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WLM Reviews: Serious Black – Magic

August 19, 2017

Three years in existence and three albums under their collective belt. I’ve been on the Serious Black bandwagon since the inception and now have the opportunity to review their third album, this time a concept recording called Magic on AFM Records.

While it appeared at the beginning that the band might just be a Power Metal supergroup, it’s now apparent that this project is really a band. Serious Black has been consistent in its short existence, cranking out top shelf melodic Power Metal like we have on Magic. As with many PM bands, the essential characteristic that sets the fantastic ones apart from the merely good or average often is the singer. Serious Black, of course, has one of the best and most compelling in the genre in Urban breed. I’ve been a fan of breed’s since the first time I heard his work with Tad Morose. He has the quality of intonation and powerful delivery that I gravitate towards. Meeting him also contributed to my admiration, as he seemed humble and basically down to earth.

On Magic, we have what is, at its core, a love story inhabiting a world of “Serious Black Magic” – see what they did there? The concept seems to apply only to the lyrical content, as musically there is little that would constitute a theme or motif throughout, though the closing song mimics the chord progression of the intro track. There are both wonderfully heavy sections and flowing melodic passages present. As a whole, the music is solid. Perhaps spectacular in places, simply decent in others. That’s not to say it’s poorly done – it’s not. Urban’s contribution is what sets it apart for me. If that band had another singer (save for the handful in my upper echelon – Franck, Allen, Lande, Block, K├╝rsch, Basse, et. al.), I don’t think they would be nearly as successful nor as recognizable as the rest of the Power Metal crowd. Having breed fronting the group gives them a distinct advantage.

Binary Magic kicks off the story, a song of the dichotomy of things – black or white, wrong or right. It’s an up tempo track with an interesting riff during the verse and a catchy chorus, one that is bound to be stuck in your head. Following comes Burn Witches, Burn, a mid-paced rocker full of melody, vocal harmonies, and driving triplet energy. Lone Gunman Rule takes it up a notch, both in speed and aggression, although the chorus is as melodic as anything else on Magic. Now You’ll Never Know approaches ballad territory and certainly it the closest to being a “love song” on the album. Not a bad track, not a great one either. I Can Do Magic is more of the same good stuff. Especially enjoying the guitar leads and melodies throughout the song. What might be considered the title track, Serious Black Magic, is one of the best songs of the work. It’s one of the more intense songs – as intense as a melodic Power Metal band gets anyway. Either way, it’s one of the better tunes.

Skeletons on Parade proves to be a packet of intensity also. I think this is one of breed’s better performances on the album. Once again, Serious Black cranks out an infectious chorus, one that should worm its way into your ears. Mr. Nightmist, our protagonist, is one of the weaker songs on Magic. While a key element of the story, the song itself doesn’t do a whole lot for me. On the other hand, The Witch of Caldwell Town is a bit of a smoker. Blazing fast at points and discernibly heavy, with a fantastic solo section, it’s an all around great song – although the latter part does take the aggression down a step. True Love Is Blind is another song bordering on a ballad, but actually coming across more as an example of Hard Rock than a Metal ballad. Again, not bad but not blowing me away either. Just Kill Me seems a bit more uplifting than the title might imply. The guitar leads are nicely done and the melodies are hardly depressive. Lyrically it’s once again about Nightmist’s love for the witch. The penultimate track, Newfound Freedom is a typical upbeat Power Metal song, somewhat in the vein of thousands of other PM attempts. One Final Song is, you guessed it, the final song. It’s the most “epic sounding” of any of the tracks on Magic. Building from a soft piano intro to a Queen-like passage, it finally morphs into a somewhat grandiose song. It’s a fitting conclusion.

Here is Serious Black Magic:

Magic is a bit long at an hour, but that’s the amount of time Serious Black needed to tell the story. Normally concept albums are either fantastic or awful. This one is actually somewhere in between. I prefer when there are recurring musical themes, but that’s not a requirement. I’ve heard the story so now I’ll just try to enjoy the music side of it.

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