(2015) Apocalyptica: Shadowmaker

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2014

Artist: Apocalyptica
Album: Shadowmaker
Released: 17.04.2015
Label: Better Noise/Eleven Seven Music

 

Apocalyptica came out with a new album back in April, but due to general business, I haven’t been able to get my thoughts out on it just yet. I’ve been a fan of this band since back when I first heard Plays Metallica on Four Cellos, and even though I haven’t always loved everything they’ve done, they’ve put out a pretty steady stream of great music over the years, accompanied by equally great live shows. Shadowmaker promised to offer something new, and delivered!

Listen along here:


1. I-III-V Seed of Chaos

I’m not going to say, exactly, that this is a great intro track sound-wise. It’s a pretty okay song, for the 1:27 time slot it occupies. What is great about this song is that the little bits and pieces of it really actually do give the listener an idea of what’s on the album. It makes for a rather strange intro, but it’s cool in that it actually does give you a sneak peek at what is to come.
7/10

2. Cold Blood

I can’t imagine a situation where squeaking on a cello is a good idea, but this song actually pulls it off right from the beginning. It transitions smoothly, if strangely, from the intro track, and knocks you back into a pretty perfect track. It’s got the right amount of heavy, strong lyrics, and in spite of the fact that I have never heard of Franky Perez before, he is just absolutely crushing it in this song. Already the album is off to a strong start.
10/10

3. Shadowmaker

I admit that the first two or so times I listened to this song, I wasn’t into it. In hindsight, I must have been insane, because this is probably one of the coolest songs out so far this year. It has dynamics up the wazoo, shifting from gentle to heavy back and forth so effectively that I can’t tell if I should be rocking out or swaying back and forth. It might, in fact, be the dynamics of this song that make it work for me because it really feels like it’s got everything. Franky Perez is still killing it too. How has this guy not been huge?
10/10

4. Slow Burn

Apocalyptica has an uncanny ability to write really great love/heartbreak songs. I can’t think of another band who has nailed it the way they have with songs like “Not Strong Enough” and “End of Me.” Let’s go ahead and throw “Slow Burn” onto that pile too. Not only is the music fantastic, but the lyrics are great. There’s a wicked amount of passion saturated into this song; enough to make you wonder if these songs were written for someone specifically, or if they’re just that good at finding connections with people.
10/10

5. Reign of Fear
Here’s where the album slows down a bit. I’ve noticed a trend in Shadowmaker and 7th Symphony that Apocalyptica seems to have put a bit more effort into their vocal tracks than the instrumentals, because none of the instrumentals off Symphony really clicked the way even Worlds Collide did, and the same is true here. This is a perfectly okay song, but it doesn’t have a lot of pull to it. It reminds me a bit of some older Apocalyptica, maybe from Reflections, but even by those standards it doesn’t quite hold up. As a last note, I wasn’t aware that this song isn’t available on every version of the album – it’s an interesting choice to put the bonus tracks in mid-album.
6.5/10

6. Hole in My Soul

“I’ve got a hole in my soul where you used to be
There’s a thorn in my heart and it’s killing me
I wish I could go back and do it all differently
But now there’s a hole in my soul where you used to be…”

What I just said about “Slow Burn” applies here as well. This would be the slow ballad off the album, and it’s heartbreaking, both lyrically and musically. It’s just beautiful. I love this sound in the beginning that almost sounds like waves, the way the music moves in and out. Franky Perez shows off his soft side here and continues to prove himself to be more than capable across the styles in the album. This is easily one of their best ballads to date.
10/10

7. House of Chains

The beginning of this song always throws me. It’s almost thrashy, which immediately puts me off, but then the song proceeds into a balanced heavy and energetic track. It’s got pretty great rhythm and manages to pull off a bit of thrash in its heavy parts, while simultaneously having a fairly melodic chorus. The song isn’t the best off the album, but it does manage to pull everything together and work just fine.
8/10

8. Riot Lights

I love the way this song transitions so fluidly from “House of Chains.” It works really well. Again, however, I’m not finding myself connecting to this as an instrumental track. There are neat bits to it. The hints of Morse code are cool and it’s got pretty good energy. It doesn’t quite have a hook though. I like the way it slows down around 3:05, but this part could almost be a different song. Maybe there’s a bit too much happening in this song, and it’s fairly long at 6:40. I think there is some live potential in this song though, and I hope the upcoming gigs use this as an instrumental.
6.5/10

9. Come Back Down

This is a pretty cool song. Again, it shows a lot of Franky Perez’s diversity as a vocalist, as well as the diversity of the album. You can’t really label a lot of the songs as similar. Eicca Toppinen certainly knew what he was talking about when they picked Perez off their list of potentials due to his soulfulness, as well as his ability to blend in with whatever was happening on the album at any given time. This song has both slower and faster parts, gentler and heavier bits, and blends together quite nicely. Lyrically it isn’t quite as deep as some of the others, but there’s a lot of really good technique in the cellos, so it balances out pretty decently. This was also, apparently, a special edition bonus track.
7.5/10

10. Sea Song (You Waded Out)

I really enjoy this song for the first half of it or so. Perez’ voice works just as well at its deepest point, and contrasts nicely with the higher part that follows directly afterward. Some may disagree with me, but while this song is very nice, I find it gets a bit repetitive. The chorus is only two lines repeated, and though the song isn’t quite five minutes long, I think it could use a little more in the chorus, because the verses are exceptionally nice. This particular song has a bit more of a pop sound, which might be attributed to the outside contribution from other writers.
7.5/10

11. Till Death Do Us Part
This is the longest instrumental on the album, and is also one of the slower tracks. The song has a gentle loveliness to it for the first couple of minutes, and then picks up just a bit. I like seeing how the bouncing cello bow matches works with the quick and sharp drum beats, and how they stay nicely in sync as it gains speeds. This is the best instrumental track they offered with regard to both skill and sound, though isn’t enough on its own to save the instrumentals for me as a whole on this album.
7/10

12. Dead Man’s Eyes
Ending the album is the longest track, clocking in at 9:43. The droning intro is just long enough before the vocals come in, though the progression is a bit slow to get going. To be perfectly honest, I find this song a bit dull, and a bit disappointing as a final track. It seems to lack the dynamics and passion of the other slower songs, and is perhaps a bit too long to pull off what it’s trying to accomplish. Also, the fade-out is like 2 minutes long. That is way more than necessary if there’s no secret bonus track to follow.
6.5/10

I think Franky Perez is probably one of the best things about this album. Having one vocalist sort of ties everything together, unifying it, making it a more whole entity than the fractured feeling you get with various guest vocalists in just a few songs. And he seems like he can pull off just about anything, from the gentler melodic sounds that go well with cello music, straight into the heavy metal parts without even flinching. I really can’t wait to see what this guy can do in a live show. The album itself is a pretty good one for a straight listen-through, but I would say, undoubtedly, that the first half is the stronger half, and they really seem to have lost their drive for instrumentals. They’ve managed to put out some great new tracks though and I think “Shadowmaker” will be one of my nominations for the most epic song of the year. “Hole in My Soul” will be nominated for the best slow track as well. There’s been a lot of good material out this year already from Blind Guardian, Ensiferum, and Nightwish, but Apocalyptica has definitely held their own against them with Shadowmaker!

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Track list:
1. I-III-V Seed of Chaos
2. Cold Blood
3. Shadowmaker
4. Slow Burn
5. Reign of Fear
6. Hole in My Soul
7. House of Chains
8. Riot Lights
9. Come Back Down
10. Sea Song (You Waded Out)
11. Till Death Do Us Part
12. Dead Man’s Eyes

Apocalyptica's Shadowmaker Tour @ The Circus, 2015
Apocalyptica’s Shadowmaker Tour @ The Circus, 2015

Text: Amy Wiseman

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