Royal Blood – Back to the Water Below
It’s been a difficult summer for Royal Blood, having managed to turn a coveted slot at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Dundee into a PR disaster by appearing to insult the audience. “We’re called Royal Blood and this is rock music. Who likes rock music? Nine people, brilliant,” frontman Mike Kerr said, before branding the crowd “pathetic”.
In the age of social media Kerr’s words became far more than a moment of petulant frustration. They were mocked in meme after meme, with some even citing the moment as another nail in the coffin of the rock genre the duo wanted to champion – all in all not the ideal run-up to the launch of new album Back to the Water Below. It’s a record that shows why they were booked in Dundee (and on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage) over the summer, but that will do little to persuade those writing rock’s obituaries that these are the men to give it CPR.
Things start with Royal Blood’s familiar heavy riffs of Mountains at Midnight and Shiner in the Dark, before Pull Me Through and The Firing Line showcase a more piano-based sound that appears to reflect a newfound mellowness Kerr has discussed finding, having given up alcohol. The duo also deserve credit for self-producing, sticking to their guns and making the record they wanted to make, rather than handing the reins to someone who might make them fit in with the pop zeitgeist.
Listening to it there are hints of Supergrass’s adept combination of more melodic digressions – especially as here Kerr’s voice is softer than your average rock god. Yet Back to the Water Below lacks the wit and unpredictability of Gaz Combs and company, with lyrics that tend more towards cliché than the sharpness of one-time mentors the Arctic Monkeys. That said, there’s plenty for fans of the band to like. What Kerr and Ben Thatcher on drums can never be accused of is a lack of competence in what they do. And the Queen-inspired There Goes My Cool will clearly play well with the convinced.
With Royal Blood now, you know what you are going to get – pretty polished mainstream rock – and it’s certainly there on Back to the Water Below. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; it’s just not the kind of game-changing record that’s going to lead to a rock renaissance or a reevaluation on the part of those who found their Big Weekend rant ill-advised.
Back to the Water Below is released on 1st September 2023. For further information or to order the album visit Royal Blood’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Mountains at Midnight here: