I’m not much of trend follower or fad supporter (except that whole Pet Rock thing, which was mint). Contrarian nature aside, one trend invading the metalverse that really boils my lobster is the whole “re-recording of classic albums” thing. Ever since I paid $40 for an import of Sodom‘s Obsessed by Cruelty on CD only to discover it was a completely different version than the one I grew up worshipping, my hatred of re-recordings has run strong and deep.

Over time, this concept of bands revisiting the glory days by redoing classic albums seems to have taken root in the genre’s collective consciousness. Everyone from Exodus, Destruction, Dimmu Borgir and Iced Earth have tried it with mostly underwhelming results. While it’s easy to dismiss such releases as mere vanity projects, they’re appearing more frequently and at least one major band seems to prefer re-recording their older albums over attempting new material.

Case in point, both Manowar and Flotsam & Jetsam releasing re-recorded versions of their “classic period” albums this month (both from 1988). Both showcase way older, less vibrant bands re-visiting songs that greatly benefitted from the exuberance, urgency and hunger of youth. In other words, these are exercises in diminished returns suffering from a chronic inability to recapture the magic of old, no matter how much cash and studio wizardry is thrown at the problem. Let’s examine them one at a time, shall we?

ManowarKings of Metal MMXIV

manowar_kingsofmetal MMXIVThis marks the second time the Lords of the Leather Loincloth have gone to the well of their salad days to re-record classic material (everybody sing “Manowar Manowar living in the past”). The first attempt was the shockingly bad Battle Hymms MMXI in which the only highlight was Christopher Lee’s over-the-top narration in “Dark Avenger.” Failing to learn from their mistakes, we get a second dose of reboot and the results are predictable.

These new versions aren’t particularly good and add nothing positive to the originals, but they do take much away. “Hail and Kill” is one of the best pure metal songs of all time, but here it’s dialed down and noticeably slower, making it feel watered down and weak as a kitten. The new recording and “seasoned” performances suck all the life from it, leaving it sounding like Manowar doing the soundtrack for a Lifetime Movie of the Week. The other songs don’t fare much better, with only “Wheels of Fire” and Kingdom Come” somewhat holding their own against the towering shadow cast by the originals.

A big problem is that Manowar has always been about the powerhouse vocals of Eric Adams. He’s been one of metal’s best and most versatile vocalists since the early 80s and he’s the reason their classic material worked so damn well. In his prime, the man could sing a hole through a brick wall and do it live on stage night after night. Sadly, people age and even the best voices diminish with time. While Eric can still out-sing 95% of metal vocalists half his age, these re-recordings show how much he’s lost in power and range over the decades of living the trve metal life. Now explain to me why a loyal fan would pay to hear rejiggered versions of songs Eric could sing up to Valhalla back in 1988, when it’s depressing to hear that he can’t quite do it anymore in 2014? That’s right, you can’t explain it.

ManowarThe next problem is Joey DeMaio’s new arrangements of these classic songs. They’re classics for a reason (they were really good and didn’t need to be fuckered with). Altering the song order, adding new lyrics, new segments and orchestral pomp to them doesn’t do much except annoy me and drive me back to the original versions. I appreciate the inclusion of more country names during “Blood of the Kings,” but is that worth the purchase price?

Heart of Steel” is one of my all time favorite songs, and taking that and making it more acoustic and orchestral doesn’t do a damn thing except sap it of its power and might. And why does Manowar, the most metal band of all time, think their fans want to hear LESS metal versions of their music? It simply defies logic, common sense and the very core of the Manowar ethos. Hell, they even managed to make the always annoying voiceover that led into “Blood of the Kings” even more annoying, though it features beloved English actor Brian Blessed, best known as Prince Vultan of the bird men in Flash Gordon (First wave….DIIIIVE!). He actually sounds a lot like Patrick Stewart (Professor X, John Luc Picard), and he really, really overdoes it.

The biggest issue here is two-fold. You can’t fuck with the classics and come out on top, and you certainly can’t do it 20 or 30 years removed from the original album when the whole band is careworn and age-limited. No matter how hard a band may try, these redos inevitably sound like the musings of old musicians who’ve had these songs hanging around their necks for decades like some kind of once glorious albatross. It sounds cruel and cynical, but after playing their classics live for so long, a band can’t help but sound like they’re just going thru the motions at some point. Manowar has reached that point.

In lukewarm defense of Kings of Metal MMXVI, it does come with a second disc featuring an instrumental version of the entire Kings of Metal album. While the appeal of that is lost on me, some fans may enjoy the novelty of a Manowar-approved soundtrack for their LARPing outings. Even with the bonus disc, I find this a completely superfluous, unnecessary cash grab by a band that realizes their new material isn’t up to snuff. Manowar Manowar, give us some new fucking songs or at least re-record Into Glory Ride!

Rating: 2.0/5.0
Label: Magic Circle Music
Websites: manowar.com  |  facebook.com/manowar
Release Dates: Out Worldwide on 02.28.2014

Flotsam & JetsamNo Place for Disgrace

FlotsamAndJetsam-NoPlaceForDisgraceFlotsam & Jetsam were born under an unlucky star and spent the bulk of a once promising career being best known as the band Jason Newsted was in before Metallica. Career misadventures aside, their sophomore album No Place for Disgrace was a winner and a big fish in the 80s thrash era.

After a string of forgettable outings, the band has seen fit to revisit their last truly great release with this re-recording featuring the album’s original line-up (minus bassist Troy Gregory). Where Manowar tried to refit, reprocess and embellish their golden oldies, The Flots-meisters opt for more of a traditional do-over with relatively minor tweaks to lyrics and melodies. This is No Place for Disgrace 2.0 as done by dudes 25 years older and one would assume, wiser.

At first, the elder Flotsmen sound quite spry and able to hold up under the pressure of a note for note replay of this thrashing material, though it soon becomes apparent most songs are slowed down, with a few being much slower. This makes the material sound very deliberate at times. They add a cheesy synth intro to “Escape From Within” which isn’t helpful, but once the song kicks in, it’s essentially faithful to the original. They dial down the heaviness significantly during the cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” which defeats the purpose of a thrash band covering an Elton John song in the first place. That big ugly guitar tone on the original cover version made the song work, and with the heaviness gone, so is the appeal.

“Hard on You” also features a less crushing guitar tone and the lyrics now seem to deal with illegal downloading. The classic “I Live You Die” seems more restrained and slowed down than the other songs, which is a minor tragedy in and of itself.

The only song that ends up being an improvement is “P.A.A.B.,” which sounds more interesting and powerful than it did originally due to a raw guitar sound shockingly close to that heard on Metallica‘s Kill Em’ All. This leads to the obvious question, “why didn’t they do this on the rest of the songs?”

flotsam and jetsam_2014Erik A.K.’s vocals sound pretty solid and though his voice is deeper than before, it still sounds steady and strong. However, it’s clear by the end of the opening title track that Father Time has robbed him of those glass shattering high notes and screeches he was once known for. Sadly, those highs heavily adorned the original album, and their absence is felt dearly here. The rest of the band does their thing more or less as effectively as they did originally, but slower and more deliberately, which isn’t a real selling point for a classic thrash album.

I’d rather listen to this re-recording than Manowar‘s, but that’s a low bar and hardly a ringing endorsement. It’s competently done and still pretty speedy, but if I want to relive my thrashing youth, why would I choose this slower version which lacks the badass screams? Does anyone prefer the live versions of “Angel of Death” when Tom Araya replaces that wicked opening scream with his pirate-y ARRRRRRRR sound? Didn’t think so. And that’s the root of the problem here. Growing old sucks, so why shine a big spotlight on it?

Rating: 2.5/5.0
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: flotsam-and-jetsam.com  |  facebook.com/flotsamandjetsam
Release Dates: EU: 2014.14.02  |  NA: 03.03.2014

Share →
  • Mike Eckman

    Oh man, I couldnt agree more (at least with Kings of Metal, I havent heard the new F&J). I could SORTA defend the re-recording of Battle Hymns as that album was noticeably less refined and lower-fi than any other album in their discography. Plus Christopher Lee was at least a comparable replacement for Orson Wells. But as you said, Kings of Metal is a classic album and it was released during the Atlantic Records era, so the production quality is pretty good. According to the DR database, the 1988 Kings of Metal is DR11! Everything about these new recordings is inferior to the original. The energy of the music is lessened, Eric Adams vocals are more restrained than in the past, and the technical bass-pickery of Joey DeMaio is sloppy. I just hate this new recording of the album.

    I get the appeal of a re-recording. Record classic albums with modern instruments and recording technology, the problem is it almost never improves on anything.

    If I had to give Manowar one tiny bit of credit here, at the very least, they make no attempt to disguise these new versions as the original. Kings of Metal MMXIV is a separate release of Kings of Metal and both are still available. At least they’re not pulling a Dave Mustaine and just re-recording parts of classic albums and simply replacing the original versions (Killing is My Business, Peace Sells).

    • Mike Eckman

      I am going to respond to my post and add that there is one exception to the re-recording rule that I think is actually good. That would be Testament’s “First Strike Still Deadly”. All of the new versions sound clean, fresh, and still full of energy. I still prefer the originals, but the new versions are at least as good….I’ll even go one step farther and say I prefer the new version of “Alone in the Dark” with vocals by Steve Souza.

      • Christofer

        Totally agree. That Souza-version of Alone in the dark is awesome.

    • Mike Eckman
  • Christofer

    There is only one album with re-recordings that I think has the right to excist and thats Testaments First strike still deadly.

    • Mike Eckman

      Agreed. I was typing this same very thing before I saw your comment! :)

    • BaboonKing

      Hear, hear!

  • tomasjacobi

    I agree that there’s no real need to do re-recordings, but for some reason I thoroughly enjoy this new version of Kings of Metal. I find the performances great and full of energy and I like the DR9 production a lot. It’s sounds modern and heavy without overdoing it.
    I also prefer the new song order and I am impressed at the surprising good judgement the band has shown by not including Pleasure Slave (i.e. the worst song ever recorded) in this project.
    The only thing I don’t get is why there’s an audible metronome present on Sting of the Bumblebee.

  • Kalsten

    I agree with the Manowar review, although I would give it a 1.5. As Kings of Metal is my favourite metal album of all time, I feel outrageously angry when I heard it. Really really a big stinky pile of shit. That’s what Manowar is delivering here mostly (and lastly in their non re-recorded albums too).

    And I still don’t understand what is wrong with the kid of “The warriors prayer” and the grandpa. The first sounds as a retard, and the other like a molesting rapist. Really weird stuff there. And the metronome in Sting of the Bumbelbee…..my fucking god. I know that Demaio has lost its touch (if he had some), but this is ridiculous.

  • doom-erik

    Oh no, please don’t re-record Into Glory Ride too!!

    • Hey, if they’re going to foist there things on the fans, at least do the best albums, ie Into Glory Ride and Hail to England.

  • Jay Alan Goodwin

    “…Manowar has always been about the powerhouse vocals of Eric Adams.”

    …don’t tell that to Joey DeMaio and his exaggeratedly-“important” bass-noodling.

    I love Manowar and realize that DeMaio is the songwriter (for better or worse) …but one thing that really gets on my nerves is when he pretends he’s the frontman. He doesn’t help Eric Adams at all vocally but he’ll get on the mic to ruin a song by stopping it in the middle to patronize and suck up to the crowds of European nations with his canned-speeches about how great their land is and what a heavy metal crowd they are. Ex: “Herz aus Stahl:” …the German-speaking crowds always make this song great by singing along and then DeMaio kills it by grabbing the mic and bringing the song to an awkward grinding halt with his nationalistic-ranting (in English, ironically.) Complete boner-killer.

    I can’t think of a bassist who exaggerates his or her instrumental role in the band nearly as much as “It’s My Band!” DeMaio.

    No Place for Disgrace didn’t need a re-recording; it just needed to be re-issued. There’s no reason in the world why an Elektra Records release should be out of print. I haven’t heard the new one yet (I bought the original when it came out) but I’d bet money they just brickwalled the crap out of it.

  • KingKuranes

    I feel like I’m personally responsible for Anthrax’s “Greater of Two Evils” – around 2002 I emailed Scott Ian and told him they should re-record some of the older material with the current lineup and he responded “we just might do that.”

    • One week AMG ban for starting a crappy trend!

  • Iiro

    The Crown’s re-recording of Crowned in Terror (Crowned Unholy) is in my opinion better,
    the sound is dirtier, and Lindstrand is THE singer for The Crown. Also,
    Amorphis’ Magic & Mayhem is good, mainly because I can’t stand the
    original voxs.

    • funeraldoombuggy

      It wasn’t a full re-recording. Just the vocals were redone and it was totally remixed. I agree that Crowned Unholy is better.

  • No Place for Disgrace is one of my favorite thrash records, so it would be impossible to improve upon it. Eric’s vocals just don’t have the range he used to have which works okay on newer material but not re-doing classics. The slower tempos also really hurt the material. Great catch Steel.

    The two versions of Sodom’s Obsessed by Cruelty is a strange one. The record company made them re-record it because they didn’t like the original recording then wound up releasing the wrong recording on vinyl.

    I actually like Sodom’s Final Sign of Evil remake because it still captures the original feel and vibe of the original material. The 5 songs from In The Sign are obviously not improved upon but the demo material sounds great, if you can get by the out of time drumming by Witchhunter.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    So why are bands doing this?
    Is it because they don’t own the publishing rights to their classic albums?
    In which case it could be a smart move for them even if they aren’t as good or lack the authenticity of the originals.
    it at least means that they have some rights over their own material / legacy, An example could be that if somebody wanted classic Manowar for their puppy food add the band could get in on the action rather than their label releasing the rights taking the money and flipping some change the bands way.

    • Christian Ougaard

      I do believe that bands can have good reasons for rerecording old albums. As others have already mentioned, the sound might be too low-fi on the original recording.

      I remember Twisted Sister rerecorded Stay Hungry (into Still Hungry). If memory serves me right, they gave the reason that they were dissatisfied with the “softness” of the sound on Stay Hungry, but the record Company insisted on it. Thus, they rerecorded the album in the spirit they originally intended.

      It goes without saying that I do not know if that explanation is correct, and I won’t judge on the result. Just saying it’s a sound reason to me.

  • Faustian Bargain

    Sodom’s’ Obsessed…’ isn’t a good example. The redo actually is much better IMO, but wasn’t because the band wanted to do it, the label required it.

    • It’s a very good example. If you grew up with the original release, you likely loved the shitty, raw sound because it was so shockingly ugly. When you hear the cleaned up version, it loses all its charm and sounds too clean.

      • Faustian Bargain

        That re-recording wasn’t a band decision. Isn’t ur article suggesting that bands have intent in re-recording due to some various illegitimate reasons? Or ones that don’t justify it? If that is the case then ‘obsessed ‘ doesn’t fit the mold. The steamhammer version isn’t cleaner. They are both raw. One is flatter or more dry.

        • While I understand in Sodom’s case it wasn’t their choice, I still paid $40 for a version of a beloved album I didn’t like. I think the re-records sound way less raw and ugly. My point being, the entire idea of re-recording classics is faulty.

          • Steel, the version released on CD is the raw version. It is much easier to get your hands on the original raw release than the re-recording that is cleaner sounding.

          • Not so back in 95. I grew up with one version on tape and vinyl and that was not the version I ended up with on Disc at first. I had to make an effort to get the original.

          • I have only found the one version of Obsessed on CD and that is the original sloppier version that is combined with the In the Sign of Evil record. The second cleaner version was only released in Germany, I believe only on vinyl. Now you have me totally confused. :)

          • Faustian Bargain

            Steamhammer edition = rerecorded one was released by Steamhammer on vinyl and I think CD. The original recording was accidentally pressed by Metalblade in the US. I started with the Metalblade one and never thought the production was that good. too think and weak. Then I heard the Steamhammer edition and thought it was MUCH better and lvoe it more than I ever have. I didn’t get a hold of the Steamhammer edition though decades after I had the Metalblade one. So Steel Druhm and I seem on the opposite ends of the specturm. haha.

          • Faustian Bargain

            too thin (not think)

          • It was absolutely the Metal Blade version that was also released on CD even though it says Steamhammer on the back of the CD. The audio is taken from the first sessions.

          • Faustian Bargain

            yeah, which version is better is really just a matter of taste. 6’s & 8’s i think really.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Interesting, fans have a nostalgia and affection for the very imperfections that the band with hindsight probably wish they’d done differently.
        Metal provides a life lesson for us all here, you only get one shot at things so get it right!

  • Here I was thinking “Yeah, well, at least they can’t get any more cheesier…” and then I’m greeted by that band pic airbrushed all to hell. I mean he even looks like Vin Diesel in a wig. I audibly groaned.

  • Talvalin

    Destruction’s Thrash Anthems is also a pretty decent re-recording, and I did like Hypocrisy re-recording material from their first two albums since the band had an absolutely crushing guitar sound in the late 90s/early 2000s.

    On the name and shame list would be Vader re-recording classic material for XXV and adding keyboards and shit. Ugh.

  • Kyungmi Nam

    I would give Manowar a higher review score, just for the fact that they have the Bulgarian flag on the cover. Ermerrgahhd.

  • sathriel

    Unnecessary orchestrations, mellowed versions of old metal songs – did someone speak about S&M? NO! Why would anyone want to?!

  • I Shot J.R

    At least the live version of Angel of Death is faster than the album.

  • Ok so I had a chance to check out the Manowar. I had to, they were once my favorite band. I don’t see much of a reason for this re-recording, but I did find it listenable. (except that annoying metronome) I think it’s only due to the strength of the original material. Clearly the original album is a better choice.

    They sound unconvinced by their own songs at times, if you are doing power metal you have to sound like you are living it and you believe it.

    I like some of the guitar flourishes they threw in here and there. I do feel like it’s about 3 times as cheesy as 80s Manowar! ..Think about that.

  • CaptainTomatoSauce

    I thought the re-recording of F&J’s record was spot on good. It showcased the band’s expansion from “just another thrash band” to a solid bunch of musicians doing great work. I helped fund the kickstarter for it, and I am glad I did.

    As for Manowar… I’ve not paid much attention to them since Triumph of Steel. I did like Gods of War, but that was an exception rather than the rule of their “re-release nostalgia” like re-recording Battle Hymns and so on. “Kings of Metal” is a record that did NOT need a re-boot.

  • Just came across this great article. Dead on, especially about Manowar. I just read your review of The Cold too. Man, I love that album start to finish. Even though the lyrics to KYA are cringeworthy. Your Ugly Noise review is dead on too. I was so excited for that album. I even pledged and then wanted to send it back to them when I listened to it.