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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Apocalyptica's "Seventh Symphony"

I've always respected Apocalyptica's ability to take four cellos and a drumset and produce hard rock music.  I thought their last album, Worlds Collide, was great.  They chose excellent guest vocalists (Till Lindemann of Rammstein, Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace, among others) and the instrumental tracks were mostly superb.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the Finnish 4-piece's new release, Seventh Symphony

Upon my first few listenings, the words that kept reappearing in my head were "good enough."  The album strikes me as simply another entry in the band's catalogue; not a real step forward nor a step backward, but simply enough to fill 60 minutes with content that is of high enough quality to ensure consistent radio play. 

Once again, the band went with 10 tracks - 6 instrumental, 4 with guest vocalists.  The first track, "At the Gates of Manala," is interesting enough and heavy enough to catch and hold your attention, but there's not much going on in it.  It's an instrumental piece with an extended solo section that is fairly impressive for the cello, but were it performed on guitar I would find it underwhelming. 

The second track is the expected position for an album's big radio single, and this convention is maintained on Seventh Symphony.  "End of Me" features Gavin Rossdale from Bush on vocals and is your standard radio-rocker that you know will get airplay for about 2 months before being largely forgotten.  (Remember Bush? Apparently they have re-formed and are releasing a new album this fall.   How convenient that he found his way onto the radio with this track so close to his new album dropping...)  The chorus is catchy enough, and is easy to sing along with in the car, which I suppose is what they were going for:

It's not hard to predict that the third track will wind up being a radio single as well.  Featuring Brent Smith of Shinedown, "Not Strong Enough" is cut of the same cloth as "End of Me," and features a power-packed, if lacking in substance, vocal performance.  The song sounds exactly like a Shinedown song, which I found quite disappointing.  I would have liked to see something more along the lines of "Helden" from Worlds Collide, something that takes the vocalist out of their traditional setting.

The rest of the album is similarly unremarkable.  "2010," my pick for best track, features Slayer's Dave Lombardo on drums, pounding out complex rhythms and fills throughout, and sounds more like an extended drum solo with a backing band than a traditional song.  (That's a good thing in this case.)  "Beautiful" is a slower, drum-free track that is actually well-played and recorded, but not memorable in the slightest.  "Broken Pieces" features Flyleaf's Lacey Mosley, who does a decent job on a song that, again, sounds just like a Flyleaf song.  "Bring Them to Light" features Gojira's Joe Duplantier on vocals and has a very dark, minor-key aesthetic, but gets rather repetitive towards the end and has a chorus section I found lacking.

Again, I found the album to be enjoyable enough, but after one listen I already knew that I could name at least 7 or 8 better albums released this year without having to look them up.  You can see what I mean about the vocal talent they pulled in for this album - perhaps it's just me, but I'll take Till Lindemann, Corey Taylor, and Adam Gontier over Gavin Rossdale, Brent Smith and the chick from Flyleaf any day of the week. 

Apocalyptica can look back at this album and give themselves a pat on the back for a job done just well enough.

Rating: 6.5/10 

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