The prolific rockers from Southampton return with a fourth album as boisterous as the previous three. By Default is probably best described as less refined than Himalayan, and more consistent that Baby Darling Doll Face Honey or Sweet Sour. The lack of intimacy and refinement found in earlier albums is by no means a slight to the album; the energy and strength comes from the basic indie rock which is set by their unmistakable tone.
The album mostly sets aside the intimate tracks like ‘Fires’ (from Baby Darling Doll Face Honey) or ‘You Are All That I Am Not’ (from Himalayan) in return for the classic Band of Skulls tone and mood consistently showing through their tracks. As a result, By Default clearly sets its mood and tone early on with the opening track ‘Black Magic’, which is of the kind of quality we have come to expect of Band of Skulls.
The album keeps its mood throughout, but Band of Skulls have also shown their talent in integrating a multitude of other styles into their music. A perfect example is the second single that Band of Skulls released prior to By Default, called ‘So Good’. This track infuses Band of Skulls typical intensity with a Friendly Fires/Foals slice of funk. Band of Skulls willingness to experiment with genre highlights By Default among their other releases, but a downside of this is that many bands have failed to keep their identity when experimenting with genre. Band of Skulls have avoided this well, every track is undeniably and unapologetically Band of Skulls, but new musical ideas penetrate through this and offer fresh and exciting progressions.
The impressive, raw tone has always set Band of Skulls apart in a saturated and talented genre; By Default further demonstrates the songwriting and technical ability of the trio, and I can only see them incorporating more ideas into their music in the future. Band of Skulls have shown their worth as one of the UK’s hottest bands with an incredibly balanced album that is arguably as good, if not better, than their previous works.