It’s really kind of hard to believe that SERIOUS BLACK has only been around for about three years – supergroups generally don’t last all that long, and they usually don’t crank out quality albums every year like clockwork. Here we are, though – the band is back with their third release, Magic (out August 25 on AFM Records) and it’s a doozy of a disc! It’s a concept album that tells the story of Mr. Nightmist, a “figure, through generations, shrouded in mystery and legend.” Not to ruin the story or anything, but it’s a fairly elaborate tale of witchcraft, seduction, and a bit of personal redemption. The lyrics do a fine job of relating the concept to the listener while remaining catchy and accessible.
Bob Katsionis and Dominik Sebastian have done an amazing job with the guitars again, and in comparison to last year’s Mirrorworld, this disc has a much more guitar oriented sound – Jan Vacik’s keyboards are still an important part of the mix, but they rarely come to the front and dominate as they did on a number of songs on the first two albums. Mario Lochert’s bass playing is as tight as always, and Alex Holzwarth’s drumming is just as good as we’ve all come to expect from him over the years.
Urban breed created the story of Mr. Nightmist for the album, and his delivery of the vocals really bring the story to life. Urban has always had a seriously evocative style to his singing, and he’s definitely not slacking off with this one. The lyrics are a little darker than I’ve come to expect from SERIOUS BLACK’S music, but they fit the story perfectly and suck you in; the fact that Urban could sing the dictionary and it would sound beautiful is completely irrelevant in this case. I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed that there were no songs with Jan singing lead or sharing vocals with Urban – “Dying Hearts” and “Emotional Blackmail” from Mirrorworld are two of my favorite songs by the band, but the album itself does just fine with Urban handling all of the singing.
The music is generally very uptempo – some of my favorite faster tracks are “The Witch of Caldwell Town”, “Newfound Freedom”, and “Skeletons on Parade”, which starts out slowly and builds into a nice headbanger with some really fun soloing in the second half of the song by both Jan and Bob. “Now You’ll Never Know” may be the catchiest song on the album, and has the feeling of a ballad but without a slow pace. Finally, “One Final Song” starts out as a crooner, and takes a left turn about halfway through and gets a really eerie atmosphere, before ending up with a huge swelling crescendo.
The entire album is really quite beautiful, and while none of the individual tracks stand out as a world beater to me, the package as a whole is the important thing here; it’s very well worth the investment, and anyone who loves some good melodic power metal needs to check this out. Additionally, the limited edition contains a bonus disc with the entire concert of their 2016 performance at ProgPower USA, which was an amazing show that I can’t wait to relive all over again. Pick this one up on Friday.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM