Album re-releases seem to be a "hit or miss" concept: either the new edition significantly improves on the original version, or ends up becoming a complete waste of time and money for the consumer. There are even those who feel album re-releases are impractical and outdated in this age of digital music. Nonetheless, when a treasured artist of many chooses to put one of these disputed projects out, it's always worth looking into. Anberlin's New Surrender was certainly a standout record for many last year, and the re-release of this excellent album is an example of this type of project that mostly hits the right notes.
So what's all included in the deluxe edition? Besides the original album, we are treated to six extra tracks, as well as an accompanying DVD (more on that later). While none of these tracks except one are new and have been released in some form before this point in time, this is the first release to include them all in the same product, making this album ideal for fans attempting collecting all of Anberlin's work.
First up in the lineup of new material is an acoustic cover of Danzig's "Mother," which is debatably the darkest song by Anberlin to date. Somewhat macabre lyrics like "Not about to see your light/and if you wanna find hell with me/I can show you what it's like/'til you're bleeding" are disenchanting and ill-tempered, and while Anberlin is not a band always known for upbeat themes in their music, and also considering the fact that they did not write these lyrics, it's a little hard to call this track worth the cut. Also, given the fact that this song was originally written as a sarcastic rebuttal to critics of heavy metal music, the context of this song just seems so out of place as an acoustic ballad. Fortunately, the other five songs make up for this caveat of a track. "Heavier Things Remain (Graviora Manent)," originally an iTunes-only b-side from the New Surrender sessions, brings us back to Anberlin's classic core sound (and lyrical themes). It's a very haunting song, accompanied by Stephen Christian's soaring vocals and wailing guitar riffs. The New Order cover "True Faith" is a very synth-driven rock track, and while the band remains true and faithful to the original song (pun definitely intended), Anberlin successfully makes it their own.
The b-sides that follow, "Said And Done" and "A Perfect Tourniquet" are the quintessential Anberlin b-sides: pure Anberlin goodness that leaves you wondering how these tracks didn't make a studio album. "Said And Done," which appeared on the Walmart exclusive version of New Surrender, vents frustration of continuing to fall back to a former lover ("Should be over this by now/Build me up to beat me down/...I hate crawling back to you") while "A Perfect Tourniquet" boasts a calmer stripped-down musical approach to a self-debate about a seemingly broken relationship ("we changed since the start even together/we're distant, lonely and apart/...And I guess that's why they call this love/sadly unpredictable"). Topping off the new tracks is an acoustic version of "Feel Good Drag," which is a great rendition of the favorite, capturing the message of the song in a different light than the hard-rocking original.
The DVD portion of the deluxe edition is sufficient, but not all that informative in the end. Included in the DVD is a 23-minute documentary of Anberlin's recent tour of Australia, a live show montage of the band set to "Breaking" and the official music video for "Feel Good Drag." It's nice to have "Feel Good Drag" in all its glory on a TV screen, but the "Breaking" montage ends up being very unnecessary. There is plenty of live footage in the documentary itself, so while the idea wasn't a bad one, the execution of the video just wasn't thought out all the way through. The documentary is also a good length for the type of release that this is. However, the material being filmed at times is not very interesting. It's indeed an inside look at their Australian tour, but some of the time it's just the band sitting or standing around in airports or lounges talking about non-related stuff that doesn't interest the viewer. The most fascinating aspect is the band's interview with an Australian radio station, which reveals a lot of information hardcore Anberlin fans shouldn't miss out on.
The big question that re-releases always raise is, "Is it worth buying the whole album again for the extras?" Here, it's going to depend on how much of a fan one is of the band. If you don't have New Surrender in any form, by all means, pick up the deluxe edition, as it gives you the most for your cash. But casual fans of Anberlin already in possession of the original record probably wouldn't be too hard pressed if they passed this new edition up. However, any hardcore Anberlin fanatic needs to get their hands on this disc, and fast. It's a re-release that falters in a few spots, but in the end, New Surrender (Deluxe Edition) packs just enough punch to make it a victorious extension to the original.- Review date: 12/29/09, written by Roger Gelwicks
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