Since they formed in 1993, Finnish orchestral rock band Apocalyptica has released six studio albums featuring numerous cello-based instrumentals along with some vocal-based songs. Whatever styles they’ve explored – from atmospheric interludes to fast, battering rhythms – their music has been gripping, dynamic and full of melody. But with their seventh album, 7th Symphony, the band has composed an album that not just symphonic, it’s practically a symphony.
“The instrumental stuff is more instrumental than anything we’ve done before,” says lead songwriter and cellist Eicca Toppinen. “For the previous albums, we sometimes had songs which had the potential for vocal tracks but turned out to be instrumentals. This time, the instrumental tracks are pure instrumentals with long, progressive passages. We wanted to write instrumentals where nobody’s feeling ‘Oh, it’s great, but where are the vocals?”
At the same time, 7th Symphony contains songs that rock harder than anything they’ve done since 2001 when they released the epic, transfixing album Cult, their first album to contain mostly originals. In the same way that Cult caused fans to view Apocalyptica from a different perspective, 7th Symphony is the next forward step in the group’s creative evolution. Most of the songs on the disc were produced by Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool) and two of the four vocal numbers were produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach).
“Joe told us, ‘You know guys, this album will bring your metal fans back’” Toppinen says. “It’s heavier and more exciting. It has a very dramatic classical-metal mixture. And the hard stuff is really hard.”
In addition to the six symphonic tracks, 7th Symphony features four songs with vocals that were co-written with other established artists. The first single, “End of Me” was co-written with Johnny Andrews and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, who sings on the tune. “It’s definitely a cool rock song,” Toppinen says. “Gavin definitely had his own ideas and wanted to change some of the music and lyrics, but working with him was pretty easy. He’s a nice guy and he’s very professional.”
The other guest vocal performances are equally impressive. Brent Smith from Shinedown sings on “Not Strong Enough,” which was written by award-winning pop songstress Diane Warren (Aerosmith, Toni Braxton, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood) and produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach). Benson also worked with Lacey from Flyleaf on the song “Broken Pieces.”
One of the heaviest songs on the album is “Bring Them to Light”, a collaboration with Joe Duplantier, of the French extreme experimental/progressive metal band Gojira. Toppinen was introduced to Duplantier by his music publisher in France, who also works for Gojira. “He had a feeling that we would get along well and he was right,” the cellist says. “The combination is great. It doesn’t sound like Gojira, it doesn’t sound too much like Apocalyptica. It’s symphonic thrash metal and Joe makes vocal patterns in a way that he’s never done with Gojira, which is very exciting.”
Working with Barresi as the main producer was rewarding for Apocalyptica for a couple reasons. First, after years of flying around the world to record, they were able to work home in Helsinki. More importantly, they appreciated Barresi’s ear for detail and creative ideas. “We used much more effects than we usually do and got a different kind of sound experience than ever before, but still I think the album is very organic,” Toppinen says. “The drums area more natural and there’s not so much sampling or editing. When we were tracking, we just found great sounds and recorded them right there. We didn’t fix them in the mix with punch ins like people do nowadays.”
One of Toppinen’s favorite songs on 7th Symphony is “Beautiful.” The all-orchestral number was recorded with three cellos and drummer Mikko Sirén on bass. “It was the first time Mikko played bass in his life,” Toppinen says. “It’s a beautiful acoustic song recorded in one take in the studio.”
If “Beautiful” sounds bare and vulnerable, it might have something to do with the way in which it was recorded. “We decided to play it naked,” Toppinen says. “It was a moment where there were four guys naked in the room just playing acoustic music. Being naked always brings good feelings. We tried with clothes on, and we were like, ‘Oh, something is missing.’ Mikko wanted to celebrate his bass playing by being naked, so he was already naked so we thought, ‘Okay, everybody else should get naked, too.’ Immediately, it was much more fun.”
Apocalyptica started writing 7th Symphony last fall and Sirén flew to Los Angeles in January to record the drums. But as soon as he arrived, Toppinen had a sudden burst of creativity back home. “I wrote three more songs after that,” he says. “So I was just sending him demos and he was tracking the songs. Then we recorded all the other parts, and it was strange to go into a studio to record songs that we hadn’t fully rehearsed and that didn’t even have the final arrangements. A lot of stuff was missing. But it was exciting because it made us do things in a different way and be creative all the time. And it made things fresher because it wasn’t like we went, ‘Okay, we did five demo versions of the songs, let’s decide which way to go?’”
7th Symphony is the musical culmination of 17 years of hard work. Apocalyptica started in 1993 as an outlet for Toppinen and three of his classically trained classmates at the prestigious Sibelius Academy. Three years later, they released their debut, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.
“When we made the first album, our expectations were, ‘Okay, if we sell 1,000 copies and get a few shows, that’s cool.’ Then, we got the requests to play a lot of shows after the first album and the sound changed totally. We realized, ‘Okay, the first album sounds horrible, so let’s make another one which is more exciting.’”
On 1998’s Inquisition Symphony, Apocalyptica refined their approach and procured better production from Otto Donner and Hiili Hiilesmaa. Like their debut, the album featured Metallica songs, but it also included covers of songs by Faith No More, Sepultura, Pantera and three originals. “It was funny because after the first album everybody said, ‘Alright, this is cool for one time,’” Toppinen says. “And after the second album, people said, ‘Okay, now we have seen this thing. You can’t do anything next.Apocalyptica’s over.’ And still, we are here.”
In order to remain relevant, Apocalyptica knew they had to make some changes. So, for their 2000 album Cult, they only included three covers; the rest were Toppinen originals. Also, the band brought in vocalists Sandra Nasic and Matthias Sayer to sing on two of the songs. The album didn’t sit well with their record label, which wanted another full album of metal covers. Fortunately, Apocalyptica’s contract had expired and the label didn’t pick up their option in time.
“They wanted crazy cover versions of Motorhead and AC/DC, and we ended up ‘No, we don’t want to do that. The contract is over.’ And you can hear the emotion in the Cult album. That’s a passionate album. We were lucky that we got a new label in Germany and got the album released, but it wasn’t easy and it was a really important turning point. If we would have been following the guidance from record label to do a third cover album, I think that would have been the last album of Apocalyptica. That album created a new style.”
When Apocalyptica returned to the studio in 2003, they had a new direction and drive. They enjoyed the vocal tracks on Cult so much they asked pop star Nina Hagen to sing on a cover of Rammstein’s “Seeman” and Swedish celebrity Linda Sundblad to add vocals to “Faraway, Vol 2.” The follow-up, 2005’s Apocalyptica was even more star-studded. “Betrayal/Forgiveness” featured guest playing by Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, “Bittersweet” included vocal tracks by HIM’s Ville Valo and The Rasmus’ Lauri Ylönen, who also sang on “Life Burns!”
But it was 2007’s Worlds Collide that turned Apocalyptica into an international phenomenon. As with its predecessors, the disc featured numerous guest stars: Lombardo returned for “Last Hope”, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor appeared on “I’m Not Jesus”, Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia sang on “S.O.S. (Anything But Love)” Rammstein vocalist Till Lindemann performed on a cover of David Bowie and Brian Eno’s “Helden” and Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier sang his heart out on “I Don’t Care”. Radio reacted and “I Don’t Care” launched the band to number 59 on the Billboard Hot 200 and number seven on the BillboardTop Independent Albums and Top Rock Albums charts.
“It was really strange to have that kind of success,” Toppinen says. “The Rammstein cover we did with Nina Hagen was really successful in Central Europe. And the song we did with Ville Valo was really successful in Europe. But we had never had any type of real success in America. Even when we wrote ‘I Don’t Care’ and the first demo was finished, I thought, ‘Okay, this could be massive,’ but I never expected it to be so big.”
With a summer tour planned for the U.S. and Europe, the stage is set for 7th Symphony, Apocalyptica’s most eclectic and inspired album to date, one that places equal emphasis on beautiful melodies and heavy, bombastic rhythms.
“We worked really hard on this record and had a lot of fun doing it,” Toppinen says. “I think if you like instrumentals, you will like this the most and if you like the rock stuff you will also like this the most. This Apocalyptica album has something for everybody.”
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Cell-0 / 2020
1. Ashes Of The Modern World
4. En Route To Mayhem
5. Call My Name
6. Fire & Ice
7. Scream For The Silent
9. Beyond The Stars
Shadowmaker / 2015
Shadowmaker is the eighth studio album by the Finnish cello metal band Apocalyptica. It was released on April 17, 2015 in Europe and Australia, April 20 in the UK, France and Latin America, April 21 in the U.S. and Canada, and April 22 in Japan. It is the band’s first album with one single vocalist, Franky Perez.
Commenting on the album, member Eicca Toppinen said:
“I think it’s a totally new kind of record for Apocalyptica especially because we have one singer on the whole album and I think it’s making the whole album more solid. It’s more of a band record compared to the album that we have had guest vocalists so I think it’s more solid.”
Background and recording
After the 7th Symphony tour, the band took some time off and did nothing except for Wagner Reloaded-Live in Leipzig. After the break, they reunited and discussed the next album. According to Eicca, “[…] if we wanted to do something, we have to do exactly what we want to do and this record is the result of that, that journey. We wanted to challenge ourselves even more and we wanted to be tight as a band before the pre-production.”
Regarding Franky Perez participation, Eicca said the band composed many vocal songs for the album, and having multiple guest vocalists was not the most interesting option for them at the time, because it always involves contacting too many labels and producers and it is more difficult to control everything. He also said the band was looking for a vocalist to make the entire record, tour with them and “make the whole thing more understandable for people, to make the working circumstances more comfortable for us where things are not so dependant on people outside of the band”. In order to find a singer, the label came up with a list of 20-25 suggestions. The band analyzed it and asked 5 of them to record something, and then they invited 3 of them to sing a section of “Hole in My Soul”, one of the album’s tracks. Perez was ultimately chosen and accepted it since he wasn’t committed to anything other than his solo career. Eicca said he “loves” Perez’s voice and commented: “He’s not just a regular singer. He has a very soulful sound and he’s able to sing different styles which is perfect for Apocalyptica because our songs are not only heavy metal, it’s a variety of different colors and different dynamics and the singer needs to match that. […] We did a couple of shows in Canada last August, a test run and it worked perfectly together”.
The album was mostly pre produced in Nashville with producer Nick Raskulinecz, with additional work being done by the band in Finland. Perez was part of the album’s pre-production and helped the band arrange the songs, and had only two weeks to work on everything. Commenting on the recording process, Perez said: “We were a team, in that each one had the right to speak and every opinion in the room was completely taken into account and were valuable.”
“I-III-V Seed of Chaos” was conceived as the album opener, but it was one of the last tracks to be prepared. “Cold Blood” was the last song to be written and was originally slower in its demo version. “Shadowmaker” was the first song to be written. Toppinen explained he wanted the song to sound both as an instrumental and a vocal track. It was co-written by Johnny Andrews, with whom the band wrote song such as “End of Me” and “I’m Not Jesus”. “Slow Burn” is a “ballad that isn’t a ballad” and was composed as a pair of “Shadowmaker”. “Reign of Fear”, which was longer in its original version, is influenced by 1980’s Thrash metal bands.
“Hole in My Soul” is a ballad which Toppinen describes as an “emotional” track. “House of Chains” has elements of nu metal, though Toppinen admits he’s not a big fan of the genre. “Riot Lights” was the second song written for the album, and was conceived to be a “catchy” instrumental song, and Toppinen recurred to trance music to get inspiration for the main riff.”Come Back Down” was originally conceived as a seven-minute long progressive instrumental piece, but since it didn’t reach the desired level, it was shortened and turned into a vocal track. “Til Death Do Us Part” was originally just three minutes long, but Nick requested them to make it longer, and Toppinen expressed satisfaction with the result. “Dead Man’s Eyes” was created as a mixture of the best parts of two songs written by Kivilaakso. It is the ending track and Toppinen considered it a proper conclusion for the record.
7th Symphony / 2010
7th Symphony is the seventh studio album by the Finnish cello metal band Apocalyptica. It was released on August 20, 2010 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, August 23, 2010 in the rest of the world, and August 24, 2010 in the U.S. and Canada. Released three years after their previous album Worlds Collide, Apocalyptica continues the practice of having 4 tracks with featured vocalists, while the remaining tracks are all instrumental. Dave Lombardo of Slayer is once again featured on drums, on the track entitled “2010”. The band has been touring with touring vocalist Tipe Johnson in support of the album in Europe, Mexico, Canada, US and Venezuela since the summer of 2010.
The first single “End of Me” with Gavin Rossdale of Bush on vocals, was premiered on Finnish Radio Ylex on June 7, 2010. It received radio play June 28, 2010, and its release date was on August 6, 2010 in Germany. The second single from the album, “Broken Pieces” with Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf, was released in October 2010. The third single, “Not Strong Enough” featuring Brent Smith, was released in November 2010, but not in the US, where another version of the song, featuring Doug Robb of Hoobastank on vocals, impacted US radio on January 18, 2011. The song was re-recorded with Robb after the band failed to secure the rights to release the song with Smith’s vocals to the US radio from Shinedown’s label, Atlantic Records. Accordingly, the promotional video for “Not Strong Enough” was re-released with Doug Robb replacing all scenes that were initially shot with Brent Smith.
The track “Bring Them to Light” was originally written for Worlds Collide, but both Joe Duplantier (of Gojira) and Apocalyptica were unhappy with the original, and so they decided to re-work the track, and re-record it for their next studio album
Worlds Collide / 2007
Worlds Collide is the sixth studio album from Finnish metal band Apocalyptica, released on 14 September 2007. It includes special guests Till Lindemann, Corey Taylor, Adam Gontier, Dave Lombardo, Tomoyasu Hotei, and Cristina Scabbia. For the US release, a new recording of “I Don’t Care” and a new mix of “I’m Not Jesus” replaced the original versions.
Apocalyptica / 2005
The untitled Apocalyptica album is overall the eighth release and third full-length LP by Apocalyptica.
Reflections / 2003
Reflections is the fourth studio album of Finnish metal band Apocalyptica, released in 2003 with a special-edition entitled Reflections Revised released in the later part of 2003 containing a DVD as well as the original album with five bonus tracks. The original slipcase cover is a picture of a burning cello, which is also seen in the inside traycard of all versions. The cover is similar to the cover of the film The Red Violin.
This is first release to have professional percussionists playing the drums. From this album on, the band needed to add a drummer to the band, later being Mikko Sirén.
“Toreador II” is a continuation of “Toreador” from Inquisition Symphony.
Cult / 2000
Cult is the title of the third full-length LP by the band Apocalyptica released in 2000 with a special-edition released in 2001 containing an extra disc, mixed and mastered at Finnvox. Apocalyptica’s first two albums consisted mostly of cover versions; Cult was their first album to feature mainly original composition. Here, Apocalyptica also started using distortion effects much more boldly and frequently. There are some versions of the first release with “Path Vol. 2” as the first track and “Path” as the fourteenth. This is the last Apocalyptica album to feature Max Lilja on cello. The song “Hope Vol.2” has a music video which features scenes from the film Vidocq.
Inquisition Symphony / 1998
Inquisition Symphony is the second studio album by the Finnish metal band Apocalyptica. The album branches from their previous effort, containing only four Metallica covers. The remainder of the compositions are by Faith No More, Pantera, and Sepultura, as well as three originals by Apocalyptica bandleader Eicca Toppinen. Max Lilja did the arrangements for “One”. “Toreador II” is the sequel from the original song on this album, onto Reflections .
Plays Metallica by Four Cellos / 1996
Plays Metallica by Four Cellos is the debut album by Finnish metal band Apocalyptica, released in 1996. It features eight instrumental Metallica covers arranged and played on cellos.
The band was invited to record this album by a label employee after a 1995 show in which they performed some of the songs. The members were initially unsure and thought nobody would listen to such a record, but the employee insisted and they recorded it. In 2017 the remastered version of the album was released.
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