January 7, 2020 Apocalyptica – Cell-O (Album Review)
It has been five long years since we have heard from Neo-Classical Metalheads Apocalyptica, but 2020 is set to deliver great things when Silver Lining Music issue Cell-O on Friday, January 10th.
Considering that it has been nearly three decades since the Finnish band’s inception, the juxtaposition at the heart of the multi-platinum Apocalyptica (cellos performing Metal) is no longer as shocking as it was back in 1993. Instead, the quartet—Cellists Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Paavo Lötjönen, along with Drummer Mikko Sirén—have won the hearts of Metalheads across the globe, issued eight full-length studio releases (including their genre-breaking 1996 debut, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos), and performed alongside such greats as Metallica (duh!) and Rammstein.
Traditionally, making Metal a communal effort is the Apocalyptica way. Throughout the years, these exceptional musicians have collaborated with a bevvy of other talents, including Adam Gontier (Saint Asonia, ex Three Days Grace), Till Lindemann (Rammstein), Joe Duplantier (Gojira), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), and many, many more. However, this is not to be the case for the group’s ninth studio offering, Cell-O.
Self-produced by the quartet and mixed by Andrew Scheps (Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers), the 9-song disc returns Apocalyptica to their Cello Rock roots. Their aforementioned break gave the band a fresh perspective and affected the way they approached the new music, paving the way for their first instrumental album in 17 years. A cinematic masterpiece, the album features additional keyboard work from multi-talented Finnish musician Lasse Piirainen, as well as bass performed by Joonas Parkkonen (guitarist of Santa Cruz).
Cell-O opens to the astounding “Ashes of the Modern World,” a beautifully gothic journey that weeps as it reflects sorrowfully on the self-destruction of mankind. A threnody for melody and melancholia, there are notes that bring to mind Guns N’ Roses before a solo cello weeps as death dances atop our ruins. This all leads to an explosion of war, featuring additional percussion from Finnish producer, engineer and drummer Tommi Vainikainen. Fearless and arresting, “Ashes of the Modern World” is an obvious choice for first single/video as it’s a perfect representation of all that is Cell-O.
A Rock-n-Roll sonata for the apocalypse, the titular “Cell-O” goes for an even more bleak perspective, at least initially. Here, the cellists delve deeper into their craft for an emotional race that soars and stomps equally between the light and the dark. At nearly ten minutes, this is a track that cannot be described in simple words. But before you fall too deep into the abyss, the delicacy of “Rise” turns the mood toward something lighter, pulling listeners back. An atmospheric kiss that twinkles with hope, this is the promise that there is still goodness worth embracing somewhere in this world.
There’s an initial 1980’s Sci-Fi feel to “En Route to Mayhem” before the cello kicks in and all your original notions are dissolved into an ominous stew. Traveling into an amorphous black cloud, the track runs the gamut of emotions and allows the quartet to rock out while specifically highlighting the percussive talents of Sirén. This paves the way for the sanguine gleam of “Call My Name,” a glass half-full lamentation that is swimming in diamonds of hope. This is the fire: the positivity that radiates in undulating waves of heat.
According to poet Robert Frost, some believe the world will end in fire, some in ice. Whatever side you choose, “Fire & Ice” is an appropriately alluring ode to the yin and yang of life. Opening to Uilleann pipes courtesy of Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, the track travels a downward spiral into the underworld for some devilish madness, before once again floating upward toward the lofty heavens. Then, continuing to capture the beguiling contradictions of life, “Scream for the Silent,” a wordless plea to stand up for the voiceless, leans toward the light.
Cellos weep to create the opening notes of “Catharsis.” A beautifully moving, therapeutic experience that is apropos of its title, this is the culmination of all that has come before: a reminder that though there is darkness, the world is full of light and we need only to revel in its rays. All this before Cell-O closes out with the epic “Beyond the Stars.” Featuring guest narrative vocals from Tom Furey, the track serves as a rocking conclusion that soars throughout the hills and gullies of a sonic landscape that is suitably alluring yet horrifying. What we find beyond our stars is up to each of us, but in their final masterpiece Apocalyptica promise that what’s out there is worth searching for!
Cell-O makes it easy to see that Apocalyptica’s time away has clearly left the quartet reinvigorated and reinspired. An opus full of exceptional musicality and artful, instrumental storytelling, the cinematic ninth disc from these genre pioneers is everything (and more) that one might expect from these talented Finns. So while Cell-O may be short on words, it’s heavy on intense emotion, world class musicianship, self-destruction and a hope for redemption. For this, Cryptic Rock give Cell-O 5 of 5 stars.