Sound: Three years have passed since Finland's stringed tour de force Apocalyptica released its previous full-length Worlds Collide, but its latest venture remains fairly consistent with its predecessor. 7th Symphony balances the band's two favorite musical genres classical and heavy metal and in the process proves that both can come across equally as heavy. Included this time around are four vocalists (the same number utilized on the last album), each having a quite distinctive, powerful sound that gives the songs unique identities. There are a few moments that lean toward a more traditional, rock-driven approach and the orchestral instrumentation gets lost in the mix, but that musical choice in some ways gives 7th Symphony a more unpredictable sound.
The album opens with the powerful, gritty instrumental At The Gates of Manala, which highlights the string section and the distortion-driven rhythm section equally. It's in songs like that one where Apocalyptica (cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Ltjnen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and drummer Mikko Sirn) can truly show its range, unrestrained by the limitations that a vocal-driven song might contain. It takes a fairly different approach to Worlds Collide's title track (the opener on the previous record), which relied strongly on a more subdued, eerie cinematic style. Both are effective because of the incredible proficiency of the musicians/songwriters involved, but At The Gates Of Manala may be more at home with the metal crowd.
The vocal tracks always carry a much different feeling that the instrumentals, possibly because they are the ones that will eventually be deemed hit-single/Billboard material. While Gavin Rossdale is a competent singer and Gojira's Joseph Duplantier provides his own vocal punch, the standouts are Shinedown's Brent Smith and Flyleaf's Lacey Mosley. The latter two singers simply have a range and power that matches Apocalyptica's instrumental versatility.
Slayer's Dave Lombardo once again makes an appearance as a guest drummer on one of the tracks, in this case 2010, and his distinctive power is an asset to the song. What is always refreshing about Apocalyptica, however, is that they are never afraid to take the tempo down, turn off the amps, and write an absolutely gorgeous classical string piece. The highlight on this record is undoubtedly Sacra, a solemn and sorrowful instrumental that is simply breathtaking. // 9
Lyrics: While there are only four tracks with vocals on 7th Symphony, pretty much all of them do revolve around love/passion/heartbreak. Broken Pieces is about the fear of losing someone, while Not Strong Enough is more geared toward those who are torn between pleasure and pain. Because of Apocalyptica's grandiose sound, they could have easily taken the path of a lot of melodic metal bands (singing about apocalypse, death, and/or possibly dragons), but they take a more traditional approach in regards to its lyrical content. // 8
Overall Impression: 7th Symphony is a multi-faceted release, as is the case with most of Apocalyptica's catalog. Yes, you have some songs that do work as your staple radio singles, but on the other hand you have selections that could head to head with Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings (that insanely sad composition heard in movies like Platoon). At times one almost wishes that Apocalyptica would delve even deeper into that classical side, but when it comes to the live show, there is something to be said about seeing cellos emit a bevy of brutal tones. // 9