Disinterring a new sonic identity
Southampton’s diligent indie-rock group Band of Skulls has been mining for sonic gold since 2004, gouging out moderate success with all the right tools—grainy rock tunes, dedication and fan appreciation. Their musical expedition had a significant setback in 2017 with the departure of founding drummer Matt Hayward, and yet the group soldiered on. The payoff has arrived, as it would appear that their fifth studio album, Love Is All You Love, is the nugget they’ve been searching for.
The band’s 2019 discography entry shows the group enhancing its gritty musical style—characterized for fuzzy guitar solos and throbbing drum beats—with a groove-based approach that lends them an uncharacteristic but welcomed dance aesthetic. Led by the funky bassline of Emma Richardson, the album’s feral opening track “Carnivorous” is the start of a journey through the band’s newly minted soundscape.
The sonic environment weaved by the band comprises the anthemic pop hooks of “Cool Your Battles,” the atmospheric instrumentation in “Sound Of You,” the lead vocal panache of the title track, the blues-rock glazed guitar licks in “That’s My Trouble” and more. The tensile nature of the band is impressive as it shows an ability to adapt to its circumstances, employing a mix of electric and live drumming to create the backbone of the songs.
Producer Richard X’s influence is apparent in the album’s final track “Gold.” This song boasts a concentrated amalgam of ‘70s disco and dance-pop, topped with the group’s rough style. It is the blend of grit and chic that best suits the band and finally pushes it beyond its limits, unearthing an identity that shines brightly. Richardson and guitarist Russell Marsden appear to have understood that the amicable split from their long-time drummer would demand change, and they dared to execute it.
Whigs and Eagles Of Death Metal drummer Julian Dorio contributed the live drums on the record and helped the band redefine themselves like producer Richard X did. Fans of the group will quickly realize that the Band of Skulls world they once knew is no longer familiar, and may want to get off the journey. To the broader audience, however, a preview of the new sound will be enough to have them lining up for a ticket to ride.