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Album Review: Apocalyptica – Shadowmaker

The years since Apocalyptica released their aptly named seventh studio album ‘7th Symphony’ have certainly been far from quiet. Despite some well-deserved time off punctuating the five year gap, the veteran Finns have managed to smash out a killer world tour and sign to their new home at Eleven Seven Records. The fruit of their recent labours is ‘Shadowmaker’, on which their entire identity has been redefined. Hyperbole perhaps, but the entire album featuring just one vocalist is a big shake-up in what has become the typical Apocalyptica ethos. The impact of Franky Perez’s monopoly over the outfit’s vocal responsibilities is the definite removal some of the mystique that an Apocalyptica album can usually command; never knowing whose voice will chime in next on the first listen, but in the grand scheme of things it becomes a very small price to pay.

A nintety second intro track is more than enough to send you spinning down into the darkly powerful atmosphere which ‘Shadowmaker’ makes its own. It’s a welcome return for the symphonic giants, and despite ‘Cold Blood’ sounding eerily like Fall Out Boy’s ‘The Phoenix’ in places, this is a red flag which the band quickly cast aside. For Perez, the record is a chance not to be sniffed at, and the new inductee to the fold, whose most prominent fixture to date has been the guy singing in Scars on Broadway who isn’t Daron Malakian, is right at home by the time the title track kicks into gear. The track in question sees potential Shinedown similarities in the vocal work of Perez, though the solos that hit like cannon fire after the three minute mark passes are unlike anything to ever leave Zach Myers’ fingertips. Guitars and cellos alike are completely on point reminding you that regardless of any new mantra or unfamiliar face, ‘Shadowmaker’ and its title track are equally, inescapably Apocalyptica. Perez roars back in as the song hits its closing stages, far from the major player on this track but nonetheless making the most of what could well be his defining moment as the group’s dedicated vocalist.

‘Slow Burn’ and ‘Hole in My Soul’ show that Perez can fit well into the more withheld Apocalyptica tracks, but ultimately the new addition is a much better fit for the heavier, more epic end of the band’s spectrum. This becomes increasingly apparent when ‘Reign of Fear’ punctuates the two efforts, a seven minute instrumental putting both to shame.

‘House of Chains’ is a pretty sudden jolt back into Perez’s comfort zone and proof that his addition can certainly help when utilised correctly, but there are certainly cons to accompany the pros of Apocalyptica retaining a single vocalist.

In ‘Riot Lights’ we find another fantastic instrumental composition, while ‘Come Back Down’ kicks off like Beethoven commanding a Black Stone Cherry concert. Undoubtedly, Perez continues to hold his own; the story of ‘Shadowmaker’ continuing to follow his successful amalgamation into Apocalyptica’s grand design. Along with the title track, ‘Come Back Down’ is certainly a standout moment of this development. ‘Sea Song (You Waded Out)’ is selected perfectly to be the next in line; Perez outdoing his ‘Hole in My Soul’ performance by leaps and bounds as the Finns return to a more withdrawn backing role.

Closing track ‘Dead Man’s Eyes’ follows one final instrumental flourish and it is, on all counts, the perfect send-off for album number eight. Giving Perez and the band themselves each a chance to display their full range before falling away into ambience to take us out, ‘Shadowmaker’ adds the full stop to its statement of intent, making absolutely clear that after five years away there is no dust to sweep off. The role of Perez is undeniably what will set the record apart from its fellows in the Apocalyptica back catalogue, though as far as dedicated vocalists go, the symphonic metallers could do a whole lot worse. How he plays into the future of the band remains to be seen, but what matters by now is that Apocalyptica are back, and sounding just as formidable as ever.

4/5

‘Shadowmaker’ by Apocalyptica is out now on Eleven Seven Records.

Apocalyptica links: Website|Facebook|Twitter|YouTube

Words by Antony Lusmore (@VilinskiKonjic).

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