Hot off the Press

Serious Black | Magic

by Franco Cerchiari
– Sr. Columnist —

For fans of Aldaria, Vanishing Point, Lords of Black, Astralion, or Sinbreed, Serious Black featuring members of some of the finest Power Metal bands around (Helloween, Blind Guardian, Tad Morose, Firewind), have released this new album, Magic, on the AFM Records label.

A concept album, vocal God Urban Breed (Bloodbound, Tad Morose, Pyramaze) and his band of Metal’s heavyweights take on the subject of the fantasy and mystery behind the practice of magic, as the album tells the account of the story’s lead character, Mr. Nighmist, as he relives his youth, and his decision to return to Caldwell Town. As the story plays out, one learns that all is not well, as the people of Caldwell Town begin to feel betrayed, as a curse is now gripping the residents as a witch resolves to put her evil spell on those who cross her path. While all the while Mr. Nighmist must come to terms with his feelings of a lost true love, his desire to return to her, while at the same time using magic to help his people in their time of crisis. An incredible story to tell indeed, so after learning the tale behind Magic, it becomes even more significant that the lyrics tell the saga at hand, and keep those lyrics strong, as parallel themes of romance, evil, fear, and longing also creep their way into the storyline.

As for the feel of Magic, it is energetic and active, with always something to listen to. The sound is melodic and full, the talents of all the band members are evident, and several of these songs are catchy and made for a fantastic listen. The idea of a taking on the duties of releasing a concept album is a tricky one. Lyrics have to make sense, the music well played and the sound has to be filled with passions and emotion. When taking on such a topic as magic, that subject becomes even harder to write songs about, as it is difficult at best to write lyrics about magic, opposed to say, love, mythical creatures, or travels to faraway lands. But here, the band does an admirable job.

With a sound somewhere between Power Metal and Melodic Metal, with the vibe of Sonata Arctica, and Kamelot also shining through, the music of Magic is friendly and inviting. By the end of the CD the story plays out nicely and each song gives way in fine fashion to the song after it. A note must be made to the overall sound, as it was brilliant, and so easily heard was each individual note, and as these notes made up individual musical bars, it all mixed together well, and one can tell the producer made it a point to keep the music focused and not meander. The vocals of the always-great Urban Breed was as good as one would expect from such a veteran singer. Vocal harmonies coming from the choruses were terrific, the keyboards and guitar work was a standout, together they meshed well, and the rhythm section kept these songs moving forward at an even pace.

Opening Magic is the short introduction “A Tip Of The Hat,” that introduces the listener to Mr. Nighmist, the album’s leading man who welcomes all to his world as he starts on his journey to his understanding of the world of magic and wanting to help those in need. Thus the music kicks off in earnest and each band member delves right in using each individual instrument to accentuate the tale at hand.

From there, listen to the dark tone of “Burn! Witches Burn!” the eerie acoustic guitars of “Skeletons On Parade,” the heavy vibe of the furiously fast CD highlight, “The Witch Of Caldwell Town,” (god, pay attention to the keyboards on this one,) the hard hitting but pure Melodic sound of “Lone Gunmen Rule.” The mid tempo “Now You’ll Never Know” features the incredible piano work of the supremely talented Jan Vacik, while “I Can Do Magic” is the very definition of Power Metal as the music soars, the guitars are harmonic, and the vocals layered while fantastic keyboards lay a solid melody. “True Love Is Blind” was excellent, and again on “Just Kill Me” and on “One Final Song” a gorgeous piano is these songs highlight.

So in conclusion Magic does take itself extremely seriously. But in its defense, it has to. Imagine an album taking on such a topic as magic and listening to ridiculous lyrics and thus the story gets lost, then quickly boredom sets in, and it becomes a chore to sit through. Here though, Urban Breed and company do what they do well. Overall, this is a great collection of songs, with its strong points being, of course, the story, the voice of Breed, and the musicianship of all the band members.

Genre: Melodic Metal, Power Metal

Band Members:
Urban Breed – vocals
Bob Katsionis – guitars
Dominik Sebastian – guitars
Jan Vacik – keyboards
Alex Holzworth – drums
Mario Lochert – bass

Track Listing
1. With A Tip Of The Hat
2. Binary Magic
3. Burn! Witch Burn!
4. Lone Gunman Rule
5. Now You’ll Never Know
6. I Can Do Magic
7. Serious Black Magic
8. Skeletons On Parade
9. Mr. Nightmist
10. The Witch Of Caldwell Town
11. True Love Is Blind
12. Just Kill Me
13. Newfound Freedom
14. One Final Song

Label: AFM Records

Web: www.serious-black.com

Hardrock Haven rating: 8.8 Stars (8.8 / 10)

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