Published on November 18th, 2017 | by Justin G.
Serious Black: Magic (AFM)
Man, Serious Black does not waste any time. The melodic metal supergroup released their debut album As Daylight Breaks in 2015 and delivered a follow-up album (Mirrorworld) just one year later. Now it’s 2017 and we have yet another new album from the band. Their latest effort is called Magic, and I’m happy to report that despite the aggressive release schedule, the music definitely does not suffer.
The lineup from Mirrorworld – vocalist Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose), guitarists Dominik Sebastien (Edenbridge) and Bob Katsionis (Firewind), bassist Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate), drummer Alex Holzwarth (ex-Blind Guardian) and keyboardist Jan Vacik (ex-Dreamscape) – is present and accounted for on Magic, which helps give it some of the stability and consistency Mirrorworld lacked at times. There are no “jeez, I miss Roland Grapow” moments. It also helps that Magic is something of a concept album (or at least tells a story throughout the songs), which gives the album a focal point.
Musically, Magic is a mix of the approaches on As Daylight Breaks and Mirrorworld, which is good since that overall sound is perfect for this band’s unique mix of strengths. It has one foot in the power metal territory of bands like Masterplan, Firewind and Avantasia, and one foot in more melodic/pomp rock territory, recalling Pretty Maids and Magnum at times. It’s very melodic throughout, which helps hook these songs into your subconscious. My favorite tracks on Magic end up being the more storytelling-focused songs like “Binary Magic,” “I Can Do Magic,” “Mr. Nightmist” and “Serious Black Magic,” though the straightforward heavy metal of “The Witch of Caldwell Town” has a major impact as well. The album works best as a complete listening experience though, so you can digest the story and really appreciate the atmosphere that connects each song.
As expected, Urban Breed shines on this album, serving as master storyteller and main character (and generally making me wish he’d get a song or two on the next Avantasia album). He captures the power and yes, magic, of these songs. The musicianship is first-rate as well, especially the guitar work. Between the vocal melodies and the guitar melodies, there’s really no resisting this album.
I’m still floored that Serious Black has given us three albums in three years, and they’ve all been impressive. If I’m ranking the three (and I am), Magic comes out ahead of Mirrorworld and not too far behind As Daylight Breaks. It’s definitely one of my favorite albums of 2017, and one that fans of melodic hard rock and power metal (and all points in-between) will want to hear.
Edition Notes: The limited edition version of Magic comes in a digipack and features a bonus disc titled Live in Atlanta that captures their set at the 2016 ProgPower USA festival. Normally I’d skip live bonus tracks in order to get the jewel case version, but I was at this show (and the band was great), so it’s cool to be able to relive that.
Summary: Conquering the melodic metal world in three easy steps...