Band Of Skulls – Himalayan (2014)
Band Of Skulls, the heavy riff-rockers from Southampton return with their third album, “Himalayan”, which takes the sound of their previous two long-players and soups it up a little with slicker production and an overall higher aggregate tempo. The big stomping Led Zep riffs haven’t disappeared, they’ve simply been incorporated into a slightly more mainstream, higher-octane sound. The big question is, does it work? In my opinion, most definitely. As brilliant as “Baby Darling Doll Face” and “Sweet Sour” were, there was a danger that if the trio came back with a third album plying exactly the same wares as before then the fan base would have been a touch bored but, instead, Band Of Skulls have evolved without totally killing their core sound and the musical values which made people love them so much in the first place. This albums still sounds unmistakeably like Band Of Skulls, but, you know, with a new outfit and a bit of a snazzy haircut. It’s like they’ve been listening to a bit of Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Queens Of The Stone Age and Kasabian (seriously, give “Brothers And Sisters a listen) to give them inspiration as to where they should be aiming for next… and it has been a brilliant success.
“Himalayan” is an album that sounds better and better the more you play it, especially when you start noticing the finer details behind the big, blustery hooks and there are so many top notch tracks here to sink your teeth into. Opening track, “Asleep At The Wheel” boasts a superb, stomping riff-based chorus, the title track sounds like a massive hit in waiting and is the kind of piledriving song that makes your body move along involuntarily and “Hoochie Coochie” thunders along at full pelt, boasting a chorus bolstered by a brilliantly sleazy, twisting riff. The up-tempo indie-ballad “Nightmares” is something really quite different and the contrast between the edgy verse and the grandiose, epic feel of the chorus works quite wonderfully. “I Guess I Know You Fairly Well” is another massive song and one that will keep fans of the earlier material happy and “You Are All That I Am Not” threatens to be a little too ordinary until the spine-tingling instrumental break which is something very special indeed. Final track “Get Yourself Together” end the album with a big, expansive, shimmering feel, coming across as more like a nineties indie band than the brash, White Stripes-aping purveyors of raw rock riffs they’ve established themselves as over their last couple of releases.
To surmise, this is a rather impressive and extremely enjoyable collection of songs and, although not every track is genius-level, there’s nothing on “Himalayan” that makes me want to reach for the skip button. As it is a minor change in direction, there may be some Band Of Skulls fans who aren’t impressed with this album, but I’d urge them to persevere and give it at least three or four listens. Yes, there is a slightly more commercial sheen to the album than before and the sparse, bombastic riffs are a little more cleverly disguised, but big guitar hooks are still there and the material, rather than dumbing down for a wider audience, actually has a little more depth and dimension. It is simply different, rather than better, but without this evolution of their sound, I believe there would be far more critics of a band that stood still than what we have here, a talented trio having the courage and ability to fully explore and realise their creative range. There are many songs on this release that have the potential to become massive hits and, if there is any justice in the world, they will be. All-in-all, “Himalayan” lives up to its name; rock on an epic scale.