(Andy Synn provides an unexpected SYNN REPORT, seizing upon the imminent calendar change to discuss the re-recording of 12 songs by 12 tremendous bands — and of course we’re including the music, which means 24 tracks. Fuck, this would be a mixtape that KILLS.)
So here it is, a surprise Synn Report to finish off the year. Arbitrary though the distinction may well be, the end of the year provides a perfect excuse to attend to a similar theme, the transition from the old to the new – re-workings and re-recordings.
Are they better? That’s an argument for the ages? Are they necessary? Hell, that’s probably an even worse argument to start up…
Primarily, re-recordings serve a twofold purpose – 1. to reinvigorate songs that might otherwise not be getting the set-time they deserve, and 2. – to royally piss off a band’s fan-base. Although there’s a chance that the second isn’t entirely intentional. Still, the re-recorded album courts controversy like almost no other, whether it’s a varied collection of songs that are chosen to receive the treatment, or a full re-recording of an entire album.
The full re-recording of an entire album is clearly the most contentious option, while single track re-recordings are often a much more successful and welcome proposition, most often appearing as b-sides and bonus tracks for the avid collector. The full-album re-recording, however, remains exceptionally and unequivocally divisive, alienating as many old fans as it attracts new ones.
So here’s a list of some of those renewed tracks that I think definitely have something to offer the listener, both old and new. I’m sure I’ll have to turn in my kvlt card after this, for promoting something so new and shiny, but ah well…
Amorphis – “Black Winter Day”
A classic of… well, classic proportions, the original “Black Winter Day” remains a staple of Amorphis’ set-list and as such doesn’t need renewing for quite the same reasons as several other songs on this list. It is a pleasure, though, to hear the absolutely massive vocals of Tomi Joutsen completely own this revitalised version of the track, along with a gorgeous and much improved piano intro and a powerful, driving guitar tone that give the track new life.
“Black Winter Day”: Tales From the Thousand Lakes (1994)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/05-Black-Winter-Day.mp3|titles=Amorphis – Black Winter Day]
“Black Winter Day”: Magic & Mayhem – Tales From the Early Years (2010)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Black-Winter-Day.mp3|titles=Amorphis – Black Winter Day]
Behemoth – “Transylvanian Forest”
The re-recording of this track can be found on the Demonica release (which I believe was only recently made available over in the USA) and is one I’d highly recommend checking out, the juxtaposition of the scratchier black metal aesthetic of this early song with the more refined and colossal death metal sound the band have developed really showing the links and surprising consistency between the band’s many releases.
“Transylvanian Forest”: And the Forests Dream Eternally (1994)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/01-Transylvanian-Forest.mp3|titles=Behemoth – Transylvanian Forest]
“Transylvanian Forest”: Demonica (2006)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/11-Transylvanian-Forest.mp3|titles=Behemoth – Transylvanian Forest]
Chthonic – “Guard The Isle Eternally”
The Pandemonium anniversary release from Chthonic saw them attempt to update songs from 9th Empyrean and Relentless Recurrence to match the improved sound and identity they had settled on with the recent release of their magnum opus Seediq Bale. “Guard The Isle Eternally” perhaps benefits the most from this re-working and re-recording, as the songs from Relentless Recurrence arguably remain consistently powerful and effective in their original form, the re-recorded versions serving more as an alternative take on the material rather than a necessary updating of their sound.
“Guard the Isle Eternally”: 9th Emyprean (2000)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Guard-The-Isle-Eternally-Chapter-1.mp3|titles=Chthonic – Guard The Isle Eternally]
“Guard the Isle Eternally”: Pandemonium (2008)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Guard-the-isle-eternally.mp3|titles=Chthonic – Guard the isle eternally]
The Crown – “Under The Whip”
A difficult choice, as both the Tomas Lindberg (Crowned In Terror) and Johan Lindstrand (Crowned Unholy) versions of the album are brilliant. The presence of each vocalist does give each version of the album a very different feel, although the re-recording benefits from a much thicker production job and feels (to me at least) like a more fully realised version of the album as it was (perhaps) originally intended.
Still, actually picking a song that I felt was “better” than the original was hard, due to the distinct flavour each version has. But “Under The Whip” has a more aggressive, belligerent swagger that suits Johan’s delivery style more; think of it as the difference between being beaten to death (Lindstrand) and knifed in an alley (Lindberg).
“Under the Whip”: Crowned In Terror (2002)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/03-Under-The-Whip.mp3|titles=The Crown – Under The Whip]
“Under the Whip”: Crowned Unholy (2004)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/03-Under-The-Whip1.mp3|titles=The Crown – Under The Whip]
Dimmu Borgir – “Broderskapets Ring”
I still don’t get the hate directed at this album – it doesn’t make the original redundant, yet it offers something very new and extremely compelling. In fact, it should be applauded for bringing the older, dare I say it more primitive (in sound perhaps, if not in artistry), material in line with their more recent work, allowing for the melancholy and misanthropy of the album to engage in a fair fight for its rightful place in the band’s set-list. I honestly wish they’d include more of this material live.
“Broderskapets Ring”: Stormblåst (1996)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/02-Broderskapets-Ring.mp3|titles=Dimmu Borgir – Broderskapets Ring]
“Broderskapets Ring”: Stormblåst MMV (2005)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/02-Broderskapets-ring.mp3|titles=Dimmu Borgir – Broderskapets ring]
Gorgoroth – “Revelation Of Doom”
Definitely a shocker, the re-recording of Under the SIgn of Hell has of course provoked massive outcry from the black metal community, varying from simple accusations of Infernus selling out the fans from the comfort of his huge gold-plated mansion, to declamations that drummer Tomas Asklund is the Yoko Ono of black metal, perverting the Gorgoroth sound with his Machiavellian influence. But seriously, fuck that, when “Revelation Of Doom” kicks in with its huge, booming sound, it is absolutely DEVASTATING.
“Revelation Of Doom”: Under the Sign of Hell (1997)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/01-Revelation-Of-Doom.mp3|titles=Gorgoroth – Revelation Of Doom]
“Revelation Of Doom”: Under the Sign of Hell 2011 (2011)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/01-Revelation-of-Doom.mp3|titles=Gorgoroth – Revelation of Doom]
Hypocrisy – “Uncontrolled”
A surprisingly un-controversial choice for a full-on re-recording, Catch 22 (redux) benefits from a more powerful production job, Peter Tagtren’s now flawless grasp of 7-string dynamics (developed after several albums’ worth of experience), Horgh’s more violent and impressive drumming, and of course the re-instatement of Tagtren’s signature growl. An honourable mention must also go to the brutal re-recording of “Left To Rot” that cropped up on the Chaos And Confusion release several years earlier.
“Uncontrolled”: Catch-22 (2002)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/05-Uncontrolled.mp3|titles=Hypocrisy – Uncontrolled]
“Uncontrolled”: Catch-22 V2 (2008)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/05-Uncontrolled1.mp3|titles=Hypocrisy – Uncontrolled]
In Flames – “Behind Space ‘99″/”Clad In Shadows ’99”
Two tracks that I’d argue are superior in their re-recorded form. The tempo remains fast for both, but the improved bridge section on “Behind Space ‘99” and the thrillingly heavy closing bars of “Clad In Shadows ‘99” see the band taking both songs a step up from their original incarnations. In fact both these songs are amongst my favourite In Flames tracks of all time, elitism be damned!
“Behind Space”: Lunar Strain (1993)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Behind-Space.mp3|titles=In Flames – Behind Space]
“Behind Space ’99”: Colony (1999)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/09-Behind-Space-99.mp3|titles=In Flames – Behind Space ’99]
“Clad In Shadows”: Lunar Strain (1993)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Clad-In-Shadows.mp3|titles=In Flames – Clad In Shadows]
“Clad In Shadows ’99”: Whoracle (1997) (bonus track)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/12-Clad-In-Shadows-99.mp3|titles=In Flames – Clad In Shadows 99]
Old Man’s Child – “Born Of The Flickering”
Re-recording the title track of your debut album might seem like a questionable move, but Galder retains sole control over the entity that is Old Man’s Child, and can clearly do whatever the hell he likes with it. On hearing the track, though, it’s a welcome update of the original, with a heavier death metal angle on the vocals, a crushing guitar tone, and a blazing drumming performance from the hands and feet of session drummer Reno Killerich.
“Born of the Flickering”: Born of the Flickering (1995)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/03-Born-Of-The-Flickering.mp3|titles=Old Man’s Child – Born Of The Flickering]
“Born of the Flickering”: Slaves Of the World (2009) (bonus track)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Born-Of-The-Flickering-Bonus.mp3|titles=Old Man’s Child – Born Of The Flickering (Bonus]
Soilwork – “Sadistic Lullaby”
Coming off the back of the out-and-out return to form that was The Panic Broadcast, this re-recording just makes so much sense, paying tribute to the song that (essentially) started it all whilst also giving it a thoroughly modern update in the best possible way. It’s still as ragingly fast and rip-roaringly intense as ever, but the superior guitar tone, rampant vocal performance, and stunning drums (courtesy of the apparently infallible Dirk Verbeuren) just add up to a better version of the song. A definite success.
“Sadistic Lullaby”: Steelbath Suicide (1998)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/02-Sadistic-Lullabye.mp3|titles=Soilwork – Sadistic Lullabye]
“Sadistic Lullaby”: The Panic Broadcast (2010) (bonus track)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/01.-Sadistic-Lullaby-2010-Version-Bonus-Track-.mp3|titles=Soilwork – Sadistic Lullaby (2010 Version) (Bonus Track)]
Suffocation – “Marital Decimation”
Suffocation made a welcome return to this death metal classic on their recent album Blood Oath, changing little but giving it the annihilating production and cannibalistic performance it always deserved. It also provides great context for the album as a whole, proving that these veteran bruisers are still producing material on a par with their classic records.
“Marital Decimation”: Breeding the Spawn (1993)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Marital-Declimation-Album-Version.mp3|titles=Suffocation – Marital Declimation (Album Version)]
“Marital Decimation”: Blood Oath (2009)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Marital-Decimation.mp3|titles=Suffocation – Marital Decimation]
Vader – “Black To The Blind”
The formula for a Vader song is so perfect that the awesome re-recordings on the anniversary package XXV were never at risk of tarnishing their legacy. Unlike the common malady that often afflicts re-recordings, many of the songs on this release are definitely faster than their originals, Daray’s uber-drumming giving each track a spinal cord of molten metal power. The utterly dominating guitar tone and Piotr’s ever more vicious vocals contribute to the sound of a band throwing down a gauntlet that says “this is how good we are now, this is how good we’ve ALWAYS been”.
“Black To the Blind”: Black To the Blind (1997)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Black-To-The-Blind.mp3|titles=Vader – Black To The Blind]
“Black To the Blind”: XXV (2008)[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/15-Back-To-The-Blind.mp3|titles=Vader – Black To The Blind]
Weird. The re-recording of Revelation of Doom seems more…rock-y, somehow. Maybe that’s just me.
Could be Asklund…
In honesty having given the album a thorough listen I wouldn’t recommend the whole thing in good conscience. Some tracks do benefit from the re-recording, but some others suffer weirdly from some odd choices made during the process.
Well, one of the things that made Under the Sign of Hell a good album for me was the just-right lo-fi-ness of the production. So I can’t imagine cleaning it up did a whole lot for it.
That makes a nice segue to this:
I think you miss a third reason for remakes:
3) You hate your former bandmate(s) and want to deny them any future royalties. (perhaps not a huge issue in underground circles were money earned is close to zero, but still…)
I can see why re-recordings are attractive (from a musicians point of view) because how many times do you go back and listen to an album and say “you know, I wish I’d done this differently”. However I think once you start down this road you risk becoming the George Lucas of music with loyal fans becoming more and more disgusted with your tweaking of beloved classics.
I can see that actually. Seems a bit petty, but then we all know musicians are rarely the most adult and well-adjusted of individuals!
Just so long as you admit the original “Speed of Darkness” is far superior.
Impossible to choose! (at this particular second – I’ll doubtless have a different answer in about an hour)
Dude, the re-recording has that awful ‘clean’ hook. UGH it makes me loose my wood just thinking about it.
I probably lean towards the first version, as it suits Lindberg’s vocals a bit better (I don’t mind the clean hook so much though) – still, it’s actually one of my least favourite tracks on the album. Which isn’t saying much as the album is effectively a “favourite songs” list in itself.
I’ve been thinking a bit more about the whys and wherefores of re-recording tracks/albums.
I think, as a wide-ranging statement, if a band’s live version of something surpasses their recorded one, then they at least have an argument for the re-recording.
I.E. if a band has improved its playing style and live rig over the years to the point where the live sound is more powerful and, shall we say, “better” than what they have already recorded it suggests that they might have an excuse to take advantage of that and bring their tracks up to the same level as their live performance.
For example, recently I got hold of “Pitch Black Brigade” by Vreid, and would LOVE to hear the title track (at least) with the power and panache that their live performance and recent albums possess.
There’s always going to be dissenters to this though, and I’m not suggesting this be taken on in every circumstance or that everyone should agree, but I do think that this gives bands a reasonable argument for their re-working/re-recording of tracks.
This is a big reason why I tend to adore live albums from bands who I know are good, but whose albums i have trouble getting into.
The re-recording of the Soilwork song is utter BLASPHEMY, with the original being far superior. The new version sounds all choppy and shitty. This band lost what they had long ago. I still remembering wanting to cry when I hear Natural Born Chaos for the first time. I knew that it was OVER for that band. It’s amazing everyone else hasn’t tuned them out. They’ve had nothing to offer worth a damn in 10 years.
Also, really miss that era of In Flames. Another once mighty band that hasn’t churned out anything decent in close to 15 years. Why don’t they just quit?
“Behind Space ’99” was disappointing, but only because they cut the awesome acoustic outtro.