Eicca Toppinen (Apocalyptica) – 'Classical music is bombastic and massive and metal has the same essence'
Finnish quartet celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos
A few years ago a census found that Finland had more metal bands per capita than any other country. So it should come as no surprise that even their best classical musicians are also metal heads. 'It must be the weather,' laughs Apocalyptica's Eicca Toppinen. 'People go mad in the winter time because there is no light and in the summer there is no dark, so we get quite bi-polaric.'
Toppinen is one of four cellists that form the core of Apocalyptica alongside Paavo Lötjönen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Antero Manninen (who is returning for this tour after leaving the band in 2009). While studying at the internationally renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki they started playing metal and hard rock covers at parties.
However Toppinen doesn't consider the two worlds are as far removed as people think. 'Some classical music is bombastic and massive and metal has the same essence, being big and high-energy. For me most types of music have something in common. You can get the same emotions and feelings from very different types of music. I can get the same strong vibes from Massive Attack as an epic metal band like Tool. Music can have the same soul, no matter if it's classical or metal or even pop music.'
It was Metallica that first really struck a chord with Toppinen: 'When I heard the song "Orion", on the Master of Puppets album, it blew me away. I was 13 years old and have been a hardcore fan ever since. Metallica are very special, they have the anarchistic attitude of thrash metal from the late 80s but it still has a beautiful tonality.'
When someone approached them with the idea of making a record Toppinen initially thought they were joking. 'We thought we'd maybe sell 1000 albums in Finland, now we've sold over one million copies of our first album [Plays Metallica by Four Cellos] and played over 1500 shows on every continent.'
Metallica themselves soon heard about this group of mad Finnish classical musicians paying tribute to their music. 'We opened for them in 1996, only our fifth gig after the release of our first album, the guys came to see the show and they really loved it. Since then we've played as an opening band for them many times.' Apocalyptica even played with their heroes as part of Metallica's legendary 30th anniversary celebrations at the Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco in 2011.
Apocalyptica broadened their horizons on second album, Inquisition Symphony, with Faith No More, Pantera and Sepultura alongside four new Metallica covers. For 2001's Cult Apocalyptica they decided to record their own material. 'After two albums of playing covers we needed to write our own music so we could find our own identity,' explains Toppinen.
At heart an instrumental quartet, their later releases have included guest spots from Till Lindemann (Rammstein), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Gavin Rossdale (Bush) and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil). 2008's 'I Don't Care', featuring Three Day Grace's Adam Gontier on vocals, spent a year on the American rock charts.
Never turning their back on the world of classical, all four members of Apocalyptica continue to work with various orchestras in their down time. Toppinen and Kivilaakso went on to co-write a full opera, Indigo, for The Finnish National Opera in 2016.
Now they are revisiting their debut album for a series of very special gigs to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. 'In the first half of the show we play the album from beginning to end. For the second half our drummer Mikko [Sirén] has created a very unique percussion set, but the whole night is Metallica songs. For us it's like a concept tour, going back to our roots to something we did 20 years ago but with all the knowledge and miles we've travelled.'
Apocalyptica play Mancheste's Bridgewater Hall on Mon 27 Feb; Edinburgh's Queens Hall on Tue 28 Feb; London's Royal Festival Hall on Wed 1 Mar.
YouTube: Apocalyptica – Battery: