(Heaven & Hell)
As a general rule, I’m not a fan of the overused practice of reissuing an album that a band put out just a few years ago in a new, improved, deluxe edition. Usually, it feels like a lame cash grab. I already bought your album once, and now you’re telling me you didn’t get it right the first time so you want me to buy it again with a superfluous bonus track or some new pictures? No thanks. Sometimes, however, it makes sense. On those occasions where there something went grievously wrong with the original release, it can be a fair and reasonable maneuver to rescue a batch of good songs from obscurity or, worse, purgatory.
Such is the case with this album. In 2011, North Carolina traditional metallers self-released their debut album, ‘Way More Unstoppable!’ I bought it at the time, but I’ll be honest: it was a tough listen. The mix was super-muddy, the levels sounded way off and frankly all over the place in spots, and the vocals were, hrrmmmm, not so great sometimes. The unfortunate byproduct of these technical issues was that, while the material seemed okay and all, ‘Way More Unstoppable!’ pretty much sat on my shelf collecting dust. Five years (and one album, 2014’s ‘God Gold and Glory’) later, and with the help of noted independent label Heaven & Hell Records, Salvacion decided to revisit ‘Way More Unstoppable!’ and fix what was wrong with the original release. They did not re-record the album, but they did remix it (perhaps they remastered it too, as this one’s noticeably quieter and seems to have more dynamics when played side-by-side with the old one) and they replaced the original vocal tracks with those of their new singer, Elliot Madre. The band also added new, killer cover artwork and included a pair of bonus tracks, the Riot staple “Swords and Tequila” and a cover tune called “Push It to the Limit,” which I guess is from the ‘Scarface’ movie soundtrack (according to Wikipedia, as to be honest I wasn’t familiar with it).
The facelift works wonders here. With the clearer sound and better vocals, these songs really come to life in a way that they never did before. I find myself realizing for the first time that cuts like “Faster Than Hell,” “Wretch Like Me,” “Let Us Prey” and “Thou Shall Rock” are simply great rockin’ songs in the early 80s metal style, with the usual NWoBHM and US Metal influences, in the general vein of acts like Zuul especially, but also the likes of Twisted Tower Dire, Volture and Widow. The twin melodic guitars of Dan Todd and Nick Sponsel really shine, and Madre does a fine job with the vocals. My only regret is not knowing what regret feels like, no wait, it’s that this version of ‘Way More Unstoppable!’ did not come out in 2011 so I could have enjoyed it for the last five years. If you bought the original version and are on the fence about buying the ‘Redux’ version, I urge you to take the plunge. Don’t do it for the bonus tracks (they’re fine, but nothing particularly special). Do it to hear these excellent Salvacion songs as the good Lord always intended them to be heard. I’ll mark down the score by a half point (or maybe a full point) on principle because this is a reissue rather than an original release, but don’t let dissuade you. ‘Way More Unstoppable! Redux’ is very much worth your time and money. I’m hoping Salvacion will be playing a big swath of this material at the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse in Chicago this weekend. Either way, remember, kids: When you race with the devil, you better be faster than hell! That’s sound advice for all of us.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~