For someone who doesn’t care much for Wagner, I have been writing about him a lot, eh? (Happy Birthday Ricky – may I call you Ricky? Nein?)
The reason, once again, is a worthy one: Earlier this year, Apocalyptica performed a new interpretation of Wagner’s music in a live multimedia performance entitled Gregor Seyffert’s Wagner Reloaded. I, of course, bought the album in advance many moons ago, filled with cautious, tempered anticipation of what the boys would do with the material. Would I like what they did with Wagner? How would it play it out? Would it be Wagner covers or something new?
Leave it to Eicca, Perttu, Paavo, and Mikko to bring us their own Wagneresque vision that even I find appealing. The album is taken from their live performances in Leipzig and, to my relief, all the music on the album was written by Eicca Toppinen (Apo’s fearless leader), with a few songs in collaboration with composer/producer Sven Helbig for the orchestral arrangements.
One of the things that I love and enjoy most about Apo is their ability to combine classical and metal seamlessly. But at last, to the pure and happy joy of this cellist’s heart, we have an instrumental-only Apocalyptica album unfettered by guest vocalists or metal covers. And it is glorious to behold. This isn’t just 3 cellos and an absurdly talented drummer this time out. They are backed up by the MDR Symphony Orchestra, which naturally lends to the classical feel of the music. But with this album and performance, they have managed to create a huge, epic, classical, intimate, and–dare I say?–metal album. Apo have not completely abandoned their metal influences, both in composition style and in maintaining Mikko on a drum kit, but to have a full orchestra behind them brings an entirely new and welcome dimension to their music.
The die hard fans will hear the return of some familiar Apo themes, most notably a note-for-note quoting from the title track of 2007’s World’s Collide album on the song “Creation of Notes”. This is not new for Eicca (he used an instrumental version of Apo’s popular “I Don’t Care” single on his award winning Black Ice movie soundtrack), nor is it unusual within the context of classical music (most composers recycle, reuse, and renew their melodies). It is worth mentioning, however, because these references reinforce that we have Apocalyptica up there, rocking our classical world. Wagner Reloaded is also the least effects-laden recording since their first album – at last we hear what these guys sound like in concert, in all their talented glory.
Despite my earlier concerns, Apocalyptica have delivered a powerful album. Eicca has incorporated some identifiable “Wagnerisms”, including both direct references to Richard’s music (particularly in the “Flying Dutchman”, unsurprisingly) and his style (lots of brass, anyone?), but these are clearly his own compositions. And their performances are incredible – few musicians have this level of virtuosity and it is always a privilege to experience it.
To put it on Michelle’s Arbitrary Rating System, I give Wagner Reloaded a 9.5. (Will any album get a 10? We shall have to wait and see…)
1. I am most partial to the songs that emphasize the cellos (shocking, I know), including “Lullaby”, “Bubbles”, and “Birth Pain”. “Running Love” shows off how the cello really is the closest instrument to the human voice (it also reminds me of a Bond theme – can anyone help me out on this?).
2. Their performances. Seriously, if you have not seen them live, I urge you to do so. If you have, you know you need to see them again!
3. One of the biggest highlights for me is actually what this album may mean for future Apo albums. Will this album stand alone as an homage to their classical roots or will they incorporate a larger classical feel going forward? I am already eagerly anticipating an album that won’t be out until NEXT fall. Shall we begin the album anticipation countdown now? 😉
Lastly, I leave you with two videos from the performances. All I can say is that it appears to be a very, uh, German production. I’m not sure of the full story line, but hopefully there will eventually be a DVD to further enlighten us. In the interim: