Music Review: The Killers' Battle Born

By Michael J. Lockhart

We check out the mature new sound from the Vegas-natives in their fourth studio album.

While not quite as solemn as 2006’s Sam’s Town, the band has toned down the glam rock vibe of their pre-hiatus record four years ago, Day & Age. While Brandon Flowers’ distinctive vocal stylings are still present, gone is the blatant cheesiness, along with the majority of the dance vibe.

Though it’s been years since we first heard the unmistakable opening guitar line of The Killers’ electrifying debut singles “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside” from their freshman album Hot Fuss, there’s no denying that Battle Born channels the strength of their strongest ballads with some of the electro elements and instrumental layering that made the band’s sound so fresh upon their debut not even a decade ago.

Lead single “Runaways” is the perfectly engineered Killers radio hit that we have come to expect. The pop-rock feel of the track serves as a welcome back to established fans but doesn’t completely capture what waits throughout the rest of the album.

Synth-heavy “Miss Atomic Bomb” and formula-driven “The Way It Was” are solid performers for a band playing it safe. However, Battle Born’s true strength lies in Flowers and gang’s taking a gamble on their sound, which leads to some pretty amazing but unpredictable results.

“A Matter of Time” is an edgy but retro lust song, heavy on the drums and chords a-blazin’, an ’80s screamer hit that will appeal to newcomers who have previously avoided the band . The slow ballad “Heart of a Girl” begins by showcasing Flowers’ vocals, barely backed up by the guitar and the odd scratch of vinyl that build through the song about a girl from the past, eventually swelling into light keyboard and a full choir.

However, the most astounding track, both musically and lyrically, is the Coldplay-inspired “Be Still”; the synth harmonies and piano layer with slow drum kit as one of Flowers’ strongest vocal performances unfolds overtop. If this is any indication of the band’s new direction, their next studio effort should be impressive.

The tracks on Battle Born will resonate with fans thanks to Flowers’ unique singing style, which at times seems focused, at other times lackadaisical. If listeners are looking for the sound from Hot Fuss or Day & Age, they are going to be sorely disappointed. The songs are powerful, the lyrics honest but optimistic, but with a dark heavy sound; this is The Killers like you’ve never heard them before.

Listen to: “A Matter of Time,” “Heart of a Girl,” “Be Still,” “Battle Born.”

Skip: “Here with Me,” “From Here on Out.”

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