The UK has always been inundated with tours at the tail end of the year but it seems this year, November has been crazy. And to turn it up to eleven, this past week has been even more so with multiple gigs which you could have been at.
If you weren’t lucky enough to be watching Anthrax at The Cathouse, Apocalyptica were bringing their own brand of cello metal to the O2 ABC. Running late (thanks, ScotRail!), I missed the opening band, Vamps, take to the stage and I’m met with a Japanese version of Black Veil Brides. James and I concurred that it wasn’t our thing but to give them credit, the first few rows had many fangirls amongst them, arms outstretched into no discernable position and the occasional set of devil horns…with thumbs stretched out. Maybe not the greatest fit for an act like Apocalyptica but I’ve seen far worse.
No amps in sight, four Finnish gentlemen take to the stage, three grappling cellos whilst another sits behind a drumkit. So maybe not entirely different to what I’m used to. Dark, brooding and ominous melodies are the order of the night and whilst I’ve seen the ABC far busier, the people who are here lap it up. “Reign of Fear” from new album Shadowmaker and “Grace” ease us in gently before Franky Perez is introduced onstage to provide vocals for “I’m Not Jesus”. Hitting the song in his own vocal style rather than emulate Corey Taylor, it refreshes the song and sounds a little less sinister with Perez’s higher register rather than Corey Taylor’s snarling.
Followed up by “House of Chains” and “Not Strong Enough”, it’s back to instrumentals with what made their name – a Metallica cover. Naturally, it goes down quite well with people dubbing their own lyrics over the cello take on the song.
And that’s mainly how the rest of the show played out. Much of the mighty Shadowmaker was given an outing along with what I assume are live staples (my first time seeing them). Close to encore time, half of Vamps returned to the stage to perform “Sin in Justice”, a special one-off song they had recorded together. Cue fangirls to go crazy once more. The only saving grace in this case was their own performance was diluted by the headliners.
Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” followed, acting as a nice palate-cleanser, going down as well as if Metallica themselves were in the room. Plus Mikko Siren does a better job of it than Lars Ulrich does.
Sometimes instrumental tracks can drag along at a snail’s pace but the Finnish quartet made the songs without vocals highly entertaining. Dragging their cellos across the stage like children’s toys, they bent themselves into weird and wonderful shapes, Paavo Lötjönen virtually playing on his back at one point as Eicca Toppinen towered over him. Given that I’m not well-versed on the technique of cello playing, I can say I was thoroughly impressed and entertained for the entire night by their performance. As the triple threat of Toppinen, Lötjönen and Perttu Kivilaakso, they’re a great live act and highly skilled, weaving their melodies around each other.
With the final few songs of “Hall of the Mountain King” (yes, they went full classical) and for the encore of “I Don’t Care” (two girls beside myself and James may have needed paramedics if they got any more excited) and “Dead Man’s Eyes”. It was these two songs which showed Perez’s voice at its best and how he can entertain a crowd whilst being gracious enough to know when to hold back to let the main men do their thing.
And by 10pm, it was all over as the venue gives way to the teeny-boppers and Sauchiehall Street is awash with students just starting their night while I headed for home. Apocalyptica proved you don’t need shredding guitars to make something metal, you just need the mindset.