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Although the disgust towards a rerecording of a black metal classic is completely justified, Under the Sign of Hell was the one album in Gorgoroth's discography that may have actually benefitted from a rerecording. The breakneck pace and rabid riffs still hold it up as their best album, and there's no doubt it deserves a lot of its praise. Even so, the album suffered from a senselessly noisy production that blurred the nuanced riffs that made it so good in the first place. I'm sure some will argue the point, but there is a fine distinction between good and bad lo-fi treatment. Long story short: Unless this really was meant as the cash grab it's accused of being, I can absolutely see why Infernus opted to go another round with his magnum opus.
While the intent may have been noble (and I do stress the word "may!") the result of Under the Sign of Hell 2011 is a fine example of exchanging the frying pan for the fire. Ironically, "fire" is precisely what's lacking here. Gorgoroth may have solved the original's issue by clarifying the riffs, it's robbed a lot of what made Under the Sign of Hell great in the first place. Few albums sounded more unhinged and aggressive in 1997, and despite Infernus' longing for classically-inspired riffs, nothing belied the sense that Gorgoroth were true to the hate and darkness they promoted. As for the 2011 remake, I really don't think it's as disgraceful as fans make it out to be. Then again, I've never felt a strong emotional connection with anything they've done. The result is a recording that sounds perfectly decent by modern standards, but lacks the urgency of the original. I'm sure it would have slipped beneath the radar innocently enough if it was a completely original recording. Considering how Gorgoroth had proclaimed they were "reborn" on the past album however, it's really disappointing they decided to backtrack like this.
I know I'm parroting the majority of their fanbase when I say this, but why bother with Under the Sign of Hell 2011 when there's a far-superior version already available? By its own merits, it seems like a pure completionist's item at worst, and possibly a sharper showcase for Infernus' riffs at best. You can hate it for the blatant revisionism it represents, but for what it actually is, you can do a lot worse. Even 15 years after the fact, the songwriting still holds up, and Pest's return as vocalist lends the rerecording a shred of credibility. At the end of the day it's far from the biggest shitpile on the market, but even if Under the Sign of Hell may have conceivably benefited from a second round, the way they went about it begs the question why they bothered in the first place.
Well, everyone knows that the original UTSOH is an absolute stunner of a black metal album, some might even say a classic, I agree with them. The one thing about the original that people know and love is it's super harsh sound, on all sides, Infernus' guitars, Pest's vocals and Grim's drums, everything was performed with absolute fury, rage and passion in mind. It's a beautiful thing, but it's production was very raw, so much so that the drums almost seemed to drown a lot of the music out, so I can see why Infernus would want to redo it for that sake, but redoing albums is something I consider kind of pointless and a waste of money and time, anyways, lets get on with this new UTSOH...
Unfortunately that explosive kick of the original isn't there sadly, which is due to Asklund's modern production (which I have no problem with) so everything has more clarity, but it now lacks that dense "slammed in a box" compressed sound that the original had. The drums are very mechanical in sound, they lack the fury that Grim had. Infernus himself plays excellently, much more precise and controlled and unfortunately lacking the fury but I can live with that, the only thing that drudges the guitars is the drums, again very loud in the mix. Pest vocally hasn't changed much since he was in Gorgoroth the first time round, age has definitely worn the maniacal edge from his vocals though and that doesn't really have any effect on the songs really, his execution is still furious.
I do think it is the modern production that has marred this release slightly, QPAST sounded right with it, this however doesn't, instead of it sounding like the classic it was, it now sounds like an un-inspired continuation of QPAST which is kind of a letdown, you can hear the riffs in all their glory and if you play an instrument you can hear exactly what they play (apart from the bass). This album at first was a vicious icy cold animal, so cruel sounding that it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, now I personally don't get it from this version because the guitar sound is warm compared to that blistering evil of the original.
It is quite a nice sounding remake as far as production goes, everything is crystal clear (apart from the bass, because it's so low in the mix) Asklund is definitely great at doing "modern" production, but Gorgoroth requires more edge than this. This album didn't really need to be remade, Infernus probably just wanted to showcase the band as they are now, either way, I still like the songs with a more modern take on them, even if they are downtuned slightly. All in all, I hope for a better release in the future and with "Instinctus Bestialis" on the way, I'm sure we'll know soon enough, especially since "Ad Majorem Santhanas Gloriam" marred their career in a terrible way, anyways, UTSOH 2011, not too bad but not great either.
Alright. This is something that was unexpected a few years ago, but it happened. As it's obvious, Gorgoroth re-recorded all the songs of a very old album they did before. Some people complain about it, others don't care, but I found this recording extremely interesting. That's because these songs were always a great part of Gorgoroth's history, but they never sounded fine on the original record. And if you, as me, live outside the range of countries where this band always tours, it's quite refreshing to hear them (finally) with top-notch quality. Maybe this was not for people who enjoy the raw recordings of regular black metal. It was made to sound powerful. That's it.
The whole thing was engineered by the band's drummer, Thomas Asklund, who is a very technical and perfectionist drummer. That's why you will find triggered drums, sharp and clear guitars, and a very well-balanced mix in this album. The vocals fit very well in the music since Pest has a lot of talent. The clearness of the guitars (which doesn't lessen its power, by the way) allows the listener to appreciate the speed and the details that guitarist Infernus actually produces with his wrists. This couldn't be noticed in the old version. As for what concerns the songs, in case you haven't heard them before, some of them are fast (for Gorgoroth's standards), some of them are mid-tempo, and others are even slow, so there's a good amount of variety.
Is there any point that deserves to be criticized? Maybe yes. Even though it lets the listener appreciate these old songs in a clear way, it's obvious that the surprise element is much less present than in unedited songs of any band. Maybe Gorgoroth could have shocked the audience with new songs composed in the vein of the old ones and with an extra touch of unexpected arrangements, but that's just a remote possibility that didn't come to happen. So coming back to reality, it's possible to say that this experienced band has made a high standard version of one of their classics. There's a lot of new energy and effort from the band put in here. Quite good reasons for listening to it. Enjoy it!
Whole album rerecords are a tricky business. While re-recordings of individual songs are based on problems the band/writer might have had with that ONE song, whole albums are a different business. Each individual song has its merits and flaws, but as a whole it's harder to gauge. The last I heard of this was Dimmu Borgir's 2005 re-recording of Stormblåst, and my opinion of that was that it was a mixed bag -- what you'd expect with a whole album re-recording. Some songs were improved, and some songs completely flopped. My main question was were Infernus and co. able to keep the whole album afloat, and maybe even eclipse the mighty satanic host of the original Under the Sign of Hell?
The answer is no. But before you accuse me of saying Demon Burger are better than Gorgoroth, let me say this: Under the Sign of Hell was a tough, tough album to beat. Personally, I felt Destroyer should have been re-recorded, since it had inconsistent production, performances, and even bandmembers. But they chose Under the Sign of Hell, so the crux of this review will be how well it stacks up to the original. For the most part, the 2011 version does not stand up.
I have heard the phrase "The production's too clean" before, and it used to baffle me. "Why would anyone not want a clean production?" I would ask myself. This rerecord has provided probably an all-too-clear reason why there can be such a thing. The riffs, the song structures, the vocals, and damn near everything else was geared towards a dirty, minimalist production. Good production really has nothing to do with raw versus clean. I've heard amazing production jobs on both sides of the equation and everywhere in the middle, so clean versus dirty is never indicative of good versus bad. The production on this album is clean, and instruments all have clarity in the mix. The drums isolate a small space sonically, as do the guitars. There is very little reverb, and very little delay (if any) on the vocals. Everything is cleanly produced here. That being said, it's mixed horribly. The snare is definitely too loud, and ruins many songs here. The slower songs are ruined by the overly clean atmosphere, giving it a sluggish, thin, sound, which makes the snare all that more obtrusive.
As well, I remember listening to Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatum Trahunt, the predecessor of Under The Sign Of Hell 2011, and thinking "Damn, the producers could stand to raise the levels of the guitars." Here, it's even worse. Quantos Possunt Ad Sathanas Trahunt benefited from the cleaner production since it was a slightly more complex album, and the guitars still had some punch to them. On 2011 it just feels dry and thin. Again, I don't know what Gorgoroth were trying to accomplish here, seeing as most of the songs were just fine on the original. This is what I meant when I said unneeded and pointless; the original did the job just fine, and why fix it if it's not broken, especially since Under The Sign Of Hell's followup, Destroyer, would've been a wiser choice? I could see reasons for wanting to rerecord Destroyer. So a lot of this criticism is BECAUSE Under the Sign of Hell was such a classic, and didn't need to be rerecorded.
If this had been an actual album, instead of a re-recording, I would have rated it higher. If I try and listen to 2011 based on its own merits, it's not that bad. It's just that I've heard all these songs before, and there's no added benefit I get from hearing them again with this new production and lineup. It leeches off of past glories instead of adding to them. While some, like Krig, are listenable, others, like Profetens Aapenbaring and Oggeledelse Og Undergang, are unlistenable. The clean production and downtuned guitars kill most of the riffs, and it's apparent that Infernus and co. are not the same band they were in the mid-nineties, and while I liked Quantos Possunt Ad Sathanas Trahunt, I find this passable. Reallly, one should only listen to this from the attitude of a Gorgoroth completist, because otherwise this is pointless and doesn't add anything to the value of Under the Sign of Hell.
After the release of Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, it was revealed that Gorgoroth would re-record one of their classic albums with the new line-up. The victim of this treatment was none other than Under the Sign of Hell. While there were things about the overall production of that album that could have stood some alteration, much moreso than Pentagram or Antichrist, it was still a record that possessed its own identity and was a worthy chapter in the band's history. In fact, the final one prior to the last album. Unfortunately, the re-recorded version of this black metal classic was spawned in the home studio of Tomas Asklund (the only reason anyone puts up with him) and features his mechanical drumming style. The end product is an album that is far inferior to the original, in every conceivable way, and something that was little more than a waste of time.
The production of this record is bloody awful, and Asklund should be dragged out into the nearest street and shot. Due to his horrible ego, the drumming is far too high in the mix (something that plagued the original), yet it lacks any sense of character and just makes the music sound sterile and void of any sort of feeling. The guitar riffs seem incredibly weak, as well, rendered ineffective and harmless by the modern production. Infernus is a very gifted songwriter, yet one would be hard-pressed to notice, thanks to the miserable sound quality. his brilliant guitar melodies are buried and take on a supporting role, serving as background noise for Asklund's percussion. This is a bloody travesty, as everything is backward and wrong. Riffs that were once powerful and commanding are now impotent and timid. Even Pest's vocals are less impressive, now bereft of the vicious tone of the past. Whereas he once sounded possessed, he now seems to be going through the motions. In fact, that is probably accurate regarding this entire project. One has to wonder why they even bothered to do this if they were not going to give their best effort. If Infernus thinks that this pile of garbage does justice to the original, then the court case must have taken more of a toll on him than previously imagined.
Regarding the music, there is not much to say. Gorgoroth, pretty much, plays everything exactly as it was on the original record, note for note. This is not even a re-interpretation, like Burzum's From the Depths of Darkness; instead, this is nothing more than the band playing through an old album, doing their best to avoid any sort of deviation. Again, there was nothing about the material that warranted this re-recording. Infernus does not appear to have any regrets about the album as it was recorded back in 1997. The only complaint that anyone could have about Under the Sign of Hell would be the abrasive production. Nonetheless, it was a sound that would grow on you over time, unlike this lifeless and boring reproduction. It is good to hear Gorgoroth playing this sort of music again and one would hope that the next album is more in line with the older albums; however, they desperately need to recruit a new drummer and to switch to a different studio before doing so.
Under the Sign of Hell 2011 was a mistake. There is not one single improvement to be found, here. Whatever motivated Infernus to do this shall remain a mystery. Rather than tarnishing their name by offering up such a bland re-recording, the band could have been working on a new record. Sadly, if it shares the same type of production as this, then it may be worthless as well. Infernus needs to wake up and realize that Tomas Asklund is killing his band. It is like Gríma Wormtongue and King Théoden, from The Lord of the Rings. Infernus thinks that Asklund is helping him by playing drums and providing a convenient studio. The truth of the matter is that the miserable Swede is a cancer that needs to be carved out of Gorgoroth. Despite how rotten this release is, at least everyone is free to listen to the original instead. Avoid this.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Re-recorded versions of classic albums usually polarize fans with more tendency to negative criticism. From my listening experience I consider this one a failure.
The production is a lot cleaner than on the original, and I must say it's sterile. The atmosphere of the original cannot be found here. Drums are catastrophic. Beats sound sampled like on QPAST, which aren't that bad like there, but nowhere near to the evil sound from '97. Since Grim (RIP) couldn't play drums here for obvious reasons, Tomas Asklund handles them with less skill, and you can hear this instantly when the album kicks in with Revelation of Doom.
Guitar-wise, the album would be okay if wasn't ruined by the production. The total absence of the solo in The Rite of Infernal Invocation is another problem here. Bass guitar is also played by Infernus and is a bit harder to hear, so I won't comment it.
Pest repeats his role here as vocalist. This could be good news. His voice is the same as on Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, which I find rather mediocre after his performance on the original version or Destroyer (album). Clean vocals are good in Profetens åpenbaring, but not great. Even Gaahl did better on the True Norwegian Black Metal CD. Another thing I miss are the 'clean' vocals in Blood Stains the Circle as they are replaced here with regular growls.
I find only two improvements over the original. The first of them is the absence of Postludium. I mean, that track was totally useless and more like a filler. The second one is how Pest forms the words. I can finally understand the majority of the English lyrics (I don't speak Norwegian).
To conclude everything, this one was a big mistake, maybe a cash grab. Do yourself a favour and do not buy this blindly because of the original! Get something worth your money instead.
Under The Sign of Hell. Ah, hearing that title always brings an evil, icy chill over my heart. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is my favourite Gorgoroth album and one of my favourite black metal albums overall. But now that feeling has been tainted. Infernus, for some insane reason, decided it was a good idea to go back and re-record this classic, and boy did they fuck it up.
When I first heard the news that Gorgoroth would be re-recording UTSOH, I was cautiously optimistic. Curious even. Sure, I didn’t expect the re-recording to top the original, nor did I expect it to be awful. I expected an album that would be cool to check out and maybe buy if I found a cheap used copy. What we have ended up with is something that even if I got it for free I would feel ripped off.
The easiest way to sum up this disaster is to say that Infernus has pulled a George Lucas. Like crazy old George, Infernus has gone back and taken something many people hold dear to their hearts and raped it. With computers.
What neither Lucas nor Infernus seem to realize is that it’s not simply having the slickest looking or sounding product that makes a classic. A classic is a classic because of so much more. Sure, some of the effects in the original Star War trilogy look dated now, and the production on the original UTSOH is far from the sterile, modern studio production that features on so many albums these days. But what made these works great was their charm. The original Star Wars is full of weird and often silly names, places and characters, but through all that we still connect with the characters and their struggle. With the original UTSOH, it was not that the musicianship and the production were perfect that made it great. In fact, it was very far from being polished and professional. Really it’s a demo quality recording with a similar level of musicianship, but it’s the strength of the songwriting and the overall atmosphere that made it great.
In fact, the raw production and loose playing make the album better. Both combine to give the album a feeling that it simply had to be made. This is not something done for profit and fame. It feels more like the musicians are so possessed by darkness and cold that they just had to express it as aggressively and brutally as possible. The re-recording, with its pristine playing and production, loses this. It’s just sterile. You don’t get any impression of how the musicians feel. There is no frantic and uncontrolled barbarity like in the original. To go back to the Star War anthology and take all the changes Lucas made to the original Trilogy. Yeah, now we see more of Cloud City and Mos Eisley. But does it make the movies better? Fuck no. During the chase to rescue the recently-frozen-in-carbonite Han Solo, we didn’t originally see windows in the background with wide views of buildings and clouds. But we didn’t need to. The audience isn’t paying attention to the distant cityscape because it has no bearing on the plot. What matters is the drama and action of the chase. With the original UTSOH, you couldn’t hear all the instruments perfectly and distinctly, but you don’t need to. What matters is how everything comes together and the atmosphere that is created. That is what the band seems to not realize with this re-recording.
The awful (in a bad way) production is most prevalent with the drums. It sounds like Lars Ulrich mixed them for Satan’s sake. I don’t know what the fuck they were going for, but these drums simply sound like shit. They are certainly not incredibly raw like on the original, but they are not completely triggered (a la Hellhammer) either. It’s like they tried to set up a bunch of trigger and mics without knowing what the fuck they were doing and just went with it.
The guitars on the album simply sound generic. Gone is the icy and blistering sound of Infernus’ guitar on the early Gorgoroth albums, replaced by a tone that could have come off hundreds of albums of the past decade.
Pest is probably the best thing on this, and even then he doesn’t sound great. His performance just sounds so phoned in. This is most prevalent on Profetens Apenbaring. His clean vocals just sound so uninspired, like he just quickly stopped by the studio, did it in one take, and then left without giving two shits how it sounded. On the original recording of this song he sounded so passionate and insane. Here he just sounds like he is killing time till in between church burnings…or, more realistically, picking his kids up from daycare.
In short, Gorgoroth dun goofed. Really they should have just worked on new material instead of shitting all over their past. And before anyone accuses me of being an elitist who only likes early '90s BM, I liked “Quantos…”, even though I would have preferred if it had dirtier production. It had some good songs, and at least it still sounded like the band cared. With this re-recording it sounds like they have given up. Infernus used to bullseye womprats back home in his T-16. Now he is just a middle aged man who has lost touch with the essence of black metal. And with the force.
In a move guaranteed to segment whatever fan base was remaining from their last few bouts of drama, Gorgoroth has decided to follow up it's latest studio effort Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt with a re-recording of its 1997 classic, Under the Sign of Hell. Why this particular album was chosen, and not one of its cult classic predecessors Pentagram or Antichrist is beyond my ken. Infernus might have been unhappy with the production of the original, might have wanted to do this for fun, or both, but whatever the case be, you can be damned sure this will drag out all sort of fan entitlement response from the woodwork. How could you betray us? How are you not rich enough already with your fifty sports cars, Norwegian castle and estate, and a bakers' dozen super models slung from your arms, Infernus? I was going to name my firstborn after you! But I feel SO betrayed...
Oh wait, he probably has none of those things. So the claims of selling out grow rather tedious, rotted limbs sprung forth from a vocal minority who seem to think the universe revolves around them, and that these musicians don't have the legal right to do whatever the shit they want. But don't mistake me for some arduous supporter of this practice of remakes. I very, very rarely care for such modernizations of classic material, and in almost all cases I would prefer that the original version be experienced, since its dating and aural placement puts it in the proper chronological perspective for the newcomer to the band or genre. Occasionally, a band will put out a great collection of re-recordings that feel fresh and energetic without any diabolic intention to supplant the originals (Destruction and Satan's Host come to mind immediately). Or they might shit the bed entirely (for example, Bethlehem remaking S.U.I.Z.I.D. with weaker vocals), or not offer enough difference to matter.
So, any judgment upon this new rendition of Under the Sign of Hell must ultimately fall not only on a question of necessity, but on its actual quality. Do these songs sound better with a fresh coat of paint, or do they sound contrived and disposable? Unfortunately, I felt that this particular redux leans more towards the latter. Now, let me clarify: I understand completely that the drums on the original sound like someone slapping a paper bag repeatedly with a plastic fork. But despite this fact, there is a real vicious streak to that record which earned it's place in history, and it seems that the 2011 edition loses a lot of that earnest hostility with Tomas Asklund's new drumming. He's a talented skin basher who makes it all seem effortless, of that there is no question, but the fact remains is that Grim's ridiculous drums on the original are one of those little, unintentional nuances that create character...wherein this new mix sounds like...just about anyone else.
And it's not as if Gorgoroth was attempting to dance on any graves, here. They brought back the same vocalist (Pest) from the original, and he sounds a bit fuller than the old album, as if he were gargling the blood of a fresh kill on "Krig", where on the prior incarnation he was just rasping as if out in the cold midnight air. The guitars are pretty much the same, only they sound a lot more corpulent and lack the incendiary, amateur thrills of their origins. In general, this is a more bass heavy production that falls more in line with Quantos Possunt... or their other 21st century studio outings than the good old days, and if you're looking for a black metal album to 'thump' out of your car speakers in between binges of 50 Cent and L'il Wayne, then by all means, turn this mutha out. You'll probably appreciate its sturdier, modern fiber.
Now, this is the complete album being reworked, so it's not something like Burzum's latest From the Depths of Darkness compilation, in which he tossed a few useless ambient ditties on to a selection of tracks (from two albums) he wanted to re-issue with better ('different', really) production. Front to back, it's Under the Sign of Hell, refurbished like old furniture being sent to auction. So there's no real new sense of configuration whatsoever, only the actual tones and depth of sound have been altered here, perhaps a few subtler shifts. The problem is, well there is nothing being offered on this remake that, to me, justifies itself. I'm not about to accuse Infernus of being some moneygrubber trying to sell the discarded ass-fat of wealthy baby boomers back to its original owners as soap. But at the same time, there is nothing remotely interesting about this material in this new schema, and I see no reason to bother with it when the original is just that much more...charming...
I think I can see why Infenrus wanted to redo this again. He was riding on a good wave after the excellent comeback album 'Quantos...', that he possibly felt that the original version of 'Under The Sign...' was a bit too flawed and he wanted to sort smooth out the sharp or uneven edges. I had no issue with the statement on their website when it was announced. I was happy to see that justice was served in that Infernus got rightful ownership of HIS band from greedy, frivolous, shameless Gaahl and King. The band was drifting in an obvious "progressive" direction with those yoyos in the band. They were getting soft and too "overproduced". Then Infernus takes back his band and brings it back to the early, raw, ugly, black side of black metal once again. It was a relief and a success to see Gorgoroth sounding like Gorgoroth again. It was the first time they since the 'Destroyer' album.
Now Infernus is sponsored by Jackson guitars and EVH amps. I'm sure he's foaming at the mouth with the sound of his new toys that he may have thought to himself, "imagine what UTSOH would sound like with this excellent new stuff I have in the studio, new improved guitars, excellent soundsystem, the whole bit." Because let's be real, the early material is underproduced and raw. But this is black metal, the main idea behind it is to sound this way on purpose. At least it used to be back in the 80's and 90's. While that album is everything I described, it was a pure classic because of that, well, also because the songs were great too. But lack of "clean" production is what adds to the feeling and atmosphere of the whole album.
Regain Records initially was supposed to release this I believe on August 27th instead of late Nov., early Dec. Supposedly because of "financial issues" they couldn't mass produce it to the public. I wonder. Maybe they were unimpressed with it. While some people here love to over dramatize things with their reviews this isn't THAT BAD. The drums on the original sounded kind of odd and perhaps a bit too high in the mix. I don't consider myself to be a diehard fan of the band so I don't take this remake as personally as some have. The production on this album is similar to 'Quantos' but lacking in the same aggression as that. The sound here is fine to my ears. It's not underproduced or the playing lacking IMO, but it doesn't improve upon the original version at all. Pest steals the show here and reminds me of why I always liked him more than Gaahl.
'Revelation Of Doom' sounds good here, I don't really have as much a problem as some. Pest sounds the same after almost 15 years of absence which is amazing since vocalists age the worst no matter how vile sounding they can be. 'Krig' as well sounds good. Nothing really different except in the overall feel, 'Profetens Apenbaring' sounds good too. But the mix seems a bit low, as if someone turned down the volume a little. It's missing something, I can say the same for every song here. It's just missing "that element", its like trying to write over your signature and not mess it up but you end up making it look worse than if you just left it alone. This album fit that description to a tee. Nothing was wrong with the first version, in fact it's a classic album. Every musician always complains and has something they wish they could have changed from a past release, especially the ones that everybody loves the most. While it is Infernus' work and he can do whatever the fuck he wants, truth is that work belongs to us too, the fans, the people who adore it. It's an important part of black metal history. One that should never be tampered with.
Asklund's drumming is good, but sounds very tame and lacking a "punch" or "thundering" feel to it. I blame the sterile production for it and mainly what I dislike about this remake most. I wanted to hear a deeper more penetrating sound in the drums here badly. It's practically note for note a carbon copy of the original, but missing some ambient intros in the songs from the original like on 'Profetens Åpenbaring', and the last three and a half minutes of 'The Rite Of Infernal Invocation' is missing completely on the remake. I suppose Infernus doesn't like ambient pieces and just cut the fat off. Don't fuck with a classic, no matter how much you think you can make it better. Because he didn't. It's worth purchasing just as a collector's item since it's very hard to find and to make you appreciate the majesty and greatness of the original version of this album. Non alcoholic beer may be safer and healther for you, but what's the point then?
I've always been a pretty decent fan of Gorgoroth and the songs on the original Under the Sign of Hell really got me interested into finding more material by them. That album was fantastic - Pest's vocals were vicious and evil and the tracks themselves were filled with such a hateful intensity along with barbaric, anti-Christian tone. When I heard news of a remake coming out, I was a bit skeptical of their rationality and motivation because the original was just fine. But I was still interested because maybe they could some more things in the music, change things up a bit, or do something completely unexpected. Well, I'm sorry to report that the band did none of this and the new Under the Sign of Hell is a dull, sterilized, and inhibited shadow of its magnificent original version.
First, I don't even know why they decided to make a remake anyway. Like the original, you still have Pest on vocals and Infernus doing the guitarwork - the only thing missing is Grim not on drums, instead getting the guy who played on Reinkaos. You essentially have the same lineup and because the production was good enough on the original, what could they have possibly done different? At least when Bethlehem remade their SUIZID album, they had a different vocalist and so that album had a much different feel - whether you thought that was a good thing or not. It turns out that the production has improved a bit, but everything just feels so wrong. The music as a whole feels slower, there is very little chemistry between Infernus and Pest - it's like they didn't even put their heart into it. Classics like Funeral Procession and Profetens Åpenbaring seem so monotonous and dull. Where's the fiery passion from the originals? Those hellish howls? Don't get me wrong, Pest still sounds good, but the overall sound of the album doesn't give his performance enough justice. Was Infernus hungover when he decided to record this?
Secondly, many remakes of metal albums offer extra tracks. Usually they are covers of some of their favorite songs from other bands, live/rehearsal versions of well known songs, or random variations and alternatives to these songs. Whatever it is - there is none of this on the new Under the Sign of Helll. Actually, there's less - much less. Remember the ambient introduction to Profetens Åpenbaring? Well, that has been removed! Those clean vocals in the beginning were quite cringeworthy, by the way. What about that creepy choir-like chant in the beginning of Funeral Procession? I didn't hear it either. The biggest insult is what they did to The Rite of Infernal Invocation. Who had the bright idea of removing that awesome guitar solo in the middle of the song? That was THE best part of the track because it came in so frantically, unexpected, and paved a good setting for more of Pest's roars. I had to listen to this drivel a few times in hopes that it was actually there and I was just missing it, but no luck. To make matters worse, that minimal ambience has also been removed from the end of the track. It's a shame because it allowed for a good transition into the Devil is Calling, another victim of lazy musicianmanship and lack of energy.
The 2011 version of Under the Sign of Hell is a heavy insult to any fans of Gorgoroth, whether you preferred the original version, the Hat albums, or even the Gaahl/King era. Before this album, Gorgoroth was known as one of the most aggressive, ugly, no-bullshit black metal bands. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm not going to give this a 0 because Pest still sounds okay and the music as a whole is not completely unlistenable, but this is just sad. Let's just forget this album ever existed by going back to the original Under the Sign of Hell from 1997 and enjoying that instead. Next time you decide to remake from one of your most critically acclaimed albums, think of what was done on this remake and do the complete opposite!
I’m too depressed and embarrassed about this album to go into much detail about my background as a Gorgoroth fan, and especially my adoration of the original 1997 version of this album. Naturally, I was skeptical about the idea of a re-recording, and wondered what on earth the qualms Infernus could possibly have had with the original. Still, I was interested to see what the current line-up had to bring to the table and thought it would be cool to hear some of my favourite Gorgoroth songs reinterpreted.
Fucking shit, dude.
Nothing could have prepared me for this mess. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the opening track of Under the Sign of Hell, Revelation of Doom, and being completely dumbstruck by every aspect of the song. Infernus sounded as if he was conjuring a demonic maelstrom with his furious riffs, Grim’s legendary assault on the snare, Pest shrieking blasphemous scriptures against all things good and holy, and the rehearsal-like production which really sold the charm of the whole album like nothing else. I’ll also never forget my jaw dropping in bewilderment the first time I heard Revelation of Doom off this brand spanking new re-recording. It’s as if the band went out of their way to strip everything away that made the original so endearing, and just offer up the hollow shell of each song, with no thought to coherency, nevermind atmosphere.
I imagine most detractors of this album will accuse the production of sounding too much like Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt, when in fact the production on Quantos… is tenfold better than it is here. That album, while decidedly being less aggressive than previous Gorgoroth releases, still packed a somewhat heavy and fast bite when it wanted to, whereas the sound couldn’t be more limp-dick and tame here. That’s right, Gorgoroth sound tame on this album. There’s absolutely no freezing edge to Infernus’ guitars, and the whole mix sounds so compressed and artificial.
The drums… If Grim were to rise from his grave and hear this album, I’m positive he’d abruptly kill himself all over again. I’ve never been a fan of Tomas Asklund, but his performance here makes Reinkaos sound fucking harsh. This is probably the biggest problem with the album, as his repetitive and utterly lifeless plodding through the songs (especially the slower paced ones like Funeral Procession and The Devil is Calling) make the music all but entirely unlistenable, not to mention his blastbeats are some of the least threatening I’ve ever heard. It really makes me wonder what the album would have sounded like if they got long time studio collaborator, Frost, on board. Surly it couldn’t have turned out worse than this.
Pest seems to be the only member whose intentions were in the right place, as he really does deliver a menacing vocal performance. Despite his efforts, though, each song still sucks corpsepainted balls. What’s funny, in fact, is that his extreme vocals often sound out of place overtop the lackluster and really tamed down instruments. He attempts to retain the chaotically violent ending to Revelation of Doom with some inhuman shrieks, but the instrumentation just isn’t there to support him. Inferus literally sounds bored and lazy with the music, and doesn’t even bother playing the great solo in The Rite of Infernal Invocation. Seriously, how are things like this explainable?
A part of me is surprised at how low I’m rating this album (a full 80% less than what I gave the original), but seriously, this sounds more like an insulting parody of the original album, rather than a legitimate and justified re-recording. Thankfully, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care too much about these sorts of albums, as my love for the original will always remain, and I’m fairly content with ignoring this for as long as I listen to Gorgoroth. That said, this is a fairly glaring shit stain on Gorgoroth’s legacy, and basically shows us that they’re losing touch with black metal. It also concerns me on a personal level since this is the first time Gorgoroth have truly disappointed me since the King era.