Friend of the site, über Faith No More fan and musician in his own right Ben Mitchell has kindly agreed to supplant my cloth-eared enthusiasm with his expert ears and way with words for a guest post peering into the re-mastering of the new Faith No More Rhino Records re-releases, The Real Thing and Angel Dust. More details and how to buy here.
This week saw the reissue of Faith No More’s two most arguably ‘classic’ albums, the eventual-breakout “The Real Thing” and the ageless masterwork “Angel Dust”. These ‘Deluxe’ editions have been dismissed by some as cynical gash-grabs from Rhino, and certainly haven’t been endorsed by the band themselves. Probably in their presentation they aren’t representative of how Faith No More would prefer people to experience these albums for the first time. But to the seasoned consumer and borderline mentally-ill FNM collector such as I, they scratch a certain completest itch and at the very least suggest that Rhino regard the band as still artistically valuable.
Gone are the days old-timers like me remember of tracking down that rare and elusive b-side or EP in the HMV singles section, and loading up a bonus disc of assorted miscellany is a fair enough way to get people to buy and hear former-rarities only available on eBay or YouTube. Liner notes and nicely-reproduced vinyl single artwork (along with the original 12” front and back art, disparate tracklistings and all) have been thrown in the mix to give new fans an idea of what once was.
The bonus discs are fairly thorough, though it’s worth noting some conspicuous absences: Live versions of “Woodpecker From Mars”, “Epic” and “The Real Thing” (from the “From Out of Nowhere” single) failed to make the cut; the ever-elusive “Virus”/”Shuffle”/”Seagull Song” is still ensconced away from greedy fans like me by the band (very possibly Rhino don’t even have a version of it themselves) and the various “Angel Dust”-era live tracks have been isolated from one another with all onstage banter – to this day I’ll never know if Laura Schumacher got her wallet back – edited out.
Mainly my interest in these releases is hearing what sonic improvements, if any, there might be over the originals. I have no gripe with “The Real Thing” – it precedes an era of FNM’s true genius and artistry in my mind, but that doesn’t stop it being a very solid, immensely listenable and fun record – though as the years wear on its overall production does struggle to hold up, falling even behind “Introduce Yourself”. Fortunately this new version does bring things up a notch.
Listen to comparison
The best way to demonstrate is to show you rather than attempt to explain with whatever patchwork of a proper musician’s lexicon I’ve cobbled together over the years. Have a listen:
The video above is a quick comparison of the mastering approaches taken between the original releases of “The Real Thing” and “Angel Dust” and the subsequent releases:
“Angel Dust: Original Master Recording” (2008)
From Mobile Fidelity’s series of classic album reissues, I suppose this isn’t as much a remastering as an un-mastering, transferred ‘directly from the original master tape’ to ensure…something I’m sure the eagle-eared will regard as a massive improvement on the sonics of the original release. There is a more thorough comparison here:
that points out what many of these actually are, though despite the reduced hiss the overall effect to me is a quieter, damper sound than the original. This one is more a collectable for the nice packaging – despite crediting drummer Mike Mordin (sic) – and its 2XLP 12” companion is, to date, the crispest sounding vinyl version of the album I know, beating out the more recent Music on Vinyl release which had some inexplicable transfer issues.
“The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection” (2009)
After a long and unnecessary history of post-split compilations (alluded to in a typically FNM piss-take of an album title), this is the only one aside from “Who Cares A Lot?” that seemed to make any effort and, most importantly, gave a proper CD release to a handful of rarities that had been vinyl-only for many a year. The mastering on this is certainly more dynamic although it perhaps indulges too much low-end boost at times.
“Midlife Crisis: The Very Best of Faith No More” (2010)
This was, bafflingly, the seventh FNM compilation that appeared between “Album of the Year” and “Sol Invictus”, and without including anything new as some prior compilations had taken the initiative to, the only way to justify a release so redundant might be to give the tracks a nice bit of spit and polish. The issue in this case is that whoever took the reins on the remastering front bypassed the ‘less is more’ approach and boosted the living Christ out of the tunes. Coupled with an unhealthy dynamic range compression this results quite frequently in peaking and fuzzy moments, plus some bizarre lo-v-high end distortion especially prevalent on “Everything’s Ruined”. Some tracks have been spared this excessive treatment, such as “The Real Thing” itself which you’ll hear doesn’t share the same boosted levels.
“The Real Thing: Deluxe Edition” (2015)
As much of an easy cash-grab as this reissue was, it can’t be denied that a fair and considered job has been done with the remaster here. In terms of overall loudness it falls between the 2009 and 2010 attempts but holds back on the compression to avoid any of the major issues the latter suffers from. It doesn’t necessarily right the wrongs that Matt Wallace has taken issue with himself in hindsight (ultimately he’d have to remix it completely to remedy those) but it gives the tracks enough oomph to more comfortably sit alongside those of the subsequent albums as part of a playlist.
“Angel Dust: Deluxe Edition” (2015)
Interestingly, despite also boasting the same remastering credit, this version of “Angel Dust” sounds virtually indistinguishable from the original release, not just to my ears but to my audio software; Inverting the waveform of a track from the original release and mixing it together with the same track from this edition results in silence, which indicates that, intents and purposes, the sound is indeed identical. In the comparison video I’ve bookended each “Angel Dust” track with the original release to highlight the similarity to the 2015 edition. But why improve on perfection anyway?
About the author
As well as being a connoisseur of all things FNM, Ben is also an accomplished musician himself. He had the audacity to release his own LP on the same day as Sol Invictus last month. Get it here.
Check out more Ben on Soundcloud here