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From classical cover band devoted exclusively to performing Metallica's symphony-friendly epics to all purpose string ensemble interpreters of other heavy metal bands' music for the cello, to composers of original material fit to mingle with even more metallic translations, Finland's Apocalyptica had come a long way in the span of their first three albums. And, naturally, there were bound to be further innovations lined up for the band's fourth opus, Reflections, which arrived in 2003 bearing not a single heavy metal cover, and introducing several unexpected innovations into Apocalyptica's m.o., to boot. Chief among these was the addition of a drummer behind the group (recently paired down from quartet to trio), and since Apocalyptica's virtuosos would hardly stand for anything short of brilliance for such an assignment, that percussionist wound up being none other than Slayer legend Dave Lombardo, on whose Grip Inc. albums, group leader Eicca Toppinen had conveniently performed as well. One of those rare rock drummers whose sound and style is instantly recognizable, Lombardo was more than up to the task, providing the necessary flailing-limbs thrust behind dramatically driving originals like "Prologue (Apprehension)," "Somewhere Around Nothing," and "Resurrection" (which sounds like it should have originated as a metal song, but didn't). Apocalyptica also does without him on several compositions, of course, but they keep the experimentation coming by adding a pianist for the exquisite ballad "Far Away," discreet synth effects for the multi-faceted "Cohkka," full-on drum machines for "Heat," and a Spanish horn section for "Toreador II" -- Ole! And for those fans who simply want to hear them shred, there's plenty of that throughout this set, with the suitably named "Pandemonium" offering an especially blinding display. All in all, Apocalyptica's first foray into all-original material is nothing short of triumphant, and an eye opener for rock music fans who simply came along because of the Metallica connection. Recommended.

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