Having already made a sizable dent in the U.K. charts, 1970s-influenced hard-rockers the Darkness have brought their product stateside, and what an in-your-face product it is. Permission to Land, the debut album from the guitar-playing Hawkins brothers, plus drummer Ed Graham and bassist Frankie Poullain, contains 40 minutes of full-on metal thrashing, power chords and falsetto screeches, but does the band deliver the goods as well as its influences did a quarter-century ago?
Clearly, the Darkness is a band that wants to have a little fun. In fact, maybe more than a little. Still, all 10 tracks are delivered with an impressive amount of energy (mostly driven by high-octane guitar riffs and the elder Hawkins’ octave-bending shouts), but the material suffers slightly from its simplicity. While this sort of arena rock typically lends itself well to plain song structures, the flashes of virtuosity so often heard in the rock of yesteryear are missing in action here.
The idea of reviving the forgotten bombastic achievements of hard rock is indeed a promising one, but on this album it never quite gels. Though the Darkness’ musicians seem to be aping vintage thrashers like Judas Priest or Mott the Hoople as best they know how, their presentation falters. Perhaps it’s the swearing or the palpable influence of this decade’s inescapable pop-punk milieu, or maybe just having a band member named “Justin,” but Permission to Land feels more like a hasty reanimation of hard rock’s corpse than a complete resurrection. That doesn’t mean, however, that the album is bereft of entertaining moments.
[Colin Marshall promised himself he wouldn’t use the phrase “old school” in this review. And thank god he did.]