ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Never Surrender’ reveals the Darker Half of power metal
First Posted: 6/17/2014
The Australian band that can now list a recent gig at Wilkes-Barre’s The Factory: Underground as their first-ever international show, Darker Half is back with their third full-length album titled “Never Surrender.” Showcasing the most definitive power metal sound that the band has committed to record yet, the album celebrates metal in the European festival tradition of self-empowering lyrical content, spine-pricked vocals that would’ve made a young Rob Halford envious, and a bloodthirsty double-bass wickedness that steers clear of any would-be Hammerfall-like cheese. This is metal in its purest form: real leather-and-denim release of pent-up aggression.
Darker Half seeks to establish itself in the U.S. market with what vocalist Vo Simpson says is “traditional metal with a fresh take.” He couldn’t be more right in his assessment, as the band, on the exterior, seems to mine a sound somewhere between classic Mercyful Fate (Simpson’s vocals do indeed echo the range and impulsivity of the great King Diamond) and the scope of the neo-Priest barrage of bands like Primal Fear and Stratovarius.
Tracks like “Nemesis” feature power-chorded double stops akin to Fate guitarist Hank Shermann’s best, with the elements of Priest’s “Painkiller”-era metallic dust. The band has really come into its own as far as songwriting with one of the catchiest choruses you’ll find in contemporary power metal (“No, can’t leave it all behind, as the sun goes down the wind still whispers”). A late-song chant further drives the song into fist-pumping soccer fan territory: a favorite for sure should the band hit the stages in South America.
Cuts like “Stranger” are broader in their approach, derived from a more progressive element like vintage “Warning”-era Queensryche with a light touch of Rainbow-era Dio imagery. “Lost in Space” hints at the melodic thrash of early Helloween, with several tempo-scattering breakdowns occurring throughout the song, giving the almost 7-minute opus a distinctively Symphony X-like stamp of instrumental aggression, while Simpson’s lyrics beg for a figurative stay of execution for humanity (“Pray for redemption, we’ve reached the turning point”).
Classic-themed metal meltdown played with the still-snowballing inner hunger of a young band anxious to make a mark, “Never Surrender” sounds like it may be the tipping point to international acclaim for Darker Half.
Darker Half ‘Never Surrender’ Rating: W W W W W