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Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos At New Jersey’s Wellmont Theater

Apocalyptica 20 Years Of “Plays Metallica By Four Cellos” Tour

The Finnish band Apocalyptica formed in 1993, and released their debut album Plays Metallica By Four Cellos three years later. The instrumental rock-driven group changed the landscape of what was considered heavy music. The Finnish group never thought much of the release, only hoped a few people would like it. Now 20 years later and millions and millions of copies sold, the guys in Apocalyptica are returning to play the album that changed their lives in its entirety.  

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When it released, the album gave a whole new feel to songs written by one of the biggest metal bands around; it was also the groundwork for Apocalyptica to create their own genre. A genre that has kept the band alive and relevant, something not easily achieved for a Finnish band and certainly not easy in The American market. Apocalyptica’s instrumental masterpiece and beauty, although amazing on record, is taken to a whole different level when performed live. To witness four cellist masters and recreate such amazing masterpieces thrives in a live venue setting.   

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The band has made their way to the U.S once again for a special evening simply dubbed Apocalyptica 20 Years Of “Plays Metallica By Four Cellos”. The group performs their debut album as well as other Metallica classics, in an Orchestral type of setting for the fans.

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I made my way to the beautiful Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ with being given the opportunity to see this monumental show, which also happens to be the next to last of the tour on its second leg. As I arrived to the early show, doors opened at 7pm and the show was slated to start at 8pm with no openers. The crowd was clearly metal fans, with some parents and their children peppered in. The Wellmont Theater, which normally has general admission floor standing room, was converted to seating, and it really helped the feel of an orchestra type show.  

The stage was set up with four cubed stools in front of four textured backdrops, with the band’s logo and tour titled backdrop hanging above. Purple lights adorned the stage, creating the mysterious and mystical aura needed to experience such an album. At about 8:05pm, Apocalyptica took the stage to a roaring welcome from the packed crowd.

The set was kicked off with “Enter Sandman”, then “Master Of Puppets” after a brief delay at the closing of Sandman due to an unexpected power outage. The band handled the outage gracefully and even screamed from the stage joking with fans that “this has never happened to them except that one time in Armenia” which received a belt of laughter from the crowd. Once power was restored the band went back into the ending of “Enter Sandman” then into “Master of Puppets” as originally planned. Cellist Eicca Toppinen told the New Jersey crowd “We are celebrating the album we released 21 years ago,” he continued. “The first part of this set is the album like we recorded it. Since it is an all instrumental evening, will you all be our singers?” The crowd screamed in approval.

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The album, like it was recorded, includes eight songs and is the first of the bands two sets, band members take turns leading their way through Metallica classics like “The Unforgiven”, “Sad But True” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. The fans very much taking the opportunity to sing along any chance given. It was quite amazing to watch each member take the lead through the songs.  Paavo Lötjönen was a leader often captivating the audience with his one of a kind charisma and drawing the crowds applause as they smashed through set one. Metallica’s music is different to hear this way; I myself as well as the audience was not used to Kirk Hammett’s lead guitar solos being played by a bow, and seeing a wah pedal as Perttu Kivilaakso soloed on tracks like “Creeping Death” was amazing to witness in person, especially if you’re familiar with the album. Seeing it come to life before your own two eyes is breathtaking and you feel every note from every stroke of the instruments bow.  

As the band began one of the final songs of set one Toppinen stated “this next song is kinda like our life, the life of a traveler, ‘Wherever I May Roam’.”

The band then took a short intermission, and the backing scrims removed from the stage to reveal a drum kit. The second set begins with a beautifully haunting intro for “Fade To Black”, which then welcomed drummer Mikko Sirén to the stage. Many times Kivilaakso and Toppinin moved to the front of the stage standing now instead of seated at cubes, trading looks and smiles back and forth throughout the solos.

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These four guys are simply and truly cello masters. The ability and craftsmanship to recreate all that is Metallica’s music was just perfection. The audience was screaming and singing along to each song, now vibing off of the energy of the band. A once seated crowd was no more and now The Wellmont looked and felt a little more like a metal concert. The second set includes fan favorites by Metallica like “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Orion” and “Battery”. The crowd loved every minute of the complete change of pace. The drums really helped get the party started and offered a unique separation between beautiful, cinematic, heavy rock n’ roll. The evening with Apocalyptica was capped off by two encores in the form of “Nothing Else Matters”, which was absolutely brilliant, and “One”, which was in my opinion the perfect way to end the evening.

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If you have never seen Apocalyptica live you simply must do so. Sadly this appears to be the end of the Metallica played by four cellos portion but nonetheless these Finnish gentlemen never disappoint. The guys will be back overseas performing through the summer, so check out the full list of upcoming tour dates and the setlist from the show below!

Oh and if you aren’t familiar with the album Plays Metallica By Four Cellos you can get it HERE!

Gallery of the night

Apocalyptica Setlist Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ, USA 2018, 20 Years of "Plays Metallica by four Cellos"


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