Band of Skulls have come a long way since recording demos in their father’s shed. For one, they went as Fleeing New York back then, and also, dads shed doesn’t quite compare to playing in huge concert arenas across the globe.
The Southampton trio bared their bones on debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey in 2009. The success of the album earned them a spot at SXSW, as well as touring gigs supporting rock and roll heavy hitters like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Dead Weather and Muse. They backed it up with 2012’s Sweet Sour, proving they could take their raucous rock to the next level. Now they’re back with third album Himalayan, looking to one-up themselves again and unearth the mountains of confidence to fill such arenas themselves.
The album opens up with the single many will be familiar with by now, Asleep at the Wheel. It stomps in relentlessly, with distorted guitars and pounding percussion. The shouty chorus is catchy enough to quiet-yell along with by the second refrain, driven home by classic 70’s wailing riffs. It is followed by the title track, which has a clangier intro before the verse accompaniment becomes deep and grumbling, with guitar-layered choruses. Reprieve is given with a vocally-harmonised breakdown, before a searing solo shreds it apart.
Cold Sweat is reduced to a slow ballad, with the melancholic swagger and country vibe of Nancy Sinatra’s version of Bang Bang, with Emma Richardson’s grand, lingering vocals. Nightmares is far from the hard rocker you’d expect from the title, with a slower, dreamy vibe, complete with cleaner singing. The duality of the vocals here, atop the poppier sensibilities, feels more like an Arcade Fire track, a clear influence of producer Nick Launay who has worked with the Canadians. I Guess I Know You Fairly Well is a standout track, which commences with a slower, strummy intro and snare-heavy percussion, before a huge distorted riff and crashing cymbals explode the piece into a towering rock tune. I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead and One Dying not only has an awesome title but revisits the bluesy rockabilly sound, one that would fit straight into a western film. The diversity is capped off with final track Get Yourself Together, which is stripped back to an acoustic intro, with gorgeous vocal harmonising. It is allowed to escalate for the choruses, before it closes the album on an airy, dreamy note.
The title Himalayan can only feel fitting with the massive, unrepentant rock of its contents. It is loud and epic with plenty of teeth, at the same time completely fun and full of swagger. The album displays a more nuanced approach, whilst the trio remain adept at stitching in searing riffs and cranking up the distortion. Underneath the diversity of Himalayan the rock and roll handbook isn’t too far away, but it shows that they are on a steady path to the peak of their confidence and ambition, leaving no rock unturned in their ascent.