Brewtality Festival: Darker Half

“The more I've travelled, the more I think we have the best local bands in the world"

In short, Brewtality is an annual music festival that features 33 bands, held across 3 stages at The Tote and The Bendigo hotels in Melbourne, Australia. These are the fundamentals of Brewtality – however it is so much more. What needs to be addressed here is its muscle and that is Brewtality’s ability to ignite comradery within the heavy metal fan. The Australian heavy metal landscape is as rich as it is diverse. With all involved - from the musician to the journalist, the promoter to the punter; we all share in this multiplicity and amazing culture we created that is known as Australian Heavy Metal. Metal As Fuck are catching up with several bands featured on this year’s bill on the lead up to Brewtality and all share the same message; their admiration for Australian Heavy Metal..... Vo Simpson, from Sydney’s Darker Half throws in his two cents. 

The annual Brewtality Festival is a celebration of beer and metal; name me something that goes together as well as a belly full of beer and a moshpit... “I reckon Pizza goes along pretty damn well with metal and beer? Probably not such a great idea in a moshpit though”. 

What is one unique trait about an Australian moshpit that you wouldn't see anywhere else in the world do you think? “I think we have some of the craziest crowds from what I've seen. Everywhere we've been is a bit different, everyone has their own way of doing things but it's hard to really nail down exactly what it is, I think we have a great sense of camaraderie in our pits, people looking out for each other and making sure no one gets hurt even if they're going hard”.

Have you played Brewtality Festival before? How would you describe the atmosphere of the festival? “We played Brewtality in 2014; it's a killer atmosphere, really unique type of show (in Melbourne) in the sense that it takes place across multiple venues within a block of each other so it adds a different vibe than your average all day fest gig. I'm curious to see how the Sydney leg will be as it's the first time it's come here. The the line-up is ridiculously good, so if this isn't one of the top shows for the year, I’d be surprised!”.

The band are primed to release its latest EP in August titled 'Classified' - what can you tell us about the EP so far? “It's a pretty natural evolution of what we were doing on 'Never Surrender', I feel like the songs are really strong and so far the response from overseas has been great so we feel pretty confident about how it's turned out. It's our first recording with our new guitarist Jimmy and is also the first time we took on the production ourselves, so it was a bit of a learning experience but it gave us a lot more freedom to try stuff out in the studio without having a money clock running constantly, it is a lot of work doing it this way but I feel the results were worth it. We had Dave Hammer (who produced 'Never Surrender') to mix/master the EP so there is still a common thread running in the overall sound of the record. I think our writing has matured a little bit since the last album too, just knowing where to place things and understanding how it's all going to fit together. I can't wait to start work on the next full length to see where that takes us!”.

Where in the music of Darker Half do you like to challenge yourselves? “I always try to make sure that the song itself stands up, so a good chorus and lyrics is really important to me, I also have a hard time getting lyrics to the point where I’m happy with them a lot of the time. Instrumentally, I'm really into interplay, so I’m always trying to find new ways to do the twin guitar thing and make it fresh, solos are important and I always want something new either melodically or technically but it's realistically the last thing I really worry about. I think of it like the icing on a cake, it's awesome but without everything else it doesn't really mean much on its own. In the end it's always the riff that's king”.

And where would you say lies your primary strengths within the band and material? “I think writing strong songs that hold their own then backing it up with strong playing; we're not trying to be a prog/shred band so the fact that we get referred to in that way quite a bit is kind of funny, though I feel like we generally keep it fairly simple as a good melody can really carry a song, then go a little crazy in the solo sections and have some fun. Overall I think our live show is a strong aspect of the band, we really enjoy playing live and I think we get the best response once people see the band live. Studio and live can be so different so it's sometimes hard to know how things will translate in either direction but I think we've gotten a lot better in this regard on this record”.

How has the Australian heavy metal landscape influenced your sound along the way? “The more I've travelled, the more I think we have the best local bands in the world, so when a band starts out here, the standard to make an impact is pretty damn high. I think this also comes down to the fact that we only get the biggest European/USA bands touring here means that as soon as someone discovers metal, the first bands they'll see are usually at the top of their game, so the bar for entry is set so high from the moment someone decides to form a band. The flipside is the geography of Australia makes extensive touring so much harder than in Europe or the USA, we just don't have the amount of major cities and in a niche genre like metal it can really make it difficult. Sound wise, I think Australian metal is a bit of a mix of European and American styles - we're not part of either and get a fairly even mix touring here so I feel a lot of Aussie bands have this unique mix of influences that bands from those areas don't really have being so close to either style”.

What can we expect to see from Darker Half for the remainder of 2016 and into next year? “We're going to be doing a bunch of shows around Australia in support of the EP release and we're currently organising our return trip to Europe, which is going to take in a bunch of new countries we haven't been to yet as well as trying to get another US tour happening for 2017, so right now we’re just trying to get a plan together for the next year or two before putting it all into action, I suppose we'll have to write a new album at some point soon too”. [Laughs]