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.
Bonus Tracks on US Version
- Prologue (Apprehension)
- No Education
- Somewhere Around Nothing
- Toreador II
- Epilogue (Relief)
- Seemann (album version featuring Nina Hagen)
- Faraway Vol. 2 (extended version with Linda Sundblad)
- Deep Down Ascend (demo)
- Kellot (demo)