The Ugly Kings first introduced themselves to me when they opened for Airbourne at the beginning of last year. I was pretty high at the time so I didn’t really appreciate them nearly as much as I probably should have, because they are yet another Aussie band that understands the true power of the riff.
There are so many bands around now doing the doom-flavoured rock thing that only those with that extra something special are going to really turn heads. The Ugly Kings have found that extra element on Darkness is My Home. More to the point, they’ve found more than one.
The Kings show their hand right away with the album’s opening gambit ‘Promised Land’ displaying a powerful combination of Sabbathy riffing and Doors-tinged 60s west coast rock with a Delta blues flavour. Unadulterated 70s doom worship follows with the massive riffs of ‘Black Widow’ rolling in like a Mississippi tide. ‘Raging Bull’ turns up the pace a little with a heavy rocking vibe. Meanwhile there’s Deep South blues feel permeating every track with a genuine gritty edge to rifflord Christos’ playing and the soulful tone of vocalist Rusty’s voice. It’s an aspect that really adds an extra dimension to The Ugly Kings’ well crafted heavy rock and enhances the near-spirituality of a song like the rambling closing number ‘The Fire’ on which Rusty’s vocals carry an almost Gospel air.
Yet the band’s version of Bowie’s swansong ‘Lazarus’ is the clear stand-out on Darkness is My Home. It’s not easy for another artist to take such a personal song and make it their own but replacing the original’s sad electro-jazz with a huge, slowly rumbling doom riff gives the track a different atmosphere of melancholy in line with band’s own aesthetic. A hard trick to pull off, but The Ugly Kings manage it with ease, showing with these nine tracks their talent not only as skilled songwriters but, like Bowie, as excellent interpreters.
- Promised Land
- Black Widow
- Raging Bull
- Killing Time
- Love Enemy
- You & Me
- Little Birdy Told Me
- The Fire