Is It Worth It? - YOB's Catharsis
Masters of the Remaster Debate the Reissue's Meritsposted on 11/2013 By:
On November 12th, Profound Lore reissued YOB's sophomore full-length Catharsis nearly ten years to date of its original release. With a spiffy sound courtesy of Tad Doyle and a much-needed art design update thanks to people with functioning eyeballs, Catharsis 2.0 looks like it's worth the dough. However, we know we've been deceived by less in the past. So, to ensure product quality is high, we've brought into two rigorous auditors to argue over whether your decade-old copy requires a reborn brother. The criteria? Production, packaging, and need. Your testers? Erik Highter and Ian Chainey. Here are the notes they passed in class.
Erik: Whenever I see a reissue touting a remastering job, I wonder if it's a sales pitch or actually worth it. Rarely, it seems, do these remasters do anything but crush the dynamics and bring it up to the current expectations of loudness. The old metaphorical brick wall. So when I read that YOB's long out-of-print second album, Catharsis, was being reissued in remastered form by Profound Lore, I was skeptical. It's not a record that cried out to me as a poor mastering job. As excited as I was to have it available to folks again, I didn't understand why it wasn't a straight reissue. But, sucker that I am for all things YOB I ordered it as soon as it was available.
I'm glad I did. This remaster from Tad Doyle (TAD, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Lumbar) is wonderful. It's a relatively subtle one as these things go, one that brings clarity instead of volume. The bass is thicker, and the low end has real heft. And the separation of Mike Scheidt's vocals from his guitar is greater; they no longer wash each other out when they're in the same frequency. I swear I'm hearing things I don't hear on the original Abstract Sounds CD.
I know you've listened to it a few times, too. Are you as happy with the remaster as I am?
Waveform comparison of "Ether."
Ian: Sure, especially since it gets one of the best '00 booming doomers back in print. For those of us who like to, you know, touch things, tracking this sucker down was a real nut-kicker. Hacking through Amazon for days on end never turned up a disc priced below, carry...the...one, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY GOSH DARN DOLLARS?! Abstract Sounds, you were killing us. Actually, looks like you killed you. I can find nary a trace of your existence on the web besides a To-Mera single (Remember them?) and a possibly coincidental appearance as the domain of Candlelight's corporate e-mail. Maybe for the best.
Anyway, I kinda get the feeling Chris Bruni, Profound Lore's proprietor, hates doing things half-assed. This is why he's a smart business dude in the metal label minefield. Smarter than me, at least. Erik, I was with you, I thought Catharsis '03 was a-okay as is. (Hindsight tells me I should've sold it. Hey, you lose some, you lose some.) But, I guess that's why we haven't successfully released 80 or 90 albums. Mr. Bruni saw the opportunity to give this ten year old a makeover at Doyle's Witch Ape Studios and had the tenacity to make it all come together. That's impressive in itself. Yet, Doyle's remaster is even more so. Bruni gambled, Doyle scored.
Yep, Catharsis '13 is worth buying solely for righting one of the big wrongs: Finally, Isamu Sato can provide proof to his family he was in the room. Of course, other important sonic shifts take place. Doyle tweaks the volume of build-ups and blow-outs for a more organic release. That goes a long way; even if it's imperceptible, you still sort of sense it, right? And, better yet, he keeps Scheidt's vocals below the guitars. Soapbox moment: Nothing upends the perception of LOUDNESS (Optional reading: Yelled as though you're introducing the band Loudness) like an over-amplified voice. Keep it veiled and guitars sprout to Stay-Puft size. Honest.
All in all, small fixes. Huge result, though. Huge. Good remasters have that power. They can change an entire experience while operating under the restraint to not change much at all.
However, speaking of something worth going all out on, how you liking the packaging?
Erik: I like the packaging, but I don't love it. As a whole it's up to Profound Lore's high standards; the new golden Buddha cover pops off the shelf, and the type on the spine of the digipack is excellent. I also like that lyrics are included, as they show the themes Mike were exploring then are still at the core of his work. But I'm sorry to say it isn't up to their last two new releases through Profound Lore, Atma and The Great Cessation. Those were striking works of art; this is a nice package. It will look better on the vinyl version that I understand is in the works, but nearly every cover is better at 12 1/4" x 12 1/4".
You know what cover wouldn't be better at those dimensions? The photoshop monstrosity of the Abstract Sounds release. It's a fucking disaster. I have no idea what the thought process was back in 2003, but the result was horrible. Even the font sucks. The only kind thing you can say is it caught your eye from afar. Problem was, once you bought it you rarely saw it from the distance necessary to make it work.
Have you had a chance to lay your hands on this? Are we on the same page like with the sound of the remaster, or am I talking out of my ass again?
Ian: No, we're aligning like ice dancers. (So, who is Torvill and who is Dean?) The new duds? I haven't seen the pic in person, but from my iDevice, it looks okay. It definitely fits the theme better than the old cover, which plenty must've mistaken for eco-minded groove metal. It's only okay, though. We've been spoiled rotten with evocative art this year, especially in the realm of photography. (Celeste! Again!) Still, I think the spartan presentation will help in turning this into an iconic release. Something people will remember fondly. Not something folks will feel the need to qualify with a book/cover analogy.
So, let's close up shop. After revisiting Catharsis, how do you feel about it? Any new revelations? Me, I forgot how Geddy our man Mike would get on these early cuts. Works, though. That's the thing about having a unique holler; you can make it fit by calibrating the rest of the instruments to be truly under your employ. Scheidt's screams slide right into his guitar tone like sword and sheath. It's Songs: Ohia-esque. It's harmony city. (Pop: All of riffs?) And then, the music. Jeeze. It's got that Wishbone Ash slash Diamond Head wormhole epicness; the kind where you come up for air for a second and you think, How the hell did we get here? I missed that. I'm glad it's back.
Erik: I'm Torvill. My wife says I have amazing legs.
That said, you nailed the revelation of this remastered Catharsis on the head for me when you called out the emergence of Isamu Sato from the fog. I'm a huge fan of the lower end of the sonic spectrum, and to hear Sato as clear and strong as he is here is stunning. One of the overlooked facets of YOB is that – regardless of the line-up – the rhythm section is rock solid behind Mike's guitar and vocals. It let's him reach those Geddy notes and harmonize with them on his guitar. Personally, I'm glad he's revisiting that high holler on the VHÖL and Lumbar records. Here's to hearing it again on the next YOB, too.
I have to say, the overall clarity and low-end grunt that Tad Doyle has rescued on this remaster makes purchasing it a no-brainer. This is how Catharsis should always have sounded. This isn't just rescuing an album from second-hand price gouging; this is a pivotal recording from one of the best bands of the 21st century, finally fit to take it's place amongst their impeccable catalog. I'm glad I have the original edition, because I got to listen to the music for all these years. But I'll never play it again now that I have the remaster.
Ian - I know you have serious industry cred. Can you get Tad to remaster ...And Justice For All?
Ian: Only after he secretly remasters Hüsker Dü and the entire SST catalog. Doyle rules.