BTBAM are back with another installment of “prog metal nostalgia reinvented for vinyl,” this time with their 3rd full-length, Alaska. Same spiel as previous re-releases through Craft Recordings: the vinyl re-release is to pay homage to the band’s 20 year existence and is re-mixed by longtime producer Jamie King (Glass Casket, He Is Legend).
The biggest difference between Alaska’s 2020 re-release and its two predecessors (Between The Buried And Me / Silent Circus) are their original mixes. Alaska was already decently mixed by Matthew Ellard (Converge, Bear vs. Shark, Fear Before the March of Flames) when it dropped in 2005. Sure, Tommy Rogers’ clean vocals could have used a bit more gain and EQ and Dann Briggs’ genius bass lines were a bit buried, and the whole album was compressed into a brick… but the guitars punched you in the face and fueled the fans’ neck pain! With this re-release, every instrument now has a place in the mix, making it feel….. less underground? Which somehow makes it feel…. less brutal?
Certainly there are moments that the remix shines, like in the instrumentals “Breathe In Breathe Out” and “Laser Speed” or hearing Easter eggs like Tommy’s crazy voices mixed into “Autodidact” which I’d never heard before. And quite frankly, the fact that I can now clearly make out every wild Blake Richardson cymbal tap, even during the loudest moments, makes this remix quite the percussive treat. However, “the epic explosion on Backwards Marathon” felt like a missed opportunity for some serious dynamic range, and Rogers’ death squeals in “Croakies and Boatshoes” were a bit too present. Possibly because it’s widely considered a BTBAM fan-favorite, “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” is the best remixed track on this re-release, with light TLC to bring the keys and vocals into a clearer picture, without trampling too much on its original hyper-active stereo-imaged mix.
Fret not: this is still the best version of Alaska you can find on vinyl (since Victory phoned it in with all their vinyl pressings), but be warned, some of this remix may leave long-time fans feeling a bit nervous that the remixes are getting a bit too mainstream and possessing a tad too much verb.