Saturday, June 20, 2015

Last of Our Kind - The Darkness casts a warm shadow

album review

Band: The Darkness
Album: Last of Our Kind

The Darkness have always been a band that people seem eager to write off, but anyone who fails to see the sense of fun behind their ridiculously over the top schtick is simply missing the point. With tongue firmly in cheek, the band has made a career out of simultaneously embracing and lampooning old school hard rock since first coming to the world’s attention over a decade ago for believing in a thing called love.

Their journey as a group, however, has been far from smooth. A slew of personal problems, health issues, and line-up changes culminated in the band taking a hiatus after making only two albums. The quartet eventually reformed, mounting a comeback with the release of their third record Hot Cakes in 2012, which may have received a tepid response but still proved that the band continues to be capable of crafting exuberant rock tunes. Now, with their fourth album, Last of Our Kind, The Darkness offer more soaring choruses and rip-roaring guitar solos, this time opting for a sound that seems slightly less glam, and more metal-inspired than their 2003 debut.

Produced by guitarist Dan Hawkins at his own studio, the set was recorded with drummer Emily Dolan Davies, who has since left the group and been replaced by Rufus Taylor (the son of drummer Roger Taylor, a befitting choice considering Queen’s influence on the band).

The album kicks off with the relentless ‘Barbarian’, a rager inspired by the legend of the Viking invasion of East Anglia, before yielding epic anthems like ‘Mighty Wings’ and ‘Roaring Waters’, and melodramatic ballads like ‘Wheels of the Machine’ and the album closer ‘Conquerors’ which features bassist Frankie Poullain on vocals. Also present are songs – like the hair metal tinged ‘Mudslide’ and the playful guitar pop of ‘Hammer and Tongs’ – that hark back to the band’s earlier work.

Retro influences are often on display on the ten tracks that appear on this set, which sometimes works to the album’s disadvantage. Last of Our Kind mostly sound like a ’70s and ’80s rock pastiche, and the rehash of rock past leaves the listener playing a game of “spot the influence” –Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Queen, to name just a few – as you listen to each track. And while the tunes are competently put together, you still need to give the disc a few spins to get a sense of each song, because there isn’t much that is instantly distinctive or memorable about many of these tracks.

On the whole, Last of Our Kind may not be as joyous or instantly catchy as Permission to Land (which remains the group’s most successful record to date) and it may not have the power to convert their detractors, but it still has enough energy and exciting riffs to please fans of The Darkness. Yes, the album isn’t exactly ground breaking, but then again, it isn’t meant to be. The band has toned done the campy vibe they initially went for without wandered too far from the sound they are known for, creating a record that is confident and enjoyable, albeit a tad too derivative for its own good.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 20th June, 2015 *

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