[Review] Circle of Dust – S/T (Re-mastered 2016)
It is no secret that Circle of Dust was the greatest industrial project ever seen in Christian music, so most if not all of you are likely familiar with this release…however…
Before I begin this review I want to address the question many readers may immediately be asking…
“Why do I need this re-release when I already have the original? After all, this has been released over and over again.”
That is a valid question and I am going to tell you exactly why this re-release is different. You see all the previous re-releases for the Circle of Dust catalog over the years have been done by 3rd parties and all they had to work with is the actual original album, so they are attempting to improve the sound of an existing CD release.
Fast forward to 2015 and Klayton finally was able to obtain the rights to his entire catalog of music after many years of trying in vain, including Circle of Dust and Argyle Park. What this means is that when Klayton remastered these tracks he had access to something the other parties didn’t.
Klayton had access to all his original tapes and samples of raw source material to work with, so rather than taking a CD and trying to make an old recording sound better Klayton is taking the raw source material from the 1990s and remixing and mastering these again, because there is only so much you can do to audio “after” the fact, being able to feed this raw material into modern audio hardware before mixing it down gives a greater possibility for mastering.
So to answer that question simply…yes this release is worlds apart from the original, and even the old re-releases, which is why I decided to review this album side-by-side with the original to note improvements and differences on a per song basis, as I think this will provide you a greater realization of exactly how this re-release differs from others.
So let’s get on with the review.
Track 1 – Exploration:
This first song was completely redone by Klayton, but have no fear as it was not given the George Lucas treatment. By this of course I mean that he did not completely change the track, he simply took an already great song and revamped what was already there, rather than adding to it. The first thing you will notice is the astronaut sound clips used are must more in front and easier to hear this time around, also its easy to notice the overall sound of every element of the recording is much more crisp as opposed to the original, or even any of the prior re-issues. Lastly the guitars have much more presence and “bite” as opposed to the original which could sound little muddy and low volume.
Track 2 – Onenemy:
I will echo what I said about Exploration here and note that the guitar track is much more up front and all sounds have been polished and have an amazingly clear sound for recordings that originally released in 1992. Another thing I noticed is the bass this time around is deeper and richer than the original.
Track 3 – Demoralize:
This is one that really amazed me because after hearing the original I realized there were so many elements on the original that were barely audible or not audible at all in the original. There are melody segments on this song that you simply cannot hear on the original recording and many of the sounds that previously could only be faintly heard have a greater presence so you can actually develop a greater appreciation for the song. Also right around the 3:00 minute mark the original seemed to have more of a whisper vocal, but this time around it has been changed to a metal growl which I of course welcome. This new version is also 4 seconds longer.
Track 4 – Self Inflict:
The new version of Self Inflict did not uncover anything new for me, but that’s not to say it isn’t a good song. As with the prior tracks you can once again notice the guitar has been given extra attention in the mix and everything has become crisp and clear resulting in a new experience for a song you have heard many times.
Track 5 – Rational Lies:
Again with Rational Lies we see the guitar track moved more up front and the vocal track has been greatly cleaned up. The melody that starts around 2:09 almost felt like it needed to be toned back just a tad; otherwise I had no complaints with this track. It is worth noting that the end of the track was changed, and probably for the better. On the original version around 3:36 it switches to really fast drumming for a solid 10 seconds, however the new version removes that entire end section with the drums and replaces it with a nice guitar riff with some drums progressing from slow to fast. This results in a much more technical and progressive end to the song.
Track 6 – Nightfall:
Again as with the rest of the album we continue the trend of increased crispness and richer more vibrant bass and lows. The screaming on at the end of the track also is less scratchy than it was in the original. I would almost say it sounds like this vocal section was re-recorded, which is fine by me. Also the fade out for the original version was quite excessive; Klayton apparently agreed and adjusted the fade to be faster, resulting in 11 seconds being trimmed from the track length.
Track 7 – Twisted Reality:
Here we see a similar pattern to Nightfall, obviously better quality and less noise in the mix, however just like the last track this one has had its end modified. The original version ends with a couple audio speech clips, the first of which was indiscernible to me anyways; the second clip was what I assume was a pastor speaking “Life with Jesus is endless hope, life without Him is a hopeless end.”, followed by hearing a repeat of the last words “..a hopeless end” twice, 3 seconds apart each, which I personally felt helped give the song a more intimate feel and serves to hit home the point of the last statement.
I was admittedly disappointed to find that while the ending quote was still there, the trailing repeats of the last few words were completely eliminated, and the song simply begins to fade out a moment before the quote is even finished; additionally a warble effect was added to this clip to slightly distort the voice. The song was still great and sound-wise a vast improvement, but I feel cutting that end segment was a missed opportunity to connect with his audience.
Track 8 – Consequence:
In the original version shortly after the voice clip at the end we hear some tom drums and following this, the guitar is accompanied by fast bass drumming and a repeat of the last 2 words “eternal consequences”. This was tastefully toned back a notch and these less than authentic sounding fast drums were replaced with a slower but more realistic drum beat, also the toms that come before sound as if they were redone as they sound much more “real” this time around. Overall the tweaks to this track are a major improvement.
Track 9 – Dissolved:
Immediately when the guitars begin and the song takes off I notice that all of the effects and sounds in this track pop out to the listener and are much more apparent. In the original they were there, but they were easily lost in the mix, so I feel like I am hearing this song for the first time. Also the whispered vocals throughout this song have received a significant quality boost. I am still not certain if they were re-recorded, or simply polished very well, but either way the result is much cleaner sounding and much more coherent lyrics. Another thing worth noting here is this new version is significantly longer than the original, 44 seconds longer to be precise. Heres my best breakdown of how that time is accounted for.
In the original the ending segment as I shall call it lasts around 20 seconds, and in this segment we hear the chorus repeated twice, followed by the song quickly wrapping up. This time around this segment is lengthened to around 30 seconds as the chorus is repeated 4 times instead, some welcome effects are thrown in to keep our attention and then right about the 5 minute mark it transitions into a 21 second kind of space-ambient outro. This accounts for 31 seconds there, the rest is spread out through the rest of the song due to various tweaks; Overall though I do prefer this new version.
Track 10 – Nothing Sacred:
I feel like this is an essential Circle of Dust song, and its left sounding great after this makeover. The only major changes I noticed to this track was firstly at 3:35 where the original guitar lead was completely removed, and replaced with a distortion effect, which is possibly appropriate for a song that didn’t originally contain a great deal of guitar. Secondly the original version ended with a recording of a woman singing “Amazing Grace”, in this new version Amazing Grace was removed and replaced with some distortion effects.
Track 11 – Parasite:
Not unlike the previous songs this one also gets a nice facelift for 2016. As far as I can tell the composition is for the most part identical to the original, so no major changes that I detected, except for the choir vocals starting a couple seconds later this time around which does not take away from anything for me. While this song did not make me feel like I was hearing it for the first time again, it was by no means a letdown. As with all of these songs there are little effects and sounds throughout that have been polished and brought closer to the front; these sounds while audible in the original, are more noticeable this time.
Track 12 – Bed of Nails:
The original recording had a 2 second delay before starting, the new version eliminates that delay and starts right off the bat; this also accounts for the song being 2 seconds shorter. The bass hits much harder on the new track and gives it a more aggressive feel given the more hi-fidelity sound this time. For some reason this particular song has always reminded me of an old Sega Genesis game I used to play called Red Zone, which I usually played only for the soundtrack. This has no bearing whatsoever on the review nor does the song really have a great deal of similarity, but heres a link:
Now back to the review…It is difficult to give a rating to a re-release because your not exactly rating new material, so what are you actually rating? Well in this case I am going to rate it against its predecessor. My review was designed to put these two releases side by side and note how the quality and composition differs from the original and ultimately answer the question “Does an owner of the original or 1995 re-release need to bother with this?”
I am going to answer that with a definite yes. Folks, this isn’t just a rehash of old Circle of Dust, Klayton has not only polished these songs to incredible quality, but he has reworked these tracks to make them exactly what he wanted them to be in the first place, but was unable due to limited technology. So what you are getting is equivalent to a respected renaissance painter with an unfinished masterpiece, coming back from the dead to complete his vision. This is what Klayton has done, he has returned to his original masterpiece and brought it full circle to his vision and presented you with what he wanted you to hear all along.
If you listen to this album there will be moments where you feel like this is your first time listening to it, and that is a special feeling for a nearly 25 year old album. As re-releases go this is the best I’ve ever heard. Period
You can get this in multiple versions from the FiXT webstore. It is available as a physical digipak and a digital release. You can also choose between the standard version which is the copy I reviewed, or you can choose the “Deluxe Edition” which includes the album I reviewed along with an addition disc that contains the new song Neophyte and a lot of unreleased demo tracks. I have not heard the demo tracks but I did purchase Neophyte separately. If you are a long time fan of Circle of Dust there is no reason not to make this purchase, I highly recommend this.
About: Blake Sherwin
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