Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 4 Oct 2019
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I surprised myself shortly into this by realising that I've heard a lot less music by the Darkness than I thought, maybe just a few odd songs. After all, this is their sixth album; they aren't new. Maybe it's because they split up after only two albums and stayed gone for a while. I certainly haven't heard anything from their second go around until now. And I should. It isn't every band who can support Metallica and Lady Gaga on tour. Separately.
The band's current line up is the original line up, but with one difference: their original drummer, Ed Graham, who was on board for the reunion in 2011, left a few years later. Currently, his seat is occupied by Rufus Taylor, who is a strong enough drummer on his own merits that it feels unfair to mention that he also happens to be the son of Roger Taylor. However, the spectre of Queen, with whose current incarnation Rufus has also played for years, just can't be ignored.
Just listen to the opening track, Rock and Roll Deserves to Die, which is an an ambitious track that features a dynamic, genre-hopping range on the scale of classic Queen tracks like Bohemian Rhapsody and Innuendo. Frankly, it's hard to compare it to anyone else. The only real difference arrives with the surprise that it's over in five and a half minutes. Isn't there a rule that an epic song like this has to last for at least eight?
Even if you drop such a clear homage to Queen in the seventies, that trawls in so much of what they did during that decade, their influence is all over this album like a rash. Check out Deck Chair, an outrageously overblown and over-orchestrated ditty to, well, a deck chair. Nobody else except Queen has been able to get away with this sort of lunacy until now and the Darkness do it very well indeed. The lyrics to Heavy Metal Lover are way out there too.
What keeps them somewhat apart from Queen are the vocals of Justin Hawkins. While these songs are clearly constructed the way that Queen would, they're easily distinguished. Slap on the title track and you could be forgiven for hearing Tie Your Mother Down but, when Hawkins lets his voice loose, we're a mile away. Sure, he has a thoroughly impressive range, right up to a strong falsetto, and we learned on the opener that he knows exactly how to scream to great effect, but he doesn't sound at all like Freddie Mercury.
Beyond feeling like a band who write Queen songs that Queen never recorded, what I took away from Easter is Cancelled is that the band are enjoying the heck out of life at the moment. I don't think songs like Heavy Metal Lover or Choke on It could be created by any band who aren't having a blast. Does anyone really make love to Cannibal Corpse? Suggesting Obituary as a power ballad band is priceless. I'm impressed by how they snuck the word "luthier" into We are the Guitar Men. That may be a first, even though few bands could exist without them.
I liked this a lot, not just as an album of songs but as a mood improver. I can enjoy just how overblown the band get on Deck Chair or how evil they get on Heavy Metal Lover, even how insanely prog they get at the end of We are the Guitar Men, but all of these songs leave me smiling every time and that is a neat trick if you can master it. The Darkness apparently have.