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Apocalyptica: 7th Symphony

Finish orchestral rock band Apocalyptica has proudly sold itself on a gimmick ever since their debut, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. That isn't to say that the novelty comes without talent and quality (it surely does), but still, they're always known as the rock band with three cellos and a drummer. With their new LP, 7th Symphony, they also stick to their formula of approx. half instrumental/half vocal albums. Unfortunately, the result is only partially successful.

Founded in 1993 as an outlet for four classmates of the exalted Sibelius Academy, they've previously released six studio records (hence the title of this one). Following the belief that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," 7th Symphony alternates between heavy classical pieces and more generic songs. And of course Apocalyptica includes many guests here as well. It feels as if the artistic integrity of Apocalyptica lies in these classical pieces and the sung songs are just a way to ensure more album sales and popularity. Ultimately, they hurt the album.

7th Symphony begins with the aggressive instrumental "At the Gates of Manala," which can be described as a less eccentric Mastodon track (and of course Metallica fits in there as well). The dynamics are decent, the musicianship is highly impressive and it grows on you over repeated listening. Had Apocalyptica only included tracks like this on the record, it would be a lot better. Sadly, they didn't.

"End of Me" and "Not Strong Enough" follow and they feature guest vocalists Gavin Rossdale (Bush) and Brent Smith (Shinedown), respectively. If you couldn't already tell by the clichéd titles, these two tracks are just commercial wastes. They sound like countless other variations of the same aggressive heartache MTV and mainstream radio have featured for twenty years. Anyone could've written these melodies and lyrics, and the music barely features any classical influence, instead mirroring the dull rock quality of a lesser band. It's a shame.

Drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer) appears on "2010," an expectedly brutal instrumental. If you're a fan of the really heavy metal bands like Slayer, you know what this sounds like. The double bass drum almost never stops pounding and the riffs are fast as hell. The cellos appear in the background a bit, but again, the classical influence Apocalyptica apparently brings the current music scene seems missing here. However, it certainly appears on the next track.

"Beautiful" may be the most aptly titled song ever written. Here, finally, we're treated to the symphony 7th Symphony is supposed to be throughout. It's basically cellos interweaving melodies with light percussion, and the usage of silence illustrates a knowledge that emotion is built just as much from what we don't hear as what we do. It leads into "Broken Pieces," another commercial song (this time sung by Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf). While it's still just as unremarkable from a songwriting standpoint, her voice is a bit attractive and there is a better inclusion of orchestral treatment.

Another highlight of the album is "On the Rooftop with Quasimodo," which begins softly and sorrowfully before becoming heavier. Apocalyptica use dynamics wonderfully here, letting the cellos swirl independently before moments of silence preface drums and heavier timbres. Regrettably, it's followed with the death metal influenced "Bring Them to Light," which features vocalist Joe Duplantier of Gojira. Its guttural vocals (which sound like oral flatulence) and speed are so over the top, it's downright laughable. I don't mind such vocals in certain contexts, but here is definitely not one of them.

7th Symphony closes with two wonderful pieces, "Sacra" and "Rage of Poseidon." The former is a lot like "Beautiful" in style, but it's unique enough to stand on its own. The final track is easily the record's best. At almost ten minutes in length, it makes excellent use of its duration with constantly shifting rhythms, riffs and levels of intensity. There is a central guitar line that the rest of the music plays around, and it recurs often, making the track feel epic. It's an extraordinary combination of classical music and progressive metal, and it's exactly what Apocalyptica should focus on and be known for.

Apocalyptica began with a novel idea executed brilliantly, and they still possess the same skills nearly twenty years later. The instrumental pieces on 7th Symphony are great and sound sufficiently fresh and distinctive. The album would be a lot stronger with just these pieces, but of course there are also four songs that bring it down. There are two sides to Apocalyptica, and the one that showcases offensively average songwriting should be dismissed immediately. 7th Symphony feels like an album that's 60% true artistic vision and 40% simply borrowed from the mainstream to fill out the track listing. If Apocalyptica can craft songwriting that's unique, mature and deep, they should include it on the next album. If not, they should just stick to the instrumentals.

Track Listing
1. At The Gates Of Manala
2. End Of Me
3. Not Strong Enough
4. 2010
5. Beautiful
6. Broken Pieces
7. On The Rooftop With Quasimodo
8. Bring Them to Light
9. Sacra
10. Rage Of Poseidon

Added: October 24th 2010
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1999
Language: english

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Apocalyptica: 7th Symphony
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-10-24 23:51:47
My Score:

The Finnish band is back with their seventh album, the aptly titled 7th Symphony. The band formed in 1993 and has enjoyed commercial success, especially with their last effort Worlds Collide which did pretty well on the Billboard charts. Their success will more than likely continue with 7th Symphony.

The band's line-up includes Eicca Toppinen(cello), Perttu Kivilaakso (cello), Paavo Lötjönen (cello) and Mikko Sirén (drums), along with the some special guest vocalists and drummer Dave Lombardo of Slayer. The band's music is a mixture of classical, heavy metal and hard rock. On 7th Symphony there are four vocal tracks and six instrumentals. The vocal tracks are not nearly as musically daring as the instrumentals as they take a more hard rock approach. The instrumentals are where this band really shows their chops and as expected take their cello playing to the extreme. What facet of the band you like will depend on your musical tastes. Those having an affinity for progressive music will definitely be drawn to the instrumentals more so than the vocal tracks. In contrast, people who appreciate more radio friendly fare will like the vocal tracks. While I prefer the more adventurous approach I can appreciate what the band is trying to accomplish with both styles.

The best songs are the instrumental pieces "At the Gates of Manala" with its moody atmospheres and intense rhythms giving the sound a symphonic edge and the album's final song "Rage of Poseidon" where harsher strains of cello seemingly come out of the blue and all four members play with intense abandon. I absolutely love the cello work here. Also notable is the haunting ballad "Beautiful", a song filled with mournful cello work and the adventurous "On the Rooftop with Quasimodo" where droning cello sets up an eerie space like vibe before a crunchy groove sets in. The best vocal track is probably "End of Me", the albums first single featuring Gavin Rossdale of Bush on lead vocals, although this one is more akin to standard rock. The heaviest track is the thrashy "Bring Them to Light" with Joseph Duplantier supplying both growls and clean vocals.

All in all this is a good album by Apocalyptica. Although I would prefer the band to be more adventuresome and stretch themselves out musically with an all instrumental album as they surely have plenty of chops to spare, this format is giving them an abundance of success so who can really blame them.

Apocalyptica: 7th Symphony
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-09-10 18:28:54
My Score:

Like a breath of fresh, cold Scandinavian air comes the latest release by Finland's Apocalyptica. While I am thinking that you should know who they are by now, I will indulge the newcomer by saying that they are the band that made playing the cello not only cool but frigging awesome. Many of their original fans came to love them from their renditions of Metallica standards. With this in your memory banks we can now get down to business about their new album "7th Symphony". The release is the bands seventh recording which makes the title rather kitsch and it follows suit with their previous album "World's Collide" by making strong use of their instrumental fare and a number of well-known musical guests to provide vocals on the remaining tracks. I have to take a moment and revisit a minor issue that I felt with their "Worlds Apart" release and that was my initial worry about how the guest appearances seemed to take away from the magic that was Apocalyptica music and how I felt these tunes sounded more like the bands that the singers came from than they should have. Looking back on this I have to say that I was wrong because it really ended up working in the bands behalf and brought them to greater heights than had they not chosen to do so.

We start our journey into the new album with the amazing "At The Gates Of Manala" which is of course an instrumental and showcases a very interesting side of the band. There are a number of different avenues taken by the guys but it is towards the middle section where it reaches Black Metal territory by offering a blazing riff often associated with that form and I loved it. "End Of Me" features Gavin Rossdale from Bush and they seem to be pushing this tune as the first single from the album. I guess its safe to say how this is the "7th Symphony" version of "I'm Not Jesus" which was a blockbuster for the band with the last album. While a good tune I wonder if this will be as popular as the offering by Brent Smith of Shinedown who sings "Not Strong Enough" based on the fact how that band is much more in the public eye than Bush has been in many years. Both are good songs and each has a nice drive to them. The band kicks the throttle into gear with the next instrumental as this features Dave Lombardo from Slayer on the drums and it is a solid tune that really shows off the percussionists abilities. It's obviously a heavy offering and one that I think even the Slayer loyalists will take to. We get some vocals from Lacey of Flyleaf and while never a band I paid much attention to, felt did a nice job with the guys. "Bring Me To Light" was an interesting tune as it was half Thrash Metal and slightly Death Metal and also featured Joe Duplantier from Gojira on vocals. I had to say that this one did not remind me of the singers band at all and came off as a little easier to absorb as a tune of its own. Both "Beautiful" and "Sacra" are short and enticing instrumentals and the whole thing is tied up and closed with the bands epic "Rage Of Poseidon" which runs almost nine minutes in length. There is a lot of stuff going on in this one and might be a killer tune when done in the live sense. While long its not at all boring or tedious in pace based on how its slowly build and builds until its crescendo. Nice work and very musically thorough.

A booklet comes with the release and gives you a number of individual band member photos and the lyrics to all of the songs with words in them. This is the kind of booklet that is perfect for a fan meet and greet since every member has a page that can be signed if you participate in those kinds of things. The lyrics obviously help make these new offerings second nature to you. Please bear in mind that this review is of the standard edition release and not the deluxe version. The band has also released a premium edition of "7th Symphony" which includes a DVD. To be honest I think that they should have only released one version and had the DVD as a part of it. These days the consumers are avoiding purchases and doing something like that would have almost guaranteed an immediate grab. Oh well. It's still a fine album that I enjoyed very much. The band is worth catching in concert because they don't just sit down and play their cellos, they are everywhere your eye can be focused and entertain like few others.

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