All music by Eicca Toppinen. Produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa. Recorded by Jyrki Tuovinen at Petrax Studios, Hollola, Finland. Mixed by Mikko Karmila at Finnvox. Mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox.
Back in 2001 I planned a trip to London to visit a friend of mine from my National Youth Choir of Great Britain days, Jonny. Out of curiosity I searched for gigs during my time there. I couldn’t believe it, my first night there (Monday 16 July 2001): Megadeth at the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, with Apocalyptica in support! I ordered a ticket straight-away.
Apocalyptica didn’t show! If I remember correctly one of the cellists had broken his arm skateboarding. I was gutted; I don’t remember who filled in for them. And I’ve still never seen them live, despite owning all but their latest album. (I even still own some of their albums on cassette!)
I, of course, first became aware of Apocalyptica with their debut album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (1996) which, as the name suggests, saw them tackle eight Metallica tracks on nothing but four cellos.
Cult (2000) was Apocalytpica’s third album, the first to use distortion effects heavily, and the last to feature cellist Max Lilja who left the band the following year to join Hevein.
While I’m very fond of this album it’s not one I can play on repeat, and in general I do actually prefer the non-distorted tracks more than their over-driven offerings.
The album opens quietly, with something that initially wouldn’t be too far out of place accompanying an episode of Morse. It doesn’t last though, the rest of the track comprises a repeating melody woven on top of a chugging, wall of cello. (There’s a sentence that I’ve never written before.)
The rest of the album is a mixture of what you might expect a cello quartet to sound like, “Romance” (track 3) for example, fused with the warm, woody over-driven sound of a violoncello.
There are some fun moments, “Struggle” (track 2), opens with a Psycho-esque ‘stabbing’ spiccato (I think), for example; there are thoughtful and melodic moments too, “Beyond time” (track 7) is a pretty track that occasionally builds thanks in part to a couple of the musicians stomping on their distortion pedals. “In memoriam” (track 5) seems to flit between the two, in places sounding like something from the Dear Esther soundtrack.
The last self-penned track of the album, “Coma” (track 10) is a dark, brooding affair that has something of the feel of an avant-garde Celtic Frost track in places. It is also another candidate for inspiration for music from Dear Esther.
This edition of the album, however, closes with three covers: “Hall of the mountain king”, “Until it sleeps” and “Fight fire with fire”: one classical and two Metallica. The last track is perhaps my favourite track on the whole album, particularly the song’s introduction. Their thrashing interpretation is spot on. A brilliant album-closer.
This is an album that I really want to like more than I do. In many ways it is brilliant, and I do get it out every now and then to listen to for pleasure. But like I said, I can’t listen to it over and again like I can with some other albums. That said, for their first album of largely self-written tracks it is rather special and deserves a hearty seven out of ten.
Seemingly there are alternative versions of both Path and Home, with vocals; each has the “Vol. 2” suffix. I’ve heard neither… something to check out on YouTube later, perhaps.
Update: I noticed this morning that there was a mismatch in scores and I appeared to have given the album both 70% and 90%. Would the real answer please stand up…
Review score: 70%