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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