Review Summary: Apocalyptica take a more commercial direction with the new album, which leads to mixed results at times. However, the band's musicianship ultimately triumphs...
Apocalyptica are probably one of the most unique bands to walk the planet. Hailing from the seemingly endlessly musically gifted country of Finland, the trio of cellists (with an added drummer to their lineup now, Mikko Siren) have taken the world by storm since their inception of heavy metal on cellos. The band got heavier and heavier over the years, and every release featured maturing in songwriting skills and musical direction, culminating in the band's best effort to date, 2005's near godlike Apocalyptica.
Hopes and expectations are high in the musical camp. Classically trained cellists that have an ongoing run of good albums: a next high-quality effort is expected. This new album, Worlds Collide, is to provide a reason for justifying these expectations. And it has to be said, once again musically Eicca Toppinen and friends hit another snare with the public on this record. As of 1 October 2007, we can succesfully say the band is prolonging their effective run of good albums.
Prime example is the seventh track, Last Hope. The band has a notable habit of inviting guest musicians for vocal tracks, drum tracks, and various other things to do with production, instruments (on this disc you will find an insane amount of people that made the record at all possible), and this particular one stars all time drum master Dave Lombardo. It turns the track into an insane cello metal speedfest with the band firing off riffs faster than Slayer themselves and Lombardo providing once again an inhumanly brutal drum backdrop with pounding double bass and snares.
The band also experiments with more different styles on the album. Track number two, Grace, features Japanese guitar virtuoso Tomoyasu Hotei, which makes for an interesting melodic duet between cellos and guitars. It also shows that melodically the band are as great as they are with riffs: it's one of the best tracks on here and has a line that will get stuck in your head for the coming weeks.
However, the band's penchant for inviting famous musicians takes a less starry turn on the miserably lacklustre I Don't Care. Featuring 3 Days Grace pipewailer Adam Gontier, his vocals are less than worthy of being on an Apocalyptica album, and the lyrics seem to be transformed in large doses of prepubescent teen angst (indeed more similar to Adam's own band than Apocalyptica.) S.O.S. (Anything but Love) features Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, and while it's a kind of nice ballad, it lacks the immediate punch of a Bittersweet or In Memoriam and again signifies the band treading more commercial waters with their music.
On the rest of the album we also find Corey Taylor doing lead yelps on the first single "I'm Not Jesus", with a strikingly better performance than he's ever released with Slipknot (he actually sounds like a singer!) and of course inviting Till Lindemann of Rammstein was a wise move by the band. Teaming up with his Finnish friends, they perform a German cover of the famous David Bowie song "Heroes". The new arrangements for cello and Till's unmistakably powerful vocals carry the song all the way home, perhaps even eclipsing the classic's former glory. And if you don't like cellos, Lindemann's bandmate Kruspe does some guitaring as well!
Apocalyptica, however, remains best at tracks where nobody does guest vocals to harm and ruin the flow of their instrumental prowess. An absolute highlight is opener Worlds Collide, with cello riffs that are more distorted and heavier than electric guitar chugging, and as a bonus it features perfect melodic melody lines throughout. Burn is another aptly titled blasting monster, with another hammer of a riff. It is especially these instrumental tracks where the classical training of the band shines through, as the band displays a knack for winning melodies, meandering yet coherent compositions, mixed with crushingly intense playing.
Some may despise the more commercial route the band has now taken with guest vocalists among the upper echelons of modern metal and alternative rock, but ultimately the band does come through with compositions that leave one awed at their quality. It may not reach the pure majesty of earlier efforts, nor does it have the same immediate punch, but it's an interesting effort nonetheless, and definitely worth picking up if you're into more experimental and symphonic styles of rock and metal.