Sound — 9
"By Default" is a collection of powerful, well-written songs. Although Band of Skulls sound slightly different (less aggressive) on this album than on "Himalayan," "By Default" definitely has more energy and positive emotion than "Sweet Sour."
My initial thought when hearing tracks like "Bodies," "So Good," and even "Erounds" was that Band of Skulls are now a pop rock band and not a blues rock band. This may be somewhat true with regard to this album. That being said, "By Default" makes use of the same combo of instruments as in previous albums and still makes use of the band's skills, driving drum beats, riffing guitars, and dual vocals from both Emma and Russell (which by the way, are just as good as ever). Songs like "Killer," "Black Magic," "This Is My Fix," and "Little Mama" in particular sound like classic Band of Skulls.
I am also very glad that the production on "By Default" is a lot cleaner than that of "Himalayan," which, in my personal opinion, could have been better. It truly sounds great, especially when one can hear the natural reverb on the bass drum created by the acoustics of the church in which the album was apparently recorded.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics on "By Default" are just as strong as lyrics on previous albums. The song lyrics that stand out to me the most are from the chorus of "In Love by Default." Probably one of the strongest tracks lyrically on the album, this song packs so much emotion and rhythm into the medium-slow, minor key groove; "You're in love by default, you don't know what's what, you don't know what's real, you don't know what's hot." The forward-pushing triplet rhythm really makes this chorus vibe.
I also really love the cleverly worded line, "I'm your favorite enemy, I'm the leader of the pack. Got your heart, got your soul, got your back..." from "Killer." Just after this is the super catchy chorus, "You're so... whoooop, Killer, killer, killer!" Definitely cool.
The rhythm of both vocalists are very in-tune with all instrumental tracks on this album. This is one of the main trademarks of Band of Skulls' sound.
Overall Impression — 8
Although this album feels like a new direction for Band of Skulls and may not live up to the epic grandeur of "Himilayan," "By Default" still packs the same Band of Skulls punch found in the previous three albums. It also contains just as much emotion even if there are less jaw-dropping, aggressive guitar riffs (something that, I will admit, I miss). Despite this, the band is still guitar-driven and is complimented nicely by Matt Hayward's pulsing drum beats. On top of this, the production (especially on the drums) is excellent. I love it.
The most impressive songs? "Killer," "So Good," "This Is My Fix," "Little Mama," and "In Love by Default."