DARKER HALF – Classified
Steadily improving their craft over the course of a decade plus career, Australia’s Darker Half sign with Fastball Music in Europe to release a five song EP "Classified". This power metal outfit have been very impressive in terms of their determination to bring their sound to the masses- including self-financing numerous tours in Europe and the United States. Witnessing the band live at a club date in New England a couple of years ago, I’ve been anticipating new material for quite a while as 2014’s "Never Surrender" is still a regular playlist record for me. Safe to say that after a few spins, "Classified" rings true to the Darker Half discography, another engaging effort of true metal with power, thrash, and classic nuances that should make the listeners smile, clap, or hoist their favored beverage in the air.
The foundation of Darker Half starts in the glorious twin guitar action and complimentary rhythm section work that all points to the heart of melodic, old school heavy metal. The double bass kick work and uplifting guitar charge against Vo Simpson’s soaring high vocals makes "Aliens Exist" an early highlight for those who love Iron Maiden and Nocturnal Rites. The follow up "Heaven’s Falling" contains a little bit more intricacies in terms of the up and down riff action, while the verses keep things more in a mid-tempo anthem template, possibly the most commercial offering of the EP (the whispered vocals during the chorus adding another dramatic element). Epic twin guitar passages and piano signal the start of the almost seven-minute "The Deal", possibly the most experimental cut for Darker Half to date as the keyboard swirls and off-time drum/guitar interplay makes me think of "Rage for Order" period Queensrÿche. These Australians take their cues from the best bands, injecting their own flair for build ups and hooks but never forsaking the power riffs and proper melodies/harmonies that keep your ears riveted and fists flailing high in the air.
At 5 songs and close to a half-hour of material, "Classified" gives us a clear indication that Darker Half wish to embrace a more dynamic side to their already addictive melodic metal template – knowing that this will hopefully elevate them to headline status. Brilliant all around.