The Ugly Kings – Darkness Is My Home

Rating: 4/5
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Released: 2018
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Band Line Up:

Russel Clark – Vocals
Christis Athanasias – Guitar

Nicolas Dumont – Bass
Andy Alkemade – Druns

Track Listing:

1 – Promised Land
2 – Black Widow
3 – Raging Bull
4 – Killing Time
5 – Love Enemy
6 – You And Me
7 – Lazarus
8 – Little Birdy Told Me
9 – The Fire


Melbourne based blues rockers, The Ugly Kings may be a young band with only a mini-album, named ‘Of Sins’ previous to this new release, but they have already caught the attention of some pretty impressive bands. The quartet of Russell Clark on vocals, with Chrisos Athanasias on guitar, Nicolas Dumont on bass and Andy Alkemade on drums, are signed to Kozmik Artifactz and have supported Rival Sons, Papa Roach & most recently Airbourne on their 2017 tour. The band blend blues with rock in a charismatic yet slightly unexpected style, taking the blues into darker hues with doom undertones, and a slightly grungy, dirty, murky flavouring.

A moody and soulful opening, ‘Promised Land’ is a slow build up that shows off the power and control of the drums well. Athanasias not to be outshone sparkles on guitar, but it is Clark’s vocals that draw the listener in. This is smooth and rich, it has a groove that bores into your soul and has a simple spiritualism to it. Elements of Black Sabbath lurk within the second offering, ‘Black Widow’ takes a funeral pace and slows it down. Darkness and emptiness are the feelings it evokes, a masterful manipulation of feelings and emotions, a well recognised theme given a new working. Faster and angrier, full of rage and macho-ism, ‘Raging Bull’ grinds along, with tight riffs that build the tension, driving it to a conclusion that seems inevitable.

Rhythmic and melodic, ‘Killing Time’ has a catchy core with vocals so dark in mood, Nick Drake fans should find this appealing. Atmospheric and relentless, the song descends to an over long instrumental break, which becomes tiresome after a while. The drums on ‘Love Enemy’ give it a stomp that lends its beat to the menace of the track. It’s a melancholy anthem with a stalkerish edge to it, they have made love something threatening. Opening in such a familiar and traditional blues format, ‘You And Me’ is an easy to listen to, classic sounding giant of a song, it builds in layers to give maximum impact and a huge sound and depth.

‘Lazarus’ is haunting and dramatic, the vocals echo and resonate inside your head while the chords leave you introspective and thoughtful. Harking back to the Hendrix era, ‘Little Birdy Told Me’ is a bluesy Sabbath styled guitar classic. It has a timeless melody for a new song, it wears 70’s flares with a kipper tie and is proud of it. Last of the nine tracks, ‘The Fire’ has a riff so low and dark, slow & brooding, they need to re-name the blues as The Navies. A moving and triumphant end to the album.

The quality is unmistakable, the musicianship is very fine and it’s incredible to remember this is the band’s debut album, its maturity and depth is stunning. However, while it is certainly a classy and superb example of the style they offer, it is very much something that we have heard before and it has a monotonous, downer feel throughout. No highs & lows, just lows so it comes over as quite depressing and lacking in excitement. It’s certainly worth sticking at for the quality it delivers, some days this more laid back retro style might just fit what mood you are in and it will be perfect. There are no songs that lift the mood, it is low and energy sapping from start to finish, which will impress some but can be draining after a while for those who crave positivity.

Review by Lisa Nash