The various internet sources which we have available nowadays, brings tons of new music into our living rooms. For me the progressive rock landscape back in the eighties was much clearer then it is today. Back in those times I only had to read a review of an album to decide whether I would go to listen to the album or not. Nowadays it's impossible to review all the music that is released. This also counts for our genre “progressive rock”.
That said, it's not very strange that I never had heard of the German progressive rock band Superthousand. The third album #TRNSIT they released was the first one to make me familiar with the band. The other two were released in the big vacuum of our musical universe.
Superthousand was formed in 2012 in the Cologne area. Before this new album #TRNSIT they released Universe Reverse (2013) and Voyage (2016). The band describe their music as “progressive rock with samples and love. Soundwalls of epic width and melancholic depth”. Further on they tell us that they make music to feel, to listen and to dream away about. As references they name RPWL, Riverside, Thrice, Steven Wilson, IQ, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Marillion or Airbag.
The line-up of Superthousand is Markus Missbrandt (drums, chimes, triangle, djembe, shaker, tambourine, field recordings), Lars Dreier (bass, synth bass, rhythm guitar, Mellotron, synthesizers, organ, Rhodes, accordion), Dominik Mertens (vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, loops). There is only one additional musician, Hannes “Hony” Adleff (didgeridoo).
It's obvious that this band has members which are multi instrumental and that they do almost everything themselves.
The one minute opening track Silence Reprise starts with a nice Mellotron soundscape and modest vocals. At the end the rest of the band participates and a beautiful lingering atmosphere is created. The atmosphere reminds me of RPWL. Especially RPWL on their spacy tracks. This opening track has tension and is promising. Dominik Mertens has besides a pleasant voice absolutley no accent. So this discussion can be closed before even opened.
World On Wire is a track that has a dark atmosphere in general and develops itself from a modest soundscape into a heavier musical flood. The keyboards have a monotone tune on which the beginning of the track is built around. I think you can conclude that keyboards are only used to support their music. The fill up eventual gaps. Superthousand are not a real keyboard orientated band. You can compare them to a band such as Riverside. Further on the track is very melodic. Between the lingering dark parts there is much room for melodic escapes.
Transit with 11 minutes is the longest track on the album. The track opens with some water sound effect. After a short while steady drums and a strumming guitar are layered on this sound effect. Bass guitar and vocals complete this intro. The vocals are modest and a little bit dark. When you want a reference, then I can name Bjorn Riis and even Richard de Geest (Sylvium). They also have dark, or better said deep vocals. After the modest part of the track it develops short into a heavier grunge rock part. This flies directly into a calm, mysterious intermezzo where the water sound effect is back again. On this soundscape only a flute is heard. More heavy- and quiet parts alternate in this song. This gives the song the tension that it needs. I must confess that the intermezzos are often rather short. I think that this song easy could clock the twenty minutes if the band had drawn out these parts. I think that the tension maybe would be even bigger. The band has three good musicians which easy could have made longer intermezzos.
The fourth track on the album Albatross once more starts in a very modest way. The intro contains just a little bit of guitar and vocals. After the short intro the track develops into a mid-tempo melodic rock song. The guitar is taking the lead in this. The atmosphere reminds me of Pink Floyd. This part is directly followed by the fifth track of the album, called Yet Untitled. The track starts with a lingering part in which an old school synthesizer sound plays a prominent role. The vocals contain partly a lot of effects and therefore this track is rather interesting to listen to. Markus Missbrandt choose for dry sounding drums in this song. The fast drum parts sounding metal style.
The end section of the album is called Safe And Now. Footsteps in gravel forming the base of the intro. Straight guitar chords with a layer of vocals kick of the track. The vocals are once more very modest and sound melodramatic. This is the style that Dominik Mertens usually uses. The track's duration is approximately 10 minutes, which is rather a long track for the band. The structure of this song is equal to the rest. So many different soundscapes can be discovered, effects and change of rhythms in this song. The ending of this album is non conservative. The music stops abruptly. Something you don't hear very often.
Superthousand brought with #TRNSIT an interesting album to the progressive rock market. The band produced it themselves and managed to create an album with sounds really great. The production of the album is also very nice.
The band has three great musicians. The music they wrote and play is exceptional for a band that still hangs around in the amateur division of the progressive rock. The tracks also sound mature. It's obvious that these guys don't play anything without a purpose.
I really enjoyed the album and I will certainly play it again. This style of progressive rock is a style that I like. It is balancing on the edge of grunge rock, which gives the songs a dark character.
However there are a couple of issues that I have to name in this review. As I mentioned, Dominik Mertens can surely sing. All his passages are in tune, which is important of course. But after a couple of tracks the vocals are sounding monotone. I miss some dynamics in the vocal parts. This would give each song an extra dimension.
Maybe dynamics is the keyword for some slight improvements for Superthousand in the future. Most of the tracks are short. There is nothing wrong with that, but when these songs contain several soundscapes, these soundscape are also short. In my humble opinion several tracks are just too short to be dragged into a certain flow. I miss the longer intermezzos which build up tensions in the songs. Tension which lasts a couple of minutes.
Last but not least, Superthousand has delivered a really great album. I hope to see them play live sometimes. The Köln region is in my action radius, but it would be great to see them in the Netherlands. Superthousand is ready to take the next step, so nothing is impossible.
Overall Superthousand accomplished a great performance with this album. I think this is a band with a potential. When they have the patience to develop step by step, I think that this band could surprise a lot of progressive rock lovers. I rate them four out of five.
**** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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