REVIEW: SERIOUS BLACK – “Mirrorworld”
Serious Black was conceived in 2014 with the likes of Urban Breed (ex-Bloodbound, ex-Tad Morose, Project Arcadia and others), Mario Lockhert (ex-Visions of Atlantis) Thomem Stauch (Savage Circus, ex-Blind Guardian) and Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) joining forces, to form what we often call a “supergroup”. Their debut album, ‘As Daylight Breaks’, was a very fun and accessible form of power metal and quickly stole the hearts of many euro-power fans, including myself. Being a sucker for Urban Breed–who I think is one of the best power metal vocalists of all time – I was very pleased to hear that this was not just a one-time wonder and Serious Black was in the process of releasing another album with less than a year of wait.
There were considerable changes in the lineup, though, as Grapow and Stauch retired from the band, with heavy hitters Bob Katsionis (Constantine, Firewind and 500 other acts) and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire) filling the (big) shoes in the guitar and drumming departments, respectively. ‘Mirrorworld’ will be available on September 9th via AFM Records, continuing where ‘As Daylight Breaks’ left off musically.
The experience begins with a short intro – commonly adopted in power metal bands – followed by the explosive “As Long as I’m Alive”, a song that you may be familiar with, having been released not so long ago as a single. The tune mainly follows the steps of “I Seek No Other Life” as a bombastic fast-paced opener with a catchy melody, which turns it into one of the best tracks of the album. “Castor Skies” slows down but keeps the energetic pace in a lead-driven tune and a melodic chorus. A good follow-up and extremely well executed, especially by Katsionis and Dominik Sebastian providing a good amount of virtuosity. Sadly, the ball drops a bit in “Heartbroken Soul” and “Dying Hearts”; the first one is a power-ballad, and after a few listens becomes sort of disposable, mainly because it breaks the atmosphere and feels like a mechanic song made for commercial purposes. The second one has a rather strange arrangement with Jan Vacik doing the vocal lines at a lower key to match the instruments. Both of them, though, are not weak enough to ruin the whole experience.
And then, in another strange turnaround, comes “You’re Not Alone”. I warn you: keep clear of this song if you hate having a chorus stuck in your head like lice on a 5-year old child. Perfect-pace, the right amount of riffs, a very cool solo and an awesome groovy atmosphere fill the track, the best of the bunch by far, in my opinion. The title-track comes next and, along with “Dying Hearts”, is a song that contains a lot of elements from modern AOR bands like Nordic Union or Phantom 5, which I most definitely don’t like, but curiously enough bodes well for the tune. I’m not saying that “Mirrorworld” is an AOR song, but there are things like the distortion of the guitars and the groovy-like construction that add to the modernity of the sound and provide that type of similarity. “State of My Despair” and “The Unborn Never Die” are two quality tracks that close the album in a good fashion, but none of them brings anything spectacular to the table.
Great execution, crystal clear production and talented musicians make Serious Black a reliable and fun band to listen. Urban Breed is something special and everything he puts his hands on is worth checking out, and this sort of modern approach to European power metal is luring more and more attention every day. Despite being a very accessible album, ‘Mirrorworld’ suit a specific niche of the heavy metal community. Those who twist their noses to modern types of production and songwriting will most likely steer away from this, while the power metal fan and the more casual listener will get a lot of spins out of it. Serious Black will most definitely not sweep you off your feet with deep, meaningful insights in the form of music, but rest assured that ‘Mirrorworld’ is guaranteed fun, as power metal should be.