Daniel James Leopold is a mess. He’s an emotional, uninhibited, unbridled hot mess. As the front man for rock band Leopold and His Fiction, he seemed desperate to express that with the release of their new album, Darling Destroyer. I had never heard of LAHF before, but came across Darling Destroyer while browsing the new releases on Spotify on a Friday in late January. I pressed play and heard a sound that had more kick than the half gallon of coffee I had already consumed that morning. Ear-melting guitars and loud vocals pulled me in; I was hooked.
It’s hard to put an exact label on the sound of LAHF. They play their own brand of garage punk/blues rock, which is both familiar and refreshing. It’s almost like Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney, and Jack White decided to put aside their differences for a few days and made something destructively beautiful. Throw together a half cup of classic blues, a tablespoon of stage sweat, and a dash of Motown, and you get Darling Destroyer. From top to bottom, the album delivers a steady stream of ear-bending guitar riffs and well-written hooks. Nearly every song has a guitar solo. You can’t call yourself a fan of rock music if THAT doesn’t get you going.
At first glance, Darling Destroyer may seem like just another shallow alternative album with some fun guitar work, but it is apparent that these songs all come from a very personal space. On the band’s website, Leopold states, “these songs came from a place of fear and vulnerability. It was my first time ever dealing face-to-face with the severity of that type of emotion and translating it into words.” His ability to express his emotional state through music makes the songs even more relatable. Ranging from the loneliness and instability of “I’m Caving In” to despair in “I’m Better Off Alone” and melancholy reminiscence in “Ride,” I found it hard not to get emotional while listening to the album. It was like Leopold had written the songs for me, which proves his skill as a songwriter.
Throughout the album, Leopold also flaunts his vocal prowess. Effortlessly switching between primal, guttural wails and light, sweet serenades seems to be child’s play for him. Nothing seems to get past Mr. Leopold. The way he begins “I’m Caving In” by screaming, “I am alone,” a capella is enough to give you shivers when you first hear it. His calm and sweet caress of the lyrics to “Ride” will make you want him to take you out for a nice steak dinner.
If you are more the type to be impressed by strong riffs, heavy bass lines, and driving beats, Darling Destroyer is the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of a candy shop, and you are the proverbial kid. Leopold never ceases to show his competency with a guitar, crafting catchy, yet interesting, melodic riffs for every song. I could write an entire article about the guitar work on this album; it’s fun as hell to listen to Leopold move across the neck of his guitar. The group showcases their range on Darling Destroyer, painting a wide soundscape that is worth exploring over and over again. Whether it’s in your face, guitar-driven anthems like “Cowboy,” the bluesy Motown track, “Better Off Alone,” the piano solo in “Ride,” or the horn-driven melody of “Flowers,” there is something for everyone on this album.
Leopold and His Fiction provided a solid effort with Darling Destroyer. After a five-year hiatus, they came back stronger than ever, with a record that will have you pressing repeat. Daniel James Leopold takes you on a journey through his mind with a musical veracity that is truly a pleasure to experience. I’m shocked that this band is not more well-known; they definitely deserve to be. Their unique sound perfectly combines elements of the old and the new. In a time when most popular music is commercialized garbage, LAHF seem driven to prove with Darling Destroyer that there is still such a thing as honest, sweaty, dirty rock ‘n’ roll.