Published Jun 16, 2017Unlike other bass-and-drums duos, Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher don't seem content to follow in the footsteps of their contemporaries. There's no dense, noisy squall like Lightning Bolt or dance-punk a la Death From Above; instead, they're more likely to idolize groups like Foo Fighters (with whom they've toured) and Arctic Monkeys (whose drummer Matt Helders famously wore a Royal Blood t-shirt at Glastonbury in 2013), gunning for festival main stages and arena tours and writing anthems to blast at sporting events everywhere.
Royal Blood's strength comes via the visceral wallop of Kerr and Thatcher's material, particularly given their limited resources. The duo easily pack more punch than groups twice their size, thanks to Thatcher's monstrous drums and Kerr's effects pedal-driven lead bass playing. And like any great rhythm section, the two of them move effortlessly in sync across the record, from the start-stop riffs of "I Only Lie When I Love You" to the rhythmic interplay and extended drum fills of "Lights Out."
The downside is that for all the power and grit Kerr and Thatcher can conjure up, there's not much else to hold your interest here. There are moments: Closer "Sleep" recalls the slinkiness of Arctic Monkeys' "Do I Wanna Know?" while "Where Are You Now?" bounces effortlessly between tempos, and is probably the best showcase of Kerr and Thatcher's rhythmic chemistry as a duo.
So despite how thunderous Thatcher sounds behind the drums or how dirty Kerr's bass tone is, unfortunately there isn't a pedal for more robust and compelling songwriting. That said, you'll probably be headbanging too much to care. (Warner)