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Apocalyptica - Shadowmaker

by MarcusTheRocker at 03 May 2015, 3:10 PM

Symphonic instruments and Metal music is something I have always said works together brilliantly as you get the insanity of Heavy Metal music with the Symphonic accompaniments adding a bit of epicness to the music, making you fall in love with it even more. Lately though I’ve heard far less Symphonic Metal that use this formula, with the end result becoming a bit too bland for my liking - mainly due to messy arrangements. Maybe things will all change today or maybe they won’t but we shall see.

The band I am focusing on is one that uses nothing but Symphonic instruments for their performances. Forget electric or bass guitars, the only instruments present in this bands music is cellos and drums. Who are these mad geniuses? APOCALYPTICA that’s who.

Formed in 1993, this act from Helsinki, Finland originally started out doing cello covers of METALLICA songs as well as other Metal acts but it wasn’t until the release of their third album in 2000 that they started to write and record original songs. Vocals have been used on their releases but it’s mostly been various guests performing vocals on their material but since 2014, the band now have their very own vocalist and they are ready to showcase their new material with their own vocalist to the world with the “Shadowmaker” album and I’m here to see if this band who use only cellos and drums for their performances can make something good or if the lack of electric guitars makes it suffer.

Having already released a large quantity of material including several albums, numerous singles as well as performing on albums as guests to a large number of Rock and Metal acts, APOCALYPTICA are obviously a band who are always working hard, never stopping and always putting out a constant flow of new music for us the fans to listen to. I am familiar with their work as I have heard one or two of their songs before in video games but never really gave them a proper listen.

They came to my attention once again last year when the Finnish game company Rovio asked them to record a cello cover of the theme song to their smash hit franchise Angry Birds for the winter update to their Angry Birds Seasons game and I found the resulting arrangement to be quite unique so I was quite intrigued when I got their new album for promo review.

With an album like this, you start to wonder how on earth can a band who use no electric guitars whatsoever possibly make a Metal album when the guitar is a core ingredient any good or worth listening to? Simple answer my fellow Metalheads, so keep on reading: The band may not use any electric guitars for their recordings but that doesn’t stop them from making music and by listening to their music, you get a clear idea of just how they work as the way the cellos are tuned and mixed is so unbelievable, you are completely fooled into thinking there is guitars on the album until you read that there isn’t resulting in your mind being blown.

The above statement applies to what I thought when I first listened to this album prior to doing research and when I saw there were no guitars on this album, my mind was well and truly blown as the way the cellos sound in the music fools your mind into thinking you are hearing a different instrument when there is actually a completely different one playing. It’s best if you listen to the music to get an idea of what I’m on about but to cut a long story short, the end result is hugely impressive.

The standard version features 10 songs but the deluxe/digipak version contains 12 songs or in the case of the promo I’ve been given you get 13 meaning that there’s another deluxe edition out there somewhere with 13 songs on it. But it doesn’t matter which edition you pick up as you’ll most likely find yourself enjoying the sounds of APOCALYPTICA as that is what I found myself doing.

Why do I enjoy it? The bands sound is unlike anything I have ever heard before as it is totally different yet completely unique and the result of that unique sound are some enjoyable songs including both the vocal tracks and the instrumentals. The instrumentals total four which include the intro and three long separate tracks which are scattered throughout the album but the music is enjoyable and never boring for those long lengths of time as the arrangements are well done as the cellos have their moment of glory and get to shine, especially when there are cello solos yes that’s right you heard me cello solos but who said that Metal solos had to be limited to guitars and keyboards?

The rest of the songs are vocal tracks featuring the bands very own vocalist and his performance is very good and not to mention very diverse and you can hear this throughout the album on songs such as “Slow Burn”, “Hole In My Soul”, “Come Back Down”, “Cold Blood” and the title track “Shadowmaker”. Throughout these songs, there is a mixture of different vocal styles that adapt themselves to the corresponding songs including heavy vocals, soft vocals, melodic vocals and insane nutty vocals which means that you get a nice mixture to enjoy on top of the music.

Anything problematic that I can report on? Apart from a couple of songs which I’m not really all that keen on, namely “House of Chains”, there aren’t really any real faults I can find here as the bands totally unique sound and their way of making music may be unlike anything I have ever heard before but the way it is all put together really does amaze you when you listen and this overshadows any problems you may or may not find in the music.

Bottom line, the new album from APOCALYPTICA is a very enjoyable album to listen to and is by far one of the best Symphonic Metal releases I have heard in recent weeks due to the fact that the arrangements are well mixed and well produced and also the bands experience in playing, writing and recording symphonic music have clearly paid off and the end result on their new release is a must have for any Metal fans collection.

4 Star Rating

1. I-III-IV Seed of Chaos (Instrumental)
2. Cold Blood
3. Shadowmaker
4. Slow Burn
5. Reign of Fear (Instrumental) (Digipak Version Bonus Track)
6. Hole In My Soul
7. House of Chains
8. Riot Lights (Instrumental)
9. Come Back Down (Digipak Version Bonus Track)
10. Sea Song (You Waded Out)
11. Till Death Do Us Part (Instrumental)
12. Dead Man’s Eyes
13. Hall of the Mountain King (feat. Avanti Orchestra) (Deluxe Edition Bonus Track)
Franky Perez – vocals
Perttu Kivilaakso – cello
Paavo Lötjönen – cello
Eicca Toppinen – cello
Mikko Sirén – drums, percussion
Record Label: Eleven Seven Music


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