Live Gig Review and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
When I first heard the announcement of Apocalyptica’s headlining tour, I knew that I was meant to be there. One of the few shows that I consider imperative to attend. It is not very often to see talented cellists perform Heavy Metal music on an instrumental scale. To think that it was twenty years ago this year when they released their debut 1996 album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. The anniversary is what initiated the tour, however, continuing to support 2015’s release of Shadowmaker, which was evident on the night of Friday, May 20th, 2016 at Irving Plaza in New York City. On this particular evening, I was exceptionally eager to see Apocalyptica as Metallica is and will always be my number one favorite band. To be honest, I wanted to hear Apocalyptica play non-stop Metallica covers since I have been hooked with their from day one. Hearing Apocalyptica album wise for the first time was a mesmerizing experience, and I could not wait to hear them live for the first time. Apparently endless Metallica covers did not happen but, magic and musical bliss was alive and kicking this night.
The evening started off with an unsettling rush where it became close for me not to be able to cover nor attend the show at all. It was a brief scare and luckily I had plenty of time to catch North Carolina Rockers, Failure Anthem open. The group is quite fresh to the scene as they formed in 2013 and only recently their debut studio album First World Problems was released under Razor & Tie records. This night there was a different face due to JD Eubanks (lead vocalist) not being able to attend the performance if I remember correctly, he went to support his wife giving birth to their baby. Filling in for JD was surprisingly a female, Letters From The Fire’s lead singer Alexa Kabazie. The rest of the members who were there include Kile Odell (lead guitar), Wil Andrews (rhythm guitar), Ryan Nimmo (bass/backing vocals) and Zane Frye (drums). Alexa had this incredible energy and spunk where if you didn’t know this band you would think she was naturally part of the group. Failure Anthem promoted the new album with tracks such as “The Ghost Inside,” “Just a Wasteland,” “First World Problems,” “Paralyzed,” and “I Won’t Say Goodbye.” An enjoyable act to see especially for being the first band of the night. I highly recommend everyone to check out their debut album First World Problems.
Next up were Knoxville Tennessee Alternative Metallers 10 Years. Jesse Hasek (lead vocals), Ryan Johnson (guitar/screams), Chad Huff (bass/guitar), Kyle Mayer (drums/keyboard), and Matt Wantland (guitar) are always known to put on a terrific live show for the fans. Hasek alone typically has tricks up his sleeve. It was less than a year ago when I saw them headline at the Gramercy Theatre in support of their seventh studio album From Birth to Burial that was released back in 2015. One year later on this evening, 10 Years continue to support the album as mentioned above and this time around Hasek took me off guard from the moment he walked onto the stage. The set kicked off with “From Birth to Burial” and “Miscellanea” in darkish blue lights as Hasek wore this horror-esque mask. It was interesting and a bit unexpected but the mask soon came off as Hasek revealed his regular hoodie and chill look while songs continued to fuel the crowd with tracks “Waking Up” from 2005’s The Autumn Effect, “Fix Me” from 2010’s Feeding The Wolves and “The Autumn Effect.” The energy continued along with Hasek’s unpredictability as he sprung onto the barricade and sung directly to the audience. More songs from across their career hit with “Beautiful” from 2008’s Division, “Wasteland,” from The Autumn Effect and Knives from 2012’s Minus the Machine. Hasek opened up to the audience and thanked the fans, mentioning how grateful they are for the support where they would not have survived all of these years as a band if it wasn’t for them. Shifting to the final song of “School it Out” from 2010’s Feeding the Wolves where Hasek jumped up towards the balcony and soon fell into the audience to crowd surf back to the stage. This is not the last of 10 Years as they will be touring an Acoustic set with Hinder.
Finally, it was time for Apocalyptica to take the stage and entrance the audience with unique cello mastery. Drummer Mikko Sirén walked onto the platform first and took his stance where he showcased animated facial expressions to pump up the audience. Perttu Kivilaakso looked like he had some injury on his ankle since he was seated during the whole time. However, that did not stop him from performing with excellence. Paavo Lötjönen, the only short-haired cellist, eagerly walked on as Eicca Toppinen took center stage. Opened up with three instrumental tracks from the get-go with “Reign of Fear” from Shadowmaker, the Sepultura cover of “Refuse/Resist” from 1998’s Inquisition Symphony and “Grace” from 2007’s Worlds Collide. All though there was no Slipknot’s/Stone Sour’s frontman Corey Taylor, there was touring guest vocalist Franky Perez, who walked on stage just in time for “I’m Not Jesus” from 2007’s Worlds Collide. The set continued with headbanging and cello mastery especially from Toppinen, as non-Metallica cover tracks continued with songs “House of Chains” and “Perttu Doodle.”
As the set continued to progress, fans looked engaged, but an incredibly familiar sound ignited that not even after three notes of this song I and many others ran as close to the stage as possible during Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” from Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (1996). Hearing this song live compared to the album was a genuine experience where everyone sang to the lyrics that were not there and swayed along during the initial instrumental breakdown. It was an intense moment for many Metallica fans, myself included. Covers continued to move in when they went into the Sepultura cover of “Inquisition Symphony” from 1998’s Inquisition Symphony. Changing the pace as they moved into the next “Bittersweet” from the 2005 self-titled album brought in a constant movement on the platform. Toppinen asked the crowd if they watched their latest video of their cover of Metallica’s “Battery,” fans cheered and screamed briefly hoping that this would be the next song as Toppinen continued and said, “well, you should watch it.” Despite the cruel joke they did move in with another Metallica cover and they went with “The Unforgiven” and it was another spot on tune. As the night appeared to be getting late, it was still early in the set as they went into “Shadowmaker” and the favorable “Not Strong Enough” from 2010’s 7th Symphony.
Here is where the night took an interesting turn, and this is where I would have preferred to hear “Battery,” “Fade to Black” or even “Creeping Death” but surprisingly Apocalyptica went into Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy.” This song has not been released thus far. However, it will be on the re-issue of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos that is set out for this upcoming July. Now I’m a huge Metallica fan where I recognize nearly every single note so maybe I’m being a bit too critical here but this song despite the fans interacting well with it, it seemed short, and it looked like there were a few mistakes along the way as well. Maybe it was an off night for them or perhaps they need to practice this one a few more times before playing it live. With that aside, I did enjoy it myself and kept singing along to it as it reminded me of the times I have seen Metallica live. Apocalyptica moved back in time during the Classical genius era of Edvard Grieg by performing their rendition of “Hall of the Mountain King” from 2000’s Cult album. I was taken back during this piece; it was beautiful to hear and watch live, but the magic did not stop there.
Apocalyptica left the stage for a brief moment as many fans waited for the Encore. The lights were dim and suddenly, similar to a Metallica show, lights flickered in with sounds of an agonizing War erupted. I knew what this meant as the song “One” came on next which is featured in the second studio album 1998’s Inquisition Symphony. I was nearly in tears during this song it was an immaculate performance, and I did not notice any mistakes. The crowd was glued to this piece as everyone shared this moment together, which is the beauty of live music within itself. I let myself go, and I did not care who I was near as the power and energy Apocalyptica was giving off that night indeed bounced onto me and everyone else. My heart melted when the song was over as they concluded the set with “I Don’t Care” from Worlds Collide” and “Dead Man’s Eyes” from Shadowmaker.
Apocalyptica has confirmed that it is a show that no one should pass up for fans of Rock, Classical, Metal, and all in between. An evening that I will never forget, and I am sure the same can go with everyone else that was there. Hopefully, next time they will play “Fade to Black,” but with that aside, they have proven to perform just about anything and captivate a crowd. Their original work and cover tracks are both equally remarkable.