Darker Half – If You Only Knew – Album Review

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Artist: Darker Half

Album Title: If You Only Knew

Label: Massacre Records

Date of Release: 27 March 2020

It doesn’t matter how many reviews I undertake and how many nights I spend searching for new material across the entirety of the internet, I always seem to miss a gem or two. And today is just such an occasion, because the album at the heart of this review was released at the tail end of March. It is entitled ‘If You Only Knew’ and is the fourth full-length release from Darker Half, a quartet who call Sydney, Australia their home. Despite forming in 2003, this is my first taste of Darker Half; if I only knew about them sooner…see what I did there?! Sorry.

Joking aside, it is quite an impressive feat to have let this band pass me by for so long because they create a really rather tasty sound. It isn’t the most original fare, but on the strength of the material on this record, they know their way around their instruments and they have a properly decent grasp of that dark art known as ‘song writing’, penning a fair few quality melodic power metal songs along the way.

Kudos also needs to go to Messrs Vo Simpson (vocals, guitar), Dom Simpson (drums, backing vocals), Simon Hamilton (bass, backing vocals), and Daniel Packovski (guitar, backing vocals) because they have amassed an impressive ensemble cast to lend their skills to the record, including Stu Marshall (Night Legion), and Marcos Rodriguez (Rage) to name but two. Having guests agree to appear on your record is not always a guaranteed sign of quality but I must admit that it certainly is on this occasion. Front to back, ‘If Only You Knew’ is a very solid offering, so read on if you’d like a bit more detail.

When melodic power metal is the chosen genre, I’m generally looking for two things above all else: strong melodies and a certain amount of crunch – enough to deserve the ‘metal’ tag at least. It isn’t rocket science, brain surgery or quantum mechanics, but some bands seem eager to fail one or either of these two aspects. Either the melodies, in whatever form, are eminently forgettable, or the band lacks the punch, crunch and attack required to be considered ‘metal’. In the case of Darker Half, they have more than safely negotiated these opening hurdles.

In fact, as immediately evidenced on the first two breathless tracks, they not only negotiate the hurdles, but they do so with style and panache. ‘Glass Coloured Rose’ rips from the speakers with urgency and drama, at a tempo that gets the blood pumping right from the off. Vo Simpson wastes no time either in demonstrating his impressive range, hitting some killer high notes and a few gritty snarls to accompany his vibrant and engaging delivery. The chorus is instant hooky goodness, whilst you’re in luck if guitar solos are your thing because you get an extended solo section that goes from precise and neo-classical, to all-out wailing and screeching.

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If that was good, then the follow-up, ‘Falling’ is easily its equal, capturing the imagination swiftly thanks to the infectious, galloping, NWOBHM-influenced rhythmic tempo of which Iron Maiden would be proud. Again, the melodies are huge and the chorus is catchy as hell, whilst the lightning fast solo atop that galloping tempo is pure metal adrenaline.

But what’s great about this record is the way in which it delivers plenty of variety across the nine great songs, not to mention the fact that there isn’t a weak cut amongst them either.

After the high octane opening which continues via the anthemic ‘The Shadows’, Darker Half are not afraid to allow other influences into their music. Take the title track for example, which opens to the sound of thunder and then sedately plods along at a slower tempo. Initially led by the bass of Simon Hamilton, it is a theatrical, atmospheric track with strong doom overtones within the riffs in particular. But regardless of the marked shift, the song still hits home thanks to great musicianship and a gorgeously dramatic lead guitar solo.

The slower pace continues within the aptly-titled ‘Sedentary Pain’, a darker, brooding, loping and lurching track that releases into a fantastic chorus, topped off with some savage guest growls from Giacomo Mezzatesta for good measure. The juxtaposition between this and ‘The Bittersweet Caress’ which follows is striking, certainly in terms of pace and attack, as it kicks off with an urgent, powerful riff that gets the head nodding with appreciation and from there, we get the occasional ‘gang’ vocal and chorus that allows the aggressive drumming of Dom Simpson to come to the fore, as the track refuses to take its foot off the pedal in any way until a shift at the midpoint allows for an injection of extra melody, more arresting tom-heavy drumming and a lengthy lead guitar solo.

‘Thousand Mile Stare’ is a personal favourite thanks in large part to a delicious chorus that’s part ballad, part sing-along anthem and which just gets stronger the more I listen. Much the same could be said for ‘Poseidon’ which couples an irresistible chorus with a return to a more sedate pace that allows an acoustic guitar to enter the fray during the quieter verses. And finally, ‘This Ain’t Over’ features a groovy and crunchy central riff alongside more strong melodies that means that the album ends of a suitable high note.

In short, Darker Half has snuck into the review pile and what started as a quick nod to a decent album has developed into a much more in-depth review of a very fine record indeed that has burrowed its way into my affections nicely. ‘If Only You Knew’ is yet another excellent example of the way in which the quality of Australian heavy metal, across many sub-genres, has got to be at an all-time high. This excellent record comes with a strong recommendation for anyone who likes melodic power metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 89%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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