I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of album re-releases. There is generally something about the original version that I prefer, flaws and all. Some artists can break through my mental barrier in this regard, though, and Daniel Tompkins is one of them. He is getting ready to release “Ruins”, an alternate version of his 2019 solo album “Castles”. This new offering releases on December 11th through Kscope.
Daniel Tompkins is well-known for his work with Tesseract, White Moth Black Butterfly, and Skyharbor. I’ve always loved his voice and his sense of scale and emotion. His solo works thus far, however, have been my favorite work from him. On this particular album, he welcomes guests Paul Ortiz (Chimp Spanner), Plini, and Matt Heafy (Trivium).
“Ruins” is a heavy version of 2019’s “Castles”, to put it simply. Instead of the progressive pop and trip hop vibes of the original, this album features heavy guitars, harsh vox, winding solos, and a generally raw tone. In other words, it is more like Daniel’s work with his other bands. Plini, for instance, guests on the opening track, and his solo is massive and absolutely amazing. This album is definitely more technical and meant for Daniel’s longtime fans.
Another thing to note is that, even though the lyrics are all the same, the music has been rewritten, many of the vocal melodies are significantly changed, and the songs themselves have been renamed. The song title changes are acutally the most interesting thing about this release in my eyes. Why? Well, think about the album titles – “Castles” and “Ruins”. Many of the songs follow that contrasting dynamic, which means that the lyrics, though they are basically unchanged, somehow mean something different this time because of the new musical and emotional context.
So, using the title track as an example again, this song felt hopefully, revelatory, and visionary on the original album, and this time it feels more like a social commentary about greed, power, and lust. It’s an interesting experiment to see the same song mean something so wildly different with the change of context. This album is meant to be “darker”, but I feel like it is a different quality of darkness, not a radical contrast to the original. “Castles” is dark in an introspective, tumultuous manner, and “Ruins” is dark in a vicious, more visceral fashion.
For my money, I do prefer the original. I love progressive pop and trip hop, and so I liked the inventive, exotic ideas on “Castles”. “Ruins” is a great album, through and through, but the musical ideas aren’t as fresh, and feel rather one-note overall. Like I said, this is a great album and, if I had never heard the originals, I would still like this record. However, I feel like a certain amount of creativity was lost in the translation.
All of the songs here do feel slightly nostalgic, yet new. I really like the opener “Wounded Wings” (originally “Black the Sun”). It feels fleeting and driving, and I love Plini’s solo. I also love “Stains of Betrayal” (originally “Cinders”) for its ethereal, high-tuned sound and epic instrumental portions. “Empty Vows” (originally “Saved”) retains some of the haunting emotion of the original, but this time has lots of drive in its blood, and the chorus has been changed in some satisfying ways. “Sweet the Tongue” (originally “Limitless”) is probably my favorite again, though. I just love that chorus, and this version almost feels more unnerving this time. I should mention “The Gift”, too, which is a brand new track. Matt Heafy guests on this one, and it is satisfyingly heavy. I don’t think it would have worked on the “Castles” album all that well, however.
Overall, “Ruins” is a successful experiment, even if it seems like a concession to the fans who were complaining about how soft “Castles” was. I enjoy both versions, though, I probably won’t listen to this one as much, not unless I’m in a bad mood. Still, longtime Daniel Tompkins fans will probably eat this up quickly.
1. Wounded Wings (Feat. Plini) (on Castles – Black The Sun)
2. Ruins (on Castles – Castles)
3. Tyrant (on Castles – Kiss)
4. Stains of Betrayal (on Castles – Cinders)
5. Empty Vows (on Castles – Saved)
6. Sweet The Tongue (on Castles – Limitless)
7. A Dark Kind of Angel (on Castles -Telegraph)
8. The Gift (Feat. Matthew K Heafy) (brand new track)
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