I still remember the first time I saw CKY live. It was December 2, 2000 at the famed Trocadero (RIP) in Philadelphia, PA. An amazing show lineup it was with Death by Stereo, CKY, Boysetsfire and headliners Snapcase. Though it was near 25 years ago, I very much distinctly remember Johnny Knoxville, of Jackass fame, shoving me away from the balcony rail in order to take a massive dive onto the crowd below. If that sounds like an incredibly stupid stunt, it was. But that was the whole Jackass vibe that defined the vibrant scene that was an MTV staple for so many years.

I really wasn’t into Jackass, nor was I into skateboarding, but I was living in Southeastern Pennsylvania and was really into metal. CKY come along as a band that was extremely fresh and original. I was hooked with the first track I ever heard from them, the aptly titled “96 Bitter Beings.” Their first widely released record, Volume 1, was nine really solid tracks. It was genre defying, with a wealth of varied influences and standout songwriting. The follow-up, Infiltrate-Destroy-Rebuild, was one of 2002’s best records that experimented with more complex sounds and signatures. In 2005, the band released the heralded An Answer Can be Found.

CKY went on to have mixed success over the next decade or so, but then went into a long period of lineup changes, politics and drama. If you’re really interested in the CKY soap opera, there’s no shortage of videos out there that give a myriad of different takes. For me, however, what I care about is the music. And let’s face it, the music of CKY, has always been the primary focus. CKY today still exists, but without Deron Miller, who was the primary songwriter and vocalist for the band.

Miller formed 96 Bitter Beings back in 2016. Camp Pain, an exclusive crowd funded record was released back in 2018 and Synergy Restored, their first full-scale release came out in 2022, which I reviewed here. A solid record that demonstrated that Miller was really the heart of CKY‘s greatness.

Now in 2024, Miller gives us a special record entitled Return to Hellview. This particular LP is a collection of fan-favorite CKY tracks that have been re-recorded with an updated sound and better production. While some CKY fans may ask why this was needed, as the originals were just so good, I can say that these new versions really add a significant amount to the listening experience. In fact, I’ve listened to this record almost daily since I first got it. I’m reminded just how gifted Miller is when I hear these re-recorded versions. Miller tells us that he didn’t want to do a full thrash and burn on these tracks, rather just to make some tweaks here and there. The tweaks he made, are good!

“I love all the songs but there’s always been issues that bothered me about the originals. A lot of my problems with them were arbitrary and not that important…things that I just wanted to fix that most listeners wouldn’t even notice. But there were some things I wanted to add to these songs and some things I wanted to take out. The goal was to challenge myself to redo these classic tracks in a way that they could be heard as remixes instead of re-recordings. I think we succeeded. ”

There are some obvious differences in some songs like “Shippensburg” which has a much fuller, richer and more updated sound from start to finish. This would be my favorite new version of all the songs on the Return to Hellview. The re-recording takes this song out of the past and really makes it fresh. It also reminds me just a bit of Ghost‘s more recent records. If you love the last two Ghost records and you’ve never heard of 96 Bitter Beings, definitely give this song, and really, the entire record a listen.

The original “Flesh into Gear” is a classic, no doubt. And many might ask why fiddle with a classic? In fact, I asked myself that. But then I heard the re-recording and I found myself really loving the updated mix, the more distinct vocal effects and the lead vocal overall.

“Suddenly Tragic” has a much cleaner, higher quality production quality to it. This was one of the songs that really stood out as being better on Return to Hellview. Listeners are much more apt to hear all the little sounds and nuances going on in the track. Bass is definitely much more prominent. Same with “The Way You Lived,” which is just an incredible cut from start to finish, and “Dressed in Decay.” All of these were originally on CKY‘s masterful An Answer Can Be Found from 2005.

While some might balk at the re-recordings given the fact that the originals were so good, I can tell you as a long-time CKY lover, that I really enjoy these new renditions. They sound great in the car with their updated production and all of these cuts are some prime driving music. Check it out.

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