Right before pandemic-related restrictions kicked in, Finnish cello metal band APOCALYPTICA was on the verge of doing a big tour for their latest album, “Cell-0.” They only played one of those shows while the rest had to be rescheduled a few times, but thankfully, the time was nigh! Along with the rising progressive metal act WHEEL and Norwegian LEPROUS, the band was set to play at Helsingin Jäähalli on November 20th, 2022.
We have been following WHEEL since the very beginning of their journey, which surprisingly, was not that long ago. After a few lineup changes, the band finally recently released “Resident Human,” and pretty much has been touring around Europe and United States ever since together with APOCALYPTICA and LEPROUS. Needless to say, we are always happy to be able to watch this mathematically tight act play their songs live. Starting the show with one of their more recent songs, “Blood Drinker,” WHEEL already set the tone of their moody set in an instant. The song turned out to be as great as I had imagined it as a live track, and a killer opening track, despite being more experimental for the band. I felt like, for the first time, I also noticed a few details that sounded a lot louder live than on the studio recording, like guitarist Jussi Turunen‘s flavorful guitar melodies that are used to give the song some extra oomph.
Continuing with “Movement,” WHEEL kept up the steady proggy pace, with lots of polyrhythms and groovy bass lines. The 12-minute atmospheric “Hyperion” slowed things down a little for fans. They stuck to the same atmospheric route during “Impervious,” but then naturally, opted for one of their classics, “Vultures.” Usually, you never really know what happens during that track, at Tuska, there was a moshpit all of the sudden. The crowd at Jäähalli perhaps wasn’t all too familiar with WHEEL (yet), however, I definitely saw some heads bobbing and lots of hair flips during the heavy parts of the track. The band rounded out the excellent setlist with their self-titled track, “Wheel,” and as per usual, left us behind with an impressed feeling.
Norwegian progressive metal act LEPROUS was next up. We hadn’t seen the band in a while, so it was a great occasion to finally hear some of their latest songs from “Aphelion” live. Starting the set with “Out of Here” was a bold choice. The track starts off really softly and thus instantly created a magical atmosphere, but then as it progressed it became powerful and completely exploded. This worked really well in a live setting, especially with Einar Solberg‘s incredible vocals. Despite drummer Baard Kolstad only being a part of the song towards the end, it’s always entertaining to see him behind the drum kit, playing around with dynamics. The band continued with one of their ultimate fan favorites, “From the Flame.” After the more engaging song, came a slower one, “Below,” which definitely was not less impressive. The chill-inducing track, however, was not the only song that was an instant highlight, as LEPROUS opted for a song that they worked on together with their fans, “Nighttime Disguise.” Hearing it live for the first time, also made clear how challenging this composition is for the band.
Solberg chatted a bit with the audience, announcing also that they would be back for a headlining show, which is happening in March. Fans who are looking forward to hearing more songs live by the Norwegians are thus in luck! He mentioned that there was only one song left in the setlist, but he didn’t say how long it was, and thus the band started playing, “The Sky is Red,” which is perhaps one of the band’s most experimental pieces to date and an intricate ending to their much too short set!
Finally, it was time for APOCALYPTICA. Much to my surprise, this wasn’t a Black Box event, meaning that the whole arena was in use and even though it wasn’t sold out, the turnout was pretty impressive. On social media, I read that the 4-piece almost exactly 26 years ago had opened up at the same venue for METALLICA. It’s pretty impressive where their career has brought them so far. The band had promised a spectacular show with a lot of guests and by looking at the production of the show (the large projection screen behind them), it looked like it was one of their biggest productions so far in Finland. When the intro started playing, a destroyed cityscape was projected onto the screens and the band came on stage, starting off with “Ashes of the Modern World.”
Playing the instrumental version of “Path” didn’t stop some fans behind me from singing along anyway. The band continued with an instrumental fan favorite, “Grace.” Before we knew it, it was time for them to announce their first guest, Pete Parkkonen. I admit I had no clue who the hell that was, but I was told that he took part in Finnish idols and ended up in fourth place in the competition. When he started singing “I’m Not Jesus,” it seemed as if, at the beginning, he forgot some of the words, but other than that he held up pretty okay. No, he’s no Corey Taylor, but it did do the trick as a lot of people shouted the words along.
Next, the band invited a familiar face to the stage, Tipe Johannson, who has toured with them locally as their regular guest vocalist, and they played “Not Strong Enough” together as if he were a regular part of the band. One of the bigger surprises of the evening – that is, if you don’t follow the singer on social media – was definitely LOST SOCIETY vocalist/guitarist Samy Elbanna. I somehow completely forgot about the existence of the pearl off of “Seventh Symphony,” “Bring Them to Light,” which originally features GOJIRA‘s Joe Duplantier. While Duplantier is definitely one of my favorite progressive metal vocalists, Elbanna made the song his own and brought a more metalcore-ish version to the show. Admittedly, I was also secretly hoping APOCALYPTICA and Elbanna would team up to play LOST SOCIETY‘s “Into Eternity,” but that was a tall order and there was no such luck.
It was then time for some more instrumental work. The band once again focused on “Cell-0” songs and played the impressive “Rise,” “En Route To Mayhem,” and “Scream for the Silent.” Sure, once in a while these guest performances make these shows perhaps a little bit more engaging, but the core of an APOCALYPTICA show is still to see them play their wonderful metal compositions and translate as if the cello is an incredibly easy instrument to play… I’ve got news for you: it definitely isn’t.
The band invited the renowned Finnish rapper Paleface to the stage and together they played “Ei vaihtoehtoo,” which is a rappified version of “Bittersweet.” I am too much of a sucker for the original version, so I am not sure if I will ever fully embrace this new rendition, however, despite not knowing anything about Paleface and his music, he did a pretty good job and the crowd seemed to love it. Next, Pete Parkkonen returned for a second round with “Shadowmaker,” a song that is definitely more fitted to his gritty voice. It also turned out that Parkkonen is also quite the showman, as at some point during the song he started to drum along with drummer Mikko Sirén, which made me go “huh?” for a little while. The band ended the song with a fun little snippet of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE‘s “Killing in the Name Of.” One of the highlights of the show was perhaps the Finnish “Peltirumpu” featuring the legendary Ismo Alanko.
APOCALYPTICA usually keep the end of the setlists for going completely bonkers, which is when they usually play all the METALLICA and SEPULTURA covers. I guess the biggest surprise there was that Samy Elbanna was once again invited to the stage with a guitar this time, to play along to “Seek & Destroy.” While his voice would have actually been an excellent fit for the thrash metal classic, he stuck to guitar, rocking along with the cellists, almost as if he was truly part of the band. “Seek & Destroy” remains one of my highlights, because it’s also the moment where Perttu Kivilaakso goes totally all-in bananas; an explosive ending to an always entertaining set. The band came back for two more songs, the beautiful “Farewell,” which also happens to be one of my all-time favorite tracks (and one they hardly ever play) and of course, “Hall of the Mountain King.”
APOCALYPTICA always makes for a very entertaining show and this event was surely no different, although a case has to be made for not including the two brilliant earlier singers on stage, James Lascelles and Einar Solberg. I would have loved some songs along with their voices as guests! Other than that, it was a very entertaining evening with a lot of great (progressive) music. The band is touring along with EPICA and WHEEL next year, so be sure that catch one of their shows!
Photos and article by Laureline Tilkin
- Ashes of the Modern World
- I’m Not Jesus (with Pete Parkkonen)
- Not Strong Enough (with Tipe Johnson)
- Bring Them to Light (with Samy Elbanna)
- Scream for the Silent
- En Route to Mayhem
- Ei vaihtoehtoo (with Paleface)
- Shadowmaker (with Pete Parkkonen)
- I Don’t Care (with Tipe Johnson)
- Nothing Else Matters (Metallica cover)
- Peltirumpu (Sielun Veljet cover) (with Ismo Alanko)
- Inquisition Symphony (Sepultura cover)
- Seek & Destroy
- (Metallica cover) (With Samy Elbanna on guitar)
- Farewell (Encore)
- In the Hall of the Mountain King (Edvard Grieg cover) (Encore)