Serious Black - MirrorworldI can’t believe it’s already been a year since Serious Black‘s fantastic debut As Daylight Breaks. An album that proved dream teams can exist and can work. Not only that, but this supergroup achieved it via a style that rarely receives RotY nods from yours truly. Urban Breed, et al. even had El Cuervo singing along to tunes like “High and Low” and “Sealing My Fate” whilst leaving the AMG restrooms in terrible condition for the n00bs to clean up. And now, a year and change later, Serious Black is back with Mirrorworld. But it’s not the same old Serious Black. For one, Grapow and Staunch are gone. Replaced by guitarist Bob Katsionis (Constantine, Firewind) and drummer Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire, ex-Avantasia, ex-[Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire]). I don’t wan to bash these two chaps for being the “new guys,” but there’s always a chance things will be a-changin’ for a band when the lineup shifts. And things have changed. But is it for the better?

Perhaps this shift in quality is the result of releasing two albums in two years. Or, perhaps, it’s due to simple fate. Whatever the reason, the cohesiveness and songwriting on Mirrorworld is a big step down from As Daylight Breaks. The debut may have been a large platter of cheese. But it was a vastness of exotic, pricey cheese; each being unique in color, taste, and texture. I reviewed it, I adored it, I praised it, and I even gave it my #4 slot at the end of 2015. But Mirrorworld doesn’t come close to it.

And opener, “Breaking the Surface,” doesn’t dispel the fear that something is up. This two-minute instrumental is a full-orchestral piece straight from a Tolkien battle. It isn’t upsetting or unpleasant, but it is odd when compared to the rest of the material. It’s clear that the opener pushes the envelope and allows the band to spread its wings, but it has nothing else on the album that supports it. The only other track that comes close to it is the title track. “Mirrorworld” opens with a John Carpenter-esque introduction before transitioning into the “epic” number of the album. Though it has a nice Dio-like, ’80s metal feel to it, the song is a five-minute journey into bloated sappiness.

Actually, Mirrorworld has a decent amount of old-school metal seeping from its melodic/power-metal pores. The aisles of “As Long as I’m Alive” and closer “The Unborn Never Die” are littered with holy books from Metal Church and watched by the evil eyes of Dio. They have quick tempos, catchy choruses, and loads of nostalgia. But their simplicity makes them quite predictable. These songs also feel out-of-place on Mirrorworld; boxing-in cheesy numbers like “Heartbroken Soul,” “Dying Hearts,” and “State of My Despair”—three songs that feel more like Serious Black than anything else on the record.

Serious Black 2016

“Heartbroken Soul” and “Dying Hearts” have that soft mozzarella-cheese quality to them that I loved from the debut. The former uses a classic, bass-led riff to frame the song’s verse before it unleashes a tree’s worth of sap into its high-soaring chorus. “Dying Hearts,” on the other hand, coats its guitar licks in loads of power-metal synths that builds into a chorus of pure dairy emotion. “State of My Despair” also skips down the same synth-paved roads as “Dying Hearts,” but Urban breed’s vocals and the heart-wrenching guitar leads make it my favorite of the three.

When you stack Mirrorworld up against your typical power-metal releases, it ain’t such a bad album. But when it goes one-on-one with As Daylight Breaks, this new outing is a bummer. Not only does the album lack flow and consistency, but even Urban breed’s vocals seem weak when compared to its predecessor. As far as production goes, Mirrorworld‘s master is what I expected. It’s loud (dropping more times than not into DR4 territory), but the balance in the mix is solid (sometimes pushing the guitars to the front in songs like the Symphony X-esque “Castor Skies”). You can tell the band set out to explore new territories, but Mirrorworld feels lost in its new surroundings.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: serious-black.com | facebook.com/seriousblackofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 9th, 2016

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  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    At this point I’m doubtful Thomen is physically able to stay in one band for over an hour anymore.

  • El_Cuervo

    :(

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Right? :(

  • The embedded song reminds me a lot of classic Tad Morose, which is a very good thing.

    • El_Cuervo

      This embedded track is one of the only tracks that I really liked. The rest is so average. What was a 4.5 for me down to a 2.5 is cry-worthy.

      • I hate when that happens.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Crying?

  • madhare

    Hopelessly generic. Well, recycling is trendy and the moral thing to do, right? Maybe that’s why here we have now just recycled music and music video, but also recycled band members. I hope bands as well as producers/directors will soon realise that it’s time to stop doing post-apocalyptic videos. Yawn.

  • Diego Molero

    I refuse to listen to a band that call themselves Serious Black but aren’t really serious about the black part.

    • [not a Dr]

      They do look serious enough to get unicorned by lightning.

  • Wilhelm

    …sounds bland, the compressed production makes it sound mechanized. I loved Urban Breed in Tad Morose but not here where he sound nondescript. That happy chorus is annoying and generic too, I much prefer the anger and darkness of the early power/prog Black Mark bands.

    • In addition to the first Serious Black album, another Urban Breed project you might want to consider is 2012’s Trail of Murder – Shades of Art album. Another side project of his thats of pretty good quality. Its worth a listen if you yearn for the old Tad Morose days.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        That’s an outstanding album.

      • Yes, the Trail or Murder album is really good.

      • brutal_sushi

        Thanks for that! Love me some Urban Breed

        • And check out Bloodbound’s early albums like Nosferatu and Tabula Rasa which featured Breed. They were both very good.

      • jetblindracos

        Thanks.

      • BaboonKing

        Shades of Art was fantastic, one of his best works. Have you checked Project Arcadia? Slightly different style (and it doesn’t reach the heights of Trail of Murder) but still worth checking out, with some outstanding tunes.

  • What a shame, I agree with the Doctor in that the first album was a huge surprise for me and ended up on my year end top 10 list as well. It’s still in semi-regular rotation for me and I had been looking forward to what Urban Breed would do next. Sadly, it looks like this is a step backward.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      It’s a huge bummer.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I had no idea Serious Black is (was?) actually a good band until reading this. I just gave As Daylight Breaks a listen and I’m flabbergasted that I overlooked such a good power metal record – guess I wrote them off because of their name. Shame that the follow up is taking some serious flack.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yeah, the name still annoys me, but that debut was awesome.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The embedded track is pretty good… If this is a disapointment compared to the previous album, the previous album must really kick ass.

  • Excentric_13073

    HA! I love the low-budget music video! CRT monitor at 4:25!

  • LGT

    My way of finding palatable power metal that scores lower than 4.5 is to study the picture of the band pasted into the review(Gloryhammer and Sabaton didnt disappoint me on this). No effort went into that photo and that dude on the right looks like a fan that photoshopped himself in next to his favourite band. I think i’ll give this one a miss.

    • 1 Screaming Dizbuster

      If you haven’t already check out the new Dark Forest – Beyond the Veil. Kicks some Serious ass (pun intended)

      • jetblindracos

        Truly.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    It looks like they’ve dropped a bit of coin on the promo clip too… not sure if that was so wise.
    Song is catchy… disappointing that the album doesn’t do it for you as you were one of their biggest champions!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Right? It’s almost heart-breaking. But, at this rate, we should have their third by next year. So, maybe that’ll be better.

  • Jozo90

    Speaking of Power Metal? I know that you can’t review everything, but why didn’t you review any of Dynazty’s 2 latest albums? They have gone from a mediocre sleaze rockband to one of the freshest sounding Power / Heavy metal bands in recent years.

    Their latest album “Titanic Mass” are one of the best albums of the year if you ask me.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Interesting. I need to track them down and see what’s up. Don’t recognize the name from the promo sheets.

      • Jozo90

        Do it mate, you won’t regret it!

  • JohnC

    Unlike Vicious Rumors, the cheesiness of the music lives up to the band photo, album cover, and video

  • itsmydamnation

    without listening to the whole album yet im totally going to blame the drop in quality in lack of Thomen, he just brings music alive!

  • Shane R

    On this endeavour, they sound like vintage Hammerfall with a nod to Sonata Arctica – but quite derivative. It’s okay, nothing more.