ALBUM REVIEW: Typhoons by Royal Blood
We were so fucking excited about this release that we had to take a few days to calm down. We still haven't, but alas, the time has come for us to shout about it from the (virtual) rooftops.
Friday saw the monarchs of modern rock, Brighton's Royal Blood, share their long-awaited and highly-anticipated third album: Typhoons. Fans had already been teased with four tracks from the album - first was Trouble's Coming, which immediately set the tone for the record by introducing us to the duo's delicious new disco-rock sound. Title track Typhoons followed shortly after, then Limbo, and finally fan-favourite Boilermaker.
This is not the same Royal Blood you know and love from debut Royal Blood and How Did We Get So Dark. They've evolved, sobered up, and produced a tighter, punchier sound. This sonic metamorphosis originates in Mike's mission to regain control of his life after struggling with alcoholism. He had a life-changing epiphany at the end of a tour with Queens of the Stone Age in Las Vegas. He downed an espresso martini which he declared as his last, and soon discovered that his new-found sobriety would manifest itself in a rekindled joie-de-vivre and creativity, leading to the pair's decision to take control of the record and produce the majority of Typhoons themselves.
"The whole record is about this idea of being lost in your own head, and how dark spells can really take over you. When you're experiencing those things they feel so permanent - they feel like they're there forever - and much like bad weather, when you're in a dark spot it feels like this is just how it's gonna be. So it's about how those things will go away, and reminding yourself that behind all the darkness there is blue sky, you just have to hold out."
The creation of previous album How Did We Get So Dark was a creatively restricted experience as they were desperately trying to recreate the same sound that had launched them to success back in 2014 on tracks like Little Monster and Figure It Out. The beginnings of the third album had also been following this path, until lockdown 2020 allowed them to sit with (what was at the time) a finished album. The forced free time led to experimentation, and to Typhoons being written.
"We thought the record was done before the first lockdown came into place, and this song was written during lockdown," explains Mike. "We felt like we had a record that we were really happy with, so we were just playing around and didn't even have our own band in mind for it - it was just very creative and very fresh and free. As a result it just meant we had so much fun with it - I think it's the quickest a song ever came together for us. We got to the end of the song and we were like, how did we do that? It was very quick and very energetic, and it felt very us."
"The old songs, they still exist, we still have them. I think we set the bar so high for this one so we wanted to really make something that we felt was better than anything we'd ever made, and simultaneously felt fresh. We didn't wanna come back with an album that could've been a mix of both our last two records - it wouldn't have been creatively satisfying, and in theory it would've been really terrible because we wouldn't have enjoyed it."
The organic nature of this sonic progression is evident throughout the album. The pair have managed to maintain their outstanding ability to make a fuck-tonne of noise with essentially just two instruments, whilst striving forward into a world of groove-infused - yet still thick and deliciously heavy - flavour. Taking inspiration from outside the "rock" genre, they sought influence from artists like Daft Punk, Justice, and Philippe Zdar of Cassius. This is audible, particularly on Hold On, Mad Visions and Million and One.
We begin our cosmic voyage into the world of Typhoons via Trouble's Coming. The track sets an intoxicating groove-rock standard for the rest of the album; it's full of swagger, succulently layered bass and Mike's angelic harmonies. And it's catchy as fuck. It feels like you've hopped aboard a carousel that's floating through the galaxy - you're whirling round and round, incredibly disoriented and breathless, but still having a great time. Make sure you don't get too dizzy though, there's still so much more to explore in this Royal Blood multiverse.
Oblivion has (very) quickly become a fan favourite, and it's not hard to see why. Opening with a handful of spooky synth jabs, it goes straight for the jugular with an absolutely killer riff that soars straight out of the stratosphere. It's a dangerous, unyielding scorcher, and a tale of warning about taking things too far.
Introduced by Mike's hauntingly atmospheric vocals, title track Typhoons saunters in at number 3 with a funky, sensual riff and delectably tight beats. The verse will have you strutting around your room, until you're blown away by the bridge - with its disco ball-like glittering production values, you're thrown into a vivacious chorus that'll have you singing along in no time. And then it hits. The signature riff that sends this track soaring into a relentless whirl - a typhoon, if you will - and you can't help but get swept up by it.
Who Needs Friends was produced by multiple Grammy Award-winner Paul Epworth, who also contributed to Trouble’s Coming. With an unwavering "fuck you" attitude in the lyrics, the vocal delivery and musical arrangement oozes a sexual tension that might just get your mind wandering.
For a slightly smoother (but still rough and raunchy) space bop, Million and One offers futuristic production values, with more of a sauntering flow than any of the other tracks. It also features a fucking fantastic outro, and would be the perfect fit for the credits of an epic interstellar Marvel movie.
Limbo kicks off with a crashing spiral of heavy percussion and thick bass, in true Royal Blood style, as Mike's harmonies melt together deliciously. Luminous synth shines from the hook and feels like a bold step into the unknown - but the tight, thrashing rhythms of the verses stay true to the core of Royal Blood as we know them. Once those elements coalesce into the song’s gleaming finale, it’s apparent that Limbo is the perfect marriage of disco-synth and striking, classically Royal Blood, scuzzy rock.
Either You Want It keeps things sassy, just how we like them. It's a keys driven, bassy banger with a fiery sting in its tail - reflecting the lethal lyrical topic of relentless mixed messaging and indecision. It's got slightly more raw vocals than the rest of the songs (reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys AM track I Want It All), along with a simpler arrangement - but the bridge is truly out of this world.
Boilermaker was produced by Queens of the Stone Age frontman and friend Josh Homme, and you can hear his super-villain genius all over this track. Performed at their 2019 shows, it became a huge hit with fans which led to the iconic #ReleaseBoilermaker campaign. "A boilermaker is a horrible, horrible drink," explains Mike. "It's a shot of whiskey in a beer. There was a point in my life where I found myself drinking them. When you're drinking them, you know things are going wrong. It was the ugly side of me." The drink might be disgusting, but Boilermaker is quite the opposite - dripping in a sexy, punchy, and aggressively mechanic energy.
Mad Visions is the perfect transition out of the militancy of Boilermaker - with the same hyper aggressive spirit, but all the groovy flare of a carnal Prince number. The transition from Mad Visions to Hold On is truly something to behold. It's beautiful, slick and will leave you wondering how or if it ever actually happened. Hold On sees Mike's signature chilling vocal slides on top form, picking up the pace a little with a positive message of never giving up and more of a pop sensibility about it, particularly in the chorus. You can really hear the Daft Punk influence in this one, and we love it.
All We Have Is Now is the final track, and the true surprise on this album. If you'd told us last year that the next Royal Blood album would feature a piano ballad, we'd have laughed aggressively in your face (and then gone home and worried about it). But after their bold experimentation on the rest of the record, it makes total sense. It's a melancholy finale to a lyrically melancholy album, and thematically sums it up in a vulnerable and revealing reminder to live in the moment.
Bonus tracks Space and King are available exclusively on the digital deluxe version of the album, and to be honest, we don't understand why. King, much like Boilermaker, went down a treat with fans at the 2019 shows. It bridges the gap wonderfully between the sonic styles of How Did We Get So Dark and Typhoons, as it was one of the older tracks written - it's got all the grit of previous releases, but reframed through the tighter, swankier production values of this new era. And honestly, we want Mike saying "I can be your motherfucking king" to be the last thing we ever hear.
Space, also produced by Josh Homme, is a massive highlight. It starts subtle, alluding to the title with an other-worldly ambience - lulling you into a false sense of security, so that you're battered by the chorus when it hits. Tension continues to build through the track, eventually blasting you off into another dimension, one filled with astral riffs and blaring beats.
Overall, Typhoons is a fucking triumph. It's a more focused, neater distillation of everything we know and love about Royal Blood. It's jam-packed with tense, modern rhythms that ebb and flow, fierce metallic grooves, and most important of all, massive, dirty riffs. We don't see this album as a departure, more of an exciting dalliance into the unknown - these guys definitely know how to keep us on our toes, and we can't wait to see which planet they take their monstrous noise to next.
If a big, tasty new album weren't enough for you to sink your teeth into, Royal Blood have just announced details of their first full UK tour since 2017 (which includes their biggest headline show to date at The O2 in London, and US dates will be announced soon) with support from The Amazons. Click here for tour dates and details. We'll see you on the dancefloor.
Review by Courtney Myers