Apocalyptica Shadowmaker 01Once upon a time, way back when, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos made its prodigious appearance. Yes it was an album of covers, but it wasn’t just another metal band playing it safe at regurgitating the same old stuff. Instead it was a Finnish cello wielding quartet reimagining the lines between rock, metal and classical music, releasing a fine piece of Apocalyptica flavoured neo-classical artistry [Also known as cheesy cover tunes.Steel Druhm]. The years rumbled on and what could have been a flash in the pan, a craze, didn’t end up that way, and now Apocalyptica are set to add their ninth full-length to their already rich sonic palette. I felt some remorse back in 2013 that I didn’t make more effort to review their Wagnerian tribute (Wagner Reloaded) –  an album that’s seen me through many long flights between South Africa and New York. Along comes Shadowmaker, Apocalyptica now have a dedicated vocalist as Franky Perez (ex-Scars on Broadway) takes his spot in the limelight and I get a chance to make right. “If there is one abiding truism that pervades art of every creed and style, it is that those with a unique vision are invariably the most likely to prevail.” That about sums it up, colour me excited!

As Shadowmaker plays out, it shows itself to be a blend of hard and alternative rock and at times even a bit of country rears its sneaky head (“Hole in my Soul”). This is all supported by Apocalyptica‘s classical backbone and it’s easy to slot Shadowmaker in somewhere between the band’s earlier works – Worlds Collide and 7th Symphony. Tracks like “Cold Blood,” “Shadowmaker,” “House of Chains” and “Come Back Down” have distinct similarities to the works of Shinedown and Alter Bridge with odd and subtle instances of Jamiroquai funkiness slipping into the mix here and there.

Franky Perez is a good addition to the band. He’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done before but he does bring a singular vocal focal point  to the party as well as a level of tightness and consistency that Apocalyptica lacked on Worlds Collide and 7th Symphony. His vocals lean towards those in “Not Strong Enough” off 7th Symphony, so they’re a good fit for Shadowmaker, coming across as a blend of Doug Robb (Hoobastank), Brent Smith (Shinedown) and Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge). Instrumentally Paavo, Eicca, Perttu and Mikko sound as energetic as they have in the past, being that this is such an advanced release for the band, hats off to them for weaving in new intricacies and keeping the energy levels up.

Apocalyptica Shadowmaker 02

Their cello’s are the definitive core of this project, nothing makes this more blatantly obvious than the inclusion of purely instrumental tracks like “I-III-V Seed of Chaos,” “Reign of Fear,” “Riot Lights” and “Till Death Do Us Part.” While I enjoy the bit of Alice in Chains feel that creeps into “Reign of Fear,” and I enjoy the surging power and shifts in mood that these maestros weave, we’re all well aware of what Apocalyptica are capable of, which leaves me feeling these fillers are quite unnecessary, just lengthening an already long album.

Shadowmaker is very likable easy listening, veering maybe a little too close to cock rocking cheese at times, but in spite of that, this week has seen me come up with every excuse under the sun to spin it again. I was somewhat surprised to discover that Shadowmaker lacks the dynamics one would associate with a classically influenced act, and I’m further surprised that producer extrodinaire Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters and Mastodon) didn’t raise this issue with the band. At any rate, if you see yourself heading down the highway and you need some new tunage, check this out.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Harmageddon Records | OMN Label Services
Websites: ApocalypticaOfficial | Facebook.com/Apocalyptica
Release Dates: EU: 2015.04.17 | NA: 04.21.2015

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  • Worst video since the last worst video.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Well, at least the band photo is slightly more… interesting than most, and I like the cover with it’s re-imagining of Michelangelo’s Pietà.

      • that cockatoo headed thing looks like a bad outtake from hotline miami and I know it will haunt my nightmares some day to come.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          I swear I’ve seen that bird thing before somewhere.

      • Feeblejocks

        Reminds me a lot of that annoying spin-pan-zoom editing style that a lot of terrible late 00’s movies had. Especially reminds me of Ghost Rider 2 for those slo-mo/fastforward bits.

  • Kryopsis

    While I very rarely disagree with you, Madam X, the linked track has that same superficiality of early 2000’s vapid, radio-friendly post-grunge. If it is representative of the album as a whole, I can’t say I’m interested.

    • It’s representative of the majority of the album. The album has its place being that they haven’t released anything along this line in a while, but yeah, it’s not going to appeal to all… “radio-friendly” is a good call.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I’ve never heard of Wagner Reloaded, so, cool! Thanks. As a Wagnerian, I’ll have to check it out. Though, usually when I need my Wagner fix, I go to the source. : )

    • Agreed, it’s a nice shake-up though :)

  • This reminds me of an old standby grind outfit, Yodeled Groceries.

  • Eryops

    I remember visiting Finland in ’96 and my cousin had their first CD. To me, it was a breath of fresh air. Over the years they’ve fallen off of my radar, and seeing this pop up in my feed got my hopes back up for something special, but that video showed that I’m not missing anything.

  • JJnetZach

    Apocalyptica sadly lost their touch when they decided to start using vocals some time ago… Quutamo for the win.

  • Feytalist

    Worlds Collide is earlier material? Where’s the days of Cult and Inquisition Symphony, is what I want to know.

    Apocalyptica has been steadily moving in a direction contrary to my tastes ever since… well, Worlds Collide, really, and this album seems no different.

    Not for me. And that’s a shame.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Ive never heard these guys before or Scars on Broadway after listening to a couple of tunes I think the vocalist has a great voice but his approach is way too safe FM rock for me… Theres a lot going on with the music and you’d think with the instrumentation so much melodic potential but it’s played way too safe.

    • Yeah I’d like to hear them taking some risks too. My first thought with this album is that it seemed a little radio friendly… almost prompting me not to review it.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        You can’t blame bands for chasing success, but sometimes I think when the talent is there they’d have more chance of real success by challenging a few conventions. These guys to me are definitely a case of this.

        • Couldn’t agree more!

        • Celaeno

          Agreed. Definitely got the almost too radio friendly feel. Kind of hoping for something more creative, but then I listened again because, well, I enjoyed it. Not as striking as their earlier stuff, but still fun.

  • CarvedInStone

    For the life of me I’ll never understand how these lads got so big. I remember when the first two albums were released. Looking back I’m amazed at how they managed to build a large fanbase on playing rock with classical instruments. I always thought that they were nothing more but a novelty act that would be forgotten quickly. I’m not saying that they aren’t talented musicians. Still, why would anyone listen to their albums more than once?

    But I suppose that is why I’m not trading stock. On a slightly related note, In 2008 some dude won the German version of “Britain’s Got Talent” by playing instrumental harmonica covers of songs. And he still records and releases records until this day and is relatively successful with it. At least in Germany people really like that stuff. And I will never understand why. This is just some dude covering music with a harmonica. I’ll listen to that maybe once but then never again. What is the appeal of this kind of music?

    But I digress. At least Apocalyptica are writting their own music now.

    • Nate Howlett

      It’s not as if they had been always a cover band until just recently. Their second album had a couple of original songs, and their third one went full original compositions. Of course, during this time, they have still released some covers here and there, but they’ve been an original band for more than 15 years now…and I guess that’s why they have success, because they are original…

      • CarvedInStone

        I get that. I know that they haven’t done a pure cover album in ages. I was talking about the feelings I had when their first two albums came out.

  • RuySan

    I liked Cult. It was really how an aggressive, metal inspired neo classical album should sound. Unfortunately they went too “American rock fm” for my tastes.

  • Celaeno

    I have a love/hate relationship with covers. If they’re too similar to the original, I tend to just cringe and be immediately disappointed that another band even even bothered trying, especially for the classics. But if it’s different and creative and provides a new musical interpretation, I am nothing but impressed and excited. Inquisition Symphony was the latter for me (as I was not remotely cool enough to have heard Plays Metallica by Four Cellos). It also had their best cover art IMO. Completely agreed on the Shinedown/Alter Bridge influences, but I’ve always loved Brent Smith’s voice, so this vocalist pleases me. Thanks for the review! I know what I’ll be listening to all day tomorrow.

    • I discovered Brent Smith and Shinedown via Apocalyptica’s track… still love his vocals to this day – rather glad Apocalyptica found somebody with such vocal similarities.

  • Nate

    Such a pity.. I remember when this band first made the Metallica cover album, it was fantastic. The next few albums after that were great. Then they released Worlds Collide and basically just made radio friendly rock, but with cellos (but barely sounded like cellos) and radio friendly vocals. It’s a pity that they went that way and never recovered. RIP apocalyptica.

  • sir_c

    The vocalist reminds me of Myrath’s singer. I think Franky needs a different band to shine.

    Besides which, the DR of music featured in the clip is flatter than stale beer in the desert sun, which makes it a chore to listen to it. This is one of the places where its omission really stands out (in a bad sense).

    I remember Apocalyptica from their Metallica covers, but this stuff is pretty damn bland. To say it politely.