With their latest release, The Darkness fail to continue their recent run of form, providing a disjointed, top heavy concept release with a sharp nosedive in quality at the half-way mark.
In 2003, The Darkness’ debut album Permission to Land was bestowed upon the world to critical and commercial acclaim, heralded as an exciting modern take on the eighties glam rock sound, with razor sharp song-writing and a biting sense of humour. However, the reception of The Darkness’ discography after this point is slightly more contentious to say the least. Their follow-up, One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back was received poorly and (in tandem with frontman Justin Hawkin’s bourgeoning drug problem) caused the group to go on hiatus. After returning in 2012 with the middling album Hot Cakes, the band has released a number of well received projects, including the excellent 2015 release Last of our Kind.
On Easter is Cancelled, The Darkness provide a hit-or-miss concept record that revolves around the on-going death of rock ‘n’ roll, lacking any form of coherency except the clumsy relationship between the opening and closing songs. With this release, the band front-loads the album with the majority of its quality material; over the top vocal hooks from frontman Justin Hawkins, excellent lead guitar work and a healthy serving of melodrama in the lyrical department – exactly what fans have come to expect from the band. Opener Rock and Roll Deserves to Die is an explosive track with some of Hawkins’ best vocals in recent memory, and guitar work that hearkens back to the quality of their debut release. Heart Explodes is an excellent parody of the rock ballad and Easter is Cancelled is a strange, almost progressive, song that exemplifies what the band was attempting to achieve on this album.
'With this release, the band front-loads the album with the majority of its quality material; over the top vocal hooks from frontman Justin Hawkins, excellent lead guitar work and a healthy serving of melodrama in the lyrical department.'
However, the latter half of the album falls significantly short of the lofty heights set by the previous tracks. Songs such as We Are The Guitar Men – the closing song on this release – make you want to listen to similar, better, songs in the band’s discography, evoking the same kind of tone and feel as tracks such as Last of our Kind, but with less heart and humour. Heavy Metal Lover is a clumsily written love song penned to a goth girlfriend that misses every mark when it comes to humour. Musically, it uses the tired trope of swapping erratically between light, jangly guitars and parodying metal riffs in an unsuccessful attempt to satirize the genre. Possibly the most egregious cut on the album, Choke On It, sees the band take on a more garage-rock sound that fails to add anything new or exciting to the record’s repertoire – a common theme throughout the second half of the project.
Nevertheless, the production on the album is solid and the performances shine through even when the song-writing doesn’t hold up. Rufus Taylor (son of illustrious Queen drummer Roger Taylor) was a welcome addition to the band in 2015 and continues to show his quality on this release, knowing when to let loose but also when to hold back effectively. The lead guitar work from Justin and Dan Hawkins is top draw, as is to be expected, with electrifying harmonies and a modern take on the tired blues licks of old. This is perhaps exemplified best on the track How Can I Lose Your Love, with an incendiary guitar solo passage that’s up there with the best of the year so far.
'Nevertheless, the production on the album is solid and the performances shine through even when the song-writing doesn’t hold up'.
Whilst the latter half of the album attempts to sabotage an excellent opening, the beginning pulls through and successfully manages to add an array of new songs to The Darkness’ already large arsenal of hits.