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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Concert Review: Apocalyptica--Evil Sits Down For a Moment

The lights go down. The Who's "Wont Get Fooled Again" trails into silence. And a thunderous roar comes forth: the mighty Apocalyptica--four young musicians from Finland who are putting bow and rosin into thrash metal--played on 'cellos.

On Friday night at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, Apocalyptica put on a hell of a show. This is not your average chamber music recital. These cellists move around, whipping up the audience, playing standing up. headbanging as they play, long hair whipping around as their bows scrape back and forth. The four cellists: group founder Eicca Toppinen, goth madman Perttu Kivilaakso, gung-ho Paavo Lötjönen and a staid Antero Manninen, who is no longer an official band member (he left in 2002). He doesn't prowl the stage like the other three. They were aided by band drummer Mikko Sirén (also a full-time member). The show was packed with dazzling musicianship. Toryn Green from Fuel joined in as guest vocalist on a few songs, singing both covers and originals with his burly delivery.

For a band that first became known for its Metallica covers, Apocalyptica did not disappoint. "Fight Fire With Fire"," "One", "Seek and Destroy" and "Enter Sandman" all got the 'cello treatment, often with shouted accompaniment from the audience. From the non-Metallica songbook came "Heroes" by David Bowie (sung half in German, half in English by Toryn Green) and encore-closer "The Hall of the Mountain King," played at breakneck pace and introduced as "authentic classic Norwegian black metal y Edvard Grieg." The rest of the set consisted of vocal and instrumental originals, including "Life Burns!", "Inquisition Symphony" and the heartrending "Bittersweet", which sounds like Schubert on steroids.

Apocalyptica started out in Helsinki as classically trained musicians who started playing Metallica covers on four cellos. The cello has the ideal range to cover both the deep growling tones of bass and rhythm guitars. Quick staccato bowing produces the same chunky rhythm sound as James Hetfield's guitar playing, and glissando figures and lightning-fast arpeggios replicate the wild lead guitar playing of Kirk Hammett. This is one of the most unique progressive metal band around--they play with killer technique an absolute conviction, and are a band that stands squarely at the crux of classical music and its louder cousin, speed metal.

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