Music Collection Critique: 96 BITTER BEINGS Return To Hellview

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The first live performance of CKY is still etched in my memory. Back on December 2, 2000, at the iconic Trocadero venue in Philadelphia, PA, I witnessed an exceptional lineup featuring Death by Stereo, CKY, Boysetsfire, and headliners Snapcase. Recall a vivid moment when Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame forcefully pushed me aside from the balcony rail to execute a daring leap into the awaiting crowd. An admittedly reckless act that encapsulated the adventurous spirit reminiscent of the Jackass era that dominated MTV for years.

While I was not particularly keen on Jackass or skateboarding, residing in Southeastern Pennsylvania fueled my love for metal. When CKY emerged on the scene, their music struck a chord with its innovative approach. Their debut track, “96 Bitter Beings,” from the widely acclaimed Volume 1 album, captivated me instantly with its genre-defying essence and diverse influences. Subsequent releases like Infiltrate-Destroy-Rebuild and An Answer Can be Found further showcased the band’s experimental evolution in sound.

Despite a period of fluctuating success, CKY encountered turbulence marked by lineup alterations and internal disputes. The band’s journey, replete with twists and turns, is exhaustively documented for those engrossed in CKY‘s tumultuous narrative. For me, the focal point remains the music, where CKY‘s ingenuity shines brightly. Although CKY endures to this day, the absence of primary songwriter and vocalist Deron Miller looms.

In 2016, Miller introduced 96 Bitter Beings. Commencing with the crowd-funded Camp Pain release in 2018, the band unveiled their inaugural full-scale album, Synergy Restored, in 2022, a piece that I dissected here. This record reaffirmed Miller‘s pivotal role in the brilliance of CKY‘s music.

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Fast forward to 2024, Miller treats us to the exquisite Return to Hellview. This special album compiles fan-favorite CKY tracks, re-engineered with a modernized sound and enhanced production. While purists might question the necessity of revisiting these classics, citing the originals’ excellence, I attest that the revamped versions elevate the overall listening experience. Personally, I’ve immersed myself in this album almost daily since its acquisition, marveling at Miller‘s musical prowess exhibited in these reimagined renditions. Miller aimed not to overhaul these tracks completely but to fine-tune certain elements, a feat successfully accomplished!

“Every song holds significance, yet nagging imperfections persisted in the originals. Some discrepancies, while inconsequential to most listeners, warranted correction, and enhancement. The objective was to reimagine these timeless tracks as remixes rather than straightforward reproductions, a mission that I believe we have accomplished.”

Notable disparities emerge in tracks like “Shippensburg,” boasting a fuller and contemporary sound from inception to conclusion. Among all the songs featured in Return to Hellview, this rendition emerges as my top pick. The rejuvenated track revitalizes the essence, propelling it from the past into a rejuvenated present. Reminiscent, in part, of the recent works by Ghost, fans of their latest albums who are unfamiliar with 96 Bitter Beings should delve into this song and the entirety of the album.

While the original “Flesh into Gear” holds iconic status, questioning the need for alteration is understandable. However, upon sampling the reimagined version, I found myself enamored by the updated mix, distinct vocal effects, and overall vocal delivery.

“Suddenly Tragic” exhibits enhanced production quality, furnishing a cleaner, crisper output. This track notably benefits from the heightened clarity, enabling listeners to discern the subtle nuances and intricacies embedded within. Similarly, “The Way You Lived” and “Dressed in Decay” deliver a captivating auditory journey from inception to conclusion, both originally part of CKY‘s masterful production, An Answer Can Be Found, released in 2005.

While dissenters may question the necessity of revisiting these tracks given their exemplary nature, as a dedicated CKY aficionado, I revel in these fresh interpretations. The updated production breathes new life into the tracks, rendering them ideal companions for a drive. Take a listen and experience the magic for yourself.

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