Serious Black – Mirrorworld (2016) – Review

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RockmusicRaider Review - Serious Black - Mirrorworld - Album CoverHarry Potter is back in his transcendent form of Serious Black – the band. And this only a short year after their astonishingly powerful firstling As Daylight Breaks. I still remember when I hit the play button the first time. It felt like being in a jet fighter taking off. Bang it went, and you just hoped, you got these shock absorbing seats that could take the brunt of the attack. And clearly at first we thought that this bunch of old guys (well, yeah..) were not able to punch this one through. How wrong: All seasoned musicians, the band pulled this off beautifully and got us a really powerful record to enjoy. This first album played often on RockmusicRaider’s music systems and still does today.

Okay, agreed! This first album was a motley selection of tracks kind of thrown helter-skelter at the emerging fan crowd. But their brand of Power Metal powered out of the speakers with gusto and without the friggin’ cheese that we have to suffer through on many others of their ilk. And this juggernaut is what kept things interesting with never a boring moment.

So, here comes Mirrorworld. And what have we got?

The departure of Roland Grapow (guitars) and Thomen Stauch (drums) is the first odd thing to strike you. Roland clearly was one of the driving forces behind the project and his friend Thomen coming aboard shortly thereafter. Both being replaced by Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Outloud) on guitars and Alex Holzwarth (Rapsody of Fire) on drums. Now, with these two gone, will we be faced with a paradigm shift in their style and musical delivery?

And we all knew that keeping pace with this kind of power in your #metal would be difficult at best. Now, unhappily, the quality of this record lost a lot of its freshness over the first. Kind of an anticlimax, with high expectations going into the record, then finding that the mainstream bug has struck.  

At first, things look pretty lively.

Even if the full-blown intro Breaking the Surface in all its Avantasia-esque splendour fills one with foreboding. But then, As Long as I’m Alive and Castor Skies bolt down that fast Power Metal road like there is no tomorrow. Both tailor-made to the voice of Urban Breed. Whew, I thought! Got that one wrong, right?

Well, hell no. Starting with Heartbroken Soul this all descends into the realm of Avantasia and the likes, mixed with some Tad Morose and Firewind. At times they pull the disco-pop-rock sound The Rasmus liked to employ in their earlier days. In other words, Mirrorworld – signed to AFM Records – firmly joins the Fantasy and Power Metal crowd, down to style and intonation. Gone is the crusty, kind of hellfire energy seen in the first record. And this is a shame!

Now, the cheese is still held at bay and all that jazz is delivered with stellar musicianship. It always shows if a lot of seasoned, professional experience gets jamming and the outcome is always high quality. I really dig the more numerous, high quality solos on Mirrorworld. This is one of the improvements found on this disc, even if adding a good solo to a medium quality track does not render it stellar.

This sadded second half of the record is not without merits neither. Just try out You’re not Alone that rocks off with a reasonable speed and energy. Mirrorworld – the title track – and The Unborn Never Die deserve some merit too. But apart from that there is this synthesized tendency to focus on enlarging the fan crowd all over these tracks.

The question is: Does the record stand out of the crowd?

If I were to judge Mirrorworld as a standalone, then it would fit slam into the European-led Power Metal crowd, no questions asked. Rock solid, good quality, professional execution at a very high standard. Fun to listen to and for sure all that will sound great on stage.

As it happens, we are comparing this record with their first concoction. And here, a lot of the spontaneous freshness, energy and this willingness to go another route has gone astray. I am missing the edge, this oomph that permeated As Daylight Breaks. In a way, the chorus line of the title track  ‘Lost in a Mirrorworld’ is telling in that respect. Perhaps they should have waited with releasing new material until their new brand identity is firmly established. But then, perhaps not.    

*****

Record Rating: 5/10 | Label: AFM Records | Web: Official Site

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