Darker Half – Never Surrender (Album Review)

In May of this year, I went to Oz, ostensibly to learn about the Aussie metal movement, and get an education in the same. To that end, I attended the Stormrider Music Festival in Perth at the Civic. Amidst a strong lineup of bands playing was Darker Half. When I saw the number of people pick up substantially in front of the stage for DH’s set, I thought I’d better pay closer attention. They did not disappoint. To get familiar with their music after Stormrider, I bought and listened to Desensitized several times. What I discovered was a band working hard to find its identity, and showing moments of maturity and brilliance beyond its years.

Never Surrender is Darker Half’s third opus and is out on Australia’s Rockstar label, distributed by MGM. The brilliance of tracks like Desensitized and Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier continues on this album, albeit with more direction and speed metal influences, especially the drumming.

While the production is a little muddy in the lower register, Vo Simpsons’ vocals are clear, understandable, and man, can he hit the high notes. I hear similarities to Lost Horizon’s Daniel Heiman, stylistically. Lyrically, he is not afraid to state political views and make observations about the human condition.

Nemesis, starts this album in said form, in a manner synonymous with their name. Unorthodox chord progressions throughout the album give them a unique edge. Maidenesque qualities to the arrangements on the title track, Never Surrender help carry the album.

End Of The Line proved to be an epic song, complemented by some Judas Priest influenced twin-guitar sound. On Stranger, what we get is some EPIC, straight-up heaviness, reminiscent of the Schenker bros. on the classic Coast To Coast. Vo Simpson carries the band very well with his vocal style showing off some great vibrato. Melody and vocal clarity are very important to this listener. DH has both.

Some complex playing, complemented by subtle organ lines during the chorus and bridges help make As Darkness Fades a great composition. DH blends elements of power and traditional metal very well. Elegant changes in tempo and “movement” type arrangements break this song down into EPIC sections. Duality shows that when you think the song may be average, DH pulls out a new, clever hook that grabs the listener’s attention right back. I hear Mike Dimeo-type vocals from Riot backed with a Helloween drum style.

The clarity of the guitar solo on Blinded By Darkness achieves a sound, not unlike that of the eminent Silent Knight from Perth in spots. Over the top to say the least. Some exceptional high register vocals by Vo are present.

Lost In Space has a Gamma Ray influenced gallop that speaks to thrash, but the rhythm section gets a little lost on me here. Heads Are Gonna Roll’s ordinary start gives way to an exceptional guitar break from Vo and Brad (Dickson) followed by some awesome percussion work from Dominic Simpson to close it off. The album finishes with Anthem for Doomed Youth. The classic organ sound is thrown in again giving us a Heep-influenced sound soup crossed with some power metal influence, not unlike Crystal Ball.

In all, I have to say they are progressing to find their niche and with a little further direction from a top-flight producer like Frederik Nordstrom, they might find that European signing they seem so hungry to land.

Darker Half: Facebook

Release Year: 2014
Label: Fastball Music
Category: Album
Country: Australia

Reviewed byJohn Francis