Album Review: The Darkness - Easter Is Cancelled
Artist: The Darkness
Album: Easter Is Cancelled
Review by Beth Lonsdale
The Darkness are back again with their fun, rock n roll swag. It’s their sixth studio album, peddling their usual tongue in cheek monologue and British banter with ‘Easter Is Cancelled’.
The cover art features a crucified Justin Hawkins with the band beating off his worshipers, which might come across as slightly big headed but if you know the band, then you know it’s nothing more than poking fun at the whole religious concept. From the artwork and title, I’m gathering they mean that Jesus isn’t going to be resurrected, and if that doesn’t happen then there’s no Easter! And if The Darkness are the saviours of rock and roll and the lord is being crucified never to return, can rock truly come back? Or something like that…
‘Easter Is Cancelled’ is definitely more of a concept album, although it’s delivered in the same ritualistic rock n roll malarkey attitude they’ve done with previous albums. The guitar will always be king for these guys, and rightly so! They can play your grandmas socks off and they have incredible technical capability. That paired with Justin’s unique falsetto vocals will always deliver a classic Darkness sound reminiscent of Queen and 80s metal riffage.
But this album sees a bit more evolution and complexity to their songs. Without compromising their original sound, The Darkness have made something they wanted to make. You can definitely hear the catchy anthems and power hitters that make us smile and feel good while album tries to progress into new experimental territory by introducing some subtle new directions. But by keeping a safe middle ground, they’ve delivered an album that both fans will love hearing and the band will love playing. The opening track bears all the hallmarks of how The Darkness usually kick things off, a soft start that you know is gonna lead into a big riff. ‘Rock And Roll Deserves To Die’ is first up, and is probably one of the more stand out tracks on the album in terms of balls out riffs and classic rhetoric you get with a Darkness album. Although it’s definitely more complex than one of their usual bangers, we hear the original sound from the early days with this one, a solid effort that will keep the listener definitely wanting more. As the opening track, it definitely conveys the theme of the album - Can rock and roll be saved? Will it ever be resurrected? Are The Darkness the band to do it?! Its lyrics and composition have unmistakable hints of Tenacious D.
‘How Can I Lose Your Love’ is next up, commencing in with a sonic build up and catchy intro. The chorus brings it back down… and up again. Track three, ‘Love ‘Til I Die’ fares better, its lyrics about growing up and bullying. Definitely a feel good anthem delivering what you expect from The Darkness and more of the folky British slant the band have adopted. ‘Heart Explodes’ has that lighters in the air feeling, reminiscent of riding a horse through a battle field, feeling the wind blowing through your hair with cheeky little atmospheric guitars. ‘Deck Chair’ seems like a love song about a deck chair(!) but that’s ok, because it’s The Darkness, a little ditty just thrown in there with a very slow, Dire Straits style guitar sound. At this point you start to feel the album take a turn into uncharted territory.
Next up is the title track of the album, full of fast riffs and samples and an exploration into the heavier side. ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ has many layers, and dips into the spicier side of their guitar sound, but only slightly. The chorus has definite sing along quality with a hint of cowbell. ‘Choke On It’ comes out as a more straight up rock n roll track, less of the falsetto vocals, which does make a difference to their classic sound, but not in a bad way. Choppy riffs and linguistically absurd, it’s one of the more standout tracks on the album.
We then come to ‘We Are The Guitar Men’, its romantic intro drawing us in. I was expecting a massive buildup into some face smashing chorus, but it actually keeps a cool mid paced rock n roll vibe with nods to classic Queen. ‘Laylow’ sees Justin’s comedic skills come into play with saucy digs at modern celebrity culture. My suspicions wonder what this song is actually about! ‘Different Eyes’ has upbeat guitars and the lyrics definitely come across as ever so slightly more serious, but delivered in a light-hearted fashion. ‘Confirmation Bias’ and the last on the album, ‘Sutton Hoo’ begin the slow descent bringing us a serious end to the 14 tracks they delivered.
‘Easter Is Cancelled’ covers the usual Darkness subject matter: rock ‘n’ roll, love and being a misfit. Nothing we don’t expect, but I’m definitely feeling more of the love with this offering. But in terms of what ‘made’ the band, I feel evolving in this way may have taken some of the shine off the escapism and fun of previous records. The songs definitely take the listener on a rollercoaster, there seems like an aim to try satisfy as much of the rock spectrum that they can, from ballads to rock anthems to folk. The album has a British, country gent-esque sound that they quite clearly wanted to give fans, and I think they managed to do this well. It really sets the tone and the subtle instrumental choices they slide in there make the whole thing buzz with pompous yesteryear feeling, with even a dabble of accordion at the end. The last four songs definitely feel like bonus tracks. Keeping it a ten track album would definitely serve the fans enough.
Each song is complex and has an undeniable sound that you know is The Darkness. There are so many hidden little quirks that can be missed first listen. It’s definitely a grower and I think it deserves the few listens it takes to get into it. These guys just love making music and they have an immense talent which shines on this one. They’ve certainly spent a lot of time on the writing and production without it taking too much off their much loved formula. Keeping things light hearted and cheeky, technical and still exploring moments of sadness. It’s all in there, like Russell Brand walking through a Tudor village being eccentric and linguistic in a non-serious fashion. This wouldn’t be my favourite Darkness album, but there’s definitely a certain direction and undeniable quality these guys have that you can’t knock.
A solid 7 out of 10.
For fans of: Tenacious D, Steel Panther & Queen
Easter Is Cancelled is out October 4th via Cooking Vinyl Australia,