Album review: Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below

Royal Blood start to atone for Big Weekend meltdown with cracking fourth album…

Album review: Royal Blood – Back To The Water Below
Mark Sutherland

“Who likes rock music? Nine people. Brilliant.”

Those seven words will likely follow Royal Blood around for a while. Once upon a time, their cringey spat with a Radio 1 Big Weekend crowd that they thought wasn’t paying their band enough attention would have been simply the sort of low-level gobshiting the nation expected of its rock stars.

Yet it prompted an online backlash that, in a more sensible world, would be reserved for doing something really heinous, like tanking Britain’s economy, or leaving empty After Eight wrappers in the box.

Because, if we’re only going to listen to musicians who never occasionally act like a bit of a dick, we might as well shut down Kerrang! and launch Rick Astley Appreciation Weekly. And, as it turns out, Royal Blood are much better at playing rock music than they are at throwing onstage strops.

Indeed, it’s ironic that Mike Kerr’s meltdown happened while being ‘ignored’ at a big pop event, because Royal Blood have done more than most to make sure alt.rock remains in that mainstream consciousness.

Their self-titled 2014 debut reinvented hard rock for a new generation, while 2021’s Typhoons proved they could add an electronic edge without losing their elemental power.

And the self-produced Back To The Water Below really ought to broaden Royal Blood’s appeal still further. The tightly-wound riffing and ludicrous lyrics ('24-carat thug / In a velvet glove') of Mountains At Midnight is primo, pumped-up Royal Blood. But amidst the classically chunky jams, Pull Me Through builds around a subtle piano groove; The Firing Line ditches distortion for hazy melody; and There Goes My Cool is a charming slice of fuzzed-out psychedelia.

In short, get over the Big Weekend baggage and there is a very good rock record waiting for you here – and certainly one that deserves to be appreciated by many more than nine people.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, Muse

Back To The Water Below is out now via Warner

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