Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun
May 26, 2018
When Apocalyptica made their debut in 1996, it was with an album titled Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Obviously, it was them playing Metallica songs on their cellos. As they progressed through their career, they moved towards playing all originals. But now, more than two decades later, they are back to their roots.Since 2016, Apocalyptica has been on a massive world tour celebrating 20 years of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. One of their New England stops on the tour was at the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Casino. I was excited to see them here, because it’s such a great, intimate venue. Every show in the Wolf Den is free, which is also a plus!
The lights came down, and out walked Apocalyptica. If you’ve seen Apocalyptica on any of their tours over the last fifteen years, you’d recognize Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso, who have been the three cello players of the band. The album, of course, was played by four cellos, and so joining them on this tour was Antero Manninen, an original member of Apocalyptica, who left the band in 1999. He’s played with them occasionally throughout the years, but it’s great to see him playing on this tour.
The four of them take their seats on stage, and start off with arguably Metallica’s biggest song of all time, “Enter Sandman.” Right off the bat, the crowd is loving it. They followed this up with four more classics, “Master of Puppets,” “The Unforgiven,” “Sad But True,” and “Creeping Death.”
I was interested to see how playing in the Wolf Den would effect Apocalyptica’s setlist. I was fortunate to see a previous stop on this tour in 2017, at a theater in Boston. At most shows on the tour, they played two sets; the first, just the four of them with cellos, while they shake things up a little for the second set. Shows at the Wolf Den, however, follow a pretty set schedule; hit the stage at 8:00, play for 90 minutes.
After they finished those first five songs, they paused for a quick change of the stage setup, while Perttu talked to the crowd for a few minutes. Backdrops were pulled away, and an unconventional looking drumset was revealed behind them. Perttu and Eicca’s seats were taken from the stage, and they played standing up, as the band started “Fade to Black.” As the song started, there wasn’t much difference in the style of their playing compared to the start of the show, but when it kicked into the second half of the song, their drummer, Mikko Sirén appeared behind the kit, and the show was turned up to eleven. This was no longer a string quartet performance, but a full blown rock show. As they went into “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the crowd was singing and chanting along at every point of the song. If that wasn’t heavy or fast enough for you, they stayed with the Ride the Lightning theme of the last few songs, and played the opening track, “Fight Fire with Fire.”
Next came the highlight of the night. Eicca stated this was the first Metallica song he ever heard, the classic Master of Puppets instrumental, “Orion.” They dedicated the song to late Metallica bassist, Cliff Burton, whose bass playing is a signature part of the song.As part of the anniversary of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, Apocalyptica released a remastered version of the album. One of the new songs they recorded for it was “Battery,” because as much as they wanted to play it originally, they didn’t have the skills to play that fast at the time. They showed off the song here, before getting everybody in the crowd singing and cheering along to the always powerful closer, “Seek and Destroy.”
Of course, this wasn’t the actual end of the show, and they came back out for an encore featuring “Nothing Else Matters” and “One.”
While this clearly isn’t a Metallica show, it’s one of the best, and most unique ways to enjoy Metallica’s music. The musicianship of the members of Apocalyptica is superb, and they way they perform brings out a beauty in Metallica’s catalog that you may not notice otherwise, while still putting on a kick-ass rock show.
Master of Puppets
Sad but True
Fade to Black
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Fight Fire With Fire
Seek & Destroy
Nothing Else Matters