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Original lineup tosses in a few surprises

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The mid-1990s were a great time for talented, passionate acts, and one such band from that era was Knoxville, Tenn.-based Superdrag. Best known for “Sucked Out,” Superdrag released four acclaimed full-length albums and shifted lineups a few times before splitting in 2003.

Following a successful reunion tour in 2007, the original lineup hit the studio to record the recently released Industry Giants (Superdrag Sound Laboratories), on which Superdrag doesn’t exactly attempt to reinvent the wheel.

Drummer Don Coffey Jr. literally kicks the music off with “Slow to Anger,” and his band mates take their usual spots with lots of power-chord fury. John Davis expresses his conflicted feelings by comparing changing moods to “pushing down the fader.”

Elsewhere on the disc, the sounds of the band’s past continue to drive the music. “Filthy & Afraid” is deceptively uplifting and has the type of chorus that is hard not to be singing along to after a few listens. “Live and Breathe” slows the tempo down enough for Davis’ lead vocals to share a moment with some sublime lyrical phrasing about an attainable better place.

The album’s true standout is “Aspartame.” It begins with some buzz-saw guitar and Davis’ scratchy, desperate vocals. Just when you think that it’s a typical Superdrag tune, the band tosses out a nice surprise in the form of an almost reggae breakdown part, which comes off as a hook and not a cheap gimmick.
“Aspartame” isn’t the only left turn on Industry Giants. “You’re Alive” has louder and more disdained growling than anything Superdrag has attempted before, but it doesn’t work out too well for the album’s flow. “5 Minutes Ahead of Chaos” follows, and it’s a punkier turn that sounds more like a lost demo than a well-thought out effort.

As the disc draws to a close, so does some of the optimism that drifted amongst the riffs and pounding drums. “Deathblow to Your Pride” means what it says and says what it means. It also serves as a fine closing curtain on the return of a band that was ahead of its time and should enjoy any accolades that may come along this time around.

— By Mike Madden