Royal hails from the land of Norway, which poses the question; do they sound like ABBA or the Cardigans? (Editor’s Note: Yes, we realize those groups are from Sweden.) For some of you, the answer is thankfully neither. I was somewhat relieved myself they broke the monotony. Elvira Nikolaisen’s vocals are the closest resemblance the band has to the more well-known Scandinavian groups (especially on “Beautiful”), which actually has more variation than Nina Persson does.
Musically, there’s nothing but contrast, with Royal sounding closer to Roadside Monument or a heavier Sebadoh. Royal captures the beautiful sound found in well-done emo and leaves you with elegant melodies interrupted by blistering distortion and frequent heartfelt shreaks.
The album starts off surprisingly with blaring power chords and shocks any who thought they were the typical Scandinavian sound. The manic-depressive feel of “Haze” is evident with subtle notes and luscious vocals from the brother and sister duo of Emil and Elvira, vocals that transform into piercing shrieks over pounding guitars and percussion. The pattern is consistent throughout the album and radiates a feel similar to Roadside Monument’s 8 Hours Away From Being a Man.
Royal engulfs the extremes within each song without settling somewhere in-between. Though the pattern hardly changes, the lavish, melodious flow interspersed within the raw aggression is captivating. Within each melody, single notes represent an early Cure/Scientific feel. Of course, each develops into something far from the ’80s pop sound. Elvira’s alluring, flush voice doesn’t harm with the sound either, especially when she sings in her native tongue on “Mrke Natt,” her voice layered over as sensual reverb.
The final track has a brief moment of electronics that resembles Fold Zandura, but the keys leave abruptly and allow a certain pureness to be kept. There isn’t a lot of experimentation on the LP and surprisingly not one shriek of feedback is present. The band stays true to authentic instrumentation, but refreshes with clean sounds of harmony and opposing tattered sounds of assault. With the departure of Roadside Monument, Royal is at the forefront of emo on Tooth & Nail, and most other labels, by providing such a mature resonance.
While I haven’t seen their name on Cornerstone’s Tooth & Nail day, I suspect their live show is as intense as the album itself.
Written by Nolan Shigley.