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Biography

In the lore of heavy metal only a handful of artists can claim to have changed history, and even fewer can say they’ve done so twice. Enter Apocalyptica and one of metal’s greatest, most unlikely success stories. By any account it’s the stuff of legend, and it’s about to come full circle.
Cast your mind back thirty years. The giants of the 70s and 80s still ruled the scene, but a generation of up-and-coming artists were pushing hard on the boundaries of heavy music, and then Apocalyptica came along and smashed them down with cello case.
 
Formed in 1993 at the world-renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, Apocalyptica began life as a loving, lo-fi nod to Metallica from four classically-trained musicians with no greater ambition than to explore their favourite band’s music with their chosen instrument. As founding band leader Eicca Toppinnen explains, the project would take on a life of its own when they finally released Plays Metallica By Four Cellos in 1996. More than a debut, it was a monster in waiting.
 
“We just loved Metallica and we wanted to play it with the instruments we were able to play, which just happened to be cellos,” says Eicca. “We played a metal club in Helsinki, and then we were asked to do an album and we thought the guy must be kidding. Like, who listens to this shit on record? And then like five months after it was released we were opening for Metallica. It’s still unbelievable to me.” 
 
Unbeknownst to Apocalyptica, they’d just boarded a rocket ship that would propel them through eight rapturously received records, a staggering six million records sold, and a relentless touring schedule that would see them bringing their uniquely symphonic concept of heaviness to every time zone and countless festival stages around the world. 
More importantly, the band would evolve and grow beyond the bounds of their beginning as a loving tribute to Metallica, establishing themselves as gifted songwriters in their own right. A host of collaborations would follow with artists as far-ranging as Ville Valo of HIM, Bullet For My Valentine, Rammstein’s Till Lindemann, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, and Slayer and Mr. Bungle drum hero Dave Lombardo among many others. 
 
But for all of Apocalyptica’s countless achievements and recognition, there is perhaps one that stands above all others. They would come to know and befriend Metallica themselves, and it is that relationship which would see them not just performing at Metallica’s 30th anniversary shows in 2011 among other highlights, but cementing a friendship behind the scenes that would bespeak a powerful, mutual respect between the musicians. And it was off the back of another anniversary – when Apocalyptica’s debut Plays Metallica by Four Cellos turned 25 – that the idea came about. The response to that marathon tour, totalling over 200 shows, was hard to ignore.
 
“We played the full first album and it was so much more fun and exciting than we expected,” says Eicca. “We got the idea to do something like the first album, but we couldn’t do it in exactly the same way – we needed to challenge ourselves and bring a totally new perspective to the original energy and emotion of Metallica.”
 
The result was nothing short of a sonic love-letter – an album they’d simply, elegantly title Plays Metallica, Vol. 2, and the passion poured into the recording project by Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso, Paavo Lötjönen and Mikko Sirén – the band’s long-time drummer who after completion of this album leaves amicably on this unique high-note – is plain to hear and see. Perttu Kivilaakso concurs, adding that the new album – produced by longtime collaborator and studio supremo Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, Tool, Nine Inch Nails) – was more than another selection of hits. 
 
“We’ve been talking about making another Metallica album for around 20 years, as there were still so many great songs we wanted to play! We waited for the perfect moment to do it. Thinking of that teenage me who is now getting to play his favorite tracks gives me goosebumps! Out of maybe 20 tracks, nine made it onto the album, and we needed to figure out which songs from the latest albums would work, too.”
 
And judging by the deep cuts and recent highlights making up Apocalyptica’s ninth album, this is no mere best-of. As Eicca explains, it’s an expression of Metallica’s massive dynamic and creative range. And it’s about more than which tracks. It’s who’s on it. 
“I’ve become really good friends with the guys over the years, because our journey started with them,” he says. “We opened for Metallica for two nights, and Lars was so blown away – he flew to Helsinki earlier than the rest of the band so he could see our show, and the next day the whole band was there. We’ve never asked anything from them, and they’re such great people. Lars is the guy who makes things happen – he has this endless vision.”
 
The ensuing conversation would see Apocalyptica not just continuing their unique homage to one of the greatest metal bands of all time. It would see them actually featuring a member of Metallica on the album – enter bassist Rob Trujillo, a storming rendition of The Four Horsemen as a lead single, and the promise of more surprises to come.
 
“It’s the coolest thing,” says Eicca. We didn’t push - it was offered. Metallica have always done things with passion, and they’ve always been brave enough to do different things. They don’t ignore the fans but they aren’t servants, either. There’s honour in that struggle and a certain honesty in everything that they do, and that’s true for us, too.”

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