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Dark, ominous, and too promising - 82%

Napero, November 11th, 2006

Apocalyptica became well-known solely for their Metallica covers. Even after years and several albums of other kinds of music, they are still known as the group of cellists who play Metallica songs, and many of their later works have not gained the recognition they would have deserved. Before the Metallica-era, they released a curious little Christmas single. It has gone virtually unnoticed, but seems to fetch considerable prices on EBay regardless.

The single contains two tracks, and has nothing to do with Metallica. The first track, Oh Holy Night, is a very traditional and beautiful cello version of the classical christmas song, with absolutely no metal influence whatsoever. Four brilliant young cellists simply play a beautiful and peaceful tune with skill and classical training, and the result is good enough for your mother-in-law on Christmas Eve. Try it if you don't believe.

The second track, Little Drummer Boy, is a french Christmas tradition, although most non-French people would have serious difficulties in finding the connection to the christian feast without a little help from Wikipedia. Nowadays the song is internationally known, however, and of the two songs on the single, Little Drummer Boy is the one to give an appetizer of the things that could have come.

The song is recognizable. There's no question about it. They just never play it the way it's supposed to be played, but turn it into a sinister, dark tune instead, with an ominous atmosphere. It suddenly explodes into a brief speed metal interlude, fades into very heavy ambience, and finally continues as a doomish dark metal song, eventually ending in dark silence with final moments almost resembling a fade-out. Dark, ominous and definitely heavy, and still, the theme of the song remains as the central idea throughout.

Little Drummer Boy made a promise the Metallica cover album could not cash. The band rendered the celebrational song into a dark, aggressive and gloomy combination of emotions and styles, but the Metallica songs they played on the subsequent albums turned the whole concept into a gimmick. Perhaps the gimmick has sold a considerable pile of albums, but it also meant Apocalyptica would carry the Metallica stain from here to eternity. The artistic ambition the second track on this single contains was lost when they embarked on the road paved with covers, and a great promise was left unfulfilled, a promise of a deep, dark art that could have been. That promise found a way to briefly manifest itself on a french christmas song, and that alone makes this single worth hunting for.