The first Band Of Skulls song I ever heard was Patterns from the debut album, Baby Darling Dollface Honey. I was drawn in by the punchy, rhythmic electric guitar first and foremost. That same guitar is certainly not absent in the third album, Himalayan. If anything, it’s louder. Much louder. Maybe even punchier.
The sound of the band has definitely grown; it’s difficult to pin down exactly how because it sounds like the same old Band Of Skulls that fans know and love at this point, yet it appears to have become just that bit bigger. Guitar solos, such as that in I Guess I Know You Fairly Well, are bigger, louder, and longer, whilst remaining melodic and catchy. Album opener, Asleep At The Wheel, is a really great track that sounds a lot like The Black Keys, which to be fair is a fairly worthwhile observation of many of the songs in the Band Of Skulls repertoire.
Perhaps this is why the album is named Himalayan: some of the songs are almost modern day rock ballads, if that’s not too far to go. The heavy and infectious guitar riffs in both Himalayan and Hoochie Coochie are certainly proof of the band’s development; there are a lot more layers and a lot more noise than what now looks like meek and mild guitar sections formerly heard in Patterns.
There are slower and softer songs too, as featured on previous albums. Cold Sweat and Toreador both start off fairly slowly and calmly, building up to crashing finishes rather than starting off with a high tempo electric riff. As always, the combination of both male and female vocals across various songs is very refreshing, whether singing together or separately, this variation again adds another layer to Band Of Skulls which makes them a very enjoyable listen.
There’s still a little weird and kooky element in the album which I feel causes the band to stick to their roots and do their own thing. Despite arena tours with Muse and The Black Keys they are not putting any pressure on themselves to drastically change their sound to draw a bigger crowd. Perhaps they are just deepening it, or as previously mentioned, making it ‘louder’.
I do not understand the principle behind I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead And One Dying, but by the time the chorus comes in I’m singing along. The chorus in Nightmares is also ridiculously catchy, and I would argue that this song is perhaps the most pop-influenced and accessible of the lot. The opening guitar is a lot less aggressive and the repetitive chorus means that you’ll be repeating the word ‘nightmares’ an awful lot for the rest of the day - and that’s coming from personal experience.
Anyone who is already a fan of Band Of Skulls really cannot be disappointed with this album; it’s genuinely a really solid effort throughout, and there doesn’t appear to be any filler tracks. It’s a pleasure listening to new material that is just as rewarding as the older stuff. Any new listeners may be initially taken aback by the classic rock-esque guitar-heavy nature of the music (I was certainly caught off guard having not listened to the genre in a while), but it’s very rhythmic and enjoyable.