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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.