Once 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.
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.
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