The combination sounds like a match made in hell — classically trained cellists from Finland playing heavy metal music.
Yet since 1993, Apocalyptica have wowed audiences worldwide, not to mention attracting fans in Rammstein, Slayer and Metallica.
In fact, the Finnish group began its career performing Metallica covers. A gig at a Helsinki club in late 1995 ultimately led Apocalyptica to a recording contract and its 1996 debut album, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos.
“The whole band began accidentally, and we didn’t really consider ourselves a real group at first,” cellist Perttu Kivilaakso says. “By our third album (that same year), there was a lot of interest from around the world in what we were doing. Because this was such a different thing — this weird band with weird instruments and weird guys.”
Metallica must have been impressed; Apocalyptica landed an opening slot on their tour stop of Helsinki in late ‘96 and is slated to share a concert bill with them again in Tucson, Ariz., in mid-May.
“We’re very lucky that we can be this cello metal rock band that does whatever it wants to do,” Kivilaakso says. “But we also wanted to find our own identity, moving away from the cover songs in order to create something original.”
Apocalyptica initially started out with just cello playing and no backing instrumentation. On its fourth studio album, 2003’s Reflections, the group featured Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo on five tracks and has made contributions ever since — including on Apocalyptica’s latest, Worlds Collide.
“At a festival in Belgium Dave came backstage and asked us if he could play along to a couple of songs,” Kivilaakso says. “Funny — we only had a 10-minute rehearsal with him. Afterwards, he said if we ever wanted to play with a studio drummer, he’d volunteer his services.”
For live shows, Apocalyptica added a drummer, Mikko Sirén, to their lineup.
Another element Apocalyptica wanted to explore was the use of vocals. German punk rock singer Nina Hagen provided the first contribution — covering Rammstein’s Seemann For Reflections. On Worlds Collide, contributing vocalists range from Till Lindemann (Rammstein), Cristina Scubbina (Lacuna Coil), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) to Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace).
“Of course the main thing for us is to have people focus on the instrumental performance,” Kivilaakso says. “It’s also crucial that we are open to new ideas and see how far we can go in breaking new ground.”