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The Inherent Beauty Of Music With EICCA TOPPINEN From APOCALYPTICA

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“To me, metal is more attitude.”

Eicca Toppinen

My first introduction to Apocalyptica was in 2007 through the song I’m Not Jesus, which featured Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor in an even more powerfully destructive performance than usual.

And that’s saying something.

And that, in a nutshell, is the best thing about artists collaborating with different bands, often outside of their comfort zone. It allows music listeners a free pass, if you will, to be open to and listen to music they would normally discount all because another musician they love and respect is singing or playing on a song with them.

And so it was with Apocalyptica, who over the years have collaborated with Lacey Mosley (Flyleaf), Brent Smith (Shinedown), Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and Ville Valo (HIM) to name a few.

A three-piece instrumental cello band, Apocalyptica started life as a Metallica covers band, so it was only fitting that their 1996 debut album, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos, featured their own versions of Metallica songs.

Cello metal, if you will.

Since then Apocalyptica have released another nine studio albums, some cello versions of other band’s music and others a mixture of covers and originals and some also solely original music, but it was their connection with – or more so their commanding performance of – Metallica songs that has connected Apocalyptica with much of their global fanbase.

Some are drawn to the reworkings of heavy metal classics because of the novelty value, some out of curiosity, and most by the fact that their versions and takes on a genre far removed from their own are breathtaking in their sonic beauty and suffocating in their musical density.

And so it is that Apocalyptica have returned to where they started for their tenth album, Apocalypotica Plays Metallica Vol 2, which came out on June 7. Featuring cello-driven versions of previously untouchable tracks like The Four Horsemen, Ride The Lightning and Blackened, the biggest – and possibly best – surprise on the album is the use of the actual bassline laid down by Cliff Burton on the original recording of The Call Of Ktulu.

HEAVY settled in for a chat with Apocalyptica‘s bandleader Eicca Toppinen to find out the story behind how that came to be and more.

With all of Metallica‘s involvement in this album, we didn’t think about it when we started working on it,” he began. “All those ideas started to come up when we were working on the music, for example, The Call Of Ktulu is one of my favourite songs of all time from Metallica because the colours and the vibe of the song has something super powerful. Some years ago I realised that a lot of those sound elements in the song that I always loved and was always fascinated about, I realised they were actually made by bass.

Then came the idea wouldn’t it be so cool to get that bassline? Last spring I sent a message to Lars Ulrich and I said we’re working on this album and I would like to have a call with you because there are a couple of ideas that are rising from the process. I talked to Lars and said, this is probably pretty crazy, but I was thinking we are working on The Call Of Ktulu, and it would be amazing if we could get that, and Lars said ‘this is such a great idea. I love that you always have these out-of-the-box ideas, but I have no idea how to make it work’ (laughs). Even he was like, that might be difficult. James needs to approve, then Cliff Burton‘s family needs to approve then we need to figure out what kind of contractual things there are, because the album was released in 1984 and the record company from that time might have some rights on the actual recording and stuff.

Then things happened smoothly. I went to Sweden to see Metallica last Summer and was hanging out there all weekend and what happened was really cool. I was invited after the first show into this very casual dinner, and I’m sitting there with my girlfriend and Rob Trujillo is coming in, and he said hey and sat one of the women at our table, and I was sitting with her talking, and it came along super well. Maybe after an hour, hour and a half we were talking about the album and I said about this idea, and it turned out that she was the step-sister of Cliff Burton! And the person who was actually taking care of Cliff Burton’s legacy. She loved the idea but said you’ll have to ask Lars, and I said I already spoke with Lars, and she said then you have to ask Tony the manager of Metallica and everybody was so excited. Then I talked with everybody and the manager said I need to call a couple of lawyers and figure out the legal side of it and everything just worked out. It was just crazy with all these things.

I think the reason why things worked out is we were never going to Metallica and saying we want something off you. We were not asking can we do this, or can you do this? It was more like I was presenting the ideas and saying this would be great if we could do things like James talking and all that stuff, and they just said wow, yeah, this is cool. So I think that was the reason that Metallica got equally excited about what we were doing as we were.”

In the full interview, Eicca talks about how they chose which singles to release and why, the term cello metal and how it suits what Apocalyptica do, having James Hetfield and Rob Trujillo guest on the album, the 28-year gap between their two Metallica tribute albums and why, making the songs their own, if the new era of Metallica songs are easier to translate than the music from the band’s early days, deconstructing a metal track and restructuring it in their own image, the correlation between heavy metal and the cello, why he thinks people gravitate to Apocalyptica‘s versions of known songs, the fact they are not harshly judged for presenting the songs in a different light, future plans and more.

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