.Editorial - Re: Reissues and Remasters

Release year: 2021
Reviewed by Ben

While it hasn't happened much, it has happened. I'll be browsing bandcamp or Amazon and then I'll look up some huge ass box set reissue ala Metallica or the Appetite For Destruction box with the 1986 demos and outtakes. While the world doesn't need anything else Black Album related ever, those earlier sets that Metallica put out got me kinda interested, especially a remastered version of And Justice For All with theoretical discernible bass. (spoiler: you can't remaster what isn't there) However, I see the astronomical price tag, I cringe, and then I move along. Down the line though, I run into the recent remaster / reissues of Kreator's back catalog, three of which have an entire extra disc of material, for roughly twelve bucks each. Someone got my money and it wasn't Lars. This led me to think about reissues and at what point a band should put one out, and I also just want to briefly touch on remastering and what it is.

In the world of Spotify and unlimited independent sources, it seems strange to want an album to be reissued. But there for a good bit even during the infancy of mp3s, there was a large swath of material that wasn't available. My first experience with remasters came when I got into Iron Maiden and the 1995 Castle Records 2 cd reissues were the go to releases for the catalog. Obviously I didn't know shit about shit about anything when I first got into them, but did realize between me and my friend, several albums had a second disc and some of those discs had a ton of material... uh... b-sides? B-sides? Ohhhh. Like a 7" record? ohhhhhh, so these songs are all the extra releases from the singles. Killers had one of the best discs since it had the Maiden Japan EP. It wouldn't be until later when I found used copies of albums at record stores and noticed the different artwork, the different fonts used for songs and realized how much the remasters made things uniform across the discography. All in all, these were a great batch of "reissues / remasters."

Judas Priest decided to remaster and reissue their catalog in 2001 / 2002. A huge deal was made about this at the time. The remastering aspect was talked about extensively. So what is remastering? Well, in layman's terms it basically means tweaking what's there. Making drums a bit clearer, guitars louder, removing what sounds like the cardboard box between the kick drum and the beater, etc. I really do think the remaster of the Priest catalog was necessary because the originally issued cd versions were mastered off the vinyl master. Those original cds had flat butt sounding snare drums. No sizzle, no crack that resounds power and urgency. The crunchy guitar part in Living After Midnight (loaded, loaded) sounded like a wet fart on my copy of British Steel with the no page booklet. That's another thing, the booklets for alot of those early issued cds were one or zero pages. Some didn't even fold out and had a literal blank page staring at you when you opened the album. I personally liked the sonic improvement over my cd catalog. But the bonuses the band put on were, uhh, well, they were pretty weak sauce, man. For one, the bonus tracks were almost all taken from the Turbo sessions when they were recording a double album that was to be called Twin Turbos or something like that. So, that causes quite a distraction on a seventies record with seventies production values when some rowdy and obtrusive eighties gated snare drum attack hits you (or better yet, a straight up drum machine). They should have just released all the studio extras on one disc or put together a theoretical release of the original double album. Then, on top of that, there's one live track and alot of times from a different era than the album it's on, has a fade in intro and then a fade out outro. Even if put all together on playlist, there's no flow to the tracks, no feeling of a setlist. Just random songs from random shows thrown on there. Again, this is a case where the "remaster" is more of a lure than the bonuses.

Probably the best two examples of remasters and reissues come from Helloween and Kreator. In 2006, Helloween reissued their catalog from Walls Of Jericho through Metal Jukebox. I believe five of those albums ended up being double disc sets. The shitty Chameleon album of course has the most material, but some of the b-sides are better than the actual splatter that was the original album. Red Socks And The Smell Of Trees is a long and interesting jam as well as the weirdness of Introduction. Booklets contain replicas of the original LP sleeves and then have a current (at the time) career spanning interview that coincides with each each album. Of course, now these are out of print and hard to find. Kreator gets a mention because they followed a similar trajectory as Helloween. Double disc sets, phat ass booklets, history facts, and song breakdowns. Where Kreator differs however is that on a few of their bonus material discs, they use a complete show from the era of the album. This is really fucking cool and it sold me instantly. The feeling of a complete show, no fade ins, no fade outs, and knowing it's from THAT album's tour is just pretty damn cool as a fan.

Beware though of albums that are also remixed. Remixed can mean guitars are taken out (and sometimes new ones put in), drums can be super manipulated, it's a mess. The remix and remasters of the Megadeth catalog are stellar examples of how to fumble that one. Rust In Peace had it the worst and the remix / remaster version of that is practically unlistenable. Blind Guardian remixed and reissued their catalog as well, but they gave you the original mix on a second disc. They didn't try to delete their original recordings. Keep in mind, remasters and remixes are really completely different entities. Remasters are the more subtle, remixes are the most drastic. Only ardent fans will really be able to tell alot of differences in the remasters, (mainly drums) but a remix can make a song completely different and give it a new feel. When Blind Guardian released a remixed version of their song Imaginations From The Other Side back in 2011 on a best of complilation, the chorus now had a melodic lead guitar line that's pushed way, way, way up front into the mix. This brought it more in line to how the song was played live, but the two versions make for entirely different listening experiences. Check 'em out.

I've yet to splurge on one of those super extravagant box sets. While the actual physical swag looks cool on alot of them, I haven't hung up a poster in going on seven years. For less than the cost of immersing oneself into say, one album for seven hours by a super established act, you could get the entire discography, b-sides and all of other bands so quick it'd make your head spin. It's almost an obligation due to how difficult some of these albums were to find originally.

Killing Songs :
Ben quoted
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