String Them Along
When a band makes their mark with a gimmick, it’s difficult if not impossible to get past it. When Helsinki, Finland quartet Apocalyptica chose to release Plays Metallica by Four Cellos in 1996, they knew success might come with the curse of always being “that band who did those Metallica songs on cellos.” Rather than immediately dispel this label, their 1998 album Inquisition Symphony was more of the same, adding Pantera, Sepultura, and other unlikely sources to their repertoire. Since then, Apocalyptica have rebooted and redefined itself with mixed results, and the stages of their evolution are compiled into their latest effort, 7th Symphony.
After their “cello metal cover band” period, Apocalyptica have produced albums full of arranged orchestral pieces, balls-out thrash, and catchier pop-metal. Like 2007’s Worlds Collide, 7th Symphony combines these personalities into one album with the help of notable guests. The results are mixed. The majority of the album features instrumentals, and those are indeed the best moments here, particularly “2010” with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo providing a clinic in metal drumming. The cellos are played through effects so they often sound like guitars, which is more distracting than it’s meant to be (i.e., why not just use guitars?), but when they are played naturally against a backdrop of loud percussion, the sound is uniformly thick and impressive.
The songs with vocals mostly sound like obvious attempts at radio airplay, including “Not Strong Enough.” Sung by Shinedown’s Brent Smith and penned by Diane Warren (“How Do I Live”), it just sounds out of place. Gavin Rossdale makes an appearance on “End of Me” with similar results. Gojira’s Joseph Duplantier represents the death-metal set on “Bring Them to Light,” and Flyleaf’s Lacey Mosley rocks the alterna-rock tip on “Broken Pieces,” the most successful of the album’s four vocal cuts.
7th Symphony comes across like a sampler where fans would be expected to vote on the Apocalyptica they like the best. This is one case where the talents of the musicians are most evident in what made them famous in the first place—kick-ass metal instrumentals played on cellos.