When it comes to making the most noise with the smallest amount of moving parts, no one seems to do it quite as well as the two-piece British outfit Royal Blood. The duo consists of drummer Ben Thatcher and bass guitarist/ vocalist Mike Kerr. Yes, you read that right. Kerr plays the lead/only guitar in the band using a bass hooked up to an ingenious pedal setup that is definitely not conventional but that’s kind of their M.O. Not to mention Kerr utilizes that distinctive sound to its full advantage with his impressive chops at writing riffs and licks. Combine that with Thatcher’s thunderous beats and subtle flourishes and you get the uniquely bad ass signature sound that you hear in full effect on their ferocious debut record.
Right from the opening of the first track, Out of the Black, you can tell this one is going to be a banger. It starts off with a tight set of synched up notes from the duo before building into a crescendo of fat guitar riffs and wide open hats and crashes from Thatcher. The ebb and flow of intensity in this song is sure to keep you on your toes if you aren’t already jumping up and down in mosh-pit mode.
Jumping down to one of the most underrated songs on the album, You Can Be So Cruel, you’ll find choppy bass and tom-roaming drum beats that are sure to get your head bobbing before bringing in the wide open chorus featuring some super sweet ghost notes from Thatcher (I love me some ghost notes). The sweeping guitar unwind at the ending butters you up perfectly for what’s to come with the brooding Blood Hands as well.
Going from underrated to possibly the true standout track we come to Little Monster. This was my introduction to Royal Blood and boy did they make a good impression. The peaks and troughs of the first two minutes or so made me tingle and then they smack me with one of the coolest bridges I’ve ever heard. At this point I’ve got goosebumps but it’s not over yet. Not until after they roll out a beautifully simplistic but perfectly fitting drum solo that should make any drummer jealous they didn’t write it. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite tracks on the album and probably one of my favorite songs to play, period.
Now, back to the underrated songs. Kerr puts on a clinic in writing catchy riffs and lyrics with Careless. “I wish I cared less, but I’m afraid I don’t. You couldn’t care less, so I guess you won’t (change your mind again)”. The way that chorus fits together is just so satisfying to the ear and the preceding descent of guitar notes sets it all up perfectly for the deep, crunchy bass tones that follow.
To round out the end of the ride you get treated the crawling and sprawling nature of Better Strangers. With lyrics like “There’s nothing left inside, I found a whole new low. My heart is open wide, with nothing left to show” and “I’m a thousand miles from danger if I make a better stranger of you” this one is sure to cut deep. The slow-mo drum beat in the opening certainly feel like there’s a thousand miles between notes but the way Kerr weaves his guitar in and out of those spaces fills the void with the perfect amount of momentum to move this beast forward before opening up into a washing of open hi-hats and more fat riffs.
For some extra credit, there are three fantastic B-sides to this album that are only available to the American audience on YouTube but they’re worth the search. One Trick Pony in particular has one of the sexiest guitar solos I’ve ever heard. I remember reading a YouTube comment on it saying something like “At 2:39 you can hear Jack White’s career ending.” While I’m not going to knock on the immensely talented Mr. White, I think it’s a perfect example of just how wicked this band is.
As far as the vinyl goes, the artwork is a stark black and white amalgamation of silhouette and detailed nature etching with an uncoated finish that feels as raw to the touch as the music does to your ear. A perfect representation of the audible becoming both visible and physical.
I could go on and on about this record. It is just an absolute unit from front to back and the way these two gentlemen play off of each other and constantly push and pull on one another throughout their music is nothing short of amazing. These guys are masters of mixing understatement and unbridled balls-out rocking and hard proof that sometimes, less can absolutely be more.