In 2003, the landscape of hard rock and metal had changed. The classic rockers were trying to hold on to what they got (that pun works because Bon Jovi released an album this year), issuing live albums (i.e., Rush), or going on tours and painting pictures of brighter times (i.e., Metallica’s Sanitorium tour). Metal was moving towards a more turbulent progression and less the party/superheroic stance the ‘80s capitalized on. These were not people, they were rock stars! Gone were the dungeons and dragons. Gone was the “Let’s party all night” philosophy. In came social and emotional realism that breed from the hardcore scene and bands like Korn and Godsmack, Trivium and Black Dahlia Murder brought a deeper and sinister aura to the genre.
Then there was The Darkness, an English band from Lowestoft, Suffolk. It was a U-Turn to the direction music in the 21st Century was moving towards. The Darkness hit the ground running with their debut Permission To Land, and it got the attention of the UK charts instantly. By the time it hit U.S. soil, songs like “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” “I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” and “Love Is Only A Feeling” landed on the music charts, but raised some eyebrows over the group’s sincerity. A split in the continuum of metal was taking place. Half of the bands were trying to be the tough guy while the other half wanted to have fun. That’s how bands like Def Leppard and Poison was still selling out shows. And both sides were scratching their heads and nodding in approval at The Darkness.
In a parallel move, 2003 saw a movie called “School of Rock.” It became a hit in theaters but Jack Black’s comedic edge was tongue in cheek that downplayed the actual importance of the film. Where was the danger in it all? The sexuality got burned off. Was The Darkness doing the same Surrounded by their peers, the band seemed to tackle the presence of being a little too Spinal Tap-ish. What they emitted from their debut was pure quality and musicianship, yet many were not prepared to take things seriously. This band defined the term “fun.” It’s a good time. Outlets like Pitchfork and Pop Matters shined a light on that concept while trying to convince readers The Darkness was the real deal.
The band kept the rock and roll train going (a reference to their sophomore album cover) with their 2005 album One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back. But instead of turning it up to 11, this album saw more rock and roll balladry in the likes of “Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time” and “Hazel Eyes.”
After this album, the band took a break in recordings. Ironically, during their lull something happened. Classic rock and metal gained a second wind and shows like VH1’s That Metal Show helped to make the genre appeal to an aging audience and proved you cannot mess with the classics.
The Darkness realized what they had to do and that was to rekindle the party with 2012’s Hot Cakes. From the strangely erotic (the cover contains a painting of scantily clad women smothered in pancake syrup) to songs like “Everybody Have A Good Time,” this was The Darkness at their most energetic. The album is chock full of everything you would come to expect from a hard-hitting hair metal album. What was different is that everything changed. The rock arena was in The Darkness’ favor and what started out as schtick turned into metal heroes. Hot Cakes is the album everyone wanted to make. They just capitalized on every facet and hook made possible by the founders.
And here we are. That Metal Show is now a relic. Contemplation on the death of classic metal is being perused across the Internet universe. And The Darkness realizes its hot flash with The Last of our Kind. On their latest release, the group seems to be aware of the spark that could fade at any moment. So they make their best go at it with larger-than life metal opuses like “Open Fire” and “Mighty Wings.” Their is no doubt The Darkness is as important and relevant as any band in the history of the genre.
Where is all of this leading? The band is heading back to the States with their “Back in the USSA” tour. The group makes a stop at Old National Centre at Deluxe on April 29. With the energy and vibrancy of their albums and the push of the energy of The Last of Our Kind, I would only expect this to be a concert highlight. If you are a fan of “fun,” and want to spend one evening rocking the fuck out then get ready to feel the fury of this English band. If this is one last flash to a dying genre, then what a way to go! But maybe this spark is just a jolt to an undying love for what will become an eternal genre of kindred spirits.