Metal & Classic, Unusual alliance, commented by Apocalyptica

Original French interview: Hard-n-Heavy magazine, #136/2008

This is a newspaper essay concerning the mix between Metal and Classic, with interview of so called "Metal musicians with classical background": André Matos (ex Angra), Lucas Turilli (guitarist of Rhapsody of Fire) and Stephan Forté (Adagio) who'll give their advice on Apocalyptica's music also, and little comments of Apoguys.

First comment: Symphonic metal

Therion, Angra, Rhapsody of Fire, Kamelot, Symphony X; the list of bands mixing Metal and symphonic orchestration is long, and some would reasonably think that this type of music is the Apo members cup of tea. However, it is quite the contrary.

Eicca Toppinen: I understand that 14 year old kids can like this type of band, but it's far too kitsch for me, too clichй. All the folklore images of dragons, swords and fights annoy me profoundly.

Paavo Lötjönen: The main problem is that almost all of these bands arrange their orchestral parts themselves. They are working with people who, even if they are experienced, are far too foreign to their music to find the right balance. It is too grandiloquent, too epic to be really serious. It makes me think of Hollywoodian blockbusters scores. One of the only good bands of Symphonic Metal I know is Waltari. It's a true orchestra that composes the symphonic parts, and then the band writes the metal structures above that.

Mikko Sirén: Being cliché is not that a big deal. Rock, in the wide meaning, is full of clichй. I recently saw Muse live in Helsinki, and it's been one of the best gigs of my life, although their concert was only a succession of clichйs. The problem is that this style is voluntarily too immoderate. I can't feel touched by it.

Paavo: It's exactly that! Take the album Metallica recorded with the symphony orchestra of San Francisco, S & M, there are very good tracks, such as " The Call of Ktuluh" or "Of Wolf and Man", but the whole album sounds far too conceited.

Perttu Kivilaakso: I'm the only one here who appreciates bands like Symphony X, Therion, or Dream Theater. Dream Theater is not really a symphonic band, but the patterns they use, the length of their songs, and their numerous solos make them very close to symphonic metal. Nevertheless, I think there are also many bad bands. Notably those who try to compose symphonic parts while they have neither the knowledge nor the ability to do it properly. With Apocalyptica, we come from the classical music, which maybe makes us more capable of mixing both styles.

Symphonic black metal

Mocked a lot for its dated imagery (who said Cradle Of Filth?), Symphonic Black Metal nevertheless remains a major and popular style, as proved by the success of groups as Cradle, Dimmu Borgir or Anorexia Nervosa.

Eicca: There are very good tracks, but listening this type of bands for me is simply a way to have a good laught. (Everyone laughs) Not my cup of tea at all ! I'm much more into late 90's Trash Metal, for the spirit was really punk-like. Metal, therefore Black Metal, lost their anarchic spirit. It's downright mainstream today.

Mikko: I don't think these guys really take seriously what they do. They show bad guys faces. Try to be shocking. But it's too "second degree" to be serious. At the same time, it's technically perfect. We had a few dates with Cradle Of Filth in Europe two years ago, I then realised they are all great as musicians.

Paavo: I might have an old album of Dimmu Borgir which is trailing somewhere at home, but generally I hate Black Metal.

Perttu: I still differ from the others, because I like very much Black Metal. "Sounds of Northern Darkness", of Immortal is the best album of the genre, and one of my ten favorite records of any musical styles. It's the kind of record I can't help listening from beginning to end. I listen to music to feel emotions, and it's exactly what black metal gives me. In the symphonic groups, I love Cradle Of Filth. I really appreciate the universe which they convey and the voice of Dani Filth. Even if it sounds crazy, I know! (laughs). I'd love to invite a black metal singer for one of our tracks, but as I'm the only one to love that kind of music, it's difficult to convince them (Everyone laughs).

Feminine symphonic metal

Revealed in 1997 by Nightwish and Within Temptation (with respectively Angels fall first and Enter albums), Symphonic Metal with female singers don't stop giving birth to new bands (After forever, Epica, Sirenia, Delain...). A style which does not find any mercy in the opinion of Apocalyptica's members, except for Nightwish, the only group all of our fellow Finns like.

Eicca: I definitely prefer Nightwish with Anette singing rather with Tarja. She was giving too much of a dramatic vibe to the music for my taste, while the almost pop-rock sonority of Anette fits perfectly. I love bands with a particular flavour. Nightwish is more "dangerous", less "behaved" today. I like their intensity and the fact that their sound is so easily recognizable. Their orchestral parts are wonderfull, you almost have the impression to listen to a movie soundtrack. The rest, Epica, Within Temptation etc., catch me in no way. I admit that it is beautiful, but not in the sense which attracts me. Sweet music generally annoys me. I don't drink lemonade, because it is too soft for me, I prefer beer. Same for music (laughs).

Paavo: I like Nightwish for its metal side not for its instrumentations, I think they are too massive, too theatrical. Music is like a cake, if you put too much cream, it becomes disgusting and you can't feel no more the basic taste of the cake (laughs). In music as in cooking, dosage is everything!

Perttu: It's true that some bands have tendancies to overdo things, to put too many different elements. In the end it's too complex to listen, it becomes senseless.On the other hand, far too many rock bands make music with ideas that are too simplistic. Nightwish has the right balance: they propose many ideas in their structures, which they use as a full-fledged instrument.

Mikko: I prefer the band today, because Tarja's voice was too majestic, too theatrical. I couldn't relate, it sounded too "unreal". A singer like Bob Dylan is universal, ‘cause I can completely relate in the way he sings.

Classical music

If the members of Apocalyptica claim very different musical tastes (from Thrash and punk, to Pop and Electro), the base from which they build their music is naturally the classical music.

Eicca: My tastes in classical music go essentially towards composers from the beginning of the 20th century: French people as Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faurй, and also many Russians, with Shostakovich or Stravinsky. Even if it's said classical music, it sounds rather hard and "dirty" somewhere. That's why I like in no way the romantic period, it is far too much precious. The contemporary classical music contains very good things, but it is too melodic to my taste. I like melodies, but when they are skillfully distilled. In fact, music has to have b*lls to seduce me. (laughs)

Paavo: I also have a preference for russian composers: Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Prokofiev... They make classical music, but with an "affective" side that is very metal in the spirit. They have a more metal vibe than many bands which yell and put blast beats every minute (laughs)! I love also J. S. Bach who is in my opinion thegreatest composer of all time.

Perttu: If there's one musical style we all agree for our tastes, it's classical music. I am part of Helsinki's philarmonic orchestra aswell as Apocalyptica. My dream with Apocalyptica would be to work with a gigantic orchestra, to create a kind of requiem. Not to compose an album with songs but a big whole piece. It's something about what we have already talked in the past. We have no time at the moment to invest ourselves in a task of this scale, but I really think that we shall make it one day.

Extract of the interview of André Matos (ex Angra), Lucas Turilli (guitarist of Rhapsody of Fire) and Stephan Forté (Adagio).

Interviewer: And what about Apocalyptica?

André Matos: It's interesting, but a little bit boring after a while. The problem in my opinion is that melodies are played by cellos. The idea is good but it would sound better with a singer.

Stephan Forté: Or if there were a true whole orchestra.

And Lucas Turilli just... laughs.

English translation by Vordaï, © 2008

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