Apocalyptica are a charting, multi-platinum symphonic metal band from Helsinki, Finland. Originally formed as a metal tribute quartet, the band eventually adopted a neoclassical metal style of their own without the use of conventional guitars. Their 1996 debut album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, though provocative, was universally lauded by critics and embraced by extreme music fans globally. Their driving sound (often accompanied by other musicians) is created via sophisticated classical techniques, a knack for reinterpreting jarring, often percussive riffs and spiraling lead lines, and multivalent textures. It has succeeded in making them an arena rock institution across the globe. Far from a gimmick doomed to wear thin, Apocalyptica's cello rock dexterously explores the connection and chasm between classical and metal, balancing majestic, intricate covers with their own dark originals as evidenced by albums like 2007's When Worlds Collide. Initially an all-cello quartet, they have since become a trio and added a drummer and vocalist. For 2010's 7th Symphony, they worked with drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and vocalists Gavin Rossdale (Bush) and Joe Duplantier (Gojira), among others. They have also have made guest appearances on albums by Sepultura and Amon Amarth, and once toured as Nina Hagen's backing band. While Apocalyptica's sound has shifted texturally and dynamically from their thrash metal beginnings, it has evolved; it is a progressive, symphonic metal profile -- as displayed on later albums such as 2014's Cult, and the following year's Shadowmaker -- that is often emulated.
Apocalyptica were initially comprised of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Max Lilja, Antero Manninen, and Paavo Lotjonen; formed in 1993, the group made waves internationally in 1996 with Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, which combined their formal background with their love of heavy metal. The album found favor with both classical buffs and metalheads alike, and two years later, Apocalyptica resurfaced with Inquisition Symphony, which featured covers of material by Faith No More and Pantera. Manninen soon left the band and was replaced by Perttu Kivilaanso. They added double bass and percussion to the mix for 2001's Cult, a collection of all-original material, and again on 2003's Reflections, which featured guest drummer Dave Lombardo from Slayer. Max Lilja had left the band and Mikko Sirén joined as their permanent drummer. After Reflections was reissued as Reflections Revised, featuring a bonus track with new wave diva Nina Hagen, 2005 saw the release of the eponymous Apocalyptica, followed in 2006 by the collection Amplified: A Decade of Reinventing the Cello. The band returned to the studio the following year for Worlds Collide. Rammstein vocalist Till Lindemann appeared on the album performing a German-language version of David Bowie's "Helden." Apocalyptica issued their Live album in 2008, and followed it with the adventurous 7th Symphony in 2010, with guest appearances by Gavin Rossdale, Brent Smith from Shinedown, Slayer's Dave Lombardo, Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, and Joe Duplantier of Gojira. 2013 saw the group issue the ambitious Wagner Reloaded: Live in Leipzig, and in 2015 they released their eighth studio album, Shadowmaker, which eschewed the usual rotating cast of vocalists in favor of relying solely on the talents of Scars on Broadway singer/guitarist Franky Perez. Throughout 2017 and much of the following year, Apocalyptica toured the world to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album. Plays Metallica: A Live Performance was released in the spring of 2019 just as the band were undertaking the writing and recording of a studio album. ~ Jason Ankeny