Released 1996 on Mercury.
Max Lilja - Cello
Antero Manninen - Cello
Paavo Lötjönen - Cello
Eicca Topinnen - Cello
Apocalyptica are one of the strangest bands you're ever likely to come across. A group of four people, classically trained cellists (of the Sibelius academy in Helsinki) and metal fans both, who decided to arrange Metallica songs for their chosen instruments. They started out playing acoustic shows in clubs, but their first amplified show (in December 1995) showed that they more than went across with regular metalheads - the crowd enthusiastically singing along to the vocal-less interpretations of Metallica tracks (at the time, Metallica was all they covered). Mercury snapped them up.
Plays Metallica by Four Cellos
is their first release and, as should be obvious by now, is a collection of Metallica songs played on cellos. Let's get one thing out of the way - I like Metallica, as in I do enjoy listening to them, but, I 'm not obsessed with them. I never went through that "Metallica are GODS" phase that most metal fans seem to experience, so I wasn't actually familiar with all of the songs on here (though I was with the vast majority) when I bought the album. Just mentioning that because despite not knowing the original songs, I still enjoyed Apocalyptica's interpretations of them.
Eicca Topinnen is the band member credited with arranging and notating all of the songs here, and he always seems to follow the same formula - three cellos do whatever they have to do to recreate the music of the band, and one plays a vocal line. This is the first point in Apocalyptica's (and indeed Eicca's) favour; the arrangement is excellently done (not flawless, but excellent). The vocal lines in particular basically follow every nuance and change in tone of the original vocals, which is something of an achievement in itself. A second point in their favour is the skill of the playing - all four are adept cellists, and it shows. Aside from their skill, their love of the music shows through. I know that sounds corny, so let me explain myself; I mean their love of Metallica's music - the fact that all four are metal fans shows through in the care they show covering these songs, and the conviction they have in playing them: they know and love what they're playing.
As good as this album is, it is flawed, first of all in the selection of the songs. Maybe it's something to do with this being their first release, but many of the songs seem to have been chosen for popular appeal (and therefore recognition value) rather than how well they would actually translate onto the different instruments (Enter Sandman and Sad But True especially - they've been handled competently, but you get the feeling that there are more suitable Metallica songs). That being said, a few of the songs make the transition fantastically, notably Master of Puppets (particularly the midsection), Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and The Unforgiven. Also, for the most part, these covers are just that - faithful covers. They replay the song very well, but rarely seem to add anything to it.
Together, and along with the fact that all the songs on here are all originally by Metallica, these problems mean that the album has an overall feel of novelty, which is a shame considering the skill of those involved. Plays Metallica By Four Cellos
remains an excellent introduction to Apocalyptica as a band; however, I would easily take Inquisition Symphony
Welcome Home (Sanitarium) - Perfectly suited to the mournful feel of a cello, and the outro (rather prophetically, since it is also the outro of the album) is one of the few parts of the album to hint at the sort of thing that was to come on Inquisition Symphony