Reviewed: April 2015
Released: 2015, Scarlet Records
Back in December of 2009 a number of the Staff members contributed a section to an editorial piece for our From Hell’s Heart Section. The title was simply ‘Remake Albums’. I was the only one of the four contributors who was really outspoken in being in favour of remake albums. I love them and I enjoy comparing the original and the remake. It caught my eye that the Italian Power Metal band Secret Sphere has just re-recorded and reissued their second album A TIME NEVER COME. Normally we do not write too many reviews of remakes or reissues but since we did not review the original version back in 2001, I decided to write a review.
This rerecording caught me a bit off guard. I wondered, ‘Why this album at this point in time? There are often any number of reasons why a band would choose to do a remake/re-recording of older material. In this case the band has said that it was a number of reasons. It is the 15th anniversary of the original. (Much like Sonata Arctica just did the 15th anniversary re-recording of ECLIPTICA) The debut is out of print and quite rare. There is high demand for a reissue, especially in Japan. They have a new record label. And lastly since the original version was recorded there are four new members in the band. Anyone of those reasons is probably enough justification to re-record it but combined they present a very powerful case.
I’m sort of working on a loose assumption that people have heard the original version of A TIME NEVER COME and tailored this review more for fans who might seek justification to buy a re-recorded album, because in my experience many people, perhaps even the majority of Metal fans, have a distaste for re-recorded albums. So, why should someone even want to look at this?
In case you have not heard the original, the album was the breakout album for Secret Sphere. It was on the small (but respected) Elevate / 99th Floor Records label but suffered from distribution issues especially in North America. Fortunately, I happen to own a copy. The album was well-received but admittedly was perhaps slightly overlooked in the massive global Power Metal phenomena that swept the globe with literally hundreds of impressive bands appearing from 1997 to 2001, with over 1000 Power Metal albums coming out in this time-span. However, it was good enough to get noticed in the industry and they got signed by the much larger label, Nuclear Blast. I’m going to avoid an extensive interpretation of the original but suffice to say, it is your average glorious and majestic Italian Power Metal.
The new version has new artwork, which is no better or worse than the original. The new version has a couple of live bonus tracks, not much to speak of. The true difference is in the re-recording itself. More than just a straight-up remake they have made some slight re-arrangements as well. You really do have to be familiar with both albums to notice these things. The new version is more crisp, more clear, probably just better technology in the studio. For example the voice-over in the instrumental/interlude track ‘Emotions’ is more clear and defined, you don’t have to struggle to hear what the narrator has to say in the newer version. Another example is the solo on ‘Paganini’s Nightmare’ just seems to me to be crisper and more fluid and the keyboard tones are brighter and the piece is also a touch longer. There are many more examples of these types of subtle changes and it would be a waste of all of our time to micro-analyze them all. Suffice it to say, the whole album sounds bigger, brighter, more dynamic, especially the orchestral and symphonic parts. The new version is just a shade longer at 57.5 minutes compared to the original run-time of 54.5 minutes. Most importantly perhaps are the vocals of Michele Luppi. I have nothing against the original vocalist, Roberto Messina; he did a fine job on the first one but I feel that technically Michele is the slightly superior singer. I was sad to see Messina go, many consider him the voice of the band for the first six albums, but Luppi (ex-Vision Divine) brought a new fire to the band.
To be honest, I had not listened to the original version of A TIME NEVER COME for several years and this exercise in comparison was not only fascinating for me but helped me remember what a truly magnificent album it is. If you missed it the first time around, 15 years ago, I highly recommend checking out it out now.
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