The Killers’ ‘Battle Born’ shines at its darkest

Photo courtesy of Island Def Jam music

“Battle Born” plays out like one long battle cry, except the band’s collective voice seems to give out every once in a while, leaving the cry sounding suspiciously like the soundtrack to “Prom” circa 1987. It should be outdated, but for The Killers, the sound comes naturally and the music still manages to come across as timeless.

Post-hiatus, the Las Vegas-based band is facing painfully high expectations in light of its fourth studio album “Battle Born,” set to release Sept. 18. It seems, however, that the group might just be skillful enough to match up to the standards fans have set for it.

There is definite growth showcased on this album, most notably with lead singer Brandon Flowers, who expresses crisp ability on tracks like the vocally strenuous “Heart of a Girl.” At one point, he ceases to sound like himself altogether, showing at the start of mid-album rock ballad “Deadlines and Commitments” that he has got serious chops.

“Battle Born” does best when the band moves away from thematic clichés, away from the short-lived romance of “Runaways” and is willing to get a little down and dirty. The darker the theme, the better — the heavier the drum riffs, the better.

As a result, the standout tracks make themselves known quickly: “A Matter of Time” and the eponymous closing track. Both show the greatest willingness to take risk and the latter especially combines all the best parts of the band’s previous albums: Flowers’s voice in “Day & Age,” the melodies of “Hot Fuss” and the take-no-prisoners attitude of the songwriting in “Sam’s Town.”

The two songs make tracks like “Miss Atomic Bomb” sound a bit flimsy. After all, if no one ever wrote another song about the spitfire girl that disappeared off into the sunset, it would probably be too soon.

But even “Miss Atomic Bomb” is impossible to hate once the characters from The Killers’ 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” make an appearance. The title character is the girl who destroyed Mr. Brightside nearly a decade ago, and the throwback is a sweet nod to an exhaustively different past incarnation of the band.

The high continues through one anthem after another, the energy level constantly turned up to 100, which is why it is easy to forgive the occasional taffeta-friendly glam-rock bits in “The Way It Was” and “Here With Me.”

With every listen “Battle Born” gets better. It’s clear the band wants to welcome listeners in with the synth-infused “Flesh and Bone” and see them off with the epic title-track “Battle Born.” The Killers are with listeners every step of the way. This is a rare quality and it lends itself to the album’s impressive replay value, even taking into account that occasional displaced ode to decades past.

It’s a great reminder to fans that a hiatus has done The Killers good, instead of leading to their impending doom, something typical of bands after they announce an extended break.

 

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu