Superior - Ultima Ratio

Year of Release: 2002
Label: NTS / Wagram
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:49:00

"Behold, worse than the malice of the Shepard is the ignorance of his herd"

Thus begins the concept behind Superior's new concept disc, Ultima Ratio, a true, modern, concept complete with story, sound effects, heroes, villains, etc. Immediately upon release, the disc was compared to Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime, for obvious reasons. Without breaking down the entire comparisons, let's just say that I'm sure the sound effect,s like the closing / slamming door, evil voices saying "kill him", etc., prompted more than one person to feel this way. Upon further listens and total absorption, it's apparent that Superior certainly have carved their own piece of stone out of the concept wall, and it's aptly fitting that a band of this talent and ability write their own piece of art. Visit the web site to find out the complete story [presented in a very cool manner via Flash - ed.], but suffice it to say that Superior did not hold back in the lyrical dept. Instead of having a booklet to follow the story, a poster was included containing the lyrics, which shows you how intricate and thorough the band was in coming up with a concept. Superior promised something big and different for this disc, and they weren't pulling any punches.

Superior (© Superior)Of course, the band isn't without its criticisms from people who wanted Behind - Part II, or the Younique fans who were disappointed that the band strayed from the experimental / progressive direction that they were going in with those discs. In the long run, I don't think Superior is as concerned with the direction they are going in as much as they are with creating quality, artistic, and music that sounds and feels like Superior at any given moment. In the case of Ultima Ratio, Superior has certainly come up with another winner of a disc in spite of being different from anything they have done previously. I would certainly call it "progressive" for this fact alone - it's something they have not done previously, and it certainly doesn't sound like anything they have done in the past.

Musically, the disc is more in the melodic metal style, although still containing the signature Superior CRUNCH and melodies that the band is known for and why fans keep coming back for more. The disc is broken up into 15 songs, each one a different feel from the next. The music ranges from the opening, crunching groove-laden "Ultra", to the incredible ballad "Fallen" in which Michael Tangermann finally gets to sing with an equally talented female singer. Track 7, "Reach For Reign" is an uncharacteristically speedy song, but for the most part, the band sticks with a certain melodic groove that just grabs you by the ears and compels you to listen to the entire disc. Track 13, "U R Resistance", seems to be the disc climax, as well as showing the true vocal abilities of Michael Tangermann. The band never loses its signature heavy, crunching guitar sound, yet has come up with tons of melodies and warmth to appeal to most any metal head.

The band is as tight as ever musically. There seems to be less keyboard use this time around, with more of a background use than a complementary use. More strings dominate this time than the piano, and the organ is back as well. I imagine that the heavy use of strings that always accompanied the intros on Operation: Mindcrime is part of the reason that it's gotten that comparison as there are many string intros and endings ala OM, but it never gives me the impression that this is a Queensryche style disc. To me, it's a Superior disc with more strings. A nice piece of this disc is dedicated to the use of acoustic guitars that accompany the electrics, adding additional warmth to the disc. Superior has always prided themselves with the use of pianos and acoustic guitars to ride side by side with their crunching electric approach, and on Ultima Ratio the acoustic guitars and piano do their thing quite well again. There are some nice drum effects, sound effects, and just about anything else you can find to make some noise thrown into this disc to round out the spectrum of music.

Michael Tangermann has always been heralded as a great singer - and with each release you can hear a different approach to his singing. Ultima Ratio is without a doubt the true showcase of his talents. As Mike Baker proved in Shadow Gallery's Tyranny, that he could bring a story to life with incredible emotion, so does Michael Tangermann with Ultima Ratio. Michael just doesn't sing - he tells a tale, screams out madness, softly sings with a female, sings of hope / futility, and any other emotion you can think of, and makes the listener "feel" the emotion. His voice is in top shape as always, and with each song it changes with the emotion of the storyline, and it's not hard at all to close your eyes and feel this tale come to life as Michael sings and pleads his way through the disc with ease, passion and strength.

Superior knows sound. From Behind to Younique, Superior has created their own signature sound of huge crunching guitars, pummeling drums, and pristine sounding keyboards. Ultima Ratio is their shining moment in the sound dept as well. It has more of a natural sound than the previous discs had, and the band seeks to lower the effects and bring out more of the natural sounds of the instruments as well as with Tangermann's voice. The guitar crunch is still there, albeit with a warmer sound. The drums are what make this disc shine in the background. It's got a huge booming kick drum accompanied by an equally huge triggered snare drum that makes this disc sound like the band is in your living room. The keyboards are, as always, clear and pristine although just a bit in the background more so than previous discs. The bass is heavy, smooth and tight. If you are into sound, and enjoy picking out small nuances, check out track 13 ("UR Resistance") in which there are acoustic and electric guitars playing at the same time and you can hear fingers sliding up and down the fret board amongst the rest of the sound. The separation in instruments is incredible. All vocal effects are basically OFF for this recording. Michael sings here with virtually no effects whatsoever, giving his voice a more lifelike sound, but also showing that his voice sounds good no matter what the situation.

Superior has come up with a disc that nears perfection in every way possible. They have managed to maintain their signature sound while changing their musical approach once again, and have written the disc of the year for me thus far. All we need now is the band to perform this disc live, and musical life will be good and fulfilled. This band deserves all the success in the world, and I'm hoping and feeling that Ultima Ratio brings them what they truly deserve. This disc is about as perfect as it gets.

"The Ultima Ratio movement has been growing bigger ever since. The new religion tried to subjugate all the other big religious movements of the world in hundreds of years of war and terror. Much later they changed their concerted action of recruiting the credulous masses and came to glory under the cloak of the humanistic intelligence, finance and social welfare system."

5-2-12 (1:10) / Ultra (6:29) / Reflections (6:10) / Breeze Of Insanity (7:58) / Propaganda X (3:49) / My Fate (4:49) / Reach For Reign (4:57) / The Unwanted (4:59) / Terminus Interlude (instrumental) (0:24) / Fallen (6:42) / Terror Fantasy (6:03) / Broken World (4:23) / U R Resistance (6:20) / Judgement Day (5:23) / Eternity (instrumental) (2:13)

Michael Tangermann - vocals
Jan Marco Becker - keyboards
Michael Muller - guitar, keyboards
Bernd Basmer - guitar
Martin Reichhart - bass
Thomas Mayer - drums

Moral Allance (demo) (1989)
Timeshift (demo) (1993)
Behind (1996)
Younique (1998)
Ultima Ratio (2002)
Ultra - Live (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website:
Hits: 675
Language: english


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