Considering Spinefarm released a re-mastered version of Ecliptica in 2008 resplendent with new packaging and bonus tracks, in order celebrate the 15th anniversary of their debut, Finnish melodic Power Metal masters Sonata Arctica had to do something different, so chose to head to the studio to re-record it. As you do. The intention seems honest enough, with only vocalist / mainman Tony Kakko and drummer Tommy Portimo playing on the original, and with songs from what is a genuine genre classic still featuring heavily in their set, the rest of the band wanted to pay tribute to the original.
So, where do we stand on re-recordings, people? Yep, thought so, that seems pretty unanimous to me… I’ve yet to come across a re-recording where the original has been improved upon too. While some are worthy curiosities worth a listen from time to time, the best example being Anthrax’s The Greater Of Two Evils (Sanctuary) – which was a compilation of older tracks with John Bush on vocals rather than a straight re-record – in the main, they are creatively redundant, futile efforts. And don’t get me started on Kings Of Metal MMXIV (Magic Circle).
The re-record is slicker and “sounds” better, with Kakko’s vocals less fresh-faced and more professional, it does lack the naivety and, well, charm, of an original that had a rawer guitar sound, less polished mix and more ‘oomph’ to it. The key of several of the songs, most notably opener ‘Blank File’, has shifted down a notch or two to better suit Kakko’s range, and some of the solos have switched between instruments.
But, minor aesthetics aside, it is pleasing to report that, at least, they haven’t fucked around with it and Ecliptica – Revisited; 15th Anniversary Edition (Nuclear Blast) is pretty much a straight re-record. Why is this pleasing? Surely you’d want the band to do something different? Nah, because different isn’t always better and this faithful re-imagining serves a reminder of just how good the songs are and just how promising a band Sonata Arctica were in their early days.
Ultimately, it must be said, this is a very, very respectable re-recording of a great album, and about as a good a job as could be done to stay true to the original, but as with all of these types of things, the original is the King. If the debut didn’t exist, I’d be reigning down recommendations on this from on high – Ecliptica is a classic for a reason, all in, a collection of great songs.
The 15th Anniversary Edition, I’m sure, was fun for all concerned, but if you’re interested in dipping into the Stratovarius influenced Power Metal world of Sonata Arctica at their peak, pick up the originals of the first three.