Review Summary: Better late than never.
People love a good comeback story, don’t they? The tale of someone who rises to the top, only to have that height used against them a little down the line, watching as they plummet into the depths of despair from a few serious mistakes made during that time; eventually clawing their way back out of the proverbial hole they found themselves in, only to come out of it wiser and stronger. The thing is, for The Darkness, it never quite happened that way. The band literally went from rags to riches overnight with their 2003 classic, Permission to Land
, receiving a level of success that would crush most people’s sanity, put in the same given situation, and true to form, shortly after world domination, it turned south for the band. Founding bassist, Frank, was fired during the recording process of their sophomore album, while tensions elsewhere in the camp raised to their highest. By this point Justin had turned into a caricature of his original self; a walking, talking rock n’ roll cliché that was hellbent on sending himself into an early grave with drug and alcohol abuse. Though I myself enjoyed their second LP as much as their debut, it was considered by many to be a steaming waste of time. One Way Ticket to Hell and Back
was a write-off to its fans and, shortly after its release, saw the band dismantle itself.
Now this would be where the story turns for the better and I go into detail on their earth-shattering comeback that saw a focused – and clean – Justin Hawkins, and all his original members, back into the fold to unleash hell on the earth once more. The sad truth is, Hot Cakes
was a disappointingly insipid release, that contained nothing but a dull collection of by-the-numbers classic-rock tunes, and me, struggling to shake the thought they’d put the final nail in their own coffin. Putting insult to injury, a couple of years later Ed was unable to drum due to health problems, resulting in him having to leave the band. So, by 2015, with everything that’d happened to the band, would it be unfair of me to say nobody really gave a damn about them anymore? I feel the statement holds merit, given how many times the band have dropped the ball: their implosion after a disliked second LP and a groggy comeback in 2012 resulted in many to lose hope and interest with The Darkness (myself included). Their history leaves a lot of baggage, and that baggage has frustratingly dulled the impact this album should have on the music world; an excellent return to form, which not only hears these guys hungry again, but delivers all the ingredients any fan could want.
Last of Our Kind
is chockfull of energy and top-tier song-writing. The band’s playful edge and meta elements are heavily dominant here; solos soar, and Justin’s vocals reach some of the best performances his entire career. But what I’m glad to hear more than anything else, is they’ve managed to create songs that stick in your head after you’re done listening to the album – something Hot Cakes
sorely lacked. Countless moments of catchiness are ever present: “Barbarian”, for its guitar slides and groove, the guttural shout of “barbarians!
” while Justin adds an over-the-top scream over it all; the goth-rock styled riff to “Open Fire” and Justin’s extremely infectious melodies and chorus will be in your head for days after playing it; while “Mighty Wings” blends great riffing with a tinge of Queen and “Mudslide” makes sure it’s delivering first-class, classic-rock riffing in the vein of AC/DC. This level of quality is something I never expected to hear from the band again, and it’s excellent to hear the boys back on form. The production is excellent and captures the mood of the record perfectly, while the album does a decent job of keeping you alert while you’re listening to it.
Sure, it doesn’t quite reach the same levels of excellence the first two albums have, and a little bit of fat could have been trimmed to ensure the album functions at full capacity: “Hammer & Tongs” and “Conquerors” are certainly weak links here, and had they been dropped from the track list, it would have done wonders for the album’s pace; while a little bit of restraint could have been used on a couple of tracks to make the LP sharper. But overall, it’s got a great atmosphere, the tone and production make everything sound great, and Justin’s vocals are as impressive as ever. If you’re a fan of the band, but never gave this a chance, I urge you to give it a spin; it’ll please old-skool rock fans and fans of the band alike. There might have been a delay in rising their Phoenix, but they've more than made up for it with this record.
EDITIONS: CD DELUXE//V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶//D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶//C̶D̶ ̶
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case
SPECIAL EDITION: Two bonus tracks