Artist: The Blacklist Royals
Album: Die Young With Me
Release Date: 10th June 2014
Record Label: Krian Music/Universal Music Group
‘Harsh screams and vocals, reminiscent of The Sex Pistols or Fugazi, containing lyrics of socio-political focus and so much testosterone you could fill a bull testicle three and a half times.’
‘Drums catchier than your own heartbeat, soul piercing guitar riffs and poetic lyrics aimed at matters of the heart and humanity, with all the style and class of a Levi’s advert.’
In this day and age, both of the above statements could be descriptions of the punk genre, which has spread so far and wide that no one is entirely sure what is punk and what isn’t any more. Similarly to metal, there has been a growing divide in punk. In the metal genre we have experienced sub-classification after sub-classification, stretching from Nü Metal in the early 2000′s to Cello Metal to Viking Metal, to Avant Garde Metal. Alternatively, the punk genre has opted out of the sub-genre approach and has instead applied a confusing ‘One Size Fits All’ to punk, that is of course with the exception of ‘Orgcore’ which started as a casual joke, but has been adopted by some. The genre applies to the bands that could appear on the website: punknews.org, which on the whole features a more alternative side to punk, incorporating folk or Americana or even blues. This cover-all genre lumps in bands such as The Gaslight Anthem and The Menzingers with Against Me! and Black Flag, and The Front Bottoms and Every Time I Die, and the band I’m here to talk about today: The Blacklist Royals.
I first caught onto The Blacklist Royals in quiet manner in 2010 following their release of the album Semper Liberi. It was one of those unfortunate affairs in that its release seemed to slip by, avoiding the eyes of the public and sadly it was never a topic of conversation for many people. I discovered them in a YouTube rabbit hole, because of the endless Gaslight Anthem, or Menzingers videos I had been watching, I am writing this review now to save you those hours of searching, to bring The Blacklist Royals straight to your keyboard.
Their latest album Die Young With Me was released on the 10th June through the Universal Music Group and Krian Music. The album is born from great personal tragedy, having spent the last years with band member Rob Rufus, battling through cancer which had been diagnosed when he was 17, involving the removal of a lung. Along with twin brother Nat Rufus, Die Young With Me is an accumulation of the years between Semper Liberi and now.
Out in the Dark, the fourth track on the album is an exemplary piece to show the change experienced by the band. Songs such as American Hearts from their 2010 album are far more intense, similar in vitriol to an effort by Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms, and similar in melody and energy to early albums from The Gaslight Anthem. However, on Out in the Dark, The Blacklist Royals come with a far more emotional approach with lines such as: “I’ve been waiting for you out in the dark, I’ve been lost inside the twilight of my heart” and “I hear a song and I think of you.” In many ways, that’s one of the best aspects of the song and the record, a punk band that can still come up with slicing melody and Frank Turner-like rawness of delivery and yet not be afraid to admit that we cry sometimes.
One other notable song from the record in terms of emotionality and frankness is Twenty Six and Gone. If you’re a fan of The Gaslight Anthem, then you can draw similarities to songs such as Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts. It starts off distant, as though playing through an old radio, somewhere in the background of a Suburbian afternoon. The electric guitar is played as though it is an acoustic guitar with dulcet tones singing: “If you’re reading this then I’m gone“.
Unfortunately, one downside of the album is that it is very downbeat and if you’re looking for something upbeat to cheer you up on a Monday morning, then perhaps Die Young With Me is not the album for you.
That being said, the album isn’t entirely heart-felt misery, there are one or two songs that sound like The Blacklist Royals’ that we heard on their début album Semper Liberi. The organ fuelled eponymous track demonstrates my earlier point of Americana combining with punk music. The opening riff is very ‘clap-a-long’ and could fit right into a play-list along with a Cheap Girls single. The same could also be said for the last track Take It : Leave It which has an almost positive chord progression and would be the most likely song for a sing-along at a drunken party.
Overall, I would recommend this album, partly because I’m soft-hearted and I feel that due to their troubles in their personal life, similarly to We Are Augustines, that the production of an album is worth a listen alone. If you’re a little more hard-hearted than me, the album is packed full of melody and brilliant lyricism. However, if you’re looking for something intense that will snap your neck as you’re headbanging along, then this isn’t the album for you.
If you need any more convincing, take a listen to American Hearts from Semper Liberi to whet your appetite for Die Young With Me.
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