Christ on a bike. I've always liked Sydney's Darker Half and feelings of beneficence which were only strengthened when I saw them live last year opening for symphonic rock titans Nightwish.
I like the way they go about their business, and I like their ear for a classic Metal tune. But none of that adequately prepared me for the sheer Heavy Metal pomp and grandeur of 'Never Surrender'.
Put simply, this album is perfection in trad Metal form.
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Of course, giving an album virtually full marks in the first paragraph doesn't leave the reviewer with much space in which to manoeuvre for the rest of the piece, but, short of simply listing each track and then writing 'excellent' next to each title, you don't actually need much space to detail what's going on here.
The title track is thunderous power Metal incarnate, 'Duality' adds a little US class and sheen to the mix (I'm thinking Crimson Glory here), whilst the neck breaking 'Blinded By Darkness' cracks a great big thrash Metal egg into the mixing bowl for good measure. Add to that the singalonga-Vo Simpson mayhem of opening track 'Nemesis' and the slightly more progressive 'Lost In Space' and you've got, as I said earlier, a near perfect Heavy Metal album.
Speaking of Simpson, the man also runs a neat line in axe pyrotechnics alongside guitaring compadre Brad Dickson, whilst the rhythm section of the 'other' Simpson, Dominic (drums) and bassist Simon Hamilton keep things neat and tidy in the background, generally at high speed and always with supreme technique.
This isn't an album for those of you who like rough around the edges – everything here is surgeon-precise and gleaming like a Halfordian electric eye – but if straightup, superbly executed Heavy Metal gets your juices flowing then you won't hear better for a fair while to come.
'Never Surrender' catapults Darker Half into international status, joining the ranks of fellow up-and-comers like Neuronspoiler and Primitai at the vanguard of an exciting pan-national movement of Metal bands looking backwards yet moving forwards at the same time. And it's exciting stuff to behold.