Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Royal Blood ride the tides of temptation on their cohesive fourth album Back To The Water Below

"Back To The Water Below"

Release date: 01 September 2023
Royal Blood Back To The Water Below cover
29 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Finlay Holden

When you think of Royal Blood, the first things that come to mind are probably Mike Kerr’s huge bass riffs and Ben Thatcher’s furious percussion.

Sharp vocals and addictive melodies have always carried some fascinating lyrics, but the thematic approach has very much taken a back seat – until now.

Opening up on Mike’s difficulties navigating an exciting world while abstaining from the allure of narcotic substances – the singer went sober in 2019 – the titular depths of this fourth album seem to serve as a metaphor for a never-ending path of resistance and the temptation that stalks you every step of the way. Describing the record as an exploration of a “distressing place, mentally”, the tracklist traces his steps through this perpetual cycle.

Sonically, Back To The Water Below is simultaneously a refinement and expansion of the Royal Blood formula that has already resulted in three chart-topping records. Take “The Firing Line”, for example; a song that still offers those familiar instrumental elements but also features a piano-driven chorus, a somewhat stripped soundscape and no beefy hooks to call upon. “Rolling the dice, night after night,” Kerr sings, “masking the vices, disguising a crisis”. It is clear that the true substance here stems from a place of hardship and it takes a different kind of bravado to push this new dimension to the forefront.

Just to completely juxtapose any sense of vulnerability, the polar opposite immediately follows as “Tell Me When It’s Too Late” describes those moments of reflection that arrive just before the inevitable. Regretful undertones are shaken off by a formidable post-chorus breakdown that matches the heights of any past single, and this certainly isn’t an isolated case; fans chasing that moshpit-fuelling potency can refer to the intensity of “Mountains At Midnight” or “High Water” for a similar blood rush.

As a diverse and cohesive project, this album is uniquely placed in the Royal Blood discography. All three previous efforts have contributed to a hair-raising setlist for live shows that truly flex Kerr and Thatcher’s talents both individually and as a tightknit duo, but Back To The Water Below grounds fluctuating moods throughout a well-crafted journey for listeners who prefer to visit albums in that thorough way.

Just look at how the Brighton pair typically end their full-lengths; it’s hard to conclude an album of bangers without the aftermath feeling like a sudden drop-off in momentum, and 2021’s Typhoons offered a closing piano ballad to try to soften that curve. This time around, “There Goes My Cool” preempts the wind down with a surprisingly cerebral and almost psychedelic track - perhaps the control of self-production enabled choices like this – before “Waves” summarises the album’s musings with one last ride through the ups and downs of guilt and remorse.

It’s a short and snappy experience clocking in at under 30 minutes, but the rising tides of sin and crashing waves of liability make Back To The Water Below the most all-encompassing outing of Royal Blood’s career. At a point where the pressure could be eased - they’ve headlined multiple festivals across the UK this year – Miker Kerr and Ben Thatcher are still trying something fresh. The danceability of Typhoons initially frightened those scared of change, but now that record has integrated seamlessly into a performance massively elevated by the duo’s on-stage talent; it would be foolish to expect anything less from these tracks too.

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