Apocalyptica adapt metal to cellos in Vancouver

By Jacob Zinn

One day, the floor of the Commodore is going to give in to stomping by ravenous metalheads craving European symphonic rock.

That nearly happened Tuesday night as Apocalyptica brought their long-awaited cello metal to the venue for the first time in four years.

Perttu Kivilaakso shows off a more technical musical education, performing an intricate cello part during the band's opening instrumentals. JACOB ZINN/THE RUNNER

The Finnish foursome started off with a pitch-black performance of 7th Symphony’s “On the Rooftop with Quasimodo”, then moved into “2010” and “Grace” sans their original collaborators Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and Tomoyasu Hotei, respectively.

Cellists Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen circled the stage, stretching their strings and barely sparing their instruments from breaking throughout the night.

Drummer Mikko Sirén was sweating copiously before the band burst into “Master of Puppets”, marking the first of the night’s ‘tallica covers. The crowd got riled up, singing along as Lötjönen performed the lyrical notes on the cello.

They brought out touring vocalist Tipe Johnson for “End of Me”, the first single off their newest album. He proved to be an adequate substitute for Slipknot’s Corey Taylor on “I’m Not Jesus” and later returned for “Life Burns!” from the band’s self-titled fifth studio album.

In between, the band performed a series of instrumentals, including “Quutamo” and a solo by Perttu Kivilaakso. They also performed the melodic “Sacra”, starting with a trudging kick drum and building up to a marching beat.

Drummer Mikko Sirén pounds away during Apocalyptica's set at the Commodore Ballroom. JACOB ZINN/THE RUNNER

Reaching back in their cover repertoire, this time an a cappella version of The Black Album’s famed slow song, “Nothing Else Matters”. The three cellists divided Kirk Hammett’s finger-picking intro among them, but still showed off an expertise with their instruments. Meanwhile, the crowd sang along, though they didn’t quite get the lyrics in order.

After taking a bow and briefly leaving the stage, the band returned for a raise-the-horns metal version of “Last Hope”, then Toppinen dragged his bow across the strings to start “Seek and Destroy” off Metallica’s 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All.

Apart from the chorus, the fans didn’t know the words quite as well, but they at least knew how the song went.

“The final song is real metal – are you ready for metal?!” asked Toppinen of the Vancouverites, who signalled with fists raised that they were indeed ready.

The band closed off their main set with “Inquisition Symphony”, an instrumental by Brazilian metallers Sepultura. They headbanged in synch and gave another quick farewell only to come back for the actual encore.

The band jammed out the recent instrumental classic, “At the Gates of Manala”, adding a wah-wah effect to the solo.

They got Johnson onstage again for their 2008 mainstream success, “I Don’t Care”, replacing Three Days Grace’s Adam Gontier from the studio recording. Despite his slight accent, Johnson was well-received and he certainly had the range to perform the songs originally sung by so many different artists.

To close off the night, the band performed one more cover, though not one penned by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Sticking to their classical origins, they arranged in their distinct symphonic metal style Edvard Grieg’s 1876 orchestral piece, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” – and it was more furious than he could have imagined.

Eicca Toppinen alternates from a slow, classical style of playing to the band's signature, frantic thrash metal. JACOB ZINN/THE RUNNER

At times, the audio seemed scratchy, as though their thick strings had become threads, and not all of their covers translated well to cello metal. But the band’s sound is their own and their performance is top-notch. If you missed out this time and you’re unlucky, you may just have to wait until 2016 for your next chance.


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