Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29

It's time to wish 'Hyvää syntymäpäivää!' to Finnish cellist Paavo Lötjönen. A Sibelius University graduate, he first picked up the cello at 7 years old. And he might have ended up a cello teacher or symphony member, except for a band he and his friends started in college, called Apocalyptica.
Their first album, "Plays Metallica by Four Cellos", is exactly what it says it is. It's wonderful.

Their second album set the tone of the band's musical evolution: they delivered some more Metallica covers, along with some songs from other metal stalwarts, and four original compositions, allowing the four cellists to exhibit individual identities.
Paavo, for example, tends to provide the backbeat and deeper refrains.

By the way, Paavo's the short haired one, and the member with the most umlaats in his name (and therefore, the most metal one...)

It doesn't seem likely that a band would achieve any longetivety by playing metal music with classical instruments. Heck, starting a band with four people playing the same instrument seems ridiculous enough. But Apocalyptica's a great example of how to build a band right: start with playing your versions of your favorite songs, until they're your best versions, then write songs that show off your best talents - and just rock. Apocalyptica's evolved since their humble beginnings: they became three cellists and a drummer in 2003. They also began collaborating with accomplished vocalists and guitarists from around the world.

That's "I'm Not Jesus", featuring Slipknot's Corey Taylor; it was the lead-off single
of 2007's "Worlds Collide" album, their most successful album to date. Personally, I like the songs as songs, but think the collaboration songs are so traditionally structured that the cellists have to assume traditional rock arrangements (cello as rhythm guitar, as lead, as bass); fine for the radio audience, but not what I listen to Apocalyptica for.

I'm going to finish this post with what I consider Apocalyptica at their best. This track's called "Farewell," from their self-titled fifth album; Paavo said in an interview that the band self-titled it because they felt the album best represented Apocalyptica. This video, BTW, is a fanvid, using clips from the Kurt Wimmer film "Equilibrium":

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