When I listened to Apocalyptica’s first album when I was in high school, I was impressed. I’d listened to classical re-arrangements of rock music in the past – my parents own “The Baroque Beatles Book” – but I’d never been impressed by them. It always felt like they (whoever did the arrangement) mapped the various notes 1-for-1 with other parts from the original performance (with either brass or violins for vocals). Apocalyptica, on the other hand, felt like more of a clear re-interpretation.
Certainly, some of the songs are more direct adaptations, and performing the songs on cello allows for some of the heavier riffs to translate better than they would on, for example, brass. However, multiple tracks on the album allow the cello’s range as an instrument to use an arrangement that breaks from the feel of the original works to fit more with the emotional feel of the song’s lyrics than strictly sticking with the notes.
That said, this is where we come into the problem with this particular album. This album is a live concert for a more heavy metal crowd. So, the audience knows the lyrics to these songs by heart, and consequently sings along, and the quartet adjusts their performance to reflect that.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those “Stop having fun, guys” people who writes entertainment columns about how people should stop singing along at concerts, and how a Beyonce show should be treated with all the dour solemnity of a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. However, the thing with Apocalyptica is because their performances are strictly instrumental, they let the melodies and musical composition come to the forefront, consequently showcasing the strengths of the members of Metallica as composers, not just as lyricists and performers.
This is one of those cases where I found that the framework of a live performance was a detriment to the album – not because the performance was bad or was badly mixed, but because the audience was too into the music.
Otherwise, this is a great album – it’s just one with a bit of a fly in the ointment.
This Apocalyptica album is available from Amazon.com (and buying anything through that link helps to support the site), but I’d also recommend that if a Friendly Local Record Store is available, picking it up from them instead, or from independent record sellers on Discogs.
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