Since they formed in 1993, Finnish orchestral rock band Apocalyptica has released six studio albums featuring numerous cello-based instrumentals along with some vocal-based songs. Whatever styles they’ve explored - from atmospheric interludes to fast, battering rhythms - their music has been gripping, dynamic and full of melody. But with their seventh album, 7th Symphony the band has composed an album that not just symphonic, it’s practically a symphony.
“The instrumental stuff is more instrumental than anything we’ve done before,” says lead songwriter and cellist Eicca Toppinen. “For the previous albums, we sometimes had songs which had the potential for vocal tracks, but turned out to be instrumentals. This time, the instrumental tracks are pure instrumentals with long, progressive passages. We wanted to write instrumentals where nobody’s feeling ‘Oh, it’s great, but where are the vocals?’”
In addition to the six symphonic tracks, 7th Symphony features four songs with vocals that were co-written with other established artists. The first single, “End of Me” was co-written with Johnny Andrews and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, who sings on the tune. “It’s definitely a cool rock song,” Toppinensays. “Gavin definitely had his own ideas and wanted to change some of the music and lyrics, but working with him was pretty easy. He’s a nice guy and he’s very professional.”
The other guest vocal performances are equally impressive. Brent Smith from Shinedown sings on “Not Strong Enough,” which was written by award-winning pop songstress Diane Warren (Aerosmith, Toni Braxton, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood) and produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach). Benson also worked with Lacey from Flyleaf on the song “Broken Pieces.”
7th Symphony is the musical culmination of 17 years of hard work. Apocalyptica started in 1993 as an outlet for Toppinen and three of his classically trained classmates at the prestigious Sibelius Academy. Three years later, they released their debut, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.
On 1998’s Inquisition Symphony Apocalyptica refined their approach and procured better production from Otto Donner and Hiili Hiilesmaa. Like their debut, the album featured Metallica songs, but it also included covers of songs by Faith No More, Sepultura, Pantera and three originals. “It was funny because after the first album everybody said, ‘Alright, this is cool for one time,’” Toppinen says. “And after the second album, people said, ‘Okay, now we have seen this thing. You can’t do anything next.Apocalyptica’s over.’ And still we are here.”
In order to remain relevant, Apocalyptica knew they had to make some changes. So, for their 2000 album Cult they only included three covers; the rest were Toppinen originals. Also, the band brought in vocalists Sandra Nasic and Matthias Sayer to sing on two of the songs. The album didn’t sit well with their record label, which wanted another full album of metal covers. Fortunately, Apocalyptica’s contract had expired and the label didn’t pick up their option in time.
When Apocalyptica returned to the studio in 2003, they had a new direction and drive. They enjoyed the vocal tracks on Cult so much they asked pop star Nina Hagen to sing on a cover of Rammstein’s “Seeman” and Swedish celebrity Linda Sundblad to add vocals to “Faraway, Vol 2.” The follow up, 2005’sApocalyptica was even more star-studded. “Betrayal/Forgiveness” featured guest playing by Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, “Bittersweet” included vocal tracks by HIM’s Ville Valo and The Rasmus’ Lauri Ylönen, who also sang on “Life Burns!”
But it was 2007’s Worlds Collide that turned Apocalyptica into an international phenomenon. As with its predecessors, the disc featured numerous guest stars: Lombardo returned for “Last Hope,” Slipknot’s Corey Taylor appeared on “I’m Not Jesus,” Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia sang on “S.O.S. (Anything But Love)” Rammstein vocalist Till Lindemann performed on a cover of David Bowie and Brian Eno’s “Helden”and Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier sang his heart out on “I Don’t Care.” Radio reacted and “I Don’t Care” launched the band to number 59 on the Billboard Hot 200 and number seven on the BillboardTop Independent Albums and Top Rock Albums charts.
With a summer tour planned for the U.S. and Europe, the stage is set for 7th Symphony, Apocalyptica’s most eclectic and inspired album to date, one that places equal emphasis on beautiful melodies and heavy, bombastic rhythms.
“We worked really hard on this record and had a lot of fun doing it,” Toppinen says. “I think if you like instrumentals, you will like this the most and if you like the rock stuff you will also like this the most. ThisApocalyptica album has something for everybody.