Apocalyptica - Plays Metallica Vol. 2

Apocalyptica – Plays Metallica Vol. 2 (Album Review)

Apocalyptica 2024

Of the exorbitant number of talented Heavy Metal bands to emerge from Finland, perhaps the most unique are Apocalyptica. Why? Because opposed to a traditional Metal band – where there are usually guitars, drums and bass – Apocalyptica work wholly with cellos. Something lending itself to an entirely different atmosphere, the mood is often fitting, dynamic, and in equal parts, just as heavy. Held together by classically trained Cellists Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Paavo Lötjönen, at this point in time most recognize the band largely for their original compositions, but way back when, they were introduced to the world with their extraordinary Metallica covers.

Something that caught on rather quickly, the story dates back to a 1995 show where the primary players of Apocalyptica had gone out and performed some Metallica songs. Striking interest, the result was a studio recorded tribute album that emerged in 1996 under the title Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. What would be their debut, it snowballed from here with another cover album entitled Inquisition Symphony in 1998, before a slew of original material emerged with 2000’s Cult, and leading all the way into 2020’s Cell-O. Finding amazing success, adding another wrinkle to it all, Apocalyptica has also collaborated with some of Rock/Metal’s most recognized vocalists through the years; including Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Brent Smith of Shinedown, Adam Gontier formerly of Three Days Grace, currently of Saint Asonia, as well as Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm, just to name a few. Also bringing on American Vocalist Franky Perez full-time for 2015’s Shadowmaker album, as well as a touring member in the years to follow, it is safe to say Apocalyptica have made an impact in many shapes and forms. 

Leading us back to the start, it has been nearly thirty years since the guys first selected to perform Metallica on their cellos, but now in 2024, take it back to the beginning with the new album Plays Metallica Vol. 2. Set for release on June 7th through Throwdown Entertainment, the album finds Toppinen, Kivilaakso and Lötjönen, along with long-time Drummer Mikko Sirén (a part of his final studio album with the band), paying homage to what got them started as Apocalyptica, however, with a ton of interesting new textures. 

To start with, it should be noted that the band themselves were not the ones who jump-started recording this new album, but instead they were approached with the offer. Gladly accepting a chance to revisit the concept, as mentioned, they do things a little different this time around, and of course, select a list of different Metallica songs to play.

Consisting of ten tracks in total, featured here are various Metallica tracks from their discography, but some of the most interesting selections include “Ride the Lightning,” and yes, “St. Anger.” Beyond these two, which stick out quite prominently, there are many other highlights; such as “Blackened,” where they are joined by Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame on drums, “The Four Horsemen,” featuring Metallica Bassist Robert Trujllo, plus “The Call of Ktulu,” which is a lovely tribute to the late Metallica legend Cliff Burton.

Each of these, among others, are engaging listens where Apocalyptica offer energized performances with aggression, but also with subtleties. Although, arguably the biggest moment of all is when they perform Metallica fan-favorite “One” with James Hetfield himself on vocals. Impossible to overlook, this song includes Hetfield, but also Trujillo on bass, and presents “One” in an entirely different light than we have ever heard it before. Building like a classical piece, there are peaks, valleys, tons of intrigue in-between, and some shifts that take you in directions you would not expect.

All matters considered, it is a tall order to revisit the past with a new, fresh approach, but Apocalyptica do so quite well. Playing with exceptional passion, Plays Metallica Vol. 2 is the perfect bedfellow to Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Apocalyptica - Plays Metallica Vol. 2
Apocalyptica – Plays Metallica Vol. 2 / Throwdown Entertainment (2024)

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