Apocalyptica is composed of three classically trained cellists: Paavo Lötjönen, Perttu Kivilaakso, and Eicca Toppinen, along with drummer Mikko Sirén who has a background in jazz.
These musicians are no joke. Kivilaakso won an international cello competition at the young age of eighteen, and soon after earned a lifetime chair in the Helsinki Philharmonic, which he gave up in 2007 so he could become dedicated to Apocalyptica full time.
Despite his current rock-world surroundings, Kivilaakso just recently composed an opera for the Finnish National Opera that will be premiered in January (2016) in Helsinki.
Kivilaakso presents his opera Indigo as an example of his classical side, but he says, “Of course, it has a little flavor from the rock world.”
“[We’re] a weird project, it started as an accident, nobody ever believed that we would be here,” said Kivilaakso. “At the start it was just a bunch of friends who wanted to drink beer and play the music that they love with the instruments they were able to play, which were just cellos. We didn’t plan on getting gigs. Step by step it started to get bigger with school parties and play[ing] our first gigs for a rock audience, and it started to spread. In the very beginning there were a lot of people who were suspicious.”
Lötjönen added, “Actually, I think the band itself was suspicious.
When Toppinen called Sirén, asking him to come try out for the band, Sirén’s reply was, “I don’t do that kind of music.”
Sirén further explained to me his response, “It wasn’t my cup of tea, and I knew that there were better drummers in Finland for that type of music.”
Sirén was merely being modest, having been rumored the best drummer in Finland not actively in a band.
When Sirén discovered I didn’t speak Finnish, his immediate response was, “You don’t speak Finnish?! What the f*ck!”
Their brilliant title track features bluesy vocals and an epic instrumental section showcasing a magnificent cello solo that rivals some of the best work of Iommi and Eddie Van Halen. Their classical influence is evident in this piece with its mood shifts and motifs, very reminiscent of Metallica’s symphonic albums.
Their lives shows are a whole different story. One might think that rocking and headbanging with cellos would be an awkward endeavor, but Apocalyptica effortlessly (and bad-ass-ly) disproves that assumption.
Kivilaakso and Toppinen, swing their long, blonde hair in circles as they viciously pound their bows against the strings in violent chord attacks.
Toppinen can be seen holding his cello upside down and over his head as he plays, and Lötjönen holds a face of serenity and contentment as he pounds out gothic lines from his instrument.
Sirén puts on a fantastic show as drummer; his skill is tenfold what you see in many metal drummers. His jazz training is clear by watching and listening to the music.
And if all of this isn’t enough, oftentimes on stage, Toppinen, Lötjönen, and Kivilaakso will stand facing each other, and have a musical duel of sorts. In the words of The Incredibles, it’s “totally wicked.”
Be sure to check out some of their music on YouTube. I suggest their song “I Don’t Care” featuring vocals by Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace), which I think is downright awesome.
Their song "Cold Blood" is equally awesome!
The instrumental "Reign of Fear" is fricking amazing!
Zoe Adler is a music journalist from Long Beach, California. Besides her website, which is her pride and joy, she works with the GRAMMY Foundation and the Long Beach Independent. Additionally, Ms. Adler is a musician, spending half of her time playing the flute, piccolo, trombone, and marching baritone. She has been with TeenView Music since the very start and hopes to make something of it in the future.