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Apocalyptica: Reflections

As they say, never assume. Before I had heard a note of Reflections, I assumed that Apocalyptica were some sort of new gimmicky prog metal act because their music is almost exclusively performed by three cellists over thunderous bass and drums. After I finally listened to the surprisingly moving and ridiculously heavy music, I became an instant fan. My other assumption-even after I heard the CD-was that they were a band of complete unknowns. Wrong again. According to Apocalyptica's official website, they've sold over 2 million albums worldwide and that their debut album, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos, was released back in 1996 and catapulted them to instant fame in their homeland of Finland. They've been fairly prolific since that time and although Reflections was initially released in Europe in 2003, it is now finally seeing its US debut on the Nuclear Blast label.

Overall, the music of Apocalyptica could be roughly likened to a heavy metal version of Anekdoten with perhaps a touch of the classical chamber rock of After Crying. Instead of shredding guitar, we get shredding cellos courtesy of Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen. Dave Lombardo from Slayer guests on drums for five tracks. There's some tasteful drum programming on a few cuts as well.

Ripping songs like "No Education", "Somewhere Around Nothing" and "Resurrection" alternate with moody introspective progressive pieces like "Faraway" and "Cortege". "Cohkka" features truly menacing atmosphere while the wonderful Spanish flavor of "Toreador II" includes mariachi style trumpets during the fadeout. Four bonus tracks are included on the new American version and the two cuts with female vocals are especially appealing. "Seemann" finds guest singer and European punk star Nina Hagen sounding very much like Marianne Faithful, practically whispering her throaty vocals over a nicely building and dynamic arrangement. "Faraway Vol. 2 (extended version)" features a delicate female performance by the absolutely gorgeous Linda Sundblad. Demo takes of "Deep Down Ascend" and "Kellot" round out the bonus tracks.

Reflections comes highly recommended to anyone who might enjoy dark, predominantly instrumental classically flavored progressive metal. Make no mistake, the emphasis is squarely on metal, but Reflections should tickle your intellect as vigorously as it gets you banging your head. A real coup for Nuclear Blast.

Track Listing

  1. Prologue (Apprehension)
  2. No Education
  3. Faraway
  4. Somewhere Around Nothing
  5. Drive
  6. Cohkka
  7. Conclusion
  8. Resurrection
  9. Heat
  10. Cortege
  11. Pandemonium
  12. Toreador II
  13. Epilogue (Relief)
Bonus Tracks on US Version
  1. Seemann (album version featuring Nina Hagen)
  2. Faraway Vol. 2 (extended version with Linda Sundblad)
  3. Deep Down Ascend (demo)
  4. Kellot (demo)

Added: June 22nd 2005
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: Official Apocalyptica Home Page
Hits: 3296
Language: english

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Apocalyptica: Reflections
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-06-22 06:27:28
My Score:

The idea of a Metal band having a cellist is odd enough but when you add two more you are left with the wondrous creation that is the group Apocalyptica. This band clearly have taken traditional barriers and shattered the accepted with something completely out of left field. Mixing classical instruments with heavy music is not something that has never been done before (see the Metallica S&M as well as KISS Symphony releases for examples of that). Now while those were appealing in their own unique ways, the Apocalyptica music is a new creation entirely. As I listened to this skillful blending of classical instrumentation along with rock solid riffing I was wondering if I was listening to Metal at all. Instead I wondered if perhaps a new breed of Progressive Music was upon us. At fear I would leave something out, I decided to settle on this being a little bit of both. In any case it is a welcome addition to the fold. With Progressive music there are often many classical references, and what better way to showcase them than with actually classically trained musicians who also are lovers of Metal and things heavy.

The three main figures in Apocalyptica are Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lotjonen, and Perttu Kivilaakso, who all are very adept at the cello and as you listen you find yourself quickly swept up into a unique array of musical colors as you listen to the piece. In addition to the studio musicians who encompass the rest of the recorded piece, Dave Lombardo (most noted for his work in Slayer) appears on a number of tracks as drummer and percussionist.

I enjoyed most of this CD, and had so many interesting takes as listened. The song "Faraway" had an almost movie soundtrack feel to it. It was a warm and sincere piece, while "Prologue Apprehension" which starts the CD kicks you into a decent gear. In "Somewhere Around Nothing" there are some technical chops that one only generally would find in stuff like Dream Theater or Yes. It is a recommended piece for those who choose to experiment a little more often than others, or for those seeking a different level of musical satisfaction. There are 18 tracks on the CD, a large number of bonus tracks and a video. It is certainly a good amount of value for the money. Of all the tracks, there is but one vocal song, and this is sung by Nina Hagen.

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