With Royal Blood's number one album, it seems that rock is not dead (again)


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The Independent Culture

There’s no mistaking the thunderous riffs and screaming vocals. The surprise appearance of Brighton duo Royal Blood at the top of the charts has heralded a long-overdue revival for rock in its most primal and noisiest of forms.

The band, consisting of bassist and singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher, have scored the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years with their self-titled number one album.

Inspired by Led Zeppelin’s thumping riffs and Nirvana’ squalling grunge, Royal Blood’s achievement has reversed an apparently inexorable decline in the mainstream impact of guitar bands since digitally-enabled music fans rejected the traditional album format in favour of single tracks. “There is hope for riffs and guitars and real drums,” the duo declared.

Now that Royal Blood have forced their way on to the still influential Radio 1 A-list, other British bands are preparing to invade the territory currently dominated by EDM club hits and acoustic strummers inspired by Ed Sheeran.

Pulled Apart By Horses, a Leeds punk band whose song I Punched A Lion In The Throat was described as a “demented screamo meltdown” in NME, now sit alongside Taylor Swift on Radio 1’s playlist with their new single Lizard Baby.

Surrey rockers You Me At Six are on the A-list after topping the charts with their album Cavalier Youth. Mercury Music Prize winners Alt-J and Welsh “indie” band Catfish and the Bottlemen are also being supported on daytime Radio 1.

Like Royal Blood, who only formed last year, the new wave of bands are given few opportunities to perform on prime-time television. Their success has been built on relentless gigging which has won them a loyal audience.

Radio 1 analyses new artists’ impact on social media - YouTube plays, Shazam tags and their Facebook footprint – as well as popularity at festivals, where Royal Blood are fast becoming a headline act, when it holds its weekly playlist meetings.

No British guitar band has matched the impact of Arctic Monkeys since their breakthrough almost a decade ago but Tim Ingham, editor of Music Week, now felt able to write a column headlined: “British rock music is back. No, really, it is.”

Ingham said: “Royal Blood speak to a huge of audience of Zeppelin riff-loving heavy rock fans whose desperation to discover a band they can cling to has been building up for years and years,” Ingham said. “Rock has been unfashionable in industry circles but a major label – Warner Brothers – made a huge financial commitment to Royal Blood so their breakthrough will really change attitudes across the industry.” Ingham tips Sheffield rockers Bring Me The Horizon to become the next to make an international breakthrough.

The Official Charts Company said the Royal Blood album, which sold 66,000 copies in its first week, was on course to maintain its hold on the top slot this weekend despite competition from Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.

The band, whose album has outsold debut equivalents by Mumford & Sons and Rita Ora, are taking success in their stride. Frontman Mike Kerr told NME: “Being in the charts is just something that we didn't expect. It’s hard to work out why things have commercial success and we're still scratching our heads.”

“Rock music is the way we play music naturally so it's exciting that there is hope for riffs and guitars and real drums. Real music which is, perhaps, something that has been lost for quite a while now.”