If you had to describe British rock trio Band of Skulls in one word, it would be “consistent.” The group’s fourth record By Default dropped recently, offering everything you’d want out of a Skulls album: vibrant, crushing guitars, vocals that alternate between harmonious and dueling, and a solid swagger that’s been building with every release.
Confident yet never cocky, the group’s attitude effuses naturally. That much is clear from drummer Matt Hayward’s ferocious booms at the start of opener “Black Magic,” to Russell Marsden (guitar) and Emma Richardson’s (bass) very first licks. While the band once again flexes serious rock muscle, it’s well-versed and fearless in taking unexpected detours, dipping its toes in reverb-y garage rock, 80’s-style arena anthems, and at times, funky bass lines you can groove to. This sonic diversity gives the album texture and mystery, taking listeners on a ride through straight up headbangers, then dropping them smack dab in the middle of a killer pop hook before they know what hit them.
The beauty here is best gulped whole, but “Back of Beyond” is an earworm that will invade your mind and never leave. Also noteworthy: the bravado found on the chorus of “So Good” and the calculated cool of “Erounds,” which both give The Kills a run for their money.
Plainly put: By Default is well-rounded and impressive from start to finish. It’s a bold, deliberate effort from a seasoned band that knows exactly what the fuck it’s doing.