Since first bursting onto an unsuspecting music scene a dozen or so years ago with their stellar debut album, Permission to Land, the Darkness became a lightning rod, exciting, confusing and sometimes even angering listeners. Their spectacular rise to fame, equaled by an equally rapid fall from grace, were blamed on a roller coaster of rock 'n' roll cliches: substance abuse, egomania, over-exposure.

The band reconvened in 2012 to record their third album, Hot Cakes, which tried to pick up where it had left off. But there were mixed results. Now, with The Last of Our Kind, the Darkness return with some old swagger and some new twists.

From the opening notes of the first track, "Barbarian," the record is everything a Darkness fan could hope for. Following a brief spoken introduction, an almighty riff blasts in, and we're in familiar territory. By the time they get to the insanely catchy chorus, you're reminded why you loved them in the first place.

In "Open Fire," band bends its signature approach, employing a guitar line that's right out of the Cult's playbook. Imagine "She Sells Sanctuary" injected with a heaping dose of steroids and you more of less have the idea. There's no denying the power of their musicianship on The Last of Our Kind. Frontman Justin Hawkins not only has one of the most identifiable voices in rock, but he's also one of the best lead guitar players of the '00s. The production here, by guitarist Dan Hawkins, is sharp, warm and powerful.

The title cut, with its shimmering acoustic guitar and signature vocals, steers into autobiographical territory. "We are survivors, the ones left behind / Defenders of the legacy, the last of our kind," Hawkins sings. Are the Darkness the last of their kind? Don't doubt that for a second.

Tracks like "Roaring Waters" and "Mudslide" shows off a funkier side of the band, nailing a stomping groove that would make Aerosmith proud. "Sarah O Sarah" is a soaring guitar escapade that sounds like a cross between Fleetwood Mac and Yes. And "Hammer and Tongs" is all kinds of Stones/Faces riffing with a dash of T. Rex thrown in.

Say what you will about the Darkness. Yes, they often sound a lot like Queen in a wrestling match with AC/DC refereed by Monty Python. And despite Hawkins' over-the-top vocals, they're not a parody or joke band. They write some great songs, and on The Last of Our Kind they make a triumphant return.

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