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Cello rock and cello metal are subgenres of rock music characterized by the use of cellos (as well as other bowed string instruments such as the violin and viola) as primary instruments, alongside or in place of more traditional rock instruments such as electric guitars, electric bass guitar, and drum set.
Cellos, often in groups of three or more, are used to create a sound, rhythm, and texture similar to that of familiar rock music, but distinctly reshaped by the unique timbres and more traditional genres of the cello (in particular) and other string instruments used. The cellos and other stringed instruments are often amplified and/or modified electronically, and often played in a manner imitative of the sound of electric guitars. They are often combined with other elements typical of rock music such as rock-style vocals and drumming.
Cello rock can trace its beginnings back to the 1971 self-titled debut, known in the US as No Answer, by The Electric Light Orchestra which featured rock songs arranged for cellos, and the subsequent tour consisted of a standard rock band augmented by four cellos. Jeff Lynne made a return with this format using 3 cellos for their 2001 comeback album Zoom and its subsequent, but cancelled tour.
Cello rock bands
Current prominent bands include:
- Rasputina (formed 1992), an American band that uses distortion effects pedals on their cellos. The band is made up of two cellists, song-writer and vocalist Melora Creager, second chair Daniel DeJesus and drummer Dawn Miceli. They are known for their references to the Victorian era and eccentric song subjects, as well as their string of albums since the mid-1990s. Rasputina opened for Marilyn Manson in their 1997 Dead to the World Tour.
- Apocalyptica (formed 1993), a Finnish quartet. The group originally played instrumental cello covers of heavy metal songs, including songs by Metallica. They now mostly play their own baroque based compositions, some including vocals. Apocalyptica opened for Metallica in 1996 and co-headlined with Rammstein in 2005.
- Coppelius (formed in 1997) Coppelius is a German band which plays metal on drums, double bass, cello and clarinet.
- Murder by Death (formed in 2000) features Sarah Balliet, who plays electric cello live and records with a German cello from the 1880s. They play an eclectic combination of rock, indie and Americana and tour frequently.
- Primitivity (formed in 2000) is a cello rock band from Washington, D.C.. Led by Loren Westbrook-Fritts, the ensemble began by covering songs of Megadeth. The group has performed on National Public Radio. Their debut album titled Plays Megadeth For Cello. was arranged and recorded entirely by Loren Westbrook-Fritts. The group has performed along with Loren Westbrook-Fritts as Artists in Residence at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland in February 2010. The band has composed and performed original music for an upcoming album.
- Judgement Day (formed 2002). A San Francisco instrumental metal trio with Anton Patzner of Bright Eyes on violin, Lewis Patzner on cello and a drummer. The band has toured the US with Mates of State, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's and dredg.
- Break of Reality (formed in 2003), is an American instrumental rock band consisting of three cellists and a percussionist. The band's sound consists of many musical influences, such as metal, classical, and cinematic rock. The group has two original albums to its credit, and is also known for covering bands like System of a Down and Coheed and Cambria.
- The 440 Alliance (formed in 2004), is an American cello rock band from Arlington, Texas consisting of four cellists and a percussionist. They are known for incorporating electric effects, turntables, piano, and mallet percussion. They received national exposure on NPR's All Songs Considered and on Fox Networks's musical reality show, The Next Great American Band. The group has recorded 3 full length albums consisting both of original arrangements and classic rock covers.
- The Loneliest Monk (formed in 2008) is an all original avant-garde art rock duo from Chicago, IL. Front woman Michelle Morales, who has performed with the Foo Fighters and Kanye West, incorporates melodic looping effects, voice, as well as the occasional piano. She currently plays on a Zeta Electric cello. Miles Benjamin plays drums, sings, and creates toy piano flourishes.
- Cello Fury (formed in 2009) is a cello rock band that performs original rock/classical crossover music. Featuring three cellists and a drummer, Cello Fury is based in Pittsburgh, PA and has performed in 23 states and abroad. The band will perform at the South by Southwest Music Festival in March 2013.
- The Piano Guys Instrumental duo rock cello duo
- The Lumineers
In addition to cello rock groups that feature cello as the primary melodic instruments, some rock groups and artists have featured acoustic or electric celli as part of the band. In most cases, the cello is not a full member of the band, but is used only for a specific song, but a few artists have featured a cellist as a full band member. Such artists include the singer Poe (featuring cellist Cameron Stone), Tarja (featuring cellist Max Lilja, a former Apocalyptica member), Hevein (also featuring Lilja), Darling Violetta (featuring cellist Gerri Sutyak), Veruca Salt (featuring cellist Eric Remschneider on the album Resolver), the Smashing Pumpkins (also featuring Remschneider on the Siamese Dream album and subsequent tour), and OneRepublic (featuring cellist Brent Kutzle).