For almost 20 years punters have waited for this iconic band to tour Australia and finally, our patience has been well rewarded.

Apocalyptica dipped their toes into three states, in what seemed like a testing of the waters. Perhaps they could not imagine that a band that’s a beloved part of the metal sub-culture in Finland could hold any interest in a country that is just about as far from the Arctic Circle as you could get.

Well, reading into the welcome they received in Melbourne on this night, they could only conclude that they are very well loved in these climes and that their tour here was truly overdue.

A lot can be learned about a band by observing the punters who flock to the gigs. At this event, there were the usual metal-heads, goths and punks in attendance, but it was plain to see that the music of Apocalyptica appeals to a broader demographic. Surprisingly, the crowd was liberally sprinkled with slim, blonde, bayside, housewife types who were perhaps either into the band as youngsters or had latched on to the symphonic aspect of the music. Whatever the appeal, it made for a full house and a palpable excitement.

Originally formed as a covers band, Apocalyptica have since forayed into the world of original music, and now each set is a mix of old favourites and new masterpieces.

Apocalyptica meld classical music with heavy rock to create something contemporary and technically brilliant. Unique in that they make their music by playing cellos and drums, the classically trained musicians can get sounds out of those beasts that defy logic.

Eicca Toppinen  (lead songwriter and cellist), Mikko Siren (drums, double bass), Paavo Lotjonen (cello), and Perttu Kivilaakso (cello) use their instruments like visual artists use a palette. Instrumental tracks rely on aural variety and musical precision to keep punters focussed. The bows drawn across strings elicited notes that rose and fell, screamed and lulled, excited and calmed; and in all that, communicated emotions that only the most gifted storytellers could convey.

The instrumental track “Beautiful” was recorded with the guys undressed (naked! starkers!), and though they were decently attired at the gig, when they performed this track live, it was obvious that physical nakedness was symbolic. Indeed, “Beautiful” is one of the most naked, raw and honest pieces that has ever graced a stage.

Some would say that the vocals of Tippe Johnson distracted from the music, though he did an admirable job of providing a voice for songs such as “Not Strong Enough”. Punters bonded over their love of Apocalyptica’s instrumental version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”, and crooned the lyrics in nostalgic union.

During heavier numbers, Toppinen and Kivilaakso ‘helicoptered’ their hair around in a frenzy, whilst still managing to keep in tune and time. Siren played drums like an automaton; his talent and apparent stamina and strength providing a steadfast beat through epic tunes.

The audience chanted for more when the main set was over, and were awarded with three more songs that included riffs from the unofficial Australian anthem ‘Thunderstruck” and the beautiful “Ode To Joy”. Highlighting to all the gig’s diversity and how far from their roots they have come considering they started their journey in the 90s by sawing away at their cellos to Metallica tunes… not that there’s any shame in that.

So warm was the reception to this band, and such excitement did they create, that we can be certain it won’t be another 20 years before they hit our shores again, and that can only be a wonderful thing.

– Sharon Brookes

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