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
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