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Live Reviews : Apocalyptica @ Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane 27/09/2019

By on September 28, 2019

Image: Rebecca Reid
Words: Gene Banyard

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Once upon a time in 1996 Finland, Eino Matti “Eicca” Toppinen decided that he wanted to channel his classically trained cello skills to celebrate his love of Heavy Metal, in particular, his love of Metallica. Mission and concept in mind, Eicca gathered together 3 other Finnish, cello playing headbangers and formed Apocalyptica. Then, they set about recording their aptly titled masterpiece Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Twenty years later, they remaster the album, slap on some bonus tracks and set off on a world tour (and even produce a live offering of their efforts in 2018). And, in 2019, once more, they wash up on to Brisbane’s shore to play the newly constructed Fortitude Music Hall; whose acoustics, aesthetics and service are simply delicious.

The four took to their seats, readied their cello’s and belted out powerful renditions of ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Master of Puppets’ before making their introductions and welcoming the audience to their night’s entertainment. This is the second time I have seen Apocalyptica play and what I love about their performance is that they are not what you expect. Yes, they take their music very seriously especially when it is sourced from artists that inspired them to be a “band” in the first place but they also have a great sense of humour and a huge sense of fun and love for what they are doing, which makes it all the more enjoyable and poignant as an audience member.

Formalities attended to, they made their way through the rest of the album, in sequential track order, with the addition of a bonus track from the 2016 re-mastering. Apocalyptica’s musicianship is stunning. The way they are able to merge the high pitch speed and technical ferocity of thrash metal guitaring with the subtlety, nuance and resonance of classical cello is at times, utterly mind-blowing. They can make their instruments chant in unison and then sing in solos that would make Kirk Hammett proud. The acoustics of the newly constructed Fortitude Music Hall propelled the quality of Apocalyptica’s sound into another dimension with distinct clarity whilst the lighting scheme helped highlight the band as individuals and as a tight, polished unit.

After a nostalgic “brief intermission”, Eicca announces that the second half of tonight’s proceedings will be more “rock and roll” and then the band – Eicca Toppinen– rhythm cello, keyboards (1993–present), Paavo Lötjönen – bass cello (1993–present) , Perttu Kivilaakso – lead cello (1995, 1999–present), rhythm cello (1995, 1999–2002) , Mikko Sirén – drums (2003–present) proceeded to belt out Metallica’s Orion. This set the tone for Act II of the concert, as the talented quartet with the inclusion of percussionist Mikko, made their way through a selection of Metallica notable favourites and showed why they are as much the products of Heavy Metal clubs as Classical Music-halls.

Overall, this was a brilliant performance by a group of accomplished musicians showing love to their musical icons and celebrating their time together as musical peers and metalhead friends. Be sure to check out this stunning show if you can and if not, Eicca finished the night off by saying that Apocalyptica will be back to Australia and this Aussie could not be happier about it.