APOCALYPTICA – Beautiful, Strong And Broken

August 26, 2010, 7 years ago

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By Aaron Small

7th Symphony is the seventh album from Finnish cellists APOCALYPTICA. It’s also their second symphony as they released Inquisition Symphony in 1998. Many famous classical composers including Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert have written pieces called ‘Symphony No. 7’, however that didn’t influence Eicca Toppinen and his bandmates when they made the decision to title their new album 7th Symphony. “We’re not actually referring to any kind of classical symphony. It’s more like we wanted to point out the fact that we think this album has more classical elements and flavour than the previous couple of Apocalyptica records. The album has such a big variety of different styles and emotions; we wanted to call it 7th Symphony.”

The album’s first single, ‘End Of Me’ features Gavin Rossdale from BUSH on vocals. The two first worked together in 1998 when Apocalyptica remixed the Bush song ‘Letting The Cables Sleep’. This past May, they got together in Los Angeles to film the ‘End Of Me’ video, which was shot in the unusual setting of a crematorium. “I saw pictures and I thought it looked beautiful, but I didn’t know where we were going,” recalls Eicca. “When we got there, it’s kind of a mortuary full of dead bodies. I was a bit surprised we got permission to shoot there but, we shot all three videos there: ‘End Of Me’, ‘Not Strong Enough’ (featuring Brent Smith of SHINEDOWN) and ‘Broken Pieces’ (featuring Lacey Mosley of FLYLEAF). It’s like a trilogy. The three videos are connected to each other.”

The video for ‘End Of Me’, which can be seen below, incorporates the girl depicted on the 7th Symphony album cover, just as she incorporates the cello into her dress. “We wanted to have the theme (of the videos) connected with the artwork because we worked a lot on that,” explains Eicca. “We feel that when you get a physical copy of the album, before you hear a single note, you see the artwork and that leads you to the style of the music. As we had this cool artwork, we wanted to have the same kind of mood (in the video) – a little bit dangerous and dark, but still it’s romantic and beautiful. We wanted to follow that stylish theme. Everything surrounding the record is a big package that talks to each other, it makes for a cool symphony.”

Grammy Award Winner Diane Warren wrote the aforementioned ‘Not Strong Enough’. The legendary songstress has penned hits for Cher, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and AEROSMITH – specifically their only number one single, ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’, from the Armageddon soundtrack. Eicca reveals how Apocalyptica came to record a Diane Warren song. “I got an opportunity to meet her. A year ago in May I was in LA doing some songwriting, I went to her office and she played me a couple of songs. They were full productions, most of them sounded like Aerosmith. They were cool songs, but I didn’t hear Apocalyptica. Then she had one song that she hadn’t made a demo of, so we went to her workroom, she played it on piano and sang. I found some magical things in that song and asked if I could get it? For us, even if we get a great song, we won’t record it unless we feel it sounds like Apocalyptica. Actually, we spent a lot of time and made different versions. We weren’t happy with it; it didn’t feel right. Then suddenly we found the right arrangement and wow! Now we can do it. It’s a great song and we really wanted to do it, but it took some time until we felt it was an Apocalyptica song.”

On 7th Symphony, SLAYER drummer Dave Lombardo returns for the fourth time. Previously he guested on the Reflections, self-titled and Worlds Collide albums. “He’s always invited!” exclaims Eicca. Lombardo plays on ‘2010’. “As Perttu (Kivilaakso) describes it, ‘it’s a love song of the end of the world.’ We think it’s coming this year, not in 2012. But it’s a love song. The whole process for the song was very special. Mikko (Sirén) our drummer and Dave – two drum kits in the same room. The song was not finished; there was just a bunch of riffs that they were jamming on top of. Then we got all the drum takes together and wrote the song after that. Every time we work with Dave we want to have a different approach, a new angle.”

Perttu has said that writing 7th Symphony didn’t come easily because the band was burned out from touring, having performed over 200 shows. He also went on to say that this recording process was the most fascinating so far. Eicca elaborates upon the entire process. “It was so creative and so individual all the time. Actually, five of the songs came in after we started to record the drums. Most of the instrumental stuff was written at the last minute. In the beginning, we made a lot of vocal tracks. We wanted to have different options and possibilities with different singers; it’s a big puzzle to put together. So we had eight to ten possible vocal tracks, but then we made a decision not to make those leftover vocal tracks instrumental tracks. This time we wanted to create exciting instrumental music. Therefore, it was very late.”

“Mikko started to record the drums in the beginning of January in LA and I was sending him songs while he was there drumming. I sent him ‘At The Gates Of Manala’ and ‘Rage Of Poseidon’ – both were written while he was doing drums. I had a lot of those ideas before, but I never had time to put them together, to complete them. Also, ‘Beautiful’ came in very late and ‘Sacra’ was the last song; I wrote it in the last week of cello recordings. Because it was so spontaneous and the songs were not demoed before – we only shared some Midi files, we’d never played the songs together – it was kind of a strange situation. The down side to that was the starting of recording was really painful. It took a lot of time to get things running smooth, finding sounds. But when we got the ball rolling, it was so cool! We recorded in Helsinki (Finland) so everybody in the band was able to be much more involved in the recording than in the past. It meant actually that we were tracking in the studio for 17 hours a day. We were really pushing it and it was really exciting. And Joe Barresi the producer (THE MELVINS, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, CLUTCH), he’s a genius! With him, we really wanted to dive into the world of sound – different effects, different amps. That also inspired us to create new types of things that sounded really cool when you did something other than playing, like shouting inside the cello, getting feedback. It was very tiring and intense, but a lot of fun!”

Not everything that was recorded during sessions made it onto the standard version of 7th Symphony. The deluxe version contains two bonus tracks: ‘Through Paris In A Sports Car’ and ‘Shadow Of The Venus’. According to Eicca, “Those two songs were in the picture until the last minute of the mastering. It was a 12-song album, but I was the guy who said I’m sorry, but I have this feeling that this album will be greater if we skip two songs because it’s tighter, it’s more intense. We were talking about it for two or three days, which is better 12 or ten (songs)? Finally we decided less is more. Some people might think they get more value for their money if it’s a longer album, but personally, I don’t like really long albums because they start to repeat themselves. Even those two songs, they aren’t out because they are not great songs; we wanted to have the full album structured as one piece of music. It needs to talk to you and it needs to be exciting. The worst thing is if an album gets boring.”

Also of note to collectors, the iTunes version of 7th Symphony contains a cover of BLACK SABBATH’s ‘Spiral Architect’, which will also be available on an exclusive Sabbath tribute album, only available with Metal Hammer magazine in The UK. 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the first two Black Sabbath albums, Black Sabbath and Paranoid, both released in 1970. Eicca outlines Apocalytpica’s choice of ‘Spiral Architect’ from 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. “Perttu came up with that and it’s a great song! It’s not so famous and we love the idea of doing something not so obvious like ‘Paranoid’ or ‘Iron Man’. It’s very different from other Apocalyptica songs; it’s very ‘70s sounding. It makes me smile when I listen to it. It’s a cool version. But the whole approach was different than the album production. That song has so many melodic elements that feature the strings pretty well.”

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