Apocalyptica - Cell-0

Apocalyptica Cell-0 cover
Silver Lining Music
I must have watched Apocalyptica performing on several occasions, both them doing their metal “covers” but also their original material as well. The level of sophistication and cool factor that their classic training offered when they re-engineered several Metallica tunes on their debut, solely on cellos, offered them a strong springboard, so when they released their original material adding a drummer and later on vocalists, they were really able to capitalize on the modicum of success that they were initially granted. They’ve since managed to hold on to that, being the most successful of all those left-field “novelty” acts out there, but also to step out of the shadow of being a cover band and turn into an original and exciting band, themselves. 

Not only was their decision to feature many guest vocalists a smart idea, as it gave them a multifaceted identity and allowed a bit of the guests stardust to “rub off” on them, but their gradual graduation from cover centric, to original and vocal, even if it’s reversed on “Cell-0”, allowed them to explore different avenues and not stagnate, thus ensuring a longevity, even the band might have not anticipated.
“Cell-0” is their ninth release and despite the changes through the years with only two out of the four original cellists remaining, seems to go back to the roots of the band to get inspiration, all instrumental, cold and removed from the sentimentalism of actual vocal songs, but at the same time lyrical in its own grandiose way, given the accumulated experience of more than twenty years of performing and even more years of studying prior to that. It goes to say that the band shows great ability in their arrangements that both making excellent use of dynamics, but also have more variety than your average metal album to make up for the limited expressive outlets.
While saying that this is symphonic metal would be an easy and true enough definition, things go a little deeper than that. For example, opener “Ashes of the Modern World” might take a couple of minutes to really get going – but once it begins, it sounds like the angrier, more furious Finnish cousin of “Call of Cthulhu”, while maintaining a cold calmness in some of its parts that feels vast and beyond comprehension.
“Cell-0” in its nine minutes covers a lot of ground, from calm and beautiful to grandiose and epic, but it largely revolves around a big movement that permeates it, repeating itself a couple of times.
“Rise” is a melancholic, softer piece, which also has picked strings and offers a chance to cool down for a bit.
“En Route to Mayhem” is rather interesting as despite a lyrical and rather melodic introduction and initial run, soon sheds that skin to go into a breakneck speed almost thrash delirium complete with double bass drumming and crazy shredding, that is unlike what the band has gotten listeners used to. It’s also interesting to consider what the instrumentation is. Really brilliant moment.
“Call My Name” has an interesting melody, but is decidedly more minimalist. It however has a little countering melody, that’s very fragile and timid against the really busy percussion.
“Fire & Ice” follows the formula of a softer intro and then sudden eruption to a T, but this time, the rapid fire, riff like bows trills, make the song sound a lot more rhythmical and aggressive.
On a completely different note “Scream for the Silent” is epicolyrical, but in a melancholic, timid way, with a fantastic chord progression really becoming its irresistible hook.
“Catharsis” is relatively more straightforward both in scope and execution, but not any worse for it.
Last but not least, “Beyond the Stars” sweetly packs all of it, with a dose of romanticism, sandwiched between burst of heavy handed orchestration and pizzicato strings that take this endless symphony to its outer limits and inevitable conclusion.
While I didn’t expect much from “Cell-0”, this hardcore classically inspired piece of metal, with its back to basics philosophy, made me actually rediscover Apocalyptica and reappraise their worth. A definitely, worthwhile album.