Album Review: Palaye Royale – The Bastards

Sin City rock rapscallions Palaye Royale shoot for the stars on third album, The Bastards

Album Review: Palaye Royale – The Bastards
James MacKinnon

Palaye Royale’s artistry is their ability to command attention. Whether you’re a sworn-in member of their Royal Council fanbase or a sceptic who balks at their “fashion art rock band” posturing, the brothers Remington Leith (vocals), Sebastian Danzig (guitar) and Emerson Barrett (drums) have successfully carved out their own niche of glitzy yet gritty rock’n’roll that dares you to deny them.

Following the cherry-picking eclecticism of Boom Boom Room albums Side A (2016) and Side B (2018), the Las Vegas band are advertising their third full-length, The Bastards, as a concept record. Cynics may call it an appeal to a sense of sophistication – after all, only ‘serious’ rock bands make concept records – but it is in fact a vehicle for the band to play out their elaborate ideas in accompanying music videos and an upcoming comic book. Or a “Neutopian Victorian tragic book”, as Emerson has dubbed it. All of this plays out more as window dressing, though, and the premise of an uprising on the dystopian island of Obsidian barely figures into the lyrics. However, scratch below this veneer and there’s a lot of substance to The Bastards.

For one, Palaye Royale pack a heftier wallop with thundering, stomping electro-rock that makes itself known on opener Little Bastards, and often on this album. This is swiftly followed by the Stone Age riffing of Massacre, The New American Dream, which pushes waspish guitar stings and primal beats firmly into the red. New tricks picked up from touring with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, perhaps, but it’s indicative of the maximalist mindset at play across these 14 tracks.

The middle point finds them at their most inventive, trying on cabaret funk (Hang On To Yourself) and blissed-out pop (Nervous Breakdown) with flourishing results. Lonely struts like a bogeyman to shivering strings and Remington sounds as if he is tap-dancing on his own grave, even as he mumbles, ‘I just watch the days pass, hoping to die.’ And while it would be easy to dismiss the aptly titled Doom (Empty) as a case of “listens to Black Sabbath once,” metalheads can calm down. It actually works.

Such ambition comes coupled with the pitfall of leaving you exposed when the landing isn’t nailed, however. Tonight Is The Night I Die’s lavish strings and melodrama, for example, appear overwrought. The Bastards reaches its crescendo with closing duo, Stay and Redeemer. Towering layers of guitar, piano, drums and wailing choirs are laid thick atop lyrics that plead, ‘I’m here just waiting for you to come home, and I’m screaming all on my own’ during Redeemer. The foundations groan under the grandstanding – restraint has never been Palaye Royale’s strong suit, after all – though mercifully never to full collapse.

Palaye Royale have grown on The Bastards, that much is for certain. Judging by the giant strides they’ve made here, the moment when reality lines up with their lofty ambitions is but a few steps away, though firmly in sight.

Verdict: 3/5

Palaye Royale's new album Bastards is out May 29 through Sumerian – get your copy now.

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