Serious Black – Suite 226 Review

It’s no secret that Serious Black has fallen out of favor with me since 2016’s Mirrorworld. I mean, how do you fuck up a recipe as simple as As Daylight Breaks? Furthermore, how do you go from a Grier top-ten pick to a disappointment of the year? Well, it happened. Which found me almost missing out on 2017’s Magic and completely missing out on that same year’s acoustic release, First Light.1 And, when this year’s anticipated new record landed, I almost missed out again. For better or worse, Suite 226 is here with another concept story. This time a deranged lunatic rather than a top-hot magician.2 All I can say is buckle-up, kiddos. If I have to be here, then so do you.

The first thing to note with this new Serious Black release is that it didn’t happen in 2018. After going nonstop since As Daylight Breaks in 2015, the band has been dropping one (or two) albums a year. But, after a slight lineup change and some slowing down, Suite 226 comes to us a good two-years-and-some-change since their last LP. Which is something to be positive about after the dud that is Mirrorworld and the twenty-minutes-too-long release that is Magic.3 Other positives include a significant time chop (Suite 226 clocks in at forty-six minutes) and another focused theme.4 If you’ve read my reviews for the last few albums, this is the best news you’ve heard in years.

Though the goofy, old-school Annihilator-esque vocals of the opener are a bit much, “Let Me Go” has that Dream Evil-like chorus that feels oh-so-good. The chorus to “We Still Stand Tall” is also quite grand. This time, the band uses Kamelots-of-power to support its techno-effected Raunchyness. You’ll find more Kamelot presence in “Solitude Etude” and a big, melodic chorus that bridges the gap between the band’s ballads and groovers.

For more groovers, look no further than “Castiel” and “Heaven Shall Burn.” The first one chugs along like Nightwish, then it delivers the catchiest chorus of the record. The second piece touches on the keywork and orchestrations of Wintersun, growing bigger and mightier with each passing minute. Flip the coin to where “Solitude Etude” and “Fate of All Humanity” lie—on the softer, more melodic side of the band’s sound. But, for all their cheesy ballad-ness, the tear-jerker of the disc is “Come Home.” Like the band’s classic, “Sealing My Fate,” “Come Home” is lighter worthy.

But coming home is one thing. On the “Way Back Home” is another. It’d be the weakest song on the album if it wasn’t for the title-tracked closer. Cruising—very comfortably, might I add—with three-to-five-minute-long songs, Suite 226 decides to close with an eight-minute, forty-five-degree decline with no brakes. As the coda to the album, this song revisits every mood expressed in the last thirty-eight minutes. But it pops too many uppers and downers for one song. The result is a confusing piece that derails the album in its final minutes.

Breed, as always, is on his shit. The riffs are soft and soothing, happy and uplifting, groovy and fist-pumping. The dynamics are respectable and all the instruments play their part. The keys, effects, and soloing add good diversity to the album and the band avoids blockbuster pieces to focus on fluidity. This is a valiant effort by Serious Black as they try to redeem themselves after failing to live up to their debut. The band may never achieve that level again but this wasn’t too bad.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Releases Worldwide: January 31st, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Seriously, where the fuck did that come from?
  2. Though Breed is still wearing that goddamn top hat.
  3. No, I still haven’t listened to the acoustic album.
  4. Compare the concept of Magic versus that of Mirrorworld. Yeah, the focus is better than none at all.
« »