April 5, 2008

CD Review: Apocalyptica - World's Collide

Way back in 1996 I was working at an electronics store. One day, while on a break, I was perusing the music selection. As I passed the M's an album caught my eye. The album cover pictured four men with cellos and bore the title: Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. I was intrigued to say the least, and for the moment the only thing holding me back from getting it was the pricy import tag. After a scant few days I could wait no longer and snapped up the lone copy. The music was fantastic, I had never heard anything quite like it. Two years later I picked up their second release, Inquisition Symphony, featuring not only Metallica covers, but also Pantera, Faith No More, and Sepultura. Following that I lost track of them. Now, ten years later, I have rediscovered the band with their sixth full length studio album, World's Collide, and I am glad to be doing so. This is a fantastic release.

This Finnish quartet is a truly original voice on the heavy music front, and they have clearly grown over the years. Over the past decade their sound has become much more refined and polished, while retaining the edge and energy of any metal act. This is the first time that I have heard them play so much with a drummer, an aspect they added part time with the release of their fourth album, Reflections, with five songs featuring Slayer's Dave Lombardo behind the kit. Their fifth album, Apocalyptica, featured continued use of drums as well as songs with vocals from guests such as HIM's Ville Vallo. Now, the trend has continued, full time drums and a number of songs with vocals. Don't worry; the instrumentals are still here in full force.

Granted, I have not heard anything between Inquisition Symphony and Worlds Collide, so when I pressed play I was greated by a sound that I was not expecting. Yes, it sounds like Apocalyptica, but it is something bigger, more energetic and all around better.

The album begins with the title track, an instrumental that features the band at the top of their game. If you listen quickly you may think you are listening to guitars, but it quickly becomes apparent that these sounds are definitely not made by guitar. The tone, style, and sound all point towards the cello. Welcome to the world of cello-metal.

The second track features their first guest musician, Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei. The song is called "Grace" and offers up some interesting guitar/cello melodies. While the two stringed instruments play together, they deliver a very catchy line that is sure to get itself stuck in your head, I know I was humming it for some time after it ended.

The first single is also the third track. It is a more commercially targeted song, yet retains a distinct dose of originality. "I'm Not Jesus" features Stone Sour/Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor letting the screams die down in favor of one of his better singing performances. The song is quite good, showing off a different style for the band.

Other guests include Rammstein's Till Lindemann singing on the nicely arranged cover of David Bowie's "Heroes," performed here in German and called "Helden." The cello arrangement sounds absolutely epic and Lindemann's commanding voice completely fills out the cover. On "I Don't Care" vocal duties are filled by Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace, and angst filled song that would not be out of place on your local rock station. Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia sings on the most radio friendly track called "S.O.S. (Anything But Love)." The song is beautiful and haunting and something I would love to hear on the local radio station.

There is one other guest, a name familiar to Apocalyptica fans. On "Last Hope" drummer Mikko Siren steps aside for Dave Lombardo. The song is pure speed metal, rapid fire drums, heavy riffs and quick licks are the order of the day on this speed driven track that rivals Slayer's intensity.

Overall, Worlds Collide has a distinctly commercially oriented sound, yet there is enough heavy fringe flavor to keep me satisfied. It seems as if they could be making a play for a mainstream audience, which I would certainly not begrudge them. Even with the commercial tinges they remain an exciting voice for originality. This is a high quality release that deserves as much attention as they can garner.

Bottomline. If you are not familiar with Apocalyptica, get your hands on this album, fall in love and work your way deeper into their catalog. I know I know I will be going back to fill in the gap in my collection. This release will surely blow you away.

Highly Recommended.


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