Positive Feedback Logo

The Darkness Permission To Land...Again 20th Anniversary Edition from Warner and Rhino

10-26-2023 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 129

Warner and Rhino Entertainment have just released The Darkness, Permission To Land…Again, which is a 5 LP, 20th Anniversary Edition that celebrates the 2003 debut album from UK glam-metal band The Darkness. Permission To Land was a huge commercial success and runaway best seller, taking the band to the number one spot on the UK Billboard Album Charts and eventually going 4x platinum. Permission To Land also won three BRIT Awards in 2004, including awards for Best British Album, Best British Group, and Best British Rock Act. The album has frequently been cited by UK publications as one of the best debut recordings of all time, and was also featured prominently in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Despite Permission To Land reaching number 36 on the US Billboard Album Charts and selling respectably stateside, The Darkness weren't embraced across the pond with the same level of rabid enthusiasm displayed by their fans in the UK.

The Darkness, Permission To Land…Again is being released in several formats; my review copy arrived in the form of the five LP box set. The outer box is a heavy, glossy, hardboard case with beautifully realized tip-on graphics. The five LPs inside the box include the debut album, Permission To Land, which has been out of print since it was originally released in 2003. A second LP features rare demos and unreleased studio bonus tracks, and the third LP consists of the band's singles and B-sides that were released in support of the album. The final two LPs feature a pair of concert performances from the time of the album's original release; the fourth album features The Darkness live at Knebworth, and the fifth album features the band live at the Astoria Theatre in London, where they received their big showcase prior to being signed by Atlantic Records. There's also an elaborate multi-page booklet that includes new liner notes and a trove of previously unreleased photos and mementos of the band. Each LP is encased in a heavy printed paper sleeve that features large-format photos of the band on one side, with the track and recording information on the reverse. 

Also available is a 4-CD set that replicates the content of the LP box, as well as a single LP, blue marbled, colored-vinyl, original album version of Permission To Land. Digital music files have also been released to all the major streaming sites, and the digital files include an additional live concert recording at Wembley. In celebration and support of the new box set, The Darkness launched a world tour of the US and Europe that commenced earlier this month in San Francisco.

The Darkness, Permission To Land…Again. (5) 140 gram LPs, $99.98 MSRP

The Darkness formed around 2000; the group was founded by brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins in Lowestoft, Suffolk, northeast of London on the coast of the English Channel. The band's original lineup featured Justin Hawkins on lead vocals and lead guitar, Dan Hawkins on rhythm guitar, Frankie Poullain on bass, and Ed Graham on drums; all members of the group shared background vocals. Having already written the songs that would eventually become Permission To Land, the band gained quite a following in the UK for their raucous live shows, even before signing a record deal. The Darkness eventually signed with Atlantic Records; the album was very quickly recorded at studios in London and Lincolnshire, and was released July 7, 2003. Album sales were driven by four singles, including "Get Your Hands Off My Woman," "Growing On Me," "I Believe In A Thing Called Love," and "Love Is Only A Feeling." A fifth non-album single was also released for the Christmas season, "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)," which reached number two on the UK holiday charts. 

The group's sound falls squarely into the glam metal category, and comparisons have been made between The Darkness' sound and that of classic acts like Queen, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. While that might be a bit of a reach, the band definitely has the musical chops to warrant such comparisons. Lead guitarist Justin Hawkins is an astonishingly gifted player, and he's stated that he initially modeled himself after Brian May of Queen. As a band, The Darkness can definitely walk the walk musically; that's apparent from the first notes of Permission To Land's propulsive opening track, "Black Shuck." Which tears off the LP at breakneck speed, and is more powerfully engaging than anything else released by anyone in 2003; I actually can't believe I've never heard this track played on rock radio (or elsewhere, for that matter). But at the same time, when Justin Hawkins' operatic falsetto screamed into the upper reaches of his vocal range, I found the effect a tad off-putting, to say the least. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" was the only song from the album I had any familiarity with at the time of the album's release, but had I first heard "Black Shuck" in 2003, I might have been tempted to dig a bit deeper.

The August, 2003 edition of English music magazine Classic Rock offered the following assessment: "Permission To Land will never be the album that The Darkness think it is, but, taken in the spirit that it is offered, it's certainly more fun than [Guns N' Roses'] Use Your Illusion." That pretty much sums up The Darkness; the band was obviously full of themselves, but English music fans were more accepting of the tongue-in-cheek humor the band provided alongside their sterling musicianship. More stodgy American audiences were obviously less enthralled, and the band's comparatively lackluster sales in the US reflected that. And that mirrors my own experience; I probably would have more readily embraced the music if it had been provided with a slightly more measured dose of Hawkins' vocal histrionics.

Permission To Land…Again Presents a Wealth of Unreleased Tracks

Click on my name in the header above, and you can see the selection of equipment I used to evaluate the LP box. For my listening sessions, I used the PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amplifier, playing over the KLH Model Five loudspeakers. The turntable for this session was the ProJect Classic EVO that's fitted with an Ortofon Quintet Bronze moving coil cartridge. Listening through tubes and the KLH acoustic-suspension loudspeakers gave my listening sessions an appropriately huge rock sound for these very over-the-top albums. The PrimaLuna tube amp offers both triode and ultralinear playback on the fly with the press of a button; the extra punch that ultralinear provides was perfect for this very raucous music.

As is my usual practice with LPs supplied with printed paper inner sleeves, I inserted a non-scratching rice paper insert into the paper sleeve to eliminate static and paper dust buildup on the LP. I was unable to determine who pressed the 140 gram LPs, but the album package has "Made in Germany" emblazoned across all parts, including the LPs, so I can only assume they were pressed there. The standard-weight LPs were perfectly flat, with glossy and pristine surfaces, and were exceptionally quiet, with little or no groove noise. They provided a superb listening experience via my all-analog tube system; the sound quality of the LPs was never less than exceptional. There was no information available as to whether the LPs had been remastered, but considering the tapes are only 20 years old, they were probably still in relatively good shape. 

For fans of the band, the availability of the album in LP form for the first time in two decades is reason enough to rejoice, and the wealth of previously unreleased demo tracks and studio outtakes is definitely the icing. The sound quality of the demos and outtakes is superb, and even the band's live sound captured from shows at Knebworth and the Astoria in London is on par with their excellent studio sound. The live shows also feature a number of songs that don't appear on the album, and the live performances of studio tracks embellish the songs such that they're exponentially more enjoyable than the studio versions.


The Darkness are definitely musically polarizing—either you love them, or…not so much. In a recent article in the UK's Far Out Magazine, none other than The Cure's Robert Smith listed the five bands he hates with a passion, and The Darkness were second only to Queen, with Smith calling The Darkness a "comedy band." I get that, but then I also hear moments of sheer brilliance in Permission To Land. And just look at the above publicity still from 2003; Justin Hawkins with his Les Paul in hand looks very much the picture of a guitar god, and his sterling fretwork here definitely makes a case for that designation. At least until that soaring falsetto rattles your eardrums—but it's all good fun, right?

Speaking from a transatlantic perspective, The Darkness may or may not be your cup of tea, and are probably considered not much more here than "one-hit-wonders," if you will. The follow up to Permission To Land, 2005's One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back couldn't match the multi-platinum sales numbers of their debut, and Atlantic Records promptly dropped them. That ultimately led to the departure of lead man Justin Hawkins for a solo career, and the band basically went on hiatus until Hawkins returned with the release of 2011's Hot Cakes. Their subsequent albums have charted and sold well in the UK, but several US tours have failed to ignite much interest stateside. Regardless, Permission To Land…Again presents The Darkness' undeniable magnum opus in an expansive package that will delight fans and deserves your consideration. Recommended.

Rhino Entertainment


All images provided by Rhino Entertainment and Shore Fire Media.