Another year almost in the books means another album from International supergroup Serious Black. Since forming a few years ago, they have released a new album every year from 2015 onwards. All three records features a lot of songs (too many, really), but 2017’s “Magic” is much fairer to fans who skip the special edition (the previous album has 7 bonus tracks; almost half the album). Given the pedigree of Serious Black’s musicians, one would expect absolutely brilliant material, but fatigue set in even from their very first record. Make no mistake, “Magic” has more than a handful of really solid, hard rocking anthems, but like its predecessors, struggles to maintain its hour runtime.
Musically, “Magic” shows the band maintaining their signature hard-rock infused heavy metal sound. Though the musicians in the band primarily come from power metal backgrounds, it would be fairer to liken Serious Black to more modern power metal that is excessively melodic heavy metal. There is no overwhelming double bass, high-speed shredding solos, or even crazy high-pitched vocals. Instead, the focus is on pleasing melodies led by singer Urban breed. He doesn’t sound quite as strong as at his peak (on Bloodbound’s “Tabula Rasa”), but he continues to have a unique voice. In particular, they really play up the magic theme on this record, with breed taking on the role as the magician. Admittedly, his voice does sound appropriate for this imagery, but there are far too many songs focused on magic on this record (“Binary Magic”, “I Can Do Magic”, “Serious Black Magic”).
The simplistic nature of Serious Black’s music means that “Magic” is a definite grower. Truthfully, this album was a painful listen the first time around, but on subsequent spins, the subtleties of the songs tend to click. The biggest improvement over the last couple of records is that the band slowed down on the ballads. Even the heavier songs avoid being as sappy as they were on “Mirrorworld” (though “Now You’ll Never Know” is definitely the contender on this album). Aside from this, however, “Magic” stays the course. The variation in song quality swings fairly wide, but ultimately comes down to how good the chorus is. There aren’t a lot of extremely memorable melodies, minimal flashy guitar solos, and not too many riffs. This doesn’t sound like Serious Black has much to offer, but it does come together surprisingly well.
The real solution to Serious Black’s problem is to slow down and stop releasing so much material. If you cut this album down to the first 10 songs (including the intro), it’s a digestible 40-minute effort without any weak tracks. It’s easy to see how with an extra year or two, the band could have refined some of these songs into more potent efforts, or even just written better songs to include on the final product. Compared to the neoclassical tinge of “Castor Skies”, for example, nothing on “Magic” even comes close to replicating the same brilliance. Nevertheless, this is a decent record, and is likely to be enjoyed by anyone who has an appreciation for power metal’s turn towards hard rock over the last decade or so.
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"Lone Gunmen Rule"
"Serious Black Magic"
"The Witch of Caldwell Town"
3.7/5 or 74%.