Darker Half – If You Only Knew (Massacre Records)Tuesday, 7th April 2020
Fortunate to catch this Australian power metal act on tour in the US back in the summer of 2014 in support of their third album Never Surrender, Darker Half have been busy sharpening their skills ever since. Drummer Dom Simpson got the chance to play live with two ex-Iron Maiden singers in Blaze Bayley and Paul Di’Anno, while his brother guitarist/vocalist Steven ‘Vo’ Simpson fronts another Australian power metal act Night Legion who released a self-titled record in 2017. Latest recruit Daniel Packovski joined in 2018, and the band shifted to Massacre Records for their fourth full-length If You Only Knew. Four years past their last EP Classified, it’s evident the band has continued to get stronger on all facets of their sound, professionalism, songwriting, and subtle nuances that make this record probably their strongest to date.
Where the quartet stand out is in the smaller details song to song – be it specific multi-level vocal harmonies, developing musical components and energy levels that match up seamlessly, or even the right burst of lead break magnificence including guests like Stu Marshall (Death Dealer),Marcos Rodriguez (Rage), and Brendan Farrugia (Envenomed). Proper use of catchy, 80’s/AOR-like keyboards invigorates the mid-tempo anthem “Into the Shadows”, Vo giving an earnest, melodic vocal delivery against a solid headbanging guitar foundation. Thunderclaps and quieter, cleaner guitars set the title track in motion, showcasing another mysterious side of Darker Half – the arrangement building out into a semi-power ballad that rivals current Helloween or even textures of Annihilator and Testament. Even extreme dynamics come into focus in many segments of the record – be it a blackened-like atmosphere for the intro riff within “Sedentary Pain” or the acoustic guitar infusion during the verses of “Poseidon”, it’s evident that these musicians are not stagnating in their preferred genre, willing to stretch parameters as long as it fits the needs of the track on hand. Rest assured if you want many up-tempo power cuts that feature punchy tempos, gallop-oriented riffs, and catchy as hell melodies throughout, then songs like “Glass Coloured Rose” and “The Bittersweet Caress” will galvanize those Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Teutonic-like records you love and treasure.
Darker Half straddle those power and traditional metal styles deftly, as a result creating an electrifying combination that along with Vo’s impressive, commanding vocal range makes for an engaging front to back experience. If You Only Knew hopefully vaults the band up the ranks a few notches, as this Australian band is worth listening to if you love any form of melodic or traditional power metal.