This time I’m going to review a reissue of a timeless classic. “In the Nightside Eclipse” is the first studio album of Norwegian black metal pioneers Emperor and one of only four full Albums by the band. By the time Emperor became famous I was completely new to the whole metal music genre and focused on bands which were easier to listen to. So I discovered Emperor the other way round through the releases of their frontman Ihsahn (A review of his new album “Arktis” will be done once the record is released by the way) and working my way through the music of Dark Funeral, Darkthrone, Summoning and Mayhem. I acquired this record at a vinyl fair in Graz, Austria for a bit above used market prices. This release is only the fourth time this album is released on vinyl in over 20 years. The other versions are the original release from 1995, a picture disc and a blue vinyl version of this records. I won’t review the music as this album is already critically acclaimed and considered to be nothing less than a masterpiece.
Artist: Emperor – Official Site (links to Facebook)
Album: In the Nightside Eclipse
Version: 2LP, black vinyl, ltd. reissue – Discogs Link
Label: Candlelight Records / Reissue by Back on Black
Found at: Vinyl Fair
Reviewing reissues will become a bigger part of this blog in the future as those releases are rather tricky. They are either hit or miss in terms of overall quality and sound. Sometimes they are a big improvement over the original release and sometimes they are plain garbage. Back on Black is apparently no independent label but part of Plastic Head Distribution. Steve Beatty, the founder of both Plastc Head created Back on Black solely for the purpose of reissuing and remastering metal classics. He is also the co-owner of Candlelight records and plays base for the band October File.
Quality and artwork:
What caught my attention almost immediately is the coloring. The cover of this reissue is way darker than the original releases. Due to the darker colors and the increased contrast the cover appears to be more detailed than the original one. The back of the gatefold is close to the original. The layout is the same and just varies in the placement/font of the track list and label information. The cardboard used is thick enough to withstand clumsy handling. Combined with a rather glossy finish it feels rather sticky. I always get the urge to wash my hands after I handled this gatefold. This may be due to me buying the record second-hand but I normally only get this feeling with records way older. The inner gatefold is a beautiful, calm, rural landscape, typically for black metal releases of this era. The lyrics and credits are placed on the bottom of the inner gatefold and blend perfectly with the picture. The sleeves housing the records are plain black paper. Combined with the cardboard of the gatefold this drives me insane. Placing the record sleeves in the gatefold sleeves is a frustrating task, as they get stuck quite often due to the materials rubbing against each other. The records themselves are as perfect as they can be. 180g black vinyl creates a great immersion of quality and compared to releases from other labels there are no flaws whatsoever (well-rounded hole for the spindle, perfectly rounded edges and placement of the sticker).
On a scale from hit to miss this is clearly a miss. I was really excited to put this record on but in the end I was really disappointed. The music sounds like an amateur live recording, tinny and sometimes even muffled. The rest of the album is a wall of sound. It is save to say, that the original master was not used to create this reissue. I did some research and I strongly suspect that the master from the equally bad 1999 CD-reissue by Century Black was used to create this LP. A comparison between the original release and the 1999 reissue can be found on the stevehoffmann.tv forums. The various other sources like streaming on Spotify, YouTube and Amazon music sound way better. There’s nothing left to say about this atrocious sound quality.
While doing my research, I found a lot of posts complaining about Back on Black releases and even calls to boycott the label. The problem with some of Back on Black’s reissues is, that the original master (or a high quality master) is not available and they decide to release a reissue from a low quality source. I don’t like this one bit and just not doing a reissue might have been the better option but this does not mean all of their releases sound bad. On the contrary, some of them are huge improvements, some of them on par with the original version and some really bad. So if you are going to buy a Back on Black reiusse, make sure to do some research. The comments section on Discogs, the stevehoffmann.tv forums and even the reviews on amazon are helpful in this case. In case of this album, there are only a few options left on vinyl. The original release is rather pricy and if you are not a fan of picture discs (I for instance prefer a gatefold or a single sleeve) your only other options are bootleg or Back on Black reissues. Stay away from this release if you can. I’d recommend buying it on CD if you want a physical copy.
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