Apocalyptica – Cell-0
Released: January 10th, 2020
Eicca Toppinen // Rhythm Cello, Keyboards
Paavo Lötjönen // Bass Cello
Perttu Kivilaakso // Lead Cello
Mikko Sirén // Drums
A new year and a new Apocalyptica album. It is hard to believe that Cell-O is the band’s, or quartets’, ninth studio album in their twenty sixth year of existence. The group is an anomaly within the metal world, but ironically, an anomaly that fits right in. I remember when the band first burst on to the scene with Plays METALLICA with Four Cellos and I sincerely thought wow, this is brilliant, what a concept, but wasn’t sure of its longevity, once the obvious hype and uniqueness of the project started to subside. But as the band started to work with original material, people started to look differently at the outfit, and could see the actual power of the instruments, in the metal world, and the amazing writing ability of the band; even though string instrumentation in heavy metal music wasn’t anything new, just not on this scale. They created their own niche, but I think so much more importantly, they became an incredibly important part of the heavy metal scene. This is something that makes me proud to be a metalhead, just think of the other music scenes, say Country, Gansta Rap, I don’t think there would ever be a quartet of cellos playing Country and Western or Hip Hop!
So how does a band like Apocalyptica remain so captivating, exciting and relevant within the Heavy Metal scene? Well, quite simply, metalheads appreciate intricate, thought-provoking and stirring pieces of sonic art, and Apocalyptica are the embodiment of this ethos. The band have powered, distorted, and yes, essentially bastardised their beloved classical instruments, into a heavy metal soundscape that reeks of heavy dark rhythmic patterns.
So let’s focus on Cell-O. The album is to be released on January 10, but the band has given the world a taste of the album with video releases of the tracks such as ‘Rise’ and ‘Ashes of the Modern World’. Both songs really capture the essence of the album, its tone and sentiment. For me the notion of darkness, with an undertow of tranquillity and hope, and even at times, foreboding, sums this piece of work. Confused? I was through my first listen, but as I processed pieces through multiple engagements it all came together, and this is the best way to sum up the album. After interviewing Paavu Lötjönen (bass Cellist) in early December this all makes sense, as there are so many layers of instrumentation on the album that sincerely take time to process. Rather than simply structured songs, the album takes its listener through a very visual, aural experience. Yes, I know this sounds quite contradictory but quite simply we have pieces of music that are brush strokes for the mind.
Of the nine tracks ‘Ashes of the Modern World‘ and ‘En Route to Mayhem‘ stand out for me, and this is because of the dynamics of the tracks, and in particular the tempo changes on top of the melodies. However, there really isn’t any low point, or songs that blend into each other for that matter. The Metallica influences are quite strong the album, as they have been on past releases, but this is in no way a criticism. The band meanders through slow brooding pieces, blended into frantic and intense rhythmic patterns that would sit into any respectable thrash band, and are golden era Metallica staples.
The album really is a strong piece of art that could easily support videos, or visual representations for each song. The album deserves to be listened to in isolation, in my thinking with a glass of red wine, and with a mind looking for transcendence and escape. However, it lends itself also to be played in the background and will stand within any thinking metal heads playlist for the commute to work, or at your next heavy metal gathering. If you haven’t found Apocalyptica yet, I ask why? And I demand that you purchase a copy of Cell-O on January ten. This won’t disappoint.
Apocalyptica – Cell-0 tracklisting
1. Ashes of the Modern World
4. En Route to Mayhem
5. Call My Name
6. Fire & Ice
7. Scream for the Silent
9. Beyond the Stars
Cell-0 is out Friday, January 10th. Pre-Order here
Review by Mark Snedden