Apocalyptica & Eyes of Fire Live In Vancouver: September 23, 2005

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Apocalyptica & Eyes of Fire
Friday, September 23, 2005
Richard?s On Richards
Vancouver, BC  Canada


***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

I went into this show not really knowing what to expect.  I mean the Metallica thing that Apocalyptica had was a good gimmick, but sitting through two hours of three guys with cellos?!?!  How boring!!  WAS I EVER WRONG!  Also, how many people even know who they are?  I was expecting a thin crowd of maybe 100 people.  Again?DEAD WRONG!!  Before a sold-out crowd of 500, Apocalyptica shattered any preconceptions that I personally had about the marriage of classical music and heavy metal.  Besides the Metallica covers, my only exposure to the band has been 2003?s REFLECTIONS album and while I dig it, I never expected such a response from Vancouver.  Truth be told, I was more interested in So-Cal openers, Eyes of Fire, whose ASHES TO EMBERS debut from 2004 still gets regular airplay from me, but call me an Apocalyptica convert after this show!

I rushed in as Eyes of Fire was midway through their first song and Matt Fisher?s hoarse growl was instantly recognizable.  Sounding like a cross between Lemmy and Dicky Barrett from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fisher?s style is certainly not for everyone but it perfectly suits Eyes of Fire?s dark lyrics and Mastodon/Neurosis metal hybrid.  New keyboardist Pete Truax provided plenty of between-song ambient interludes and second guitarist Bobby Thomas filled in the riffs over Dan Kaufman?s leads.  Physically, Fisher and Kaufman are polar opposites of one another; Kaufman is short, burly and resembles a lumberjack, while Fisher is about 6?4? with spiked black hair, a sleeve of tattoos and has a propensity for wearing black eyeliner.  When ASHES TO EMBERS was released, I was immediately struck by its many layers and unique sound and songs like ?Anyone,? ?Fly Away? and ?Down? are just as powerful live.  I was a bit disappointed that they failed to play ?Hopeless? or ?Breathe? but with a mere thirty minutes available and a new album entitled PRISONS due in January 2006, room had to be left to showcase a tune (?Blood? or ?Flood??not sure?!) from it.  ?Fly Away? was given an elongated, feedback-laden outro which wrapped up the band?s set.  Eyes of Fire received a surprisingly warm response from the crowd but one guy was getting right into the band and knew every word to the ASHES TO EMBERS tracks, which impressed Fisher.  I am happy I got to see a band who should reach a new level with PRISONS with any luck.



As the seats made their way on stage, I should have known something interesting was about to happen.  Two high-backed wooden chairs with a carved-out skull bore through the middle (and two backless wooden chairs in front of the drums) were set in place by the road crew.  As with any metal show, the requisite mic stands (with guitar picks attached) and selection of beers are always on display, but not with Apocalyptica.  Instead, two bows were set next to each chair, a jar of bow resin and bottled water.  Very different indeed!  As if that weren?t enough, the usual slew of familiar faces and nocturnal creatures seemed to be missing.  In place of them were music students, giddy 20-year old university girls, Goths and only the odd metalhead in the crowd.  Hmmm?what was about to happen??  As the lights lowered, a haunting cello began to waft out of the house speakers and a few moments later, the band took the stage.  Eicca Toppinen, Perttu Kivilaakso and Paavo Lotjonen were immediately recognizable but in a rare and unexpected move, former member (and certifiable oddball) Antero Manninen was also on hand, having made the jaunt from Finland to round out the four cellists and touring drummer Mikko Siren.  Manninen, dressed in his trademark black suit, black dress shoes and John Lennon-styled granny sunglasses, was completely expressionless from start to finish, staring straight ahead and executing his solo pieces flawlessly.  Despite his lack of stage presence, it is this very behaviour and attitude that makes Manninen the most watchable and fascinating of them all!  Kivilaakso, the most animated of the bunch, is a ball of never-ending energy, constantly headbanging or dry-humping his cello.  Toppinen, the main spokesman of the band, introduces the songs in a thick Finnish accent and is nearly as animated as Kivilaakso.  Lotjonen, sporting a black Mohawk, seems to play the least amount of cello, instead focusing on rousing the crowd with endless mugging and calls for applause.  Manninen aside, the band spent a good deal of time up on their feet, treating the cello more like a six-string electric guitar than the gigantic beast it is.  This was no stuffy symphony show with members in black tie and opera glasses, either.  Again, besides Manninen, members were decked out in leather pants and Kivilaakso was shirtless throughout, with Toppinen joining him midway through the set.  Fans, like myself, who braved being right up front at the stage, risked taking an eye out with furious bows whizzing around and pointed cellos being lofted overhead with all the rock star swagger of Slash.  Being the classically-trained gents they are, Apocalyptica would rise and bow to its appreciative audience after every other song, as well.

The six Metallica covers received the boldest response from the crowd, as ?Master of Puppets? and ?Fight Fire With Fire? simply brought the house down.  ?Enter Sandman? was just too predictable but ?Nothing Else Matters? cast a morose spell over the crowd leaving room for the addition of crowd vocals?remember there is no singing in Apocalyptica?that was quite chilling.  The classical rendition of the Edvard Grieg suite, ?Hall of The Mountain King? was a real treat, as well.  Even original material like the melodic ?Somewhere Around Nothing? and heavy frickin? metal of ?Life Burns,? ?Betrayal? and ?Inquisition Symphony? demonstrated that Apocalyptica are more than just a one-trick pony riding the coattails of Metallica?s popularity.  At the other end of the scale is the haunting ballad, ?Bittersweet,? allowing the band to show exactly what they learned while studying at Helsinki’s prestigious Sibelius Academy. 

Seeing Apocalyptica was a real eye-opening experience.  The visual aspect of this band and each member?s unique stage personality is as much of a draw as the music itself.  The band?s 100-minute set flew by in what seemed like a fraction of that time and after dreading the high-falutin?, hoidy-toidy atmosphere that I envisioned, Apocalyptica surprised me on so many levels.  As a reviewer who is all too often forced to sit through clone band # 3746729, or witnessing a long-time favourite going through the motions on stage, seeing a band having fun (Manninen is clearly the whipping boy of the rest of the band?s sense of humor) and being truly original in its presentation is more refreshing than a minty mouthwash and a blast of Febreze!  Go out, support Apocalyptica when they come to town, and you may be equally enlightened.

Master of Puppets (Metallica cover)
Somewhere Around Nothing
Fight Fire With Fire (Metallica cover)
Nothing Else Matters (Metallica cover)
Life Burns
Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover)
Creeping Death (Metallica cover)
Inquisition Symphony (Sepultura cover)
Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)
Hall of The Mountain King

**Thanks to Jamie at House of Blues Canada and to George at Century Media Records and Hannah at Nuclear Blast Records for the photo approval.

**Visit Apocalyptica’s official website

**Visit Eyes of Fire’s official website


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