Sound — 7
It's surprising that Royal Bliss doesn't have a much darker sound after all the Salt Lake City band has gone through in the past decade. The most notable event was vocalist Neal Middleton's horrifying accident, in which he plunged from a balcony and told he would never walk again. Middleton made a recovery nothing short of miraculous, and apparently has almost fully rehabilitated himself in walking. Along with that accident, Royal Bliss has experienced a variety of roadblocks, and you can sense that aspect in the band's lyrics first and foremost. The music never goes to a dark place necessarily -- quite the contrary. While the lyrics do touch upon Middleton's troubling times, Royal Bliss' latest album Life In-Between does tend to sound in the vein of radio-friendly bands like Trapt, which should guarantee the quintet a solid fan base. From the opening track Save Me, you get the sense that this is a band that can churn out hit singles. Save Me definitely has that capability with its distortion-driven intro and catchy chorus, which have lines that you'll likely find yourself immediately humming. It's not necessarily anything out of the ordinary, but it builds in energy in all the right places and Middleton's impressive range helps to deliver passion behind all of the riffs. Whiskey is the highlight of the record, if only because it's an unexpected love song. If you didn't see the title, the music and lyrics might have you think that this is a sexy ode to some lady in his life. But Middleton instead passionately sings to, you guessed it, whisky. Besides the surprise factor, it also features the most diversity in terms of musical sections. It starts out with the bluesiest riff on the record, then transitions quickly into a power chord-driven hard rock verse. As the song progresses, completely new riffs are pulled out and eventually switches abruptly to a slower, clean guitar. That slower moment is brief, but Whiskey does prove Royal Bliss is a band that can think outside of the box songwriting-wise. There are a few ballads on Life In-Between, and they are hit and miss. Tracks like Fancy Things (a mid-tempo song that leans more toward the definition of a ballad) feels a little overproduced while By & By simply gets a bit too repetitive. I Don't Mind does stick with the acoustic and vocals for the majority of the song, and it pays off. There is an honest feel to it, which is likely not hurt by the fact that the lyrics are so personal.
Lyrics — 9
I Don't Mind is the standout track in terms of lyrics by delving into some past happenings, namely Middleton's accident. He lays it all out on the table with lines like, I've got a broken spine with a beat up soul; I don't blame you for being worried all the time. There are a good number of songs that do get that specific and personal, and that carries Life In-Between into a different level. There are definitely some rock-oriented, clich lyrics on the album as well, but even some of those deliver surprises. Whiskey would be on top of that list.
Overall Impression — 7
Royal Bliss will easily find a spot on rock radio, for better or worse. There is an edginess heard in songs like Whiskey, but for the most part this is a band that will appeal to a large audience that likes plenty of ballads to balance out the rock. To Royal Bliss' credit, they can pull off a heartfelt acoustic session as well as a rock track. The album doesn't offer any huge surprises, but it does feature more than a few single-quality tracks that should push Royal Bliss further into the public eye.