Cello Metal: A Unique Subgenre of Heavy Metal

            Cello metal is basically metal with the primary instruments as cellos and other string instruments instead of the traditional electric guitars, while the electric guitar and the drum set are considered more as back-up instruments. The string instruments accomplish all the things that the electric guitar would accomplish in the traditional heavy metal genre. For example, the string instruments are amplified electronically and almost imitate the sounds of the electric guitar, while maintaining the “string instrument” feel. String instruments and heavy metal together makes a pretty epic and awesome combo. This subgenre accomplishes a unique style exploring many different strategies that traditional heavy metal would not approach.

The most popular band of this subgenre would probably be Apocalyptica, for they were able to find their own style of music and unique techniques to captivate their listeners. For example, Apocalyptica’s “I Don’t Care” was able to hit over 31 million viewers on YouTube. It features Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace, which is a hard-rock/alternative metal band. In the beginning of the song, you hear elegant cello playing and gentle singing by Gontier. You can really hear how well their synergy is. Both give a sense of gentleness in the beginning and climax to an aggressive mood. In the chorus where Gontier sings “I don’t care”, you can hear how well his vocals and the cello go together. You can definitely feel a sense of two styles of music colliding: Apocalyptica’s intensity and its culmination of excitement through the cello playing and Three Days Grace’s aggressive, grunge-like singing. Obviously, with 31 million views, the song was a hit. Apocalyptica’s strategy of collaborating with another band helped the song become successful because both bands were able to create a totally different yet appealing style, which was a combination of hard-rock, orchestral, and heavy metal genres.

In addition, Apocalyptica brought something new to the heavy metal genre other than their cellos. They brought a more depressing and liter version of the genre. The instrumentals are still heavy metal-like in the sense that they play aggressively and with incredible emotion. Apocalyptica, however, also adds a sense of classical music to many of their song. For instance, in Apocalyptica’s cover of “Stairway to Heaven” the cellos and violins seem to be very relaxed and orchestral. However, in the chorus, the violin playing becomes very intense and fast-paced similar to heavy metal, while still maintaining the classical feel. In addition, Apocalyptica also covered many songs from Metallica including “Fade to Black”. The intensity for the song is still present in the cover especially where the song reaches its climax. The song builds up tension with its fast tempo and quick bowing of the string instruments. Still, the style of this song resembles that of an orchestra. This is not necessarily a trait to be looked down upon, for the band is attempting to create its own style within the subgenre of cello metal. One thing to note is that, they do not really have a singer in many of their music, which “normal” heavy metal music tends to have. However, similar to heavy metal, their main focus is on the instruments and how they play them: with great emotion and fierceness, which I find really amazing.

Coppelius another cello metal band seems to resemble the genre of heavy metal for the most part. Drums are more present and the sounds of the cello are lower in pitch and heavier compared to Apocalyptica. The double bass and clarinet are also played as well to add to their own unique style. “Risiko” by Coppelius exemplifies the style of the subgenre for this band. The cello completely replaced the electric guitar and is amplified electronically to achieve the “electric guitar” sound. In addition, heavy drumming is still prevalent in this song, and with the aggressive cello playing, it provides a more of the traditional heavy metal feel to the listeners. In addition, the singing has a sense of violence similar to heavy metal minus the screaming because the singer enunciates each of his words with powerful emphasis. Coppelius probably is the closest band to incorporate heavy metal’s aggressive style to their music, while also playing classical instruments, such as the cello and clarinet.

Exploring this cello metal genre, there seems to be no general style to this genre. It is very broad. As to gender, it seems that males are the prevalent members of this subgenre, for most of the members of these types of bands are males. “I Don’t Care” relates to the struggle of relationships that both genders can relate to, but in the music video, it portrays women as objects that may lead to misery. However, Apocalyptica’s songs also included some sense of classicality to many of their songs that both genders can enjoy. Finally, Coppelius seems to appeal to more of the male audience as the music video of “Risiko”, the males seem to be having a jolly time. In another scene, a woman slaps the man for making a sexual joke relating his top hat to his penis. I believe the association of gender and cello metal is quite similar to that of heavy metal, for they both in some way seem to downgrade women in some way. In addition, similar to heavy metal culture, there is the emphasis on the visual aspect of the genre especially in the music videos. Also, all these songs include at least some level of intensity similar to heavy metal. While cello metal does have characteristics staying true to their roots of heavy metal, it is a unique genre, for they explore many areas to diversify their style of music.


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