Weaknesses: When Apocalyptica plays original material with guest vocalists (specifically their current single, "I'm Not Jesus" with Slipknot's Corey Taylor), its guitar-emulating cello trick works too well, masking the band's charm (in case you didn't know, it has cellos) and resulting in a nü-metal disaster. The slow, dramatic harps of Harptallica also tend to work too well, occasionally turning Metallica into Muzak. The band's rendition of "The Unforgiven" could easily be background music for a dinner party or a hotel lobby.

Bottom line: Apocalyptica, like the band it initially set out to honor, peaked early and has suffered as a result of its restlessness and a possible fear of repeating itself. The band may have begun with a Kill 'Em All-level of ingenuity, but its horrendous new original material lands it somewhere between the alternative-metal trainwrecks Load and ReLoad. We can only pray to the gods of metal (Lemmy?) that Apocalyptica returns to what it knows best before making a St. Anger of its own.

In the long run, Harptallica is still a new band trying to find its voice in the unconventional Metallica tribute scene. Let's compare the band to Ride the Lightning. Harptallica has a sound, and it knows what works, but it has a few kinks to work out before making a focused, Master of Puppets-esque statement. It may be sentencing some tunes to a lifetime in the elevator, but it may also be one virtuosic harp-shred away from greatness.
— Ryan Wasoba

Apocalyptica plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at Pop's, 1403 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois. $22. 618-274-6720. Harptallica plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at the Underground at Red Sea, 6511 Delmar Boulevard, University City. 314-863-0099. Also plays at 5 p.m. at Vintage Vinyl, 6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City. Free. 314-721-4096.

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