Birmingham's Academy, 13th December 2007
Reviewed by Ian Cook
Hailing from Helsinki, Finland and formed in 1993, it all began when four classically trained cellists by the names of Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Max Lilja, and Antero Manninen (all graduates of the Sibelius Academy) performed Metallica reinterpretations at the Teatro Heavy Metal Club. No vocal note will be uttered, nor a guitar strummed. That group happens to be Apocalyptica, one of Metal's great latter day success stories. Special guests at the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, in its fifty-second edition and held at the Hartwall Areena the group's performance during the contest's interval introduced their unique musical stylings to a wider audience. Lineup changes saw Antero Manninen leave the ranks in 1999, and Max Lilja followed suit in 2002 (joining Hevein). Perttu Kivilaakso replaced Manninen, although nobody was hired to fill Lilja's shoes. On certain occasions such as tonight, former member Manninen aids the group in a live cellist capacity. Issued in September 2007, sixth album Worlds Collide proves to be the full length effort which Apocalyptica are currently plugging.
Classified by certain critics as belonging to the genres of Doom and Gothic Metal, German act Lacrimas Profundere assume the support slot. A fresh chapter, original vocalist Christopher Schmid quit in April 2007 due to stress, related to touring. Peter Kafka occupied the vacancy, although bassist Daniel Lechner left several months later. Kafka opted to handle bass duties, whilst Rob Vitacca offered to supply vocals. Aiming for pastures new, touring alongside Apocalyptica strides abundant lengths towards achieving that. Vitacca's voice pledges its identity in the opening track's initial seconds, and ultimately possesses deep, distinct tones. Casting an icy glare, his grave pupils fall upon the crowd. Worth his very salt as a live vocalist, Vitacca captures the spirited drive and raw emotion which lies at the heart of the group. Mysterious elements shroud the frontman, seductive facets which can be attributed to the man's sparkling, virginal qualities in comparison to audible delights heard in past times. Customarily weighty riffing remains nonetheless, although electronic components amalgamate compatible ingredients. Longtime admirers usually lament the departure of a said frontman, but Vitacca's chords boast a dusky, sinister trait. The dawn of a new beginning, Lacrimas Profundere's forthcoming years will be seemingly radiant.
The genially spirited audience especially anticipate the headlining act, and lightly wrestle towards ever greater vantage points. Dark, ominous silhouettes cast shadows upon the stage, belonging to four chairs crafted in the shape of skull-like cellos. Several evident holes afflict the chairs, and shimmering bars of light penetrate. The lights immediately fade away, whereas a spotlight solely contemplates drummer Mikko Stren. Stren raises his palms in the air, a gesture of thanks towards tonight's attendees. Apocalyptica's four cellists make a welcome appearance, and acknowledge the awaiting audience. Each lift their respective cellos, and sit in the allocated chairs. Commencing with the chosen setlist, the group opt to perform a classical piece. Drums spontaneously enter the fray, unleashing a hellish fury. Toppinen and Kivilaakso rise to their very feet, and frenzied moshing suspends the hair. Understanding the cue, audience members begin to participate. If there wasn't a commitment to photograph the concert, nor a lean hairstyle, then yours truly would also have partaken. The music seamlessly shifts between Metal and Classical stylings, an astonishing feat. A much acclaimed reinterpretation of Metallica's “One” (originally featured on Apocalyptica's second full length, namely 1998's Inquisition Symphony) is richly showcased, and the audience kindly supplies the words. Classical masterpieces unfurl, a wondrous spectacle to behold. Whenever most guitarists ponder “One”'s guitar solo, the thought in itself is a frightening prospect. Apocalyptica successfully replicate the piece via a cello however, demonstrating their vast musical skills. A distorted noise emanates from the cellos, one that could possibly be mistaken for a guitar-esque ambience during various instances. By their very nature, cellos are heavy instruments which prove awkward to handle. However, Kivilaakso occasionally handles the cello in the vein of a guitar. The application of these classical instruments bear a commanding potency tonight, and the audience express their warm affection. When tomorrow morning arrives, sore, aching necks will surely plague a hefty amount of tonight's spectators.