Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AllMediaReviews Music Essential: Superior


Sometime in 1996 or '97, back when the "Ytsejam Email list" was set up, this German band's debut album Behind for some reason got praised to no end for maybe a month or more. Ironically, I wasn't actually a subscriber to it, but I recall finding archives of "The Jam" as they called it and saw all the worshiping emails. So I took the plunge and ordered it from Impulse Music, my favorite new import company who also introduced me to prog metal/bands-for-dream-theater-fans Without Warning, Metropolis and later Angra.

I gave it maybe one or two listenings, and while I liked some of it, I didn't really follow all the heavy words or even comparisons to Dream Theater. I remember thinking the band Metropolis (who are also from Germany) were so much better than these guys, yet nobody on the jam/online prog/dream theater fan-base knew Metropolis.

Well Metropolis, I kind of lost some of my passion for, but one day after thinking/saying/posting online, Superior were "annoying thrash with piano," and seeing some surprising responses, I decided to give them another shot. And I began to appreciate their differences to Dream Theater. They really didn't sound much like Dream Theater. Their singer Michael Tangerman had a deeper voice than LaBrie. They used piano as a texture mainly. And their music was darker. Even the guitar work, while dense and versatile like Petrucci really was not nearly as focused on shredding and technicality, as power and force.

So then I began to really love Behind, namely the 1st couple of tracks "The Truth Ain't Kind" especially "Why" which is probably one of the best "progressive metal" songs ever written. So, I eventually checked out their 2nd album Younique which was quite different in a lot of ways. Incorporating lounge-y jazz and latin elements among other differences. But ultimately, it became a record I preferred over Behind.

My favorite track probably being "Nothing" which is one of those songs that sounds like it ends, but then repeats a section in a great way. Younique even had my favorite singer (especially at the time) Andre Matos of Angra on the track "Detect: Myself."

A year or 2 after enjoying both records a fair amount, I saw them at ProgPowerUSA live, which was kind of a big deal. They were the 1st band of the weekend to play, and really impressed most who caught their performance. Enough, the founder had a video of "Why" uploaded to the festival site I recall.

They ended up playing some new music at that show, that wound up on their 3rd and final album Ultima Ratio. Ultima Ratio was kind of a concept or even rock opera of sorts about an apocalypse with a deity coming to save the world. it was a bit religious in tone. Some comments mentioned it to almost be like a sequel to Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime. And that comparison both conceptually and musically, wasn't far off. Although like O:M, the concept never sucked me in enough to get attached to it. And that's why I regard it as the worst of Superior's three lps. However, it still has a number of good songs on it. "Fallen" "Broken" come to mind. It was certainly ambitious and at least different, and it could be seen as them being "progressive" in some ways I suppose.

The band had a 4th record in the can New World Order that was expected to come out sometime around 2007 or 2008. But the ole money issue killed it and the band's existence sadly. Insideout Music never even picked them up like they should have.

They did at least put out a double live disc and a rarities/demos that go back to the late 80's. So at least for fans there is more than just the 3 lps worth of material to have.

Superior were one of a number of interesting bands doing "progressive metal" that came after Dream Theater. And it's sad to know and see many other bands around who are far more blatantly derivative of Dream Theater, than them. They were unique (no pun intended) in many ways. And to this day, I feel it's pretty fucking sad how little recognition and familiarity they have, even among Dream Theater fans. Many of those fans, probably were not around in the late 90's when they were kind of the cat's ass. But their music is still out there to hear, so perhaps they'll find some new fans at some point like many disbanded bands seem to do.

Albums: Younique, Behind
Songs: Why, Nothing, Free-Minded, Detect: Myself, Broken, The Truth Ain't Kind