Serious Black – Mirrorworld (2016) – Review

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Friggin’ Harry Potter is back in his transcendent form of Serious Black – the band. And this only a short year after their remarkable, but still somewhat conflicted, first record As Daylight Breaks.

Their first album 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.

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 with many others of their ilk. And this juggernaut is what kept things interesting with never a boring moment.

So, here comes Mirrorworld, and it’s a different animal. The departure of Roland Grapow (guitars) and Thomen Stauch (drums) got our attention first. Grapow clearly was one of the driving forces behind the project, and his friend Stauch came aboard shortly thereafter. Both are now replaced by Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Outloud) on guitars and Alex Holzwarth (Rapsody of Fire) on drums.

Now, with these two gone, we are now faced with a paradigm shift in their style and musical delivery. But will it be a move to stellar musical soundscapes not heard before? The short answer is no.

At first, things look pretty lively, though. Even if the full-blown intro Breaking the Surface in all its Avantasia-esque splendor fills one with foreboding at first. But then, As Long as I’m Alive and Castor Skies bolt down that fast Power Metal road like there is no tomorrow. Both are tailor-made to the voice of Urban BreedAnd that can be a good or a bad thing, considering.

Whew, so I thought, things look good! Got that one wrong. Starting with Heartbroken Soul this all descends into the realm of the aforementioned Avantasia and the likes with some Tad Morose and Firewind. At times they pull the disco-pop-rock sound The Rasmus (State of my Despair, for instance) like to employ.

In other words, Mirrorworld 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 what happens, if a lot of seasoned, professional experience gets jamming. And the outcome is mostly always high quality. Yet here, I just cannot get to the levels of enthusiasm that should be prevalent with so much veteran power sent into the fray. 

I also really dig the more numerous, high-quality solos on Mirrorworld. This is one of the improvements found on this disk, even if adding a good solo to a medium-quality track does not render it stellar.

The weak second half of the record is not without merits either. 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. Maximizing profits we call that in the corporate world. Only on this record, this tactic won’t get them any brownie points. 

The question is: Does the record stand out from 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 pretty high standard. Fun to listen to, and – for sure – all of that will sound great on stage.

But 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 the extra route has gone astray. I am missing the edge, this oomph that permeated As Daylight Breaks. In a way, the chorus of the title track “Lost in a Mirrorworld” is telling in that respect.

Perhaps Serious Black should have waited with a new release. Until they have their new brand down pat and know where they want to head towards. But then again, perhaps not. The future will tell, if this band can get serious again, or will further rush down this slippery slope to damnation.   

Ed’s note: Urban Breed added a few choice words into the comments section after the release of this review. Those have been deleted as they’re now irrelevant after the rewrite of the post. Now, I just listened to the whole discography that came after 2016. If anything, SB’s performance has worsened, not improved. So, a bit less of tough-guy swagger and a bit more good songwriting may help. Only, for this band, we’re still waiting. Well, after the arrival of Nikola Mijić in 2021, this may change even if the new record of 2022 ain’t really conclusive. We’ll be watching. -RMR 08/2022

Record Rating: 4/10 | Label: AFM Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 9 September 2016

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