RE-RECORDING OLD MATERIAL: WHAT’S THE POINT?
Last night I heard the “new” Vader album, XXV, for the first time. In case you’re not hip to this release, it’s the Polish death metal masters’ 25th anniversary album, and is basically a greatest hits compilation – except that all the songs have been re-recorded with the band’s current line-up. Which, naturally, means that late drummer Krzysztof “Doc” Raczkowski appears nowhere on the album (or, at least, not in the audio content – I still don’t have a copy of the DVD which will accompany the disc’s release).
Of course, Vader aren’t the first band to embark upon such an endeavor. Living Colour, Twisted Sister, and even The Sex Pistols have all re-recorded some of their old songs for purpose of being able to license them without having to share the wealth with their former record labels, which is a brutal, and brutally honest, reason to re-visit your old catalogue. Dave Mustaine re-recorded “A Tout Le Monde” as a duet with Cristina Scabbia just last year; Anthrax re-recorded a bunch of old Joey Belladonna tunes with John Bush for their Greater of Two Evils* collection; hell, Dimmu Borgir re-recorded their entire album Stormblast because they were so unhappy with the original, and as I understand it, it’s only by the grace of God that we don’t have Appetite for Destruction 2000, featuring Axl Rose’s “revamped” GN’R in place of the original (although a half of a re-recorded “Sweet Child O’Mine” does roll over the closing credits of the Adam Sandler vehicle Big Daddy).
What, one has to wonder, is the point of re-recording all the band’s old songs?
Of course, it’s basically impossible to make broad-yet-accurate generalizations about the results of such re-recordings, but speaking generally, all of the projects I’ve listed above strike me as more or less completely pointless – even if none of them are exactly “bad.” I didn’t listen to XXV in its proper running order – I skipped around to my favorite songs to see whether or not this whole idea was just a total fucking disaster – and the changes were, by and large, pretty minimal. I mean, they’ve added some symphonic keyboard flourishes to “Kingdom” (which will probably annoy purists but didn’t really move me one way or the other), but, to be honest, I found the whole album much less ridiculous than the “A Tout Le Monde” redux, or, for that matter, the too-slick Sex Pistols retread or the new version of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” where Vernon Reid has replaced his classic guitar solos with mindless shredding.
But do I think I’ll ever put XXV on again when I can just listen to the original recordings I know and love from De Profundis and Kingdom and The Beast and Litany? Absolutely not.
Which brings me back to my original question: what was the point of this project? I hate to say it, but the answer I keep coming back to is “money.” Wouldn’t XXV, or The Greater of Two Evils, or “A Tout Le Monde Deux” all primarily appeal to younger fans unfamiliar with the originals, and more likely to purchase something shiny and new? Fuck, I prefer John Bush to Joey Belladonna, and even I’d rather listen to the original version of “Caught in a Mosh” than the (supposedly) Greater recording. So maybe Dimmu Borgir really were so unhappy with Stormblast that they felt like they just had to re-record it – but thinking that anyone other than a newer fan would accept the re-recording as a replacement for the original is a foolish error of George Lucasian proportions.
So here’s my quick word of advice to all the bands out there: your fans love you, warts and all. What’s done is done; keep your eyes on the road ahead.
*Does this mean we can now anticipate The Greatest of Three Evils, a re-recording of Belladonna AND Bush-era material with new vocalist Dan Nelson?