Power metal supergroup Serious Black return with their second album Mirrorworld. Since the release of debut album As Daylight Breaks there has been a bit of a line up shuffle. Roland Grapow and Thomen Stauch have both jumped ship to concentrate of their full time projects to be replaced with guitarist Bob Katsionis of Firewind and drummer Alex Holzwarth of Rhapsody Of Fire.
Serious Black play a more melodic brand of power metal with the usual traits of the genre - twin guitar harmonies, a plentiful amount of nifty guitar solos, speedy drumming with tons of double kick, the powerful soaring vocals of singer Urban Breed and of course a fantastic production job. The album is awash with plenty of fist pumping metal anthems with a couple of songs such as Heartbroken Soul and the title track straying into melodic hard rock territory at times.
The danger with supergroups is with the calibre of musicians on show expectations can sometimes be too high and some people may find themselves disappointed with the very straightforward nature of this album. There's nothing new or groundbreaking to hear on Mirrorworlds just plenty of powerful and fun metal anthems which bands like Serious Black do so well. 7/10
Peter Tägtgren brings back his industrial metal side project Pain for album number eight after a five year absence since You Only Live Twice in 2011. He's kept his reputation as one of the busiest and most prolific forces in metal during that time with his production work, the collaboration with Rammstein's Till Lindemann on last year's Lindemann album Skills In Pills plus his output and touring with his most well known music endeavour the mighty Hypocrisy.
Peter manages to bridge a vast number of musical styles and ideas on Coming Home with a big emphasis on a huge symphonic sound (with assistance from Ardek of French symphonic black metallers Carach Angren). This combined with the usual chugging guitars, thunderous drumming (courtesy of Peter's son Sebastian Tägtgren) and dense electronics gives tunes such as A Wannabee and Starseed a very grandiose feel. The sound generally varies throughout the album from the country rock influenced swagger of Designed To Piss You Off, groove heavy chug of Final Crusade, the reflective almost ballad-esque title track and a heavy inclusion of acoustic guitars.
Despite some experimentation in sound this still sounds very much like a Pain album with plenty of insanely catchy and anthemic tunes which will worm their way into your subconscious whether you like it or not. Overall this is a fantastic album and can definitely be seen as one of the highlights in the Pain discography. 8/10
Mantar are a two-piece sludge outfit from Hamburg, Germany. Ode To The Flame is their second full-length album and their debut for Nuclear Blast records. Considering they are only a two-piece (made up of vocalist/guitarist Hanno Klänhardt and vocalist/drummer Erinc Sakarya) Mantar make an impressive amount of noise playing a straightforward no-frills brand of sludge with crushing monolithic riffs, throat shredding vocals and solid but precise drumming.
Song-wise the album ranges from the doom-laden opener Carnal Rising, to more up-tempo rockers such as the single Cross The Cross, to venom-spitting slabs of nastiness such as Schwanenstein. This gives the album a nice amount of variation with no song really outstaying its welcome.
The only thing really holding this album back is the lack of truly memorable songs though I imagine in a live environment some of these songs will absolutely slay. Ode To The Flame overall is a competent slab of crushing sludge metal h although mostly unmemorable will appeal to fans of the genre. 7/10