When Artic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner went on his rock ‘n roll tirade at the Brit Awards, he was applauded and criticised. Mainly for his cockiness and dropping the microphone, but it’s his words that people should remember:
“That rock’n roll, eh? That rock’n roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp.
“I think the cyclical nature of the universe in which it exists demands it adheres to some of its rules. But it’s always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash through the glass ceiling, looking better than ever. Yeah, that rock’n roll, it seems like it’s fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
And it’s when I listen to bands like Royal Blood that this rings very, very true. The band’s self-titled debut album is everything a rock fan craves – hard-hitting, gut-punching rock ‘n fucking roll, with many big-name influences shining through with the band’s own stamp emblazoned on them – and with not a guitar in sight.
Channelling greats like Led Zeppelin, Muse, Queens of the Stoneage, the Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood – comprising drummer Ben Thatcher and singer and bassist Mike Kerr – are an explosive duo that take two rudimentary instruments and make it sound almost orchestral. With deep, visceral bass and explosive drumming, Royal Blood doesn’t need guitars.
You can hear it right from Out of the Black, their first single that oozes confidence and high energy. It’s hard to believe there are only two instruments here, because when the two come together, the results are kaleidoscopic, kind of like Jack White and John Bonham rolled into one.
Come on Over draws heavily on Queens of the Stoneage with Homme-esque howling vocals that nudge slightly towards the scream of Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale. It’s simple, but effective. You Can Be So Cruel does the same, and it truly sounds like classic rock guitar work.
Figure it Out‘s opening smacks of The Black Keys, but then morphs into Matt Bellamy-like vocals from Muse’s The Resistance era – a touch of funk on a whole lot of distortion. Flea would be proud of this badass bass, but it’s a tad predictable.
Blood Hands is possibly my favourite track, spinning a delicate yarn that grips you, pulls you in and pushes you out again over and over, and sounds like a band well beyond their years. It’s mature and effortless.
The crushing riffs of Little Monster is a highlight, with a melody reminiscent of the ’90s held together by tight drumming. It’s a beauty.
It’s hard to believe that there’s not a single guitar on Loose Change, but it makes sense when you think of Them Crooked Vultures’ equivalent, New Fang, in which John Paul Jones takes the reigns with the bass.
The self-deprecating Careless snakes through blues and rock seamlessly, weaving the two genres into one stunning track, while Ten Tonne Skeleton relies entirely on everything being played really, really loud.
Closer Better Strangers is a riff-heavy blues track that screams Dan Auerbach, and is a perfect closing to an old-school-meets-new-school rock ‘n roll album that speaks volumes of this band who really knows their shit.
Royal Blood are the underage kids that smashed down the doors and barged in to an elite club of experience and heritage, and have made themselves known with their effortless style and class precision. I think we’ll keep them.
Rating: 9/10 – Nikita Ramkissoon
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