They are cellists. They graduated from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. They dress in black and wear eyeliner. They play Metallica. And Wagner. This is the second part of our series "The unexpected".
Just because a musician is classically trained doesn't mean he will play classical music for the rest of his life. If this was the case, life would be sad and awfully boring. Still, rock fans were amazed when a Finnish cello quartet called Apocalyptica released a first record containing Metallica covers only. Talk about a crossover. This was 1996 and success came as a surprise to the band. They have come a long way since their debut album but they have remained true to their primary source of inspiration: metal.
The band now consists of three cellists - Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen and Perttu Kivilaakso - and a drummer, Mikko Sirén. As they became more confident about their music and as they worked on defining an Apocalptica sound, their own compositions slowly replaced covers and their very personal style left the world of metal impressed. They have collaborated with established rockers like Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Till Lindemann (Rammstein) or Gavin Rossdale (Bush).
Until recently you could have defined Apocalyptica's style as metal with a twist. For their latest project that twist was that classical music played a bigger role than ever before. The project is called "Wagner Reloaded - Live in Leipzig" and the title only could give die-hard Wagnerians a heart attack. But the true shock comes from the fact that Toppinen confessed to being more a Shostakovich fan who doesn't even like opera that much. He eventually got into it but it means that twice as much work had to be done to give the project full credibility. "I didn't want to plunder Wagner's perfect compositions," he said in an interview. "I wanted to make them more exciting. I didn't want to add anything, I just wanted to compress the structures."
The result is a project with part of Wagner's work left untouched, part of it arranged by Toppinen and heavily sprinkled with metal sounds while the rest is Apocalyptica's own material. A tribute performed with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra in the composer's hometown just in time for his 200th birthday last year.