Darker Half – Never Surrender (Self-released)Monday, 23rd June 2014
Scribes for this site have been championing Aussie metal as of late; recent reviews for Vanishing Point, Voyager, and Truth Corroded can attest to ample evidence in a variety of melodic metal, progressive metal, and thrash/death /extreme genres. Being remote may have been a hindrance a couple of decades ago, but now instant technology breaks down any distance barriers, and as such a power metal act like Sydney’s Darker Half can reap the benefits. Together since 2003, this third album Never Surrender may be a mix of older and newer material, but the upgrade in professional production values and attention to sonic detail proves this quartet are ready to grab the power brass ring.
Out of the 10 songs, six originally appeared on their first two efforts, Duality and Desensitized, and four are brand new tracks. The double-barrel action of fresh cuts “Nemesis” and “Never Surrender” set a blistering tone in an aggressive, positive way, melding together influences from both North America and Europe in terms of cultural guitar harmonies, high octane lung action from guitarist Vo Simpson (think Harry Conklin-meets-James Rivera), and tempos that have a little bit of thrash spirit amidst the standard double bass power action. “Stranger” offers a slower, heavier tact that penetrates in more of a thicker anthem way, crossing over Metal Church-meets-Jag Panzer terrain.
As an axe team, Brad Dickson and Simpson certainly spit out all the standard fire and brimstone tricks of the genre trade, evoking feelings of Smith/Murray or classic Hansen/Weikath during their lead tradeoffs and dual harmonic moments for “Duality” and “Lost in Space.” And then there are times where I hear a lot of that slower, classic Metallica musicality injected in to the Darker Half philosophy (check out “Heads Are Gonna Roll”) which ensures quick audience assimilation and song construct retention.
Ultimately, any fan of the heavier, traditional power genre should revere Never Surrender. Raise the fists, bang your heads – Darker Half will gain traction through this excellent release.