Darker Half - Desensitized 4/5

Reviewed: 10-1-13


1. Lost in space
2. End of the line
3. Desensitized
4. Tomb of the unknown soldier
5. As darkness fades
6. Catch the sun
7. Wake me up
8. Solid rock (Sacred ground)
9. Armageddon

With the avalanche of new CDs flooding the marketplace every month, even the most ardent metalhead is going to miss out on a quality release every now and then. Such was the case for me with respect to Darker Half’s ‘Desensitized’, a CD issued via Rockstar Records back in 2011 that slipped below my radar. Fortunately, a good friend recently alerted me to this oversight, and I’m reporting my discovery to all of you in hopes that it will nudge someone, somewhere into checking out this talented Australian act despite the somewhat long-in-the-tooth status of ‘Desensitized’. This recording may not be hot off the presses, but it is definitely worthy of your time and attention.

Formed in Sydney back in the early 2000s, Darker Half have released a pair of demos, an EP, and 2 full-length CDs, of which ‘Desensitized’ is the most recent. The quartet specializes in a brand of melodic heavy metal that borrows elements of traditional metal, power metal and thrash, with the occasional sprinkle of hard rock or prog. The lead vocals of Vo Simpson are clear, pleasing to the ear, expressive and relatively high-pitched, though generally not reaching stratospheric levels. The production job is clean but not too polished, sounding almost live and retaining sufficient grit and grime to keep the emotion and energy intact. The songs (most of which clock in at a lengthy 5 to 7 minutes) range from speedy, aggressive but still highly melodic fare like “Lost in space” or “End of the line” (reminiscent of Lord Tim’s Dungeon and Lord projects) to Maidenish anthems like “Catch the sun” to slower, moodier pieces like “Tomb of the unknown soldier”. ‘Desensitized’ also features a cover song, in the form of “Solid rock (Sacred ground)”. I’ve never heard (or even heard of) the original before, but I now understand it to be an extremely well known Australian song originally done by folk/rockers Goanna in 1982, to the point where Darker Half’s decision to cover it caused some controversy and dissent amidst the Aussie metal community. It’s definitely the most commercial song on display, and hey, it features a didgeridoo in a couple of spots, but I don’t have any problem with “Solid rock (Sacred ground)”, which for all its simplicity is actually a catchy little number. To my ears, the most accomplished track in Darker Half’s arsenal is “Desensitized”, in which Vo Simpson delivers a superb vocal performance, the twin guitars of Simpson and Brad Dickson weave magic with an ASKA-style melody, and the rhythm section of Don Simpson (Vo’s brother) and bassist Simon Hamilton feel well and truly locked in.

‘Desensitized’ is not a perfect CD. Sometimes the backing vocals do not convince, sometimes the hooks don’t quite hit the mark, and sometimes the lengthy duration of certain songs seems excessive. But Darker Half are onto something here. Lord may be the best known and most accomplished band in Australia when it comes to melodic heavy metal with dual guitar, clean vocals, and mixtures of traditional/power/thrash metal, and other bands like Ilium, Dragonsclaw, Silent Knight and Black Majesty are all in a similar vein. But Darker Half are competitive on every level with their countrymen. I am eager to hear what they come with next, and can promise there will not be a 2-year lag between the release of Darker Half’s next CD and the time it graces my ear canals. Well done, lads.




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