Serious Black: Magic (AFM)
International power metal band Serious Black have been pretty consistent with their releases, they have brought out a new record every year since 2015, when Rich reviewed their last record Mirrorworld and while he enjoyed it he noted that the band was more melodic than many power metal acts with some of the record straying into AOR, this was something I noticed as well, happily the balance has been redressed on their third outing as the opening duo of Binary Magic and Burn! Witches! Burn! definitely ramp up the fury with Helloween style shredding from Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge) and Bob Katsionis (Firewind/Outloud) the order of the day as Alex Holzworth (Rhapsody Of Fire) do what he does best behind the kit by really letting the skins fly.
They do bring in melodic touches here as well though on Now You'll Never Know which has tinkling keys from Jan Vacik but still tough guitar riffs. There seems to be a theme of...well magic...running through this record with numerous mentions of magic (Serious Black Magic, I Can Do Magic) and witches they even have time for some vigilantes on Lone Gunmen Rule which unfortunately is not a tribute to the very underrated X-Files off shoot The Lone Gunmen. Magic certainly gives Serious Black their edge heading back to the German sounding power metal of their debut record, although with Urban Breed's vocals the Teutonic sound was never very far away. Magic is a good record, at 13 tracks there is some filler but for the most part it once again shows there is longevity in this 'supergroup'. 8/10
End Of Green: Void Estate (Napalm Records)
Stuttgart Gothic/Doomsters End Of Green have been spreading miserablism for 25 years and they are still as cataclysmically sorrowful as ever with droning doom metal riffs building around the mournful vocals of Michelle Darkness. The band are a well drilled unit and the songs speak of aging, loss and loneliness but with pearls of optimism buried deep within, Send In The Clowns opens the record like a sprawling dirge of Paradise Lost where Darkness emotively begs begs for the titular clowns, unfortunately no such luck as the mood doesn't lighten on Dark Side Of The Sun where the melancholic slow moving riff meets with Darkness doing his lowest, gravel swallowing vocals that is so reminiscent of the late Pete Steele.
After two heavy hitters things get a bit lighter on The Door and the atmospheric Head Down and the pulsing The Unseen which both have the electronics and layered acoustics of Depeche Mode. End Of Green do depression well with marching doom riffs one minute and some Dire Straits bluesing on Crossroads throwing in The Mission style Green is the colour of hope and as their name states there is an air of hopelessness about their music, these unhappy German's are the ideal soundtrack to your next Goth gathering, they even have a song called Dressed In Black Again to reinforce the dress code. Make sure you get the memo, smiles not required. 7/10
Tower Of Babel: Lake Of Fire (Lion Music)
American guitarist Joe Stump is influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore and Gary Moore and as such so is the music he produced with his band Tower Of Babel who are made up of numerous high profile session men. It's neoclassical hard rock that sounds like Rainbow or Dio, big chunky riffs, explosive fretwork and powerful vocals, these come from Csaba Zvekan who has the identical soulful growl to Jorn.
You get exactly what you'd expect from this record, a rocking rhythm section from Mark Cross and Nic Angileri drives the heavy hitting tracks along as Maestro Mistheria fleshes everything out giving big 80's organs to Addicted and the keys mean Stump can let the shredding do his talking for him on the title track which is a veritable fret-fest as is Midnight Sun If you like Jorn, Dio or Rainbow then you'll love Tower Of Babel, they do nothing new but they do it well enough that it will tide you over until the next Jorn record. 7/10