Apocalyptica Finally Tour In Support Of Cell-0 & Bring Down The House In Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA- I’ve always been of the opinion that heavy metal’s roots come from classical music. I won’t get into my reasoning or debate over the question of “What makes it metal?” here, but if you can’t hear the “metal” in “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” we’ll never see eye to eye.
Apocalyptica (cellists Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lötjönen accompanied by drummer Mikko Sirén) is a multi-platinum symphonic metal band from Helsinki, Finland, and its sound is based on a trio of cellos. Since 1996, they have been using classical instruments and techniques to shred audiences’ minds, and have been elevating arena rock to whole new levels. Even if you don’t think cellos are metal enough, why don’t you ask Sepultura, Dave Lombardo (Slayer), or Joe Duplantier (Gojira)- both of whom Apocalyptica worked with on prior albums- whether they are metal enough. The music is symphonic, head-banging, and metal. Period.
They released an album on January 10, 2020 titled Cell-0, but were unable to tour in support of the album becuase of the Covid pandemic. When I heard that they would be making a stop at The Belasco I noted it in my calendar. When I heard that Lacuna Coil would be joining them on this tour, I did a double take.
Lacuna Coil (currently consisting of founding members Cristina Scabbia, Andrea Ferro, and Marco Coti Zelati and Diego Cavallotti, and Richard Meiz) has been releasing killer albums since 1998, and their legion of fans is strong. So strong, in fact, that I was surprised that they were performing as a support for Apocalyptica. Surely, they would have been able to pack the Belasco as a headliner.
Their latest album, Black Anima, was released in October of 2019, and thankfully they were able to tour in support of that album before The Pandemic shut the world down. During the pandemic, they released a live album titled “Live From The Apocalypse” on June 25th, 2021. Perhaps that’s why they are touring in support of Apocalyptica? While there has been little news about new music, there have been some hints about new recordings getting done, but I guess we’ll have to wait to hear to get an official word. As for the live album, it was recorded in their hometown of Milan and it is culled from the audio of a live stream performance.
Of that performance Andrea stated:
“On one hand, it felt awkward to play for a huge empty room […] But, on the other hand, it felt great to finally reconnect with our fans at home and with the people working behind the scenes. A lot of people enjoyed the show—it was definitely a one-off event loaded with a lot of emotions and feelings. Live from the Apocalypse is an opportunity to offer a new release to our fans while the COVID-19 crisis is still a real thing, affecting them and us. The live album represents a unique moment in our career (and life) that will be forever remembered as that one time when we literally ‘rose from the Apocalypse.”
But nothing can really compare to actually seeing Lacuna Coil in concert. With Cristina and Andrea’s powerfully piercing vocals and the machine-like precision of their band shredding licks with the best of them, that live experience can’t be beaten. Add to that a crowd fully invested in the music, throwing up and pumping their horn-hands to the beat as one, you could feel how electric that room was.
Since there was no new music to promote, their setlist was filled with equal parts tracks from their latest studio album and their greatest hits. Though their setlist was surprisingly … at least to me… short (10 songs), it was impactful. Besides the Black Anima songs (“Reckless”, “Apocalypse”, “Layers of Tie”, “Save Me”, and “Venificium”) they ripped fan favorites, performing songs from every album cycle, including “Heaven’s A Lie” from Comalies, “Our Truth” from Karma Code, “Blood, Tears, Dust” from Delirium “Trip The Darkness”. I found it particularly poignant that they closed their set with “Nothing Stands In Our Way” from Broken Crown Halo. Released in 2014, it still felt like an extremely relevant “f*** you” to the turmoil of the past couple of years.
This was my first time seeing Lacuna Coil Perform, and I can honestly say Cristina’s voice sounded just as good live as it does on their recordings. A voice as pristine, robust, and powerful as hers singing metal like that? Bestill my headbanging heart.
As soon as their set ended, I turned to another random concertgoer, and proclaimed, “Damn, I want more”. That stranger then agreed with a “F***, yeah.” The fact that it had been close to three years since Lacuna Coil last went on tour and performed in large concert halls, you can tell that everybody in the band had little extra intensity to give. All of that pent-up aggression needed to get out, and they lay it all on the line at The Belasco.
With the crowd just coming down from their Lacuna Coil high, the room was ready for the musical mastery and mysticism of Apocalypica. I loved how they opened their set with “Ashes of the Modern World”. It opens with just the cellos playing a somber march that gradually crescendos, through the dynamically brooding drum arrangement, before morphing into a full-on thrasher jam. As someone in the photo pit who was up close to the stage for the first three songs, I was simply amazed at the amazing dexterity of each player’s hands/arm. When the thrashing section began, it was contained chaos on that stage. And the sounds, distorted and not, that they were pulling from their instruments were true revelations to me.
I”ll admit that my knowledge of Apocalyptica up the concert was limited to their instrumental arrangements/recordings. As a Metallica fan, I kinda just listened to their Plays Metallica by Four Cellos assuming they were just a 2Cellos kind of band. My bad. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when Franky Perez joined them on stage for a handful of songs throughout their performance. The addition of strong, tenor rock vocals to the lush cello instrumentation is a perfect pairing, and Franky’s performance fit the bill for a charismatic front-man.
This was my first time hearing Franky’s collaborations with Apocalyiptca, and I was duly impressed. Franky absolutely killed his songs, with his song, “Shadowmaker”, being a particular stand out for me.
They closed the evening performing the music that music that attracted me to them initially. Their covers of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” and “Seek & Destroy” highlighted their expert ability to demonstrate dynamic range, from seated meloncholy to wild abandon. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a metal band that played cellos, but needless to say all my assumptions were thrown out the window. This Finnish band rocks as hard as any metal band that I’ve seen in concert … they just do it with upright stringed instruments is all.
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