Released: 2005, Nuclear Blast America
To start off I have to say that I don’t really understand this 2005 issue of Apocalyptica’s REFLECTIONS. Apparently this is the US version but from my experience the album has been readily available in North America since REFLECTIONS was originally released in 2003 and it wasn’t sold at an import price either (a friend of mine bought a copy for under $20).
Anyway, Nuclear Blast has issued this album in 2005 with 4 bonus tracks as well as a video for the song “Somewhere Around Nothing”. My experience with Apocalyptica is rather limited as I haven’t really been interested in the band as I’ve seen them as more of a gimmick band, getting by more on the fact that they play metal with cellos. While I’ve heard some Apocalyptica tracks in the car with my friend they never peaked my interest and the covers they did always came across as okay but nothing to piss my pants over.
For those not in the know, Apocalyptica are a Finnish 3 piece (used to be 4) band that use Cellos to imitate the sound of an electric guitar. There are no vocals and there are no guitars, the band uses clean violin or cello to play melodies overtop of the music. Much of the melodies work in the same as a vocal melody as they are often associated with a specific riff or musical piece and repeat along with them. Apocalyptica also utilize the services of a few guest musicians to help fill out their songs, probably the most notable one on this album is Dave Lombardo who assists on drums on five songs. Unfortunately, the band’s original compositions aren’t all that varied and generally lend themselves to either ballads or slightly more up tempo songs that utilize straight, simple chugging riffs that are only used as a vehicle to push the melodies overtop. The problem I have with Apocalyptica is that, aside from playing cellos, the band is pretty generic. If you listen to this album and keep thinking, “they’re playing cellos, not guitars”, you’ll be impressed, but if I didn’t know any better I’d assume this is another bland metal band.
The album starts off with “Prologue (Apprehension)” that uses the up tempo straight chugging mentioned above. The soaring melodies sitting atop of the chugging saves the song and makes it thoroughly enjoyable, especially the section at about 50 seconds in which grabs me right away. Track 2, “No Education”, is in the same vein as the opener, with its simple constant chugging riff but its melodies are much stronger. The “chorus” section of the song has a melody that sounds beautiful and initially gave me a lot of hope for the rest of the album. “Faraway” is a soft song that sounds like it could be used to cap off your standard Hollywood movie, right after the hero has triumphed and the credits have started to roll.
“Drive” comes off much like it’s up tempo predecessors on the album, so much so that it’s beginning to get old by now and the melodies have become rather uninteresting, so it’s not long before I hit the skip button. “Heat” starts off with a riff that comes off sounding just a little sloppy, which comes as a welcome change on an album that sounds as clinically precise and bland as this one. The overlapping melodies are alright but don’t feel like they’re adding to the song, like they’re dragging it down somewhat. I think that if anything was to go overtop it should sound a bit rougher than what is actually there.
The bonus tracks in “Seemann” (which features a female vocalist, Nina Hagen), “Faraway Vol.2 (Extended Version)”, “Deep Down Ascend (Demo)”, and “Kellot (demo)” are pretty useless to me as they don’t really add anything particularly worthwhile to the album. I would assume that hardcore Apocalyptica fans (if there is such a thing) might be interested but they definitely wouldn’t warrant a repurchase for those that already own and enjoy the album.
Apocalyptica’s novelty of playing heavy metal with cellos may be enough to get them by with some people, but not with me as REFLECTIONS is a rather boring and meandering listen. Although, even I can’t deny that Apocalyptica rock harder with cellos than a lot of other bands.