Artist: Serious Black
Album Title: Vengeance Is Mine
Label: AFM Records
Date of Release: 25 February 2022
This is now the third release from Serious Black that I have reviewed within the pages of manofmuchmetal.com and it is safe to say that the results have been rather varied. 2017’s ‘Magic’ scored highly, as it delivered a very positive and enjoyable slab of melodic heavy metal. ‘Suite 226’, their 2020 offering didn’t hit the same level in my opinion and was ultimately rather disappointing. Always one to maintain an air of optimism, I refused to just turn my back on the band. Instead, I have checked out their sixth full-length release, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, and have decided to bring you my thoughts on it subsequently.
The first thing to mention is that previous vocalist Urban Breed is no longer part of the band that began life under the dreaded ‘supergroup’ tag, initially featuring ex-members of Helloween, Blind Guardian, and Tad Morose. Urban Breed, arguably one of the biggest draws for Serious Black announced his departure in 2021, but as seems to be the way with Serious Black, they haven’t hung around, or skulked in the shadows licking their wounds. Instead, they have recruited a gentleman by the name of Nikola Mijić, a Serbian who has guested with Eden’s Curse previously. My impression of the new vocalist is largely positive I think; he has a powerful voice, with a gritty, rough edge, and he isn’t afraid of belting out the big notes to demonstrate his range. For some reason, I can’t shake the vague Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia) similarities, although we’re certainly not in ‘carbon copy’ territory here.
Having therefore dodged the vocal bullet, what of the music itself? I had significant reservations over the output on ‘Suite 226’, finding the experience ultimately frustrating because of the variation in quality. We all know that the clientele involved, including Dominik Sebastian (Guitar), Mario Lochert (Bass), and Ramy Ali (Drums) are very competent musicians – their track record speaks for itself in that regard. However, the resultant music on ‘Suite 226’ and on previous records for that matter, was patchy. Some was excellent, whilst other songs were mediocre at best.
Happily, ‘On Vengeance Is Mine’, I can hear an improvement overall, with a higher standard across more of the album. However, there remains an issue with the band’s quality control, with some tracks here failing to meet the level that I want and expect.
High on the list of gripes in this area is with the lyrics. Melodic metal and power metal have, throughout time, been one of the biggest offenders where awful lyrics are concerned, often falling into the category of ‘cheesy’. I’m all for some fun sentiment in my metal; it certainly doesn’t have to be all about misery and death for me to be on board. But ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ does push things a bit far at times. For a start, the swearing within ‘Out Of The Ashes’ makes me cringe a little – it just doesn’t fit as far as I’m concerned. Then there’s the intro to ‘Queen Of Lies’ which features a telephone exchange between a mother and daughter, the voice acting of which is straight out of a failed daytime soap opera. The lyrics within the song itself aren’t that much better either which is a shame because the song itself is sharp, crunchy, and full of decent melody.
Moving away from the lyrics, I also have a hard time with ‘The Story’, which feels like a cross between a 90s pop-punk ballad, the kind you’d hear on American Pie, and an 80s hair metal ballad, mixed with a bit of West End musical material for good measure. I like a good ballad, but this is just a little bit too much, and is so sweet, my teeth hurt.
That said, the earlier ballad (yes, there are two) is much better and to my personal tastes. It is big, bold, and features some great melodies as well as some of Mijić’s best vocal work anywhere on this record. The grandiose synth orchestrations actually enhance the song too. Remember when I likened Mijić to Tobi Sammet? It’s here that the Edguy or Avantasia references loom largest on ‘Vengeance Is Mine’. You’ve got to love the harsh vocals that appear out of the blue too. Or at least, I do.
In terms of album high points, I actually really like the opening track, ‘Rock With Us Tonight’. Expressive lead guitar breaks, a nice mid-tempo stomp that’s full of simple but crunchy riffing, and a bridge/chorus combination that’s hook laden, memorable, and which carries the confident air of a solid melodic metal track. It’s a similar story for ‘Fallen Hero’ too, which is another cracking song that gets the balance between swagger, heaviness, and melody just about right, culminating in a great chorus that you’ll be humming for days.
One of the best cuts on the album though, has to be ‘Senso Della Vita’ as it has everything that I want to hear in this kind of music. The chorus is delectable, so catchy, so irresistible, but there’s more to the song than that. It has a more grandiose, over-the-top feel to it but unlike other songs, the blend is just about perfect. This is the classic track that demonstrates that Serious Black can really deliver the goods when they get it all right. ‘Soul Divider’ is also really rather infectious too despite having a darker sheen than other songs. Despite being drenched in syths throughout, it’s also one of the heaviest tracks, meaning that it stands out for that very reason. I’m also a fan of the chorus within ‘Just For You’, even if the lyrical content undermines things again just a touch.
When all is said and done, there is a lot to like about this latest creation from Serious Black. When they get it right, the music is undeniably catchy and thoroughly enjoyable. And whilst they get it right more frequently than some previous releases, it still isn’t quite enough to elevate the band massively in my estimations. I’m still very frustrated at points because I just know that the quartet can do even better. Nevertheless, if you are one of the ones that has disagreed with my reviews on this band in the past, I suggest you disregard everything I’ve written here, and dive straight into ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ because you’ll no doubt adore everything about it.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: