Sound: If you don't believe that a cellist has the ability to shred up there with the likes of Kirk Hammett, well then you probably haven't seen the band Apocalyptica. The Finnish band comprised of 3 cellists (4 for the live show) and a drummer go way beyond mimicking rock songs on classical instruments, and actually has a stage presence that puts most contemporary rock bands to shame. These guys are obviously loving what they're doing and it comes out loud and clear in the DVD The Life Burns Tour.
While Apocalyptica has been around for more than 10 years, it's a shame that the band hasn't gotten a bit more attention. It's hard to grasp that cellists could actually create a sound that could easily be mistaken for a collection of guitarists, but Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lutjunen, and Perttu Kivilaakso do a respectable job at the task. The Life Burns Tour features just as many Metallica covers as it does original material, and because of this you're able to get a better grasp of the fine line between guitar and cello.
With 20 tracks included in the live stage show, you get a dose of both the metal and classical worlds. The band wisely included 6 Metallica songs, which are easily recognizable and immediately get the audience pumped. After that, it's up to the band to prove itself. Master Of Puppets is a phenomenal version, allowing the cellos to go from pounding electric in one moment, and then sweet, lulling instruments the next. When you add in the band's charisma and fiery stage show (lots of pyrotechnics in this one), Apocalyptica deserves just as much attention as any other metal band.
There is plenty of original material as well for those who think the band is more of a novelty act. Hands-down the best original song is Fisheye, which combines a furious metal rhythm with some fantastic Middle-Eastern-style riffs. In most of the tracks, the cellists are allowed to arise from their chairs and whip their hair around, then scream at the audience to make sure a good time is being had by all. It's a fascinating watch and it's hard to take your eyes off the band's amazing musicianship. // 9
Content: The concert alone will give you plenty of viewing time in The Life Burns Tour, and it's definitely the highlight. Each of the 20 songs offers a little something different from the last one, with the band never remaining in the same place for long. Rock fans might be torn by the lack of vocals, but if you love a good guitar solo, then you'll be equally as intrigued by the cello solos. The stage show also features excellent covers of Rammstein and Sepultura.
Along with seeing the band play live, there is a behind-the-scenes look at both the making of The Life Burns Tour as well as the single Repressed. After seeing the band play live, you'll likely be more than a little curious to know about the musicians' background. There's a great documentary explaining why the trio picked up their cellos in the first place, with the only drawback being that you can't always understand their accents 100 percent of the time.
Seven videos are included in the DVD, and it's interesting to hear the difference between the studio and live recordings. The band just sounds a lot rawer in the stage show, but the videos do include some great guest appearances, with Nina Hagen singing in Seemann and Bullet For My Valentine's Matt Tuck and Sepultura/Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera in Repressed. // 9
Production Quality: There's not much negative that can be said about the production quality from beginning to end. Director Paul Hauptmann used a nice combination of angles throughout the entire concert, which also had a bit of an artistic flair to the whole thing. While some directors miss out on key moments during solos, Hauptmann didn't miss a beat.
The bonus material didn't skimp on a camera budget either. So many bands these days use their own hand-held cameras to use on their behind-the-scenes footage that it's nice to see what goes on backstage without worrying about the camera shaking too much. With the videos, they all have that same artistic direction to them, but Repressed definitely pushes the envelope in a good way. That video has a bit more manic approach and is likely to be a favorite among metal purists. // 10
Overall Impression: Apocalyptica will make fans out of a lot of new people with the latest DVD. Granted, there are no vocals in the live show and that may scare some people off a bit. But you honestly will probably be so intent on how Toppinen, Lutjunen, and Kivilaakso are making their cellos sound so unique that a vocalist would just be an unnecessary distraction.
If you haven't heard of Apocalyptica, go see if you can come across any of the band's live footage online. It will give you a good indication why The Life Burns Tour DVD is such a unique release. It's so refreshing to see a group of guys get so into their performance and have the talent to back it up as well. After a decade-long career, Apocalyptica will hopefully get some much-deserved attention from this live DVD. // 9