’t end there. Kerr goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “used to have a heart of gold/Now I’m staying up at night/Your dirty little dreamer/Always ready to reload/At your command/Wish I could keep you synchronized on demand/As we fantasize what they can’t know.” Whether or not the seeming double entendres included here were intended here, there’s no denying they seem to be there. This message of a naughty secret, combined with the song’s musical arrangement—which expertly catches the lyrics’ energy—makes the song even more engaging. It is just one of the songs that lyrically proves to be so interesting. The album’s opener/title track offers its own lyrical interest.
‘How Did We Get So Dark’ comes across as a song about a broken relationship through its lyrical content. But the catch is that it does not come across as one of those standard oh-woe-is-me style works that are far too prevalent in the music industry. Rather, it comes across in a more contemplative fashion as Kerr sings in the song’s lead verse, “I saw it coming/Like the shadow on the wall/You started running/When everything turned cold/How did I/Become a lookalike of someone you used to love/Someone you used to love?” He goes on to sing in the song’s chorus, “How did something so sweet tear us apart/On a sinking ship with a heavy heart/How did we get so dark?” Little doubt is left to mind about this song’s message. What’s really interesting here is how that theme rests alongside the song’s high-energy musical arrangement. The combination of the pair gives the song a sort of aha moment, especially as Kerr sings later in the song, “Nobody warned you/The tables would turn/I could have told you/Everything you’ve learned/Would burn to dust/Now there’s no one you can trust/Just someone you used to love/Someone you used to love.” This seems like someone who, instead of feeling sorry for himself or herself, is speaking almost sarcastically in retrospect about that broken relationship. It is a welcome turn for such a common lyrical theme and just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves to be so interesting. ‘Where Are You Now’ is one more example of what makes this record’s lyrical content stand out.
‘Where Are You Now’ comes across lyrically as yet another song about a broken relationship considering Kerr singing, “I’ve tasted every potion/They don’t taste like you/You’re a teardrop in an ocean/I’m still drinking though/And I still wonder where you are/And who you’re talking to/When I think about it I get blue.” The rest of the song is very similar, lyrically speaking. Once again, it sounds like a very certain style song, yet the energy in the song’s musical energy keeps it from being one of those songs. Considering this, it becomes clear why this song is yet another example of what makes the album’s lyrical content overall so important to its presentation. Lyrically, the record tackles some very familiar theme, but it does so in ways that don’t just repeat themselves from one to the next. When those themes are set alongside the album’s musical arrangements, that music gives the songs’ lyrical content a whole new meaning and feeling. Even with all of this in mind, the songs’ lyrical content is still not its last important element. The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The sequencing of HDWGSD is so pivotal to the album’s presentation because of the thought and time that was put into this element. Thanks to that thought, the album keeps the album’s energy well-balanced throughout its run. It starts out with a solid driving energy in its first trio of songs before pulling back a little in ‘She’s Creeping.’ Even as the energy pulls back, the power in the song’s energy is not lost. The energy varies just as much over the course of the album’s next three songs with two more high-energy songs and another slower, but still strong, solid effort in ‘Don’t Tell.’ That same pattern is followed in the album’s final three group of songs, too, with the album’s closer being another strong effort, just not as fiery as its predecessors. Considering the stability and balance in the songs’ energies the album ensures even more here listeners’ engagement. When this is set alongside the interest of the album’s lyrical themes and musical arrangements, the whole of those elements makes this record a record that is anything that is dark. Rather, they prove it to be a shining new offering from Royal Blood.
Royal Blood’s second full-length studio recording How Did We Get So Dark is a bright, shining new offering from the band. That is proven through musical arrangements that at times show growth from vocalist/bassist Michael Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher while also giving audiences some familiar sounds in others. The seemingly consistent lyrical themes that populate the record add to its interest, and its sequencing adds to that interest. Each element is important in its own way to the album’s whole. Collectively, they make How Did We Get So Dark a shining new effort from Royal Blood. It is available now in stores and online. More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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