REVIEW: Cellomania – Mania Unleashed

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As the proprietor of Tuonela Magazine’s Unleashed series, any album called “Unleashed” is bound to catch my attention. However, CELLOMANIA didn’t need to use their album name, “Mania Unleashed,” to draw me in. Made up of Jaani Helander and Lukas Stasevskij, we learned about them through the latter’s involvement with the GAME MUSIC COLLECTIVE (BAND). With a few singles out to tease us, we thought we’d give the full album a listen in advance of its release on October 15th, 2021.

There was something a little special in the promo for this album, which I personally love: the artists included a little excerpt about the song selection, explaining why they chose the song or how it was put together, for example. In cover albums in particular, these things are always nice to know!

The album opens with one of the first singles the duo released, “Misirlou,” the traditional song most well known for being used in Pulp Fiction. The drone of one cello lays the background for the other to come in, creating nice layers, before the main song starts off, with layers of skilled cello performances showing these men’s skills at both style and skill, as the short and sharp way of playing (as an old violinist myself) take a great deal of proficiency to execute so expertly. A friend of mine from back in Canada said, “well, this is now the best version of ‘Misirlou’ I’ve heard,” and I can’t help but agree!

We then move onto a non-instrumental cover, as the duo take on ABBA‘s “Money, Money, Money” – an unusual choice but one that works surprisingly well when translated into cello… so much so that as someone not super familiar with the original, it took me a while to realize that I found it familiar! The beginning sounds so classical that it was well-disguised. The nicely translated vocal melody is also a bonus and holds true for the next track as well, “Moves Like Jagger,” from MAROON 5, which is hugely less poppy and way more epic when executed on cello.

Then we have the nigh impossible to fuck up “Megalovania” from Undertale, which is such a good song that I’ve never heard a bad cover of it, and this is no exception! Taylor Davis has shown us that this song really works on strings as well, so naturally, this version shreds like hell and is generally just awesome.

I am personally completely unfamiliar with the Terminator theme, so track five was a new experience, yet a pleasant one at that! Deep and a little ominous, it has barely over 2 minutes to do its job and does so spectacularly with its slow build-up into excitement. Speaking of… “Nocturne” is one of the most exciting songs at its highs and one of the most dramatic at its lows. This is also noteworthy as the one original track on the album, written by Jaani Helander. As most songs on the album clock in around 2-3 minutes, “Nocturne” and the cover of Piazzolla‘s “Libertango” are the longest tracks as well, nicely situated in the middle. In the release, it is mentioned that Jaani had played “Libertango” many times over the years, but was never happy with the arrangements. Here, they have used the skills of one Jarkko Riihimäki to make a very smooth-sounding duet that is, naturally, gorgeously executed.

I’ve often been surprised at the popularity of The Legend of Zelda‘s “Ballad of the Wind Fish,” as it is not as iconic as the themes. However, it is a very lovely song and the depth and texture created by the cellos is superb. “Algorithm,” originally by MUSE, is another interesting choice. Again, this is a song I wasn’t personally familiar with, but the way one cello plays a flowing rhythm as the other heads the melody is delightful.

The album then ends on a short but extremely cheeky note, as they finish up with a quick rendition of BLACK SABBATH‘s “Paranoid”; for those of you not in Finland, “Paranoid” is the equivalent of “Free Bird,” by LYNYRD SKYNYRD. By that, I mean that it is the song that everyone shouts at bands to play during their sets. Here, CELLOMANIA show that if anyone wants to shout out at their shows, these two are absolutely willing to throw down and play it!

It’s slightly uncommon to find simple instrumental work that works this well, but Finland, if nothing else, has a seemingly limitless supply of amazing musicians. Nothing is quite so delightful as seeing artists put their heads together and come up with something great. While we know that Lukas is away from Finland studying right now, hopefully by the time corona is under control, he’ll be back and we’ll be able to hear some of these songs live!

Tracklist

  1. Misirlou (traditional)
  2. Money Money Money (ABBA cover)
  3. Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5 cover)
  4. Megalovania (Toby Fox cover)
  5. Terminator
  6. Nocturne
  7. Libertango (Piazzolla cover)
  8. Ballad of the Wind Fish (from The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening)
  9. Algorithm
  10. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)

Lineup

Jaani Helander – cello

Lukas Stasevskij – cello

Label

Independent

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