Styling themselves as tight-pantsed heroes on a mission to save the world with the power of rock, England's princes of outlandish nostalgia the Darkness approach maturity with their sixth set, Easter Is Cancelled. With such an outrageous title (and accompanying artwork that depicts frontman Justin Hawkins as a super-buff Jesus breaking himself off a cross), one might expect this to be a typical Darkness romp through farcical subject matter and glorious headbangers. However, Easter Is Cancelled is surprisingly -- by Darkness standards -- tame, focused, and earnest, setting aside blatant hedonism and sophomoric humor in favor of a little heart and soul using familiar touchstones like Queen, Thin Lizzy, and AC/DC as their sonic foundation. The Darkness are by no means old and boring here, they've just made a concerted effort to offer more substance in their quest to offset real-life evils like pious hypocrites, lying politicians, and fascist bigots. Yearning cuts like "How Can I Lose Your Love" and the bittersweet "In Another Life" amplify lovelorn emotions, while the standout "Heart Explodes" gives a sly wink as it soars into beautiful power ballad territory. In addition to these warm-and-fuzzies, the Darkness are sure to maintain their hard-charging image with overblown epics such as "Rock and Roll Deserves to Die" and the wild title track, a towering anthem that condemns evil and corruption and pleads for peace and a future atop speedy, rollicking riffs. They hit the best balance between their usual tongue-in-cheek humor and well-executed delivery with the Spinal Tap-ish "Heavy Metal Lover," which offers some of the album's most hilarious lyrics and a brutal breakdown, while on "Choke On It," they take the heaviness one step further with a scorching chorus and the delicious lyrical pairing of "hors d'oeuvre" and "Heimlich manoeuvre." While not as aggressive as 2017's underrated Pinewood Smile, Easter Is Cancelled has plenty to get the blood boiling and the devil horns flying, providing plaintive moments of satisfaction that pump a little heart into a heartless world. Even though they start out with proclamations that "rock and roll deserves to die," by the time the brisk set is through, they're heralding its triumphant resurrection with cries of "long live rock and roll!" Easter Is Cancelled is a soaring and melodic evolution for the Darkness, a fresh step into maturation that retains their campy, fun-loving spirit without all the sleaze and filth.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung