When I picked up the debut album of Serious Black for review, I knew nothing about this band. What I did know was that the band name Sirius-ly gives me an uncontrollable urge to hunt down Harry Potter and punch him in the fucking face. But once I decided to review this slab of melodic metal, I discovered that this sum bitch is serious-ly special. A new supergroup made up of current and former members of Tad Morose, Masterplan, Blind Guardian, Edenbridge, Dreamscape, and Visions of Atlantis? WTF?! Serious Black includes songwriters and musicians like Roland Grapow (Masterplan), Thomen Stauch (ex-Blind Guardian), and Urban breed (who needs no introduction from me). Supposedly the project was conceived by Mario Lochart (Emergency Gate, ex-Visions of Atlantis), who in turn convinced Grapow to join. After flipping through their rolodexes, they recruited their team and embarked on a collaborative songwriting journey. The result is As Daylight Breaks. Bad band name aside, this all-star band proves – yet again – that judging a book by its cover is just wrong (you were right, Mom).
Rarely do you find an album that flows as well as this – considering all the chiefs under the Serious Black catering tent. It’s also rich in energy and feels effortless from one track to the next. Opener “I Seek No Other Life” is just straight-up, old-school metal with some speed-happy riffage that would make Dio smile. It’s fun, catchy as all hell, and the 3:00 length swings in, slaps you, and is gone before you know what hit you. The best part about the opener is that while it’s good, it only gets better from here. Next track, “High and Low,” is one of the standout tracks on the album and Jan Vacik (ex-Dreamscape) kicks it off with one of the catchiest keyboard intros I’ve heard in a long time. The rest of the band joins the keys with a pounding Masterplan attack that backs off as breed’s vocals surface with an almost Kamelot-like delivery. Goddamn if that chorus didn’t hook me through the cheek.
“High and Low” is a good example of what to expect from the songwriting; alternating between fist-pumping riffs and sustaining chords/speedy licks that sink into the background so Breed’s vocals can rise to the foreground. Other good examples of this are “Sealing My Fate” and “Akhenaton” (this track cannot be listened to without the preceding intro, “Temple of the Sun”). The latter track sounds like something Iced Earth could have incorporated into Something Wicked This Way Comes. Conversely, tracks like the Blind Guardian-meets-Symphony X ditty “My Mystic Mind” and “Trail of Murder” utilize gallops and fast-picking riffs of old. The former fills the voids with lots of keys and a frenzied guitar solo to close it, and the latter is even more straightforward than the opener; it’s short, upbeat, groovy, and makes me want to pull out my old Blind Guardian stuff to hear more Thomen Stauch.
As Daylight Breaks does a great job of mixing it up in its 40-minute length with songs like the Egyptian-themed “Temple of the Sun”/“Akhenaton” and the tear-jerking title track. Much like the beginning of “Sealing My Fate,” “As Daylight Breaks” is filled with sad pianos and Zippo-waving melodies reminiscent of HammerFall and Snowy Shaw-era Dream Evil. For those that dislike full-blown ballads filled with soft piano chords, sad vocal lines, sobbing guitars, Avantasia-like orchestration, and whimsical Nightwish keyboard flurries that are the audial representation of what fairy dust must sound like, then you are going to fucking hate this song. For me, I keep coming back to this damn song over and over again.
On a negative note, the combination of front-and-center vocals and the high compression makes for an ear-ringing experience at high volumes. I didn’t expect this album to have high dynamics, but it definitely would have been nice to hear them with all the orchestration and Breed’s stellar performance. Otherwise, all of these top-notch musicians can be heard as they bring their experiences to the table and take you on an enjoyable, no frills journey through supergroup-dom.