Dating back at least as far as Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra, heavy music has often flirted with orchestral sounds. Finland’s Apocalyptica have always been a unique expression of this blend, bringing the natural power and energy of the cello into a rock/metal setting. Their best example of this to date was the release of their seventh studio album Shadowmaker in 2015, and tonight’s gig at the Prince is part of the Australian leg of the world tour in support of the album.
But first up is Melbourne locals Sydonia. The opening slot can be an unrewarding task and this time, out the task is made that much harder with the band hitting the stage while a large part of the crowd is still trying to work their way through the doors. A murky mix with the drums dialled up too far and the bass lost doesn’t help much either. But they plough into a short set with plenty of energy and the crowd shows plenty of appreciation. A feature is the recently released single “Eyes of Sand” – a great song, even better live.
The expectation when walking into an Apocalyptica gig is that this is not your typical metal gig, and Sydney-based We Lost The Sea reaffirm that expectation from the moment they meander on stage. ‘Progressive post-rock’ may not be an Aria award category as yet, but WLTS are apparently trying to change that. Six members that include three guitarists, none of whom ever play anything resembling a conventional ‘solo’, and songs that follow a consistent format of long mellow intro followed by long not-mellow outro. With no vocalist, there’s also no microphone on stage which leads to zero interaction between band and audience. The gaps between songs consist of a lot of guitars returning while the audience chats amongst themselves. It’s all seems more suited to a late night jam session in a student union lounge at University. Once the Arias rework their categories, WLTS have it in the bag.
With the stage reset and the lighting dimmed, the crowd shakes off their lethargy as the intro tape Seed of Fear from “Shadowmaker” brings the band on stage and straight into Reign of Fear. It’s intense and frantic from the first moment, a pace that rarely lets up for the entire set. Ten minutes in and singer Franky Perez is brought on stage for the first time, unleashing an amazing rendition of I’m not Jesus. His vocal is faultless, and the near sellout crowd join in on what is clearly a favourite. Perez has been with the band for a few years now, recording and touring, yet is still a sort of part-time member given the large number of instrumentals they play. After powering through House of Chains Perez leaves the stage and Cellist Eicca Toppinen steps to the microphone to inform the crowd that it’s been 20 years since the band released Plays Metallica by Four Cellos – and they launch straight into Master of Puppets at an unbelievable pace. Lead Cellist Perttu Kivilaakso delivers the vocal melodies on his instrument with such unbridled enthusiasm, singing the words to himself as he plays. A little later it’s Seek and Destroy, provided with the same pure enjoyment. If only Metallica still played with this degree of passion and intensity. Perez returns for the title track Shadowmaker and I’m not Strong Enough before making way again for the finale – a classical offering in the shape of Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King. Hair flailing, cello bows flying, it’s fast and furious and so enjoyable.
A few minutes to let the crowd chant themselves hoarse and the band are back to kick the encore off with Metallica’s One. Again, intense and delivered with so much passion and enthusiasm. Band and crowd are loving it. Perez returns one final time, and the band end the night with I don’t Care before leaving the stage to massive applause and with a promise to return. It’s a great night, a perfect example of how rock and metal can push boundaries while still retaining the relentless energy that is at the core.
Apocalyptica for the win.
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