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A brutal collision of Heaven and Hell - 79%

kluseba, August 12th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Mercury Records

Apolcalyptica's second record Inquisition Symphony still focuses on transforming metal songs into classical tunes with four cellos but there are already some significant changes between this sophomore output and its predecessor. The band covers a multitude of bands this time around and opted for a few unusual choices such as covering Faith No More and Pantera which are certainly bands one could hardly imagine in such classical soundscapes before. The Finnish quartet also wrote three own tracks for this release and this tendency would significantly increase on future outputs. The musicianship is overall more adventurous, diversified and also skilled on this second output that marks a step in the right direction despite the international acclaim of its more popular predecessor.

People have argued whether the band's three original tracks can compete with the successful cover songs and I tend to say that these songs blend in very nicely. ''Harmageddon'' offers indeed a combination of beautiful melodies and a sinister vibe referencing armageddon. It's quite a statement to open the record with an own composition and it sets the tone for the rest of the album very appropriately. The mysteriously titled ''M.B.'' is pitch dark with its gloomy, menacing and sinister tones but contrasted by an airy, dreamy and haunting middle section. Upon first listening to it, it seemed to be the least spectacular song of the three but turned out being the one with the greatest potential in my opinion. ''Toreador'' is the most engaging of the three songs with its at times playful, haunting and bittersweet melodies. The song proves that the line between darkness and light is a very small one. The band wrote and recorded an even greater sequel to this song for its Reflections release five years later that came around with vivid trumpet sounds giving the tune a most unusual Latin American folk vibe.

Among the cover songs, Sepultura's ''Inquisition Symphony'' that gave this release its fitting title might be the best because it's haunting, disturbing and at times quite brutal. The original song is great but witnessing cellos producing such sharply discordant sounds is even more fascinating and elevates this version over the original one in my book. ''Refuse / Resist'', another brilliant Sepultura cover, is equally disturbing and has an almost industrial vibe since the instruments sound so cold, discordant and nihilistic. Classical music can't get any heavier than this.

In the end, Apocalyptica's Inquisition Symphony is a step in the right direction for the band as it combines diversified cover songs with three solid own compositions. The record is timeless and has aged very well as it combines classical instruments from the past with contemporary metal tendencies in an efficient way. The album title accurately represents what this record sounds like and stands for. Fans of both classical music and heavy metal should appreciate this unfairly overlooked gem.