If you buy one album out this week, make it...

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For a little while in the early ‘00s, The Darkness were untouchable. They released an unreservedly joyful take on classic rock, Permission To Land, and became immortalised through the iconic I Believe In A Thing Called Love. It was funny, and camp as a picnic basket, with a beaming Monster Munch of a hook. It didn’t matter how many people thought the catsuits and daft lyrics were stupid, there were always more who loved them. Hell, they even cleaned up at the Brit awards in 2004 – an unthinkable feat for most new ‘proper rock’ acts.

So when the follow-up (One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back) was underwhelming, and everything generally seemed to go tits-up – largely because of Justin’s booze and drug problems – the disappointment felt by Darkness fans was considerable. Public affection waned, and when Justin’s attempt to get into Eurovision failed, their demise seemed complete.

Then in 2013 we had Hot Cakes. It was good, but not on a par with the joie de vivre of Friday Night, Growing On Me and all those goodies from their debut. Now, with guitarist Dan Hawkins at the production helm, they’ve got an album that is. It’s an audibly matured, wiser Darkness behind Last Of Our Kind, so it’s not the crackers caffeine-rush that Permission To Land was. But fear not, they haven’t exactly watered down either. There are dramatic monologues, mad-man shrieks, medieval tales of “enslaving sweet womenfolk” and other family-friendly fun.

The thunder-chunking, viking fest Barbarian and exhilarated Open Fire (complete with jubilant classic rock solo) make a killer opening pair. The rest demand a couple of listens to really hit home, but we implore you to so, as it’s really worth it. Riffs are chunkier, groovier and better than they’ve been in years – as seen in the heavy swagger of Roaring Waters. The likes of Mudslide romp along with bravado. Justin’s falsetto acrobatics are gloriously silly across the board…

It’s The Darkness doing what everything we loved about them, minus all the twatting around that ensued circa One Way Ticket…. And when Justin sings ‘So I embrace the darkness’ on Open Fire, it’s with the conviction of a man who really wants to rock – not attack a mound of charlie. Highly recommended.