Friday, December 1, 2023
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Royal Blood – Back to the Water Below Review

Stirring up meagre interest in their latest record after flailing around the stage in a tantrum-like state after nobody recognised them, Royal Blood is back. Did they ever leave? They would like listeners to think they are on the main stage constantly. Their music must desire more than it does currently to get anywhere close to headliner quality, though. Not all bands are cut to warm up a crowd of cretinous Muse fans, yet Royal Blood takes to this role rather well, for their music is cut from the same gutless cloth. A plain half-hour follows, and it is worse to be restlessly bored than actively insulted. Royal Blood cannot back themselves and their new material, they just do not have it in them to care by the sounds of Back to the Water Below.  

Their toothless journey begins with Mountains at Midnight, a clustered and inevitably faux-heavy introduction to their sound of a new era. Four albums in and Royal Blood struggle to maintain much of a theme beyond a mid-2000s wrestling video game soundtrack. Shiner in the Dark is no better. A track which feels neutered and vacant as the vocals from Mike Kerr sound as though they were written for a different song entirely. It is too much to muster enough emotion to like or dislike Royal Blood, they are as plain toast as it gets, and this second track is a signifier of everything wrong with their style. Slick their guitar solos may be, they are attached to a nothing project which instils repetition of black and blue abuse. It does nothing for the heart or the head.  

Their maudlin and cowboy-esque Pull Me Through is a stilted and embarrassing change of pace. The Hoosiers had better rhythm than this. At times, Royal Blood does sound like The Hoosiers-lite. Though that is a nasty throw at those who brought us Goodbye Mr. A. Where do Royal Blood find themselves Without a formidable and memorable track is where. Nothing from Back to the Water Below strikes as at all relevant or interesting, not enough to stick in a Spotify playlist or even mention in conversation, anyway. The twinkling strings and off-kilter guitar of The Firing Line is a marginal improvement, and then a flatlining pattern follows the rest of the indifferent tracks within. 

Gracefully short is the only real benefit to Back to the Water Below. Bordering on tedious frequently, it is a better fate to be shackled to a breeze block and thrown into the ocean than listen to this. Heard one? Heard them all, then. No real difference from track to track, just a coasting number of dullard tracks made for dullard people. As empty as it gets when it comes to trying to feed the heart and soul. Music as tragically bland as this should be locked in a steel safe and lobbed into the nearest pit. Unfortunately, Royal Blood are big enough to succeed but not big enough to remember. They are the thin line of mundanity which lingers on as the gaps Oasis left in their demise are yet to be plugged. Giving their best lounge pop meets Arctic Monkeys impression on There Goes My Cool, which replaces emotion with empty swears, followed by hokey repetition of ocean-based antics on Waves. Yet another thinly veiled attempt at reviving despondent and wasteful guitar music. Back to the Water Below fails in several fascinating ways. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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