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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

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Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday May 28, 05:46 pm
Apocalyptica melds classical and metal, purists be damned


Wednesday 3


They’ve just released their eighth studio album of original music, but 20 years ago Finnish metal act Apocalyptica started out as an instrumental Metallica cover band with an interesting twist — the music was played by a quartet of cellists. In 2011, they performed live with the juggernaut LA thrash band for Metallica’s 30th anniversary at a special show in San Francisco.

[Metallica has been supportive of us] from the very beginning,” says cellist Eicca Toppinen, fresh off a soundcheck for a show in Atlanta later that night. Toppinen speaks to me through a thick Finnish accent, but his English is good. “We opened for them the first time in ‘96. Already at that time the guys were checking out the show, and since then we’ve been playing a lot of shows together with them. And of course, the ultimate thing was to do the anniversary show in San Francisco.”

Metal is more rooted in classical music than your high school music teacher ever wanted you to know. The members of Apocalyptica are classically trained cellists and metal lovers, but they still face derision from more than a few stodgy old farts who don’t remember that Beethoven was the first rock star.

There are the very old-school purists that are in positions of power [that don’t like it],” says Toppinen. “We call them ‘people in the iron tower.’ No, wait... ivory tower. These people don’t want to lose the respect that they have from the classical audience and their students, and that’s why they need to hate everything that is different. But you know, I couldn’t care less. It’s way more their problem than mine.”

As Toppinen points out, classical music has long struggled with losing its audience — or rather, not refreshing it with each passing generation by adding younger fans. A band like Apocalyptica is just one way that classical can bridge the gap to more modern tastes.

Most people in classical music are open-minded. I think we’ve got mainly positivity from the classical scene. We’re even working on a new opera for the Finnish Opera, so the classical world is accepting us. We can help them to generate new audiences.”

The metal community, especially in Europe, has always accepted the band, but as time has passed, they’ve moved towards a more mainstream style of metal. After playing with a variety of guest singers and adding more instrumentation with each album, they’ve recently added a full-time singer, Franky Perez.

Now we have an old-school fan base that thinks the only Apocalyptica should be without drums and vocals,” says Toppinen. “They need some time to get to know the new album. You know, we have a singer now in the band. You have to find new ways to make your music; you have to change. And if you don’t have the passion for the music you want to do, then it’s better not to do it. That’s always been the main petrol for the engine of Apocalyptica. We try to reach new goals and new targets, musically.”

As you might well imagine, listening to the album is one thing, but when you’ve got a bunch of cello players punching out white-hot metal jams, it’s the live show that is truly something to behold.

I might say that Apocalyptica is one of the most — well, I don’t say it by myself, but it is what I hear — that Apocalyptica is one of the most craziest live bands,” laughs Toppinen. “Because, you know, the fact that we do everything with the cellos — we have always maximum high energy. We put it all in for the show. We bring emotions. We are not asking mercy from the audience, but we are not giving any mercy.”

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