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Album Review APOCALYPTICA-Cult :: Maelstrom :: Issue No 2
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APOCALYPTICA - Cult - CD - Mercury Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Apocalyptica became a sort of a sideshow curiosity when they released an album of Metallica covers entirely played by four cellos. While it was unusual and displayed the excellent musical skills of the quartet, the album's appeal lay in its novelty value. Kind of like that album of elephants playing music, you just had to hear it for the sake of doing so. However, while the notes were dead on, the lack of percussion and vocals, plus the total acoustic nature of the music (not to mention that most of the songs were from the Black Album) displayed the limitations on doing a classical style cover of Metallica songs, and the album was really only interesting once. Perhaps it was Apocalyptica's plan all along to garner some recognition this way before releasing something original.

After a second album of Metallica and other metal band covers, Apocalyptica has released Cult, their first album of original compositions. Now, finally, the four classically trained Finns are really exploring what their style of heavy, metal inspired classical can offer. To their benefit, Apocalyptica has finally figured out that adding percussion would be a great boon to their sound. However, the percussion on Cult is not the standard snare/bass/toms/cymbals kit, but rather the kind of percussion used in an orchestra. This means that most of the percussive sounds are the kind of noises you'd get by hitting a triangle or banging on a tambourine, and the bom-bom of kettledrums replace the usual thumpy kick drums.

While the first track does perhaps have the most memorable theme on the album, and track 2 is mostly an exercise in heavy metal riffing, Cult really starts to pick up on track 3, where the feeling takes on a somber and gloomy air, and the piece displays more interesting dynamics, arrangements, and transitions.

Track 4 starts off with a very Metallica inspired riff, but then alternates the driving metal-style chugs with emotional and meaningful interludes.

The album reaches its high point around tracks 7 and 8, which feature exquisite and thoughtful compositions that really showcase the quartet's phenomenal chops and touch. Incidentally, these two particular compositions are the ones on which Apocalyptica abandon their Metallica leanings the most and concentrate on a more traditional classical style of their own.

The album does end up with three metal covers, two of which are of course Metallica ("Fight Fire with Fire" and "Until It Sleeps"). On these tracks, Apocalyptica again remind why their first two albums really were just novelties. Hopefully they will abandon any such covers in the future.

So many metal bands have employed classical scales or have written beautiful music not only in a metal sense, but this music largely goes unappreciated as it is almost invariably played on downtuned or distorted, electric instruments. While this album has its own share of metal feel and heaviness, the beautiful and non-abrasive nature of the cellos will be accessible to those who are a bit frightened by metal, but at the same time will also greatly appeal to more sophisticated metal fans due to its aggressive riffing and dark moods. Moving, somber, beautiful, and thought provoking. The year is young, but Cult is already a pick of mine for best of 2001.


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