Kings of Leon produce fourth album

Jeff Yerger

The Kings of Leon are living the American dream.

Born and raised in the American South in Tennessee, the Followill brothers (and cousin) started out as a mere Southern rock band paying homage to the spirit of the Allman Brothers and the Rolling Stones.

They have evolved into something they can call their own.

Their third album, “Because of the Times,” was the surprise hit of 2007. The Kings’ sound was lifted to arena-rock finesse while still holding true to their Southern roots.

A little over a year later, the Kings of Leon are back with “Only By the Night,” pushing their newly discovered semi-experimental sound even further.

But is it too much for the old fans to take?

The album begins with the echoing alarm of a synthesizer in “Closer,” indicating right then and there that this is a step in a different direction for the band.

Throughout the album, the Kings meddle around with new instruments they’ve never used before, like the synth and the piano.

Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Caleb Followill has never sounded more vulnerable in this haunting ode to a lost love; his lyrics are more precise and thought-out than in previous albums.

The next song, “Crawl,” is probably the King of Leon’s most political song to date, and with its fuzz-driven bass line, it’s pretty hard to ignore.

Drummer Nathan Followill keeps the steady, head-thumpin’ beat, and you can just feel the confidence and snarl coming right out of your speakers.

The next three songs – “Sex on Fire,” “Use Somebody” and “Manhattan” – deliver the knock-out punches that make this album an instant classic.

Matt Followill’s reverb-drenched guitars ring and bounce, creating a style that channels the Edge but has a swagger all its own.

“Sex on Fire” roars with a soaring chorus and is exactly what the title suggests.

However, on “Only By the Night,” they take it to a different, more personal level.

In “Notion,” Caleb expresses his uncertainty about a one-night stand; it’s a feeling he may not have cared about when he was younger on previous albums.

“I got a notion that says it doesn’t feel right/I just wanted to know if I could go home/So don’t knock it, don’t knock it, you been there before,” he wails in his raspy and urgent voice.

The Kings of Leon aren’t your typical band of brothers.

While other bands get their kicks on the road, hanging back and living the high life, the Kings of Leon are out there working hard for the fans.

Within the past two years, they have released two albums, the latter one destined to become a classic.

Compare that to bands like Linkin Park, which took four years to release its third full-length album.

The Kings of Leon are one of the few bands out there today that are not afraid of breaking away from the mainstream and explore new grounds.

That’s what makes “Only By the Night” so exciting. They have gone from a brash, raw, Southern rock band to a creative, well-rounded band that is ready to take over the world.

“This is the first time I’ve really been proud of myself, track for track,” Caleb told Rolling Stone back in July, and he has every right to be extremely proud of this album.

The melodies are stronger, the lyrics are more personal, the sound is unique and the songs are just all-around more beautiful.

“Only By the Night” is not for the close-minded. You’re not going to find any all-out, foot-stomping rock-and-roll songs here, as this album displays the band’s mellower side.

However, don’t let that turn you away because there are plenty of quality songs on the album to go around.

Sure, the Kings may lose some old fans and gain some new ones, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just the price these kings will have to pay for achieving rock-and-roll royalty.