Welcome back to Sentinel Daily, and the next in our latest round of Metal Origins chats! This time we’re chatting with Dom Simpson, drummer of Sydney metal mainstays Darker Half to coincide with the release of the band’s new live album, If You Only… Live!

Greetings Mr Simpson – Without further ado, let’s get amongst the questions… Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slipknot are often referenced these days as ‘gateway’ metal bands, but who would you say yours was, and what album or songs really got your knees trembling initially? “Metallica was the first of the three, closely followed by Iron Maiden. It’s pretty hard to pick out of the first four albums as they were on constant rotation but the thing that really got me hooked on Metallica was the S&M concert DVD”.

That’s the second vote we’ve had for S&M in this run of interviews! Was it ‘love at first hear’ for you and heavy metal? Or did it take a while to insinuate itself into your very being? “I used to watch Metallica and Maiden and some of the glam bands and stuff on 9Australian late-night music video show) Rage as a kid and didn’t really know what I was watching. I liked all the metal stuff they played but also liked all the rock and pop, I was just eager for music. When I was around eleven or twelve I started shifting from listening to The Offspring and Blink 182 to listening mostly to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Testament et cetera and was hooked on only metal by age thirteen”.

Were you considered odd amongst your peer group for liking metal or were you part of a group all starting your musical journey at the same time? “I had a small and dedicated group of friends at school that listened to metal (I think there were three of us) so wasn’t the odd one out there but my main friend group resolved around the local skate park where everyone listened to punk and metal. We’d ride BMX until it got dark then went back to my house and jammed on metal songs until it got too late to make noise”.

How easy was it for you to find out about metal where you lived? I’m old, and English, so for me there was Kerrang! Magazine and one national radio show a week – Was it similar for you? “Illegal downloading coincided with my getting into metal so there was lots of late nights on LimeWire downloading albums and sharing burnt CD’s with friends. We still went to the local metal store Utopia Records as often as we could afford to to buy albums but there was always too much music and too little money to own everything you wanted to listen to so a lot of stuff was sharing burnt CD’s with friends. I think a lot of the bands I found out about came through the Ultimate Metal Forum, friends recommendations and finding out what artists my favourite bands listened to”.

And how long after first falling in love did it take you to get to a live show? Local bands count, especially if you can remember a bit about the show! “My dad played in bands and worked in the music industry so he was taking us to concerts from a very early age so by the time I got into metal I’d already been to a tonne of punk and rock concerts, so as soon as I got into metal I started going to gigs. I saw Metallica at age thirteen and used to be allowed by certain pubs to play with my band at local metal shows by around age fifteen and got to see a bunch of the local Australian bands that were going around at the time that way”.

Was there anything you listened to back then that you now look back on say ‘what was I thinking?’ “I mean, we all had a Cradle of Filth phase didn’t we? I still maintain the Damnation and a Day and Midian albums are bangers though”.

I won’t have a word said against the ‘Filth! Would the young headbanger version of you be surprised to find out that you ended up in a rather splendid band of your own? Dd you immediately want to make the transition from listener to practitioner or did that take a little while? “I was playing instruments and learning songs from an early age and as soon as I got interested in Rock music switched out the Clarinet and Piano for Drums and Guitar so I was always keen to be a musician”.

Part of the attraction of rock n’roll, particularly in pre-internet days, was the mystique that surrounded bands and their ‘lifestyles’ Do you think that mystique is gone in 2024? And if so, is that a good thing? “It’s definitely gone to a certain extent seeing as I can probably find out what my favourite musicians had for breakfast all last week with a quick insta stalk but for me it’s always been about the music not about what the artists I follow do in their downtime, so I can take or leave the mystique. As somebody that’s into production having produced the band’s last three albums and mixed the new live album I greatly appreciate being able to find out as much info as I can about how bands are creating their art so I guess in that sense I prefer things the way they are now”.

Can you name five albums that have stayed with you ever since those formative years? “Ride the Lightning – Metallica, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son – Iron Maiden, Follow the ReaperChildren of Bodom, The Legacy – Testament and Turbo by Judas Priest“.

Great to see some love for my fave Bodom album, and also Turbo, which we all know is criminally underrated… And now here’s your chance to tell us a bit about your splendid new live album – Tell our readers why they should invest in a copy! “We recorded the live album If You Only… Live while on tour with Geoff Tate over in Europe so the crowds were great and we were really feeding off that energy which I think comes across in the performance. It was also the second tour with our current line up which feels like it’s the new classic line up of the band. Things have never felt so good and each member has never added their own stamp on the parts as much as with this line up so it was really great to get a recording of a bunch of the If You Only Knew material which was entirely written by Vo (Simpson, vocals/guitar) and myself and even some of the Classified material which was also mostly written by the pair of us with these guys putting their stamp on it. I think we fianally have a product that will give the listener a real idea of what it’s like to check out a Darker Half show”

Thanks for taking part!

Darker Half’s If You Only… Live is out now. Australian fans of the band can see them on the following dates:

19/04/24 – Wagga Wagga, Tilly’s
20/04/24 – Melbourne, The Old Bar
27/04/24 – Brisbane, Stranded Bar
10/05/24 – Canberra, Pot Belly
11/05/24 – Sydney, The Duke
12/05/24 – Newcastle, The Newcastle Hotel