Serious Black – Magic (AFM Records)Sunday, 13th August 2017
How does a relatively new act with seasoned veterans in the metal scene stay relevant in 2017? If you are a sextet like Serious Black – whose members have ties to Tad Morose, Firewind, Rhapsody, Edenbridge, etc. – you keep the new material flowing as if in a bygone 70’s/early 80’s era, as Magic becomes the third consecutive studio album in three years. It’s one thing though to feel you have something consistently to creatively deliver – the ultimate outcome hopefully adheres to quality over quantity. After multiple playbacks, it’s clear the band’s first conceptual record stands out in a world where samplers, processors, and triggers churn out carbon copy, pristine metal records devoid of individuality and integrity – as the band want to make a power metal statement played by humans, for humans.
The story of a mysterious legend Mr. Nightmist, the unfolding of his encounters in Caldwell Town as he tries to lift a witch’s curse, we come to find out the parallels between the curse and Mr. Nightmist’s need to break free from his past – in the end achieving near immortality. Makes this scribe think back to the days of Charles Dickens as far as literature inspiration, a welcome diversion from typical dragons, warriors, and battle-laden fare for word topics. After a short, carnival barker style intro, “Binary Magic” leads the listener into a strong start, the dual guitar harmony accents from Bob Katsionis and Dominik Sebastian along with a firm rhythm riff foundation to recall the excellence of mid 80’s Iron Maiden along with proper semi-progressive tempo transitions. The follow up “Burn! Witches Burn!” keeps momentum on high, thanks to the proper fill /double kick mechanics from Alex Holzwarth along with the panning of main/background vocals which Urban Breed keeps front and center as he continues to maintain upper tier metal singer status.
Serious Black are a rarity in keeping the guitar/keyboard ratios more in favor of the former- although there are times where the ivory tinkling takes the lead, Jan Valick delivering some Helloween meets Sonata Arctica-ish memorable lines during “Lone Gunmen Rule”. The versatility from multiple songwriters within the six-piece spans the emotional gamut – exploring more of a Kamelot/symphonic feel for “I Can Do Magic”, a slight 70’s-ish dance swing feel musically during the bridge for “Serious Black Magic”, or just a straightforward commercial anthem template for “True Love Is Blind”- ensuring maximum listener engagement all the way through. The dramatic ballad closer “One Final Song” has that theatrical/ Savatage flare, along with a bit of Queen in terms of the shifting choir action and ends the record in grand style.
Knowing what they want and delivering on their power metal promise, Magic is indeed magical – putting Serious Black in a caliber rarely seen from a group not even four years old.