“Royal Blood” to Die For
Thom Behrens | Thursday, September 4, 2014
Royal Blood consists of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher — and the duo starts their re-definition of the rock duo from the very instruments they play. Breaking the conventional guitar-vocals/drum breakup of duties, Kerr instead picks up a bass guitar, which he wires to separate amps alternately through a huge, electrifying, fuzz-covered dirty channel and a groggy-yet-precise instant riff creator clean tone (although let it be said that this assessment of his output breakdown is totally speculation; Kerr has refused requests in several interviews to give away any hints about the make-up of his highly modified, home-engineered pedalboard which gives him such a unique sound). Although it only clocks in just about 30 minutes, the album really packs a wallop.
The bass, versatile as it is with Kerr utilizing two different amps, almost works like magic with all the sounds it encompasses. From head banging bass lines to smooth, sarcastic refrains, the band finds a way to make every song unique, and make every song rock. Whether it’s the gentle, steady chugging of “Figure It Out” or the heavy, deep, almost-overbearing tenacity found on “Little Monster,” the band does gymnastics with the bass that are a rare sight from any band, from any genre.
You’d never know the band was just a two piece — unlike the minimalist guitar accompaniment and instrumental interplay of The White Stripes or the stripped-down sound of The Black Keys (“Turn Blue” excluded from this generalization), Royal Blood has shoved their 10 track album full of songs bursting with wicked guitar progressions, thumping, anthemic drumming and an absolutely flower-withering voice worthy of a five- or six-piece group.
Kerr’s voice, in another fantastic renovation from the classical two-piece garage band model, comes not from the primal bowels seen in Dan Auerbach’s work with The Black Keys, nor the punk-rooted throat like Jack White. Kerr’s not afraid to sing straight from the head, screaming in ranges rarely seen in the family of harder rock since the turn of the century. When his bass plays the melody along with him, the grimy bass/crystal clear vocal combo creates such a perfect space between them that the listener can’t help but get sucked in.
But let this not be another rock duo review to leave out the drummer — as easy as it to glorify the great rock guitarists of this century’s slew of duos, Thatcher certainly deserves his credit. Again, a step ahead of the accompaniment of Meg White (The White Stripes) or Michael Carney (The Black Keys), Thatcher takes a more active role in the band’s sound — often coming onto a song with rolls and beats that counter and emphasize his bandmate’s instrumentation. Rocking tambourines, never-ending triplets of hi-hat hits and his two loosely pulled tom-toms help pull the album’s sound together as much as any other aspect of the album.