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Apocalyptica - 'Plays Metallica Vol. 2' Album Review


  1. Ride the Lightning

  2. St. Anger

  3. The Unforgiven II

  4. Blackened

  5. The Call of Ktulu

  6. The Four Horsemen

  7. Holier Than Thou

  8. To Live is to Die

  9. One

  10. One (Instrumental)

When I first looked at the playlist for this album, I thought it was a rather unique set of songs they had chosen to do. For those unfamiliar with Apocalyptica, they came on my radar and others almost 30 years ago via their ‘Plays Metallica by Four Cellos’ release. While I think I like that approach better, it is interesting to hear more instrumentation here, but I don’t think it has the same unique approach. Of course, if they had done it the same way again, people would be complaining about that too.

‘Ride the Lightning’ provides a solid start to the album, but I just feel myself stuck in the middle of a thrash version and the classical approach Apocalyptica first did all those years ago. When the cellos rise higher in the mix, I appreciate this one more. When it comes to our second song, it would be safe to say we know the production will be better than the original, but the dinging drum provides a poor start. When the song settles in though, it sounds much better. The moments where it is all cellos remain my favorite parts as they tend to get lost in the mix when everything else is added. ‘The Unforgiven II’ starts strong with the cellos getting to be front and center in the mix.

‘Blackend’ fails to connect with me as it again feels like we are listening to the original smashed together with a classical version. There are moments here where the cellos sound great, but the drums and guitars largely just get in the way.

Next track ‘The Call of Ktulu’ is another one that I really like in the beginning, but the added instrumentation that builds into the song just strips its uniqueness away for me. ‘The Four Horsemen’ was the lead track released for the album and is again just kind of meh for me. There are stretches here where the cellos get to really rise up in the mix and drive the song, but it is just not enough for me.

The seldom played ‘Holier Than Thou’ does not get things turned around for me. I find myself singing the lyrics in my head and shaking my head that Bob Rock thought this song should be the first single from the Black Album. The highlight of the album for me comes next with ‘To Live is to Die.’ This song is done brilliantly and makes me wish they had kept the song at its original length. At three minutes, it is over way too fast and shows me how great these other songs could have been with a similar classical music format. The scaled back instrumentation more than carries the song and creates a brilliant moment on the album. Unfortunately, the album veers back where it started and then gets worse on the next song. There are two versions of ‘One’ included. It doesn’t start horribly as a mix of the sounds or war, speaking, and music creeps louder and louder. The classical approach to the song provides a tremendous start to the song, and I wanted it to continue that way. Instead, we get a spoken vocal over it that just does not work for me (sorry James). After hearing the sung version for 36 years, this spoken word approach feels incredibly awkward and forced. I have forced myself to sit through the vocal version of the song and find I dislike it more with every listen.

Closing out the album is an instrumental version of ‘One’ that works much better, but I struggle with it after the trauma of hearing the version with the vocals. It shows an example of a version of this album that I would have much preferred and closes the album with a cinematic feel.

At the end of the day, I don’t see myself revisiting this album in the future and would probably only seek to play ‘To Live is to Die’ again. Apocalyptica don’t hit the mark for me on this one, but I might be in the minority on how I feel about it.

‘Plays Metallica Vol. 2’ is available now.

Review - Gerald Stansbury       


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