Contrary to popular belief, there are few bands that become massive successes overnight. Every success story, before it becomes such a story, has a moment where everything is positoned perfectly for the next move to be the right one. Band of Skulls are a band who are now walking the tightrope on the precipice of glory.

Of course, the band have experienced success in the past. Over the course of their four studio albums, a number of singles have caught the ear of many – there is barely a person alive who is not engulfed in the shoutalong chorus of ‘Sweet/Sour’, for example. But what they have been lacking so far is a release that perfectly encapsulates that power and momentum without feeling a bit short of the mark.

With new album By Default, the band yet again fall a bit short of the non-stop killer outing that they need to push themselves over the top and beyond the confines of handful-hit wonder status. But what the new album does show us is a band that can maintain that decent hit rate across a number of albums, while outperforming their previous works and showing themselves as on immaculate form.

Much of the problem with many rock-oriented albums is the fork in the musical path: do you go down the club-sided groove route of go for stadium-rock lyric-driven tracks?

Fortunately, Band of Skulls maintain a good balance of both elements. Whether it’s the groovy singalong of ‘Killer’, the blistering retro-rock ‘n’ roll vibes of ‘Back of Beyond’, the riff-centric ‘Tropical Disease’ or the engulfing title track ‘In Love By Default’, the band strike a good mix throughout the album. So what is it that holds them back from classic status? What limits their world-ruling capabilities?

Ultimately, the short spot on By Default is the lyrical capabilities. The riffs and rhythms of the album are flawless, blending together stylistic approaches that will please both old-school die-hard rockers and modern rock-radio listeners, and some of the vocals also hit every mark with lyrics that are both repeatable and meaningful. But there is a lack of resonating lyrics or phrases – listeners leave with an impression that what they heard was sonically pleasing, but didn’t strike some of the emotional responses needed to push it that bit further.

Yet to focus on that is to misinterpret By Default. Band of Skulls are on a form they’ve never before been at, and their sound has evolved to a point where it is formidable and enjoyable. This is the precipice moment and the bridge to classic-status album success. It’s all a matter of keeping ears peeled for the next release.


By Default is out now via BMG.

By Tom Roden

Prolific writer, full-time insomniac and caffeine-blooded workaholic. Music deputy editor and quality control officer for VultureHound.