Friday, February 24, 2012

Apocalyptica - Heavy Metal Cello

By Stefan Aune

The worlds of classical music and heavy metal rarely meet. They are separated by venues, audiences, traditions, and cultural perceptions. Given these realities, you might be surprised to learn that a band named "Apocalyptica," a band composed of long haired, leather wearing Finns, is also a band made up entirely of classically trained cellists.


Apocalyptica was formed in Helsinki, Finland, in 1993 by Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen and Perttu Kivilaakso. All three cellists graduated from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, the sole music university in Finland and one of the biggest music universities in all of Europe. Originally a Metallica tribute band, Apocalyptica released their debut album, "Plays Metallica by Four Cellos," in 1996. Covering classics like "Master of Puppets" and "Creeping Death," along with later tracks like "Enter Sandman," the debut struck a chord with metal audiences while simultaneously turning previously unaware classical music buffs onto one of metal's biggest bands.

Apocalyptica's covers of Metallica avoid coming off as insincere, or as a lame classical re-appropriation lacking in energy or intensity. Instead, they translate the piece into a cello ensemble while paying respect to the original, emulating the heaviness, speed, and technicality that are uniquely Metallica. Apocalyptica make incredible use of the naturally heavy resonance of the cello. They don't need to plug into Digitech Death-Metal guitar pedals to sound heavy. A cello can rumble and crunch without the help of effects, and can effortlessly switch to the higher "soloing" register in order to replicate a Kirk Hammet guitar solo. That being said, its clear that the best part about the above video is the synchronized headbanging at the four minute mark. Apocalyptica are incredibly talented cellists, but they also know how to put on a good live show.

Apocalyptica - Plays Metallica by Four Cellos
In 1998 Apocalyptica released their second album, "Inquisition Symphony." This time they mixed their Metallica covers with covers of songs by Faith No More, Pantera, and Sepultura, and three original compositions. "Cult" followed in 1999, increasing the number of original songs to 10 and paving the way for their breakout 2003 disc, "Reflections." "Reflections" featured a track list of entirely original songs, as well as the drumming of  thrash metal legend Dave Lombardo, the drummer of Slayer. Apocalyptica would continue to be supported by drumming on subsequent tours, exponentially increasing the intensity of their live performances.

"Prologue - Aprehension" - the first track off of "Reflections" performed live in Poland

Apocalyptica has continued to release successful studio albums, achieving spots on the Billboard music charts and radio airplay. They have shared the stage with Rammstein and Metallica, appeared on national television on "Last Call with Carson Daly," and collaborated with Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier on the #1 Billboard rock hit "I Don't Care." Their most reason studio album, "7th Symphony," was released in 2010, and once again features Dave Lombardo on drums. This winter they have been on tour in Latin America, but keep an eye on their website for news and tour dates.  

Apocalyptica - 7th Symphony
Apocalyptica has inspired countless cello ensembles to move outside of the traditional repertoire, and their music is often shared with budding young cellists as an example of how diverse the cello can be. The cello's unique ability to navigate both high and low registers makes it perhaps the most versatile of stringed instruments, and Apocalyptica is just one of many cellocentric ensembles using the instrument in unique and exciting ways. Check out some other great cello ensembles here, and be sure to check out Apocalyptica. You just might find that your cello repertoire could benefit from a few Metallica covers to keep things interesting. 

No comments:

Post a Comment