Darker Half & Mason ‘A Double Dose of Magnificent Metal’ (Interview & Gig Review)

Darker Half & Mason
The Small Bandroom, Newcastle NSW
May 25th, 2018

The Small Ballroom in Newcastle on Friday the 25th of May is host to two of the most exciting Australian metal bands going around at the moment, Darker Half from Sydney, and Mason from Melbourne. They are embarking on a double headlining Australian tour and it begins here tonight. The metal scene in Australia is so promising at the moment and it is growing stronger gig by gig, and both of these outfits have contributed significantly to the scenes development. These two artists have now been around for some time, released a number of albums and established themselves on the national circuit. I am fortunate tonight to be reviewing each set as well as having a brief chat with each band before they hit the stage. I apologise for not reviewing the support acts tonight, Cerebral Contortion and Lycanthrope, unfortunately I was interviewing the bands during your sets.

MASON

First up is Mason, a thrash metal powerhouse and I see them as an integral part, of what I call, the New Wave of Australian Thrash Metal; yes the phrase does sound a little familiar. Over the last few years there has been a number of brilliant Australian thrash metal bands come out of the wood work, and Mason are at the forefront. The first time I saw these guys was during a co-headlining Australian tour with Harlott, again in Newcastle, but at the Station Hotel in Hamilton. Mason are an outfit who thrive on intensity and power and they have never let me down seeing them live. They have released two albums to date, with the latest release entitled Impervious. Mason has also benefitted from a number of overseas tours and are now a much stronger act for the experience. I caught up with Jimmy (guitars and vocals) before their set.

How did you guys go down with audiences from your recent overseas tours?

“Great, really well! All of the places we had never been there, you know obviously, and it felt like we had been there before. People knew who we were, so it was over all a positive experience. We had positive reviews and in that respect it has really paid off. It has set a grounding for us to work on and develop. You know it has taken us to a new place in terms of the band, who we are, how we write and how we play.”

 So are there any plans to head overseas again soon?

“Always! We are the worst band for never turning down shit. Touring comes first and any opportunity that is feasible we take! Touring is where it is at and we want to meet fans. We have stuff coming but can’t announce at the moment. But watch this space.”

What about bringing Annihilator over here for a tour (Mason toured with them extensively overseas)? Did Jeff Waters ask about the scene over here at all?

“Yes and No really, it came up and we talked about the scene. We obviously expressed that we want them to come out here. It is an idea at the moment, and we hope it will come to fruition, it would be something special. They have never been here before and it would be a big tour for them and complete a world tour between us as bands. We have played so many places together now.”

Mason are a thrash metal band, but what do you believe sets you apart from other similar bands on the scene?

“We are doing our own thing. The issue at the moment is a lot of bands are replicating their idols too much, and more so than just having the influence and they are lacking originality. They are great bands but that personal feel isn’t there and we are trying to do this. We are rooted in thrash and are musical and not afraid to delve in to other slices of music. Our influences are there, you know built in, but not as prominent as some other bands in the scene. It doesn’t appeal to us to replica to the letter of what is happening”

With the release of the new album Impervious the band has taken its sound to the next level. What do you guys put this down to?

“I think that from the first album Warhead, it was written so long ago and way before it was recorded. Our musical tastes have broadened since then, and over the years this has honed into our sound. We have found other paths that fit into who we are, but with more flexibility and feel. We have brought a lot more flavours I guess in to the sound, and into the songs, and we are more to the point. We are, I suppose becoming more mature writers, and this is from our experience and all of the opportunities that we have had. Why would you stay in one category when you can immerse yourself with all of the music over the world? Our new guitarist Grant Burns, he has brought a new sound too, as he is a melodic death metal guy and this has been great for us and a perfect combination of thrash metal and more.”

How do you guys see the Australian scene from your side of the fence and what do you see as the catalyst of the scene’s development especially with thrash metal bands?

“I put this down to just work ethic. You know there is a standard, especially in Melbourne, You need to release quality stuff. We know now that we can see the rest of the world and you need to compete. It is really a standard and we push each other in the scene to work harder, it’s not a competition either, but more of an inspiration. We inspire each other to get shit rolling and at least for Mason we can’t just sit around, we are touring or writing. We have not stopped since our first European tour, we have gone straight from tour to tour and writing. We have plans to go back to Europe, this is something we have to do in order to stay relevant and be heard. You need the strong work ethic, be willing to tour and go the extra mile. Mason will do what we need to do and the other bands push us hard and I am thankful for this. The rest of the world is really paying attention now, we aren’t isolated and the kangaroo and beer country any more, we are a metal nation and people are listening.”

Mason hit the stage tonight with total intensity and aggression. They really have that feel and sense of a traditional Thrash Metal band at heart, and the live arena is where this come to the fore. The band gave their latest release a good solid exposure tonight, playing tracks such as ‘Tears of Tragedy’, ‘Cross the Path’ and ‘Impervious’ and for the uninitiated in the audience, they lapped it up! Jimmy, guitar and vocals, is quite a natural front man. He does what he does without fuss, but he does what he does with passion, and looks the audience straight in the eyes, and this really ensures that the band connects with its audience. The band has really now developed, not only their own sound, but also their own persona, with a confidence and sense of belief, that is a consequence of their collective commitment and experience. The addition of new guitarist Grant Burns really shone through tonight, he is a great guitarist, and more than this, he really fits the band both live and sound wise. I also really need to mention the drumming of Nonda, for me he is the bands engine, and his timing and sense of rhythm gives this outfit its power. Mason tonight have delivered a strong, identifiable and a resonating set and if this isn’t an indication of the bigger things that are in store for this band, I wasn’t even present.

DARKER HALF

Next is Darker Half. I first saw these guys nearly ten years ago, supporting Paul Dianno, during his first solo tour of Australia. They were young, but they were bloody good! They had the feel of an 80’s metal band but with the melody and speed of a power metal outfit. I actually bought their first album from them that night. From this gig I have seen them countless times, supporting international acts and headlining in their own right. They have come a long way in this time and have released three albums, toured overseas and gone through some personnel changes. What I admire about Darker Half is their commitment, musicianship, passion and the fact that they are really nice guys. Before their set I caught up with Vo (guitar and vocals) and Dom (drums) to see where the band is at in 2018

How did Darker Half come about as a band tell us about your history?

“Originally in high school. We all basically just got in to real metal, you know Iron Maiden, Metallica and all that stuff. We made Metallica mixed Cds and it started from there. We started writing songs and playing Metallica covers and it just grew as we love the music and we all wanted to be a part of it.”

Where was your first gig?

“The first gig was Gerringong Town Hall. A friend of ours lived down there and there were all high school bands playing this day. Half of our set was Metallica songs and some originals. It was great, we loved it! We have actually done a Metallica tribute show too. But that show down south was how it all started really”

What has been the best support you have played?

“We would have to say in Australia it would be Nightwish as this gig was the biggest we have played. But more so probably Helloween and Children of Bodom, as they are real influences for us and what we do. In Europe twice with Rage and we have the greatest relationship with them as another band. We have done some great supports but these are at the top.”

How do you guys write material?

“It has changed a lot really over the first three albums. Originally I would try {Vo} to write the songs vocally and on guitar on my own and then we arrange them in the studio. But later we have written more in the studio and a  big part of this is technology. It is more convenient to sit in front of a computer and get things down. The last album was self-recorded and produced like this and so is our current one.”

Tell us about your recent overseas tours, how have they developed the band live?

“Hugely I think, but even just forgetting about the overseas part, doing sixteen shows in two and half weeks is what helps you to improve. It is hectic but you get in to a rhythm and you can’t do this in Australia. As a national tour is only a few days over here. It puts your process under a microscope and every day it is very regimented and it puts the live show in perspective and its isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t what people really think of when they imagine touring, and for us, it is what we want to do and where we, I guess become a band.”

Was there any talk of bringing Rage to Australia?

“We talked to Rage about the scene and they really want to come over. We have played more shows with Rage than any other band in the world! We would love to help bring them over here and I am sure if things can line up for them they will be here.”

 Where to next for Darker Half, what’s on the agenda?

“Back to Europe and a new album. The new album is being recorded and we are about half way through tacking the music. It is a lot more song based, still a lot of guitar but more around the vocals and the songs themselves. If we had to classify against our last EP, to be incredibly clichéd, it is heavier and lot more melodic. It is the first time that all of our influences have come together and we are developing our own sound and it defines Darker Half as a band with its sound and tones.”

Darker Half have come to Newcastle tonight to play. The energy really comes from their drive, and now experience. They have developed into a very tight band. For me Vo, as a front man, has really come in to his own, and his confidence and persona has grown so much and this was very evident tonight. As the band played through their set the Newcastle metal crowd went along for the ride, and what stood out for me is the fact that the older and newer material fit well together. Jimmy, on lead guitar, has also been an amazing enhancement to the band, an accomplished musician and virtuoso in his own right, his playing really brings out a further dimension to Darker Half. I must also reflect upon the rhythm section tonight. Dom is an amazing drummer, his technical skill and feel give him his own unique sound and he has a swing about his playing that can’t go unnoticed. He is supported by Simon on bass and he is an impressive and solid bass player who supports and carries the bands melodies. Songs that stood out tonight were ‘Heaven is Falling’, ‘Aliens Exist’, the crowd favourite ‘Take the Plunge’ and a new track with the working title ‘The Bittersweet Caress’. I really believe that the sky is the limit with these guys and I hope that they can develop their fan base further, internationally, and gain the international scene support that they deserve.

Thank you to both Darker Half and Mason for opening your Australian tour in Newcastle tonight an amazing night of metal in the steel city!!! I am so pumped about the future of these bands and proud to be a part of the Aussie Metal Scene. Check out the tour and make sure you get to one of these shows, you won’t be disappointed.

Written by Mark Snedden

Darker Half

Mason

darker half tour

Darker Half & Mason – Are You Ready? Tour

26.05. Wollongong – Rad

27.05. Sydney – Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice

01.06. Wagga -The Home Tavern (DH ONLY)

02.06. Wodonga – St Ives Hotel (DH ONLY)

08.06. Brisbane – The Brightside

09.06. Gold Coast – The Wallaby Hotel

15.06. Geelong – The Barwon Club (DH ONLY)

16.06. Bendigo – Music Man

22.06. Canberra – The Basement

23.06. Sydney – The Bald Faced Stag

29.06. Melbourne – The Bendigo Hotel (DH ONLY)

Tickets Here

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