The de-metalization of classic Metallica tracks has seemingly become commonplace during the past couple of decades. In recent times alone, we've had harp reimaginings courtesy of Harp Twins; Steve 'N' Seagulls' bluegrass takes; Driving Mrs. Satan's alt-pop transformations; Stary Olsa's mediaeval interpretation of 'One'; and who can ever forget Beatallica's near-genius mash-up of both Metallica and The Beatles hits, including 'The Thing That Should Not Let It Be', 'And Justice For All My Loving', 'All You Need is Blood' and 'Leper Madonna'. However, one of the original, and indubitably the most successful, Metallica de-metallizers arrived nearly twenty years ago in the form of Apocalyptica. Four Finnish guys, four cellos, and a range of Metallica covers. On paper, the potential to be pretty boring stuff... but, the world embraced these Finns and their music. It all worked marvellously. Or, rather, they made it all work rather marvellously.
I remember buying this album back in the day, around three years after its original release, when curiosity eventually got the better of me. And, let's face it, an album called 'Plays Metallica by Four Cellos' is primed to stir the curiosity of any discerning metal fan. I was, quite simply, blown away by the musical tenacity of the whole thing; how they seamlessly succeeded in both reimagining, and preserving the essence of, each of the Metallica classics they tackled. To be honest, it's been a fair few years since I last listened to this particular Apocalyptica album, so when this 20th anniversary, remastered edition arrived for review, it reignited memories of my younger self indulging my aforementioned curiosity. And now my curiosity would be massaged in a different context. Would I still get as much of a kick out of listening to the album all these years on? Would its impact be the same? Yes and yes!
Just how Apocalyptica work their cellos to imitate Metallica's staple palm-muted riffage still astounds me to this day. Up-tempo, down-picked, palm-muted guitar riffing requires both dexterity and stamina... but, hell, if you stop and think for a moment how this is attained from playing a cello... wow! Take the pre-verse and verse instrumentation of 'Battery' as an example... quite simply deranged... in the most impressive of ways! And vocal lines are skilfully interwoven into the instrumentations with some lead cello playing, as are solos, licks and leads. I'd forgotten what a fine achievement this album was... and is, for it remains so, two decades on.
Of course, Apocalyptica have since built upon their original, Metallica-exclusive aesthetic to pen original tunes and expand their cover repertoire into tackling music by other bands, as well as introducing percussion into their sound and transcending their instrumental roots with the inclusion of vocals on select tracks. And, having experienced the band live a few years back, they excelled themselves onstage with a rampantly energetic performance (wielding such large instruments around the stage was an incredible spectacle). In short, they've evolved way beyond their roots of four guys energetically bashing out some old Metallica tunes on four cellos, but this re-release serves as a neat reminder just why people fell in love, en masse, with these Finns in the first place. This is where it all started, and it sounds every bit impressive as it did all those years ago. More so, it could be argued, with songs in their remastered form. Plus, with the inclusion of three bonus tracks that didn't appear on the original release ('Battery'; a sublimely lush take on 'Nothing Else Matters'; and 'Seek and Destroy'), this is ripe for rediscovery and well worth dipping into once again.
PLAYS METALLICA BY FOUR CELLOS
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd July 2016
1) Enter Sandman
2) Master of Puppets
3) Harvester of Sorrow
4) The Unforgiven
5) Sad But True
6) Creeping Death
7) Wherever I May Roam
8) Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
9) Battery (Bonus Track)
10) Nothing Else Matters (Bonus Track)
11) Seek and Destroy (Bonus Track)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Just how Apocalyptica work their cellos to imitate Metallica's staple palm-muted riffage still astounds me to this day."