The Zodiac Sessions Vinyl Follow Up

I normally try to keep my vinyl follow up articles at least somewhat timely, so you’ll have to forgive me for the extreme tardiness of this one.

I’ve been a fan of San Francisco’s retro doom masters Orchid ever since I heard their 2011 full length debut, Capricorn. However, only recently did I discover that Nuclear Blast decided to reissue Capricorn together with the band’s 2009 EP Through The Devil’s Doorway on a CD digipack called The Zodiac Sessions, with new cover art by the band’s vocalist Theo Mindell, and new mastering for both. In addition to the CD, both Capricorn and Devil’s Doorway were also reissued on vinyl as a gatefold 180g double LP and 10” respectively.

If you missed this album but heard their 2013 follow up, The Mouths Of Madness, then you’ll know what to expect on Capricorn as the two albums are very similar, with some of the riffs on Madness almost seeming recycled. Capricorn is probably the stronger of the two overall, with some really groove-tastic tracks like “He Who Walks Alone,” but both albums definitely have their moments. They’re fun trips down memory lane, if not exactly Master of Reality.

The original mastering for the 2011 Capricorn release on The Church Within Records clocked in at DR7, which is pretty run of the mill, louder than necessary but not altogether outrageous. So what of the Nuclear Blast CD reissue? (If I had to guess, Nuclear Blast took the original recordings, threw them at Steven Wilson, and popped out a DR11 master! Nailed it! -Alex)

Slammed! Hooray! NB just couldn’t help themselves, and they crushed the tracks down to DR5, with the aforementioned “He Who Walks Alone” now at a lovely DR4. Fun!

I picked up the new vinyl to see if that might be any better, and while I don’t have explicit confirmation from NB on the vinyl mastering one way or the other, I am quite confident that the vinyl was cut straight from the new CD master after level matching the two, which is a real shame. This album was pretty well recorded, and there was definitely an opportunity to make a great sounding, dynamic vinyl release, but nobody bothered. Just for kicks, I also compared the vinyl to my old 2011 CD, and I prefer the old CD.

So where does that leave us? Well if you want to buy this album, my suggestion would be to skip The Zodiac Sessions altogether, and just buy the old version of Capricorn, either on CD or on vinyl. My guess is that the original double LP release from Church Within is likely also cut from CD, but that would still make the old vinyl better than the new one. Stay classy NB.

As for Through The Devil’s Doorway, the original EP has an ordinary DR6 master. The NB update is louder because of course it is, and after turning it down a bit to match, it’s also worse than the original, though the difference is a bit less dramatic. Again, just buy the old one.