For being as venerable and insanely talented as they are, I feel as though Immolation gets the shit-end of the death metal history stick. They have their following and they’re not exactly a band that’s languished in obscurity or would be considered anything near a “forgotten classic,” but they really deserve a lot more attention and respect than they get. Calling their discography gem-studded doesn’t do them justice; their almost 30-year history as a band has been almost entirely gems. Seriously, what other classic early-90’s death metal band is still putting out new albums and, more importantly, evolving their sound with pretty much no breaks? That’s impressive as fuck no matter how you slice it!
1996’s Here In After is, in my opinion, the band’s best work: it’s the perfect middle ground between the group’s idiosyncratic tendencies towards short riffs that circle around themselves in a spasmodic, angular fashion and the more typically beefy and muscular old-school death metal style. It is also, unfortunately, an album that has been severely handicapped by bad production. The album’s low end is completely destroyed by murk, and while I’m typically an advocate for weird and even bad production at times, it moves beyond the level of oddity here to being something that has a profound negative effect on the record. Unlike a lot of other OSDM bands, Immolation move too fast and are too surgically precise for a crushing low end to benefit their sound. The kick drums are buried in the mix too, which is a shame because the record’s drumming is amazing.
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However, earlier this year, Metal Blade Records put out a limited-edition remastered pressing of Here In After on several different colors of vinyl in the United States (as well as in Germany). Although I wasn’t super excited at the time because I’m not generally a fan of remastered albums, I picked up a copy this past weekend at a local record store. When I got home and put it on, I was absolutely blown away by the difference the remaster made to this classic album.
But first, a little bit about the packaging, which I am going to lead off by saying that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the packaging. To clarify, that’s not really an indictment at all, but if you’re someone who tends to prioritize records for the display value they may have, there’s nothing here to compel you in any way. The artwork is done up nice and it looks fine, but it’s not exactly any more appreciable now than it was at any other point. The sleeve for the single LP (Here In After runs just over 35 minutes and fits comfortably on one record at 33 RPM) has a little flair with the old Metal Blade logo, which is fun but not anything beyond that. Two inclusions of note are a lyric/liner notes sheet, which is printed on high-quality glossy paper, and a landscape-oriented poster that has the album’s art on both sides; one side has the art with logo and album title while the other has the art alone. The vinyl itself is a nice translucent cherry red.
Back to how it sounds: it’s hard to venture into just how much of an improvement this is to the original production without sounding hyperbolic, but the clarity in the low end makes this record sound fucking exquisite. The dissonant, off-kilter guitar work of Robert Vigna and Thomas Wilkinson is so much easier to hear and the different ranges occupied by the guitar and drums make the twisted fragments of riffing that characterize Immolation’s sound hit way harder than they did on the original release. The kick drums are still very bassy and sometimes hard to pick up on in the mix, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is actually the remaster and how much is my setup (and I’m leaning towards it being more of the latter than the former).
While it’s hard to label this a must-have for those who collect vinyl primarily to collect and display it, any fan of Here In After that can pick this up definitely should. The packaging is unobtrusive and utilitarian, and the color options are nothing special, but the pristine sound makes a world of difference in listening to this classic death metal album. If you’ve got the dough to drop on this, don’t pass it by.