Source: DANTE BONUTTO
Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lotjonen, Perttu Kivilaakso
rel. date: 24.01.2005
IN AN industry well-versed in putting bands into boxes, then nailing down the lid, Apocalyptica have always kept their wings well spread; not just as an international market-leader (though that cap most certainly fits), but as a group who have effect-tively created a market of their own - a tight-knit troupe who continue to prove that rock music isn't to do with the instrument you play, but the attitude you keep. Or maybe the one you're born with...
Since 1996 and the release of their debut album ('Plays Metallica By Four Cellos'), Apocalyptica - graduates of the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Finland - have been developing a style that is tough to put a name to... 'Heavy Cello Mayhem'? 'Rock'n' Resin'?!... The possibilities are vast, but whatever the latest tag, the fact remains that never before had a group of classically-trained cellists, metal fans to a man, attempted to fuse together the seemingly disparate worlds of classical music & hard rock...of Prokofiev & Pantera... Shostakovich & Slayer... to seek out the middle ground between the mosh pit & the orchestra pit, the dinner jacket & the denim jacket, whilst being 100 per cent respectful to both camps...
But then rock'n'roll at its best has always been about breaking the rules, and the success of the first album (now pushing 800,000 sales worldwide) showed that what had started out as a bit of fun had swiftly found a connection with classical followers and HM fans alike. By adding pre-amps & pick-ups to an instrument dating back to the sixteenth century, and by throwing in extra-tough strings and a healthy dash of elbow grease, mainman Eicca Toppinen & Co. had hit a rich vein of form that saw two of the 'Plays Metallica...' tracks featured in US movie 'Your Friends And Neighbours' (1998) and a host of headline & festival appearances added Europe-wide.
Three further studio outings and a couple of line-up changes down the line, and Apocalyptica stand (or, more accurately, sit!) as a major force in the world of popular music; a trio - now enhanced by drummer Mikko Siren - who have sold almost two million albums worldwide, played in well over 20 different countries (Mexico, Russia & Japan included), recorded with guest vocalists such as German 'punk godmother' Nina Hagen, picked up high-profile awards for video & export achievements, remixed/reworked tracks for other name artists (Bush - Letting The Cables Sleep), Special Guested with Metallica (twice!) and still found time to record a new album, set for release through Universal Music Germany in late January/early February 2005...
SELF-TITLED, self-produced and featuring 11 new tracks of all original material, 'Apocalyptica' The Album sees these Cello-Rockers From Hel(sinki) taking their exploits of the past 10 years to a whole new level of success. On previous recordings, they had either kept the songs as instrumental pieces, pure an' simple, or else worked in the vocals down the line, with Sandra Nasic (Guano Apes), Linda Sundblad (Lambretta) & the aforementioned Nina H. all stepping up to the mic. at various points; when it came time to compose the latest material, however, Eicca was of the opinion that vocals should be involved - at least in part - from day one. He wanted the fifth album to be as complete a body of work as possible, a new chapter in the Encyclopaedia Apocalyptica; this is why first single 'Bittersweet' (supported by an Antti Jokinen-directed promo) sees two of the rock scene's fastest rising frontmen, Ville Valo from H.I.M & Lauri Ylonen from The Rasmus, sons of Finland both, going head to head and heart to heart while the band hang like bats from the ceiling!
Apart from the obvious geographical connection, all of the musicians are linked through a longstanding friendship, having met on various TV shows in Finland and generally been part of the same scene. Indeed, Ville has already sung live with Apocalyptica back in the mid-'90s, and Lauri was at one point approached about guesting in the studio, but for various reasons the timing hadn't felt right; this time around, though, he was totally up for the challenge, and as soon as Ville heard about his feathered friend's involvement, the 'Bittersweet' duet was born - an emotion-charged outing (already available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Scandinavia) that is also the theme song for the brand new videogame 'The Settlers: Heritage Of The Kings'...
"From the moment I heard the vocals being recorded, I knew that with the right mix, it would be great," recalls Eicca. "All of the elements we needed were there, and it was amazing how well the two voices fitted together. I think that's why you don't get more duets with male singers, because they are often too similar in style, but with Ville & Lauri we didn't have that problem - their voices are really complementary, and from that point on, the cello parts flowed easily..."
IN MANY ways, the progression achieved on 'Apocalyptica' has been a logical one; on '... Four Cellos', the band put their efforts into giving a fresh twist to Metalli-classics such as 'Enter Sandman' & 'Sad But True', as it was their handling of such high-profile compositions that had brought them to the attention of Finish indepen-dent Zen Garden Records a year or so earlier. Then, for the follow-up, 1998's 'Inquisition Symphony', they cast their collective net over a broader range of covers, including songs by Sepultura, Faith No More & Pantera - although three Eicca originals were also thrown into the pot to liven up the mix... the first time he'd committed his own efforts to tape...
With that bridge having been crossed, it was only to be expected that 2000's 'Cult' release would see the band drawing ever more strongly on their own resources. In fact, of the 13 tracks featured, all produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa, only three did not carry the 'Eicca Toppinen' credit: 'Fight Fire With Fire' & 'Until It Sleeps', Metallica standards both, plus 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' by Norwegian composer Edward Grieg - the first strictly classical piece to carry the 'Apocalyptica' stamp... It was clear that the guys were keen to stand or fall on their own merits, and with 'Reflections' (2003) they took things further still, not only by producing the record themselves, but - with the exception of Rammstein's 'Seemann' on the 'Revised Version' - penning all of the songs too.
They didn't play the drums, though. Oh, no. For that, they called in a couple of percussive experts, one of whom, the legendary Dave Lombardo, can generally be spotted punishing the kit for Slayer! A mighty fine job he did too, so no great surprise that he can also be found on the new 'Apocalyptica' release; he only wields the sticks on a single track this time ('Betrayal/Forgiveness'), but it's a performance to be polished then placed on a pedestal - an indication of the fact that for album Number Five, p'raps the most painstaking of their career, Eicca, Paavo & Perttu were determined to leave no stone unturned (and no beat out of time) in the single-minded pursuit of quality & control...
Result: the finest record of their career.
AT THE heart of any Apocalyptica release is the pure sound of the cello, and by generally slowing the pace a touch, by being prepared to tug on the reins when needed, the band have been able to achieve a studio sound high on authenticity and colour; of course, it helped quite a bit that the studio in question (Susi) had actually been constructed for this very purpose by Eicca himself - a smart & sensible way of gaining the control mentioned above...
Logistics dictated, however, that not all of the recording could be done 'Chez Toppinen', so a number of other studios were also brought into play: Finnvox in Finland, Planet Roc in Germany and of course Toytown in Stockholm, Sweden, where the 11 tracks were mixed by sought-after engineer Stefan Glaumann, fresh from his work on Rammstein's monumental 'Reise, Reise'. Word is that he gave the guys a hefty pat on the back for the proficiency of their tracking, and there's no question that the production standards are impressive throughout - from rattling opener 'Life Burns!' (featuring Lauri alone on lead vox) right through to the more sombre tones of 'Deathzone', which brings proceedings to a suitably weighty close...
Eicca: "Obviously, it's cool to play fast heavy metal riffs, but for this album we really wanted to emphasise the qualities of the cello, to create the best tones and textures we could, and that meant taking a slightly different approach. On 'Reflections', there were three slower songs and the rest of the tracks were pretty fast, but here the mood of the record is generally more atmospheric... and more groove-based. I would say that the emotional pull is stronger, too..."
Rather than a collection of tracks loosely strung together, 'Apocalyptica' is very much a journey - starting full of vim & vigour and ending on a note that is measured, thoughtful & hugely evocative; listen to the album from start to finish, preferably with an 'air cello' in one hand and a pin to drop in the other, and you'll get the full impact of both the sequencing & the sonics, with instrumental outings such as the locomotive 'Distraction' (Eicca) and the genuinely stirring 'Farewell' (Perttu) really grabbing the lapels and refusing to let go; also, well worth a mention is 'Quutamo' (Eicca), which appears unadorned on all versions of the record bar the one due out in France, where the song carries a performance by chanteuse Manue from local artists Dolly, and of course 'Bittersweet' itself - currently shaping up as a serious chart hit in Germany.
STILL MAINLY instrumental, but with enough vocal presence to turn up the drama when required, 'Apocalyptica' is a major achievement for all concerned; not just a melding of different genres, but the creation of a heavy hybrid style that is sure to stand the guys in good stead when they take to the road in Europe from late January 05 onwards - starting in the UK then heading, bows aloft, through Eastern and Western Europe and Latin-America.
'Heavy Cello Thunder'? 'The Symphony Of Destruction'??
The band seem to favour 'Cello Rock', simple as that, but in truth 'Apocalyptica' pretty much says it all...
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Apocolyptica review | Reviewer: S.b. | 12/23/10
I love the choice of instrumentation it's very origional and I bet It will influence other bands to add cellos. The only thing is that I like lyrics and not all ur songs have them my theory is that people like songs because they can relate to the lyrics ANC the songs that font have lyrics can't b related to so maybe you should consider a permanent vocalist but other wise u guys are amazing and I don't no y anyone wouldn't love you
apocalyptica review | Reviewer: shadd | 8/19/10
im a cellist like you guys, and after 10 years of straight classical music, i was going INSANE. then i got one of my dads old cds out that had metallica music, and thought to myself " hey that sounds like a cello". so i started to play rock music on the cello, and now i enjoy my music again. You Guys ROCK!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH.
by the way, nice hairdos ;)
you guys rock! | Reviewer: Alison Hubert | 1/30/09
i cannot stress enough how amazing you guys are!
i have never been so impressed!
paavo, you are my favorite!!
and eicca, you are as well.
and i forgot your other mates name!
but you are outstanding also!
keep up the good work!
hope to see you at one of your concerts soon!
Finally | Reviewer: Isabella Gonzales | 12/4/08
There's finally a band that I've found that play's chello's which is really interesting. I didn't hear about this band till "I don't care" came on, on the satalite radio and since then I've been interested. Oh and I think that Eicca is really hot. I just had to type that. Oh and get the new CD now!!
yay! | Reviewer: Kiyoku | 9/23/07
I love Apocalyptica.
They're unique, I mean...
You don't see many cello playing bands that do Metallica covers, do you?
I don't like their songs with vocals except for "Life Burns" and "Bittersweet".
They inspired me to want to learn cello and 5 other languages!!!
I recommend you listen to them, immediately!
Apocalyptica review | Reviewer: teryn | 4/25/05
There a bit of a strnge band ( i think the members play chello's or something) but from the songs ive heard by Apocalyptica, they sound great especially with The Rasmus singer. i recommend you go and listen to Apocalyptica's cd now!!!
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