CONCERT REVIEW: APOCALYPTICA Bring Sheer Musical Intensity and Raw Energy to Orlando (April 8th, 2022)

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Since they began  deep in the unknown with their novel premise, an uncertain reception awaiting the deep strings that filled out the heavy body of “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” in 1996, and all the way to their poignant and recent single “I’ll Get Through It” that features Geezer Butler of BLACK SABBATH on bass guitar, Finnish quartet APOCALYPTICA have leaped from the confines that named their genre with almost dutiful grace to strike truly genre-transcendent accolades.

Cellists Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen accompanied by drummer Mikko Sirén have reached a point in their evolution as a band where musical complexity, raw emotion, and technical dexterity come together in complete synergy to deliver an unparalleled combination of graceful beauty and inexorable fury, one that was in true display during their pristine and masterfully presentation at The Plaza Theater in Orlando this past Friday.

The night opened with the haunting notes of “Ashes of the Modern World,” a song that initially ebbs and flows in a subtle and somber melody of almost funerary vibes to later catapults into a pure speed and thrash-fueled distortion pulling the audience abruptly from ice into unyielding fire. From that moment on it was clear we were witnessing a special event, with the three men behind the cellos alternating tension, intensity, and atmosphere with the sheer beauty of their hands moving in sharp and shrieking attacks on cello strings, while the pounding and mathematical accuracy of Sirén behind the drumkit added an element of stylistic heavy metal aggression.
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“Path” and “Grace” managed to continue the momentum, but it was when Toppinen introduced Franky Perez, that the excitement rose to unexpected levels. Perez took the mic and the band launched into “I’m not Jesus”, with the audience’s energy and frantic enthusiasm rivalling the enthralling impetus on display before our eyes. Franky belted the song effortlessly, adding a vivacious touch wrapped in his stage presence and immaculate voice, one that continued with “Not Strong Enough” after which he disappeared backstage, leaving the stage set for the Finns to serve another cut from their latest studio album. “Rise” emerged as a ray of warm sunlight, delivering bright and gentle notes that evoked feelings of peace and restfulness, and it was followed by the showstopper that is “En Route to Mayhem”, which started with a buildup brough forth by the jarring bite from Mikko Siren’s drums to later dive into nearly two full minutes of almost raw thrash, with the cello notes resonating only a dash above madness.
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At that point I thought the night had reached its climax, but I was completely wrong. Perez re-appeared in the midst of a complete ovation, and the first notes of “I’ll Get Through It” dominated the airwaves while a myriad of cellphones flashlights slowly illuminated the darkness. Moving around the stage and engaging with those in the first rows, Franky added a truly exceptional element to the fluidity and cinematic grandeur of the instrumentalists. The triple punch of “Shadowmaker” – one of my all-time favorite tracks from the band’s repertoire and one where Perez really shone with his own light, alternating between clean vocals and growls – “Life Burns!” and the mighty and evocative “I Don’t Care” was probably the highlight point for me, with almost every soul singing along the verses.
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They made the world aware of their unique blend of contemporary metal covers and original orchestral pieces with renditions of Metallica, and it was obvious they would play some of those songs. “Nothing Else Matters” saw Eicca, Perttu and Paavo sitting in chairs with the stage lights focusing on them, to accentuate the sumptuousness of the song. After such touching moment they upped the ante with an entirely insane and at the same time splendid rendition of “Seek and Destroy”, with each member plucking, strumming, and making their upbows and downbows appear to be elegantly violent, re-affirming the sensation that we were beholding a band is in a class of their own – and  even adding an interlude of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” for a good measure – before waving goodbye to a theater that shouted and clapped non-stop for several minutes.

Fortunately for us all they returned after some minutes to play two more songs: the delicate and meditative “Farewell” and their frenzy, soul-lurking and commanding take of Edvard Grieg‘s classical piece “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” closing the night intertwining chaos and destruction in the form musical notes.
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In musical landscape where is harder and harder to stumble upon music that really captures your attention for being inventive and challenging, these Finnish cello wielding quartet still maintain an originality that no one or no band can ever take away from them. Reimagining the lines between rock, metal and classical music, and mastering surging power and shifts in mood, these maestros weave melodies and play those cellos like you have never heard before. Catch their closest show to your neck of the woods, and get ready for a journey of brooding, hypnotic and borderline merciless musical explorations.

APOCALYPTICA Setlist:

Ashes of the Modern World / Path / Grace / I’m Not Jesus (with Franky Perez) / Not Strong Enough (with Franky Perez) / Rise  / En Route to Mayhem / Scream for the Silent / I’ll Get Through It (with Franky Perez) / Shadowmaker (with Franky Perez) / Life Burns! (with Franky Perez) / I Don’t Care (with Franky Perez) / Nothing Else Matters (Metallica cover) / Inquisition Symphony (Sepultura cover) / Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover with AC/DC’s  “Thunderstruck” interlude)

Encore:

Farewell  / In the Hall of the Mountain King (Edvard Grieg cover)

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