Plays Metallica by Four Cellos



by Bartender EMERITUS
January 14th, 2005 | 18 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

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 over it.

Recommended song:
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.


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user ratings (175)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 18th 2004


Bear in mind this is my first review for a couple of months; I'm hoping to get back into doing them more frequently.

August 18th 2004


This would be an interesting twist on Metallica. Given that I cant stand them, it could help to show that they are at least good music writers. Hetfield's voice has been the single most annoying thiing about the band so that would again give Apocalyptica the edge here.

I will be looking into them.

Thanks for the review

August 18th 2004


ive heard sanitarium song and it does sound very different but it works soo well i liked the song but im still not too convinced to risk buying the album, nice review by the way even though its your first in a few months there still better then mine :thumb:

August 18th 2004


Thanks everyone.

[QUOTE=Iai]I love this whole concept. The string quartet versions of Radiohead, The Smiths, Tool....but the Incubus one kinda sucked.[/QUOTE]

The only cello interpretation I've heard other than Apocalyptica is the Third Eye Open one. To be honest I was disappointed with it, though that may have been because I'd heard Apocalyptica beforehand. Thanks for reminding me of it though, it would be an interesting one to do, though I've got a couple of others in mind first (Inquisition Symphony, for one).

Great review. Especially considering you once said you need to go track-by-track because your reviews fall apart otherwise.[/QUOTE]

Thanks. Good to know someone is actually reading old reviews.

Per Ardua Ad Astra
August 19th 2004


I've got 'Inquisition Symphony' and i love it, i've also heard this album too. What they do is amazing. Good review Bartender.

August 19th 2004


This is nice for a while, just because it's a different approach to a heavy genre. After a whle, the novelty sort of wears off and while it's still pretty good, it's not anything excellent. So I think your rating was spot-on.

I recently snatched up a version of "One" by them and was sorely disappointed, mostly because of the chug/double bass section and how poor it sounds on four synchronized cellos. I would kill to hear "Disposable Heroes", though.

August 19th 2004


I rather like their version of One, actually. It's on Inquisition Symphony, which I think is just all-round better than this. This has too much of a novelty idea feel to it, so I get tired of it after a while, but Inquisition Symphony I can listen to just as itself (if you get what I mean).

August 21st 2004


This is the album i have. Great review.

September 4th 2004


Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. Since I'm a fairly big Metallica fan, this stuff is very enjoyable for me. I agree that some other songs would have been better to do, but overall, this is a great album.

The JoZ
September 4th 2004


Bartender, I have both Third Eye Open and Metamorphic, string quartet covers of Tool.

If you'd like to see those reviewed, I'd be glad to do them.

September 4th 2004


Go for it. I have Third Eye Open, but I'm not particularly eager to review it.

September 6th 2004


Just heard Welcome Home(Sanitarium), its an awesome track. Im probably gonna pick up more of their stuff.

Great Review :thumb:

June 2nd 2006


i reckon nothing else matters sounds awesome on this!
but they sorta screwed up master of puppets (to an extent)

June 16th 2006


One is awesome, love these guys. They pull it off so well!

October 8th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

Shame on me..i didn't noticed this band.

My two musical love; classical & metal merging.

I think i will begin digging the music of this band.

Is it good?

October 8th 2010


I like it.. Go grab their Greatest hits at least.

October 8th 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

That is a strange Digging,

BTW, i will grab the other unknown to me ,


October 8th 2010


Oh, haha Powerglove rules! Lol.

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