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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!