The Darkness

Last of Our Kind

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Beginning with a spoken word intro ("One by one the kingdoms fall/they looked upon this isle and took it all/harbingers of pain/Edmund the martyr cut down by a Dane on the orders of Ivar the Boneless") and ending with a torch- and morning star-waving power anthem delivered with throaty gusto by bass player Frankie Poullain, the Darkness' first post-comeback album and fourth studio outing overall may also be their best to date, effortlessly pairing Spinal Tap-inspired braggadocio with meaty metal riffs and soaring pop hooks, with both a lusty wink and a resolute kick in the teeth. Having proved themselves, more or less, to still be competent and creative schillers of all things late-70s and early-'80s metal with 2012's Hot Cakes, the band sound as locked in as they did on their 2003 debut, offering up a surprisingly bold and diverse, relentlessly likeable smorgasbord of hard rock posturing that manages to touch on nearly every iteration of the genre. Built around one of the best riffs to appear out of the ether in ages, opener "Barbarian" sets a mean pace (it's also a fine perfunctory retelling of the Great Heathen Army's homicidal siege of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms of England during the 9th century), but the band, much like the sons of Ragnar, seem hell-bent on pillaging every last corner of the keep. Viking themes loom large, with the Led Zeppelin-esque "Roaring Waters" and the truly epic, ELO-meets-Muse-blasted "Mighty Wings" leading the charge, but detours into groove-laden, Southern boogie rock ("Mudslide"), "She Sells Sanctuary"-era Cult-inspired psych-rock, and no-hook-left-behind, earworm-heavy guitar pop ("Hammer and Tong") prove to be just as compelling. What's most surprising is that Justin Hawkins' seismic falsetto, as impressive as ever, no longer feels like the main event, as the band match each caterwaul with a comparable sonic boom of their own. Last of Our Kind is the sound of a band unencumbered; it's an album that was probably as much fun to make as it is a joy to listen to.

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