Serious Black - Suite 226

Serious Black Suite 226 cover
Serious Black
Suite 226
AFM records
“Suite 226” is the fourth proper album of Serious Black, a band that started as a promising, culmination of famous musicians, with many departures plaguing them and driving them down to a core four piece band at present. The somewhat rapid succession of albums as well, on a rhythm of one per year, didn’t do them any favors, with the band having now given up some three years of, off time before coming up with a new album.
In this bizarre concept, we’re introduced to the anonymous inhabitant of room 226 of a wretched psychiatric ward, who’s after being locked up for years, keeps deluding, thinking he’s a feudal lord, who’s enjoying life’s finest luxuries…
The album certainly starts off furiously, with the ravings of the aforementioned madman, introducing “Let It Go” and acting as its verses, with a nice melodic chorus evening things out.
And something that jumps out immediately is the less than ideal mix/production.
“When the Stars are Right” is the first single of the album and it keeps things rolling smoothly, trying to keep up the mysterious atmosphere, while making forays into a more melodic direction.
It comes with a video with pretty mediocre green screening; it tries to hide by parkinsonian cam shake. Things also don’t improve mix wise.
“Solitude Etude” has some nice ideas, but also a pretty busy mix, which, while not terrible, feels pretty cluttered, thus diminishing the returns of investing in all the different parts in order to impress, with bass and drums particularly muddying things up.
Urban Breed offers a refined performance on “Fate of All Humanity” that however barely cuts through the louder moments of the song, where the boomy mix doesn’t let things breathe…
“Castiel” is quite varied and I am pretty sure, I would have enjoyed it a fair bit, if it didn’t suffer from productions woes, as it does. Just too much compression.
“Heaven Shall Burn” is not particularly imaginative, leaving Breed to try and “sell” the track, which he almost manages to get away with, given that there isn’t much to go on this track, other than his neat vocal melodies.
“Way Back Home” is far more melodic and substantial, but still relies quite heavily on Breed to make sure it seals the deal.
The hi-teck, too flash intro of “We Will Stand Tall” that then takes a turn into a heavier and darker sounding number, feels a little out of place as does in part; the conclusion of its chorus, which feels as it escaped some Helloween album. Unusually happy elements in a song that’s principally rather dramatic.
“Come Home” is an electric, slower song – let’s call it a ballad – that sort of works, despite suffocating due to the loudness that pushes what should be a barely audible guitar to being quite dominant.
Lastly, while somehow one would expect it to come earlier – as a part of the story – “Suite 226” acts as both the culmination, but also synopsis of the story, as the nameless asylum patient is breaking out (at least in his mind).
Despite the album’s membership decimation, “Suite 226” feels like something the band did spent some time developing, thus the lack of say maybe some more impressive solos, as well as a more reasonable mastering that wouldn’t compress everything so badly are sore thumbs that do prick themselves in ways that are hard to ignore. An album that could have ended up much better than it has and not necessarily due to the performances.