AFM Records [Release date 31.01.20]
“Suite 226” is seriously good Serious Black. The band have taken a lot of flak over the variable quality of their last couple of albums. Which isn’t surprising, knowing that the band’s refusal to conform to metal’s pigeonhole conventions makes music critics uncomfortable.
Despite what you may have read, it’s not a “concept album”. There is no larger purpose or meaning here, this is “Rock Opera” at its best. The “madman incarcerated” story plays its part, especially on theatrical tracks, like the splendid ‘When The Stars Are Right’ and ‘Fate Of All Humanity’. Both are lightfooted, fluent and impressive, each gilded by a heartstopping hook.
Standouts, ‘Solitude Etitude’ and ‘Castiel’ start slow then switch swiftly up through the gears, their heated Gothic textures blossoming quickly into symphonic rock magic carpet rides. At first their destination seems uncertain, but they’re clearly in a hurry to get there.
The band’s vocalist, Urban Breed, excels. He could be pushing his multi octave range into our face at every opportunity, but instead, he alternates his thigh slapping, foot on the monitor howl on the big production numbers, with an elegantly contoured whisper, coming on like Per Gessle on the straightahead melodic rock of ‘Way Back Home’.
There are one or two minor missteps on the way, but they up to nothing by the time we get to the tightly structured title track, ‘Suite 226′, the magnificent 8 minute, climatic mini rock opera that closes the album. It is a provocatively tense journey through all the styles previously deployed, tying together the musical exhuberance, high calibre songwriting and sheer rock and metal invention that went into the previous 9 tracks. No more powerful way to close an outstanding album. ****
Review by Brian McGowan
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