I was beyond excited to see Apocalyptica last night. Not because I’m a fan (perhaps now I am?) but because I’ve never seen them before! Yes, this seasoned concert veteran has never seen an incredibly renowned group such as Apocalyptica even though they play a concert in Zagreb, compared to some bands, every third weekend.
I discovered the band the same most people have, by stumbling upon their outstanding Metallica covers sometime during middle school. When ordinary metal just didn’t cut it, Apocalyptica was the ace up the sleeve to show other kids how cool, yet cultured you are. Teenage years are tough for everyone but they can be the toughest financially; banging names are in town nearly every month and those ticket prices can be quite steep if you’re not earning any real money or saving for some boots. Realizing I’ve never before joined these Finnish gentlemen for an evening of cello medley made me a bit disappointed. I decided to stop taking Apocalyptica for granted and join the legion of fans coming from far and wide to greet them every time they visit Croatia. After all, there must be a good reason they keep returning again and again.
Tvornica kulture is a perfect venue for this kind of concert. Its long balcony, large fan pit and specific shape enable you to see and hear the concert quite well from almost any angle. Undoubtedly, the sound was impressive. Probably not as fantastic as their 2017 Lisinski concert, but many remarked on the improved sound quality compared to their last appearance in Tvornica in 2015, before the renovations. It’s natural for sound to be the main concern, but if you distinctly remember lights at a show, it’s because they were either spectacularly exotic or spectacularly bad. Neither was the case yesterday, and yet the lights played an essential role in making this concert a smooth, seamless, gliding experience from start to finish. As much as we wanted to see them, they wanted to see us, and we basked in soft, white light with the occasional bursts of color making the dramatic parts even more invigorating while not distracting us from the music or the charismatic figures on stage.
The male version of Giselle Bündchen, Apocalyptica’s frontman Eicca Toppinen turned out to be a pretty funny guy! I’ve heard reports of some more ‘formal’ shows where they carry themselves a lot more seriously and I’m glad this one wasn’t such. The contrary, we had the privilege of enjoying possibly one of the friendliest, most relaxed concerts of this caliber. The venue was filled at about 75% capacity resulting in a comfortable atmosphere with room to breathe, move and vibe all around. Such a large audience and Paavo Lötjönen still managed to flirt with every single person for at least a second or two. My God, these guys are professionals we can all learn much from! The drum kit was a massive and equally fascinating contraption, the likes of which I’d never seen before, with long spiral cymbals serving as stage decor. Their master Mikko Sirén is an absolute madman. I’ve no idea how can a man be so rabid, yet such a machine at the same time. Half of the Black metal drummers that I awed at no longer impress me as much. Hats off to you, sir!
Going along with the instrumental vibe of their latest album, not a lot needed to be said to achieve a great chemistry with the crowd. “Cell-0” (pronounced Cell Zero!) is a contemporary masterpiece pushing the boundaries of metal and reinventing it yet again, while staying essentially, unquestionably metal as fuck. What a gigantic leap from ‘nerds that play Metallica on cellos’! This is the band’s first fully instrumental release since “Reflections” way back in 2003 (a later re-release contains an important vocal track, Nina Hagen’s take on Seemann). I was happy and relieved when I read that info. Apocalyptica likes to collaborate with all kinds of vocalists, you can take your pick from an interesting and dynamic variety of styles. Me? I’m good with just Helden, thanks. Metallica isn’t impossible to surpass, let’s be real, but Bowie? You need to be a living legend to outdo The Starman at his own game and Apocalyptica did just that, in my humble opinion. There is no way you can look me in the eyes and honestly say you like Heroes more than Helden.
Let’s not lament on the past, “Cell-0” is here and it’s monumental. Despite being vocal-free and cello-full, it’s not monotonous at all, not even for a moment. Again, a wide variety of tunes ranging from gentle to rallying. My favorite by far is the title track itself, with one definitive passage standing out and representing the entire album. Many share this impression, judging by the roars of approval when Eicca announced they’ll be playing the song…for the first time ever! I know “Cell-0” has seen the light of day less than two weeks ago, but it looks like touring with Sabaton doesn’t leave much space for performing ten-minute epics. This solo detour enabled them to not worry about the clock and play away.
If you missed last night’s cello magicians for any reason, do not sleep on them next time. Even if you’re not too acquainted with their grand opus, it won’t matter. The harmonious wave will catch you anyways and you’ll sail the evening away, your heart bobbing up and down with every movement of the bow. Not every band can bring such closeness and warmth to an event of this scale and make every soul in the audience feel like they were personally invited here. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to meet again soon enough because Apocalyptica will be back and that’s for fucking sure!