No lyrics? No guitars? No problem
It’s no secret that rock and metal are loved around the globe. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the country that worships it the most is Finland. The sparsely-populated Nordic nation has a whopping 53 metal bands per 100,000 people, well ahead of second-place Sweden, who has 37. Finns don’t just rock hard- Finnish bands have also found success across the globe. Nightwish’s sweeping symphonic metal has sold nine million albums worldwide, the most ever by a Finnish artist. HIM aren’t far behind, and they became the first Finnish band to score a gold record in the U.S. by playing a catchy brand of ‘80s-style gothic rock called ‘love metal.’ The Rasmus used slick power-pop hooks to earn several top 10 singles across Europe. Finland’s metal love became apparent during the 2006 Eurovision contest, where instead of the usual pop artist they sent Lordi, a headbanging hard rock band known for wearing monster costumes. Lordi then promptly stunned everyone by winning the competition.
But out of all the metal bands in Finland, there’s one group that stands out the most: Apocalyptica. Unlike conventional counterparts, there’s no distorted guitars or vocals: their band was entirely started by three cellists. For a while, they were just playing cello versions of Metallica songs, but soon they began to write their own music. In 2003, they added a drummer, and in 2015 they added a singer. Now in 2020, they’ve gone back to their instrumental roots with a new album, Cell-0.
What immediately grabs the listener’s attention is that in many moments the cellos don’t actually sound like cellos. There are shredding solos, aggressive James Hetfield-style rhythm playing, and pit-crunching breakdowns, but none of them are done on guitars. Opener “Ashes of The Modern World” and “En Route to Mayhem” are good examples of the band’s metal chops. The cellos sound like cellos again on the beautiful “Rise.” The album’s best and most head-scratching track is “Fire and Ice,” which sounds like if Frodo and Samwise made a wrong turn and wound up at Wacken Festival.
Overall, it’s pretty impressive for a metal band to a) be comprised of only strings and b) write an album that’s both beautiful and brutal. Considering how long Apocalyptica have been doing this, it’s foolish to expect anything less than top-quality material, and they’ve produced more of that with Cell-0.