Although it’s been four years since Apocalyptica released an album, they’ve hardly been idle. What was supposed to be a handful of shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Finn’s debut album; ‘Plays Metallica by Four Cellos’, soon turned into a 230 show mammoth tour reaching fifty countries. So, it was always going to be something rather special that marked the “return” of Apocalyptica. And ‘Cell-0’ is indeed something rather special.
Pronounced “Cell-Zero”, the ninth studio album from Apocalyptica sees the band forsaking the vocals found on previous albums, and instead going down the instrumental path of standout album ‘Cult’.
There’s an unwanted sense of irony in reviewing ‘Cell-0’ on the day that #WWIII began trending, especially on opening track – ‘Ashes Of The Modern World’. What begins with a solemn and downcast cello riff, soon grows into a foreboding composition, complete with air-raid sirens, explosions, military drum beats, and of course thrashing ‘cello-riffery’. Apocalyptica have somehow managed to pack more thought-provoking emotion into six minutes, than a days worth of twitter timelines, and all without uttering a single word.
The feeling of doom bleeds over into the near-ten minutes in length title-track, the dark shadows of the opening bars quickly give way to an uptempo full-pelt pace with an almost synth-like vibe. John Carpenter meets Metallica on cellos? Possibly, yes. But then there are the deeper, lower sounding riffs around the three minute mark that actually sound like a horn section. So much going on that it’s dizzying at times, just as well you are lying down. Lying down? Yes of course, you see ‘Cell-0’ is not an album to drop in and out of, Apocalyptica want you to fully immerse yourself in the album and the best way for that to happen is by lying down, relaxing, slip some cans on and press play. Do this, and the rewards are plenty. Like the whimsical interlude on the title-track near eight minutes which sounds like someone creeping up behind you on their tiptoes, only to crash two cymbals together and give you an unexpected jolt.
Breaking down an album like ‘Cell-0’ into a track-by-track guide is pointless, as stated above, it’s an immersive experience. But, look out for the light, airy ‘Rise’ and try not to imagine it seeping out of the speakers at an IMAX cinema. IMAX meet Apocalyptica, Apocalyptica meet IMAX. A marriage made in Finland. Also, listen in wonder as the drum work from Mikko Sirén takes over on the insanely heavy ‘En Route To Mayhem’, or scratch your head on the same track as you try and figure out if that’s a cello playing through a wah-wah pedal. Marvel at the Middle-Eastern vibes of ‘Scream For The Silent’, the uplifting strains of ’Catharsis’, the savage riffs on ‘Beyond The Stars’.
Can a band produce an album in 2020, without vocals, and still manage to not only capture the listeners attention, but keep them interested enough for some fifty odd minutes? In the case of ‘Cell-0’ it would seem the answer is a resounding yes.
‘Cell-0’ is available January 10th, pre-order here.
Review – Dave