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Royal Blood - Back To The Water Below (Album Review)

Wednesday, 13 September 2023 Written by Emma Wilkes

Photo: Tom Beard

The last time we heard from Royal Blood, they were dancing through their anxieties with their brightest, most uptempo two-person soundscapes to date. Two years on from the release of ‘Typhoons’, though, things are looking murkier. 

On ‘Back To The Water Below’ the pace is slower, the sound more brooding, and the thud of piano keys are as present as the buzz of Mike Kerr’s distorted bass riffs. But, while the approach this time around is markedly different, the results remain frustratingly similar. Royal Blood are consistently inconsistent.

The LP fires its strongest track out at the top of the order, with the revving Mountains At Midnight fizzing with the adrenaline that made Royal Blood’s 2014 self-titled album so compelling.

There’s nothing quite as high-octane elsewhere, but they still find plenty of success in slowing the tempo down. 

Pull Me Through convulses with angst, using piano as its backbone with the soft drone of bass underneath, while The Firing Line strips back the distortion for a slow-burning masterclass in atmosphere. It must also be said that Kerr’s lyrics are the best they’ve ever been – they’re more metaphorical, more abstract and, as a result, it feels like he delves deeper. 

It's during the album’s mid tempo moments that Royal Blood get stuck between two stools. Shiner In The Dark is catchy but its guitar tone is too digital, paling in comparison to the preceding Mountains At Midnight. Other songs, such as the scuzzier High Waters, boast riffs that bare their teeth, but they lack the necessary propulsion and hooks to truly make them memorable. 

‘Back To The Water Below’ is a distinctive enough chapter in Royal Blood’s back catalogue, serving up some interesting ideas, but once again they can’t step out from beneath the shadow cast by their self-titled debit. Almost 10 years down the line, it remains unbeaten.

Royal Blood Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri October 20 2023 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat October 21 2023 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Sun October 22 2023 - STOCKTON Stockton Globe
Tue October 24 2023 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Wed October 25 2023 - LIVERPOOL Liverpool Uni Mountford Hall
Thu October 26 2023 - WOLVERHAMPTON Civic At Halls
Fri October 27 2023 - PORTSMOUTH Portsmouth Guildhall
Sun October 29 2023 - BELFAST Telegraph Building
Mon October 30 2023 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Tue October 31 2023 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre

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