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Serious Black - Suite 226 Award winner

Serious Black
Suite 226
by Rachel Montgomery at 11 February 2020, 11:12 AM

When I first heard the name SERIOUS BLACK, I honestly thought it was a “Harry Potter” thing, a riff on the infamous criminal wizard from the franchise. But while the guy on the cover art looks like him, wizard rock this ain’t, though the complexity sounds magical. From music veterans who have played in bands such as RHAPSODY, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, and DREAMSCAPE, the band is enjoying a steadily growing fan base. Releasing their fourth studio album since forming five years ago, the band delivers more intensity: harder drums, more complex sets, amid a concept backdrop juxtaposing dreams and reality. After listening to the album, I found their blend of electronic ambiance and Symphonic Metal to be excellent, uplifting, and upbeat throughout.

The opening track “Let Me Go” has a promising ambiance and a kick-ass, hard-hitting riff. The vocals are more traditional, with some interesting stylings in the second verse, contrasting with the more contemporary instrumentals. The chorus is symphonic bombast, complete with orchestral background music and epic melodies. It’s a fist-pumping opener that makes me excited for the rest of the album.

The rest of the album doesn’t disappoint, either. While the songs have a similar structure: an electronic opening followed by instrumentals and a traditional verse-chorus-bridge setup, each song has its own character and energizes the listener. Particular songs stood out as exceptional. “Solitude Etude” has amazing harmonies, an uplifting chorus, and makes good use of an echo effect to really make the song soar. The climbing riffs in “Fate Of All Humanity” and the guitar melody reminds me of an HIM song and are just as tantalizing. The tinking piano juxtaposed with the heavy riff on “Heaven Shall Burn”.

My one complaint is that the vocals can be nasally at times. It’s not too big of a complaint; the less chesty voice goes well with the poppy electronic elements of the album. However, on tracks like “Castiel” and “Way Back Home”, where his voice is more weighted, it’s apparent he can sing clearly and operatically. He can also belt well as noted in the same track. I would have liked to hear more of that.

The slow song doesn’t come until the penultimate track, “Come Home”. The steady beat is constant through the song with no tempo changes, only an intensity bump halfway through. The track relies heavier on electronics through the first verse, until the intensity swells, and a crooning guitar comes in. While it’s a solid song, it’s underwhelming compared to the rest of the tracks.

The closing, titular song “Suite 226” is an eight-minute progressive track with a Far-East-stylized opening. The guitars cut in, contrasting against the higher vocals and lighter instrumentals. The verse of the song is a march with a soaring, anthemic chorus. It slides into a slow, balladic guitar solo in the middle of the song, pierced with crashing drums over a piercing, but smooth guitar melody. I like how the melody flutters; slower notes are interspersed with faster, legato ones that make it sound like a leaf flying in the wind. However, I’m not a fan of the screech-singing that leads into the refrain. The latter is well-constructed, but I think that the falsetto is an element they could have left out.

The one thing I would have loved to hear is an instrumental. The music carries so much weight on its own that one could’ve been composed here, and it would have been great. Overall, the melding of electronic and symphonic metal on this album is engaging and energizing. If you’re a fan of symphonic metal and are looking for a workout album, this could be your new listen at the gym, with the last two songs serving for a cool down or light cardio. If you’re in Europe, it’s already out, but it’s a special Valentine’s Day release for North American fans. Be sure to check it out.

Songwriting: 9
Production: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Let Me Go
2. When The Stars Are Right
3. Solitude Étude
4. Fate Of All Humanity
5. Castiel
6. Heaven Shall Burn
7. Way Back Home
8. We Still Stand Tall
9. Come Home
10. Suite 226
Lineup:
Urban Breed - Vocals
Dominik Sebastian - Guitars
Mario Lochert – Bass
Ramy Ali – Drums
Record Label: AFM Records
     


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