'Classic' rock cellists go heavy on the strings

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The Independent Culture

First there was the Mediaeval Baebes singing classical madrigals in what was described as "estuary Latin". They were followed by Bond, a raunchily dressed all-girl string quartet who were booted out of the classical charts for being too popular.

First there was the Mediaeval Baebes singing classical madrigals in what was described as "estuary Latin". They were followed by Bond, a raunchily dressed all-girl string quartet who were booted out of the classical charts for being too popular.

The latest addition to the genre is Apocalyptica, a group of four Finnish cellists who like to "bow their instruments to the brink of sawdust".

With their long hair flying and their heads banging violently in time to the music, they look for all the world like a classic heavy metal band.

But the key to their sound is indeed the word "classic". For all four are trained musicians who play heavy metal on their cellos - specifically cover versions of tracks by Metallica and Faith No More.

So far work from Eicca Toppinen, Max Lilja, Paavo Lötjönen and Perttu Kivilaakso has only been available in the UK under import but the four cellists have just signed a contract with the Universal Decca label, who manage Bond, and are they expected to be "big".

A spokeswoman for Universal Decca, Linda Valentine, said she was very excited about the Finnish group.

"No one has marketed them properly before and they have already released their third album. We're going to put together a compilation of the first three, including some of their own compositions, and there is going to be a big promotion next year backed up by a new record and a tour."

A tie-in has also been arranged with Kerrang!, the heavy metal magazine, to promote the band as well. "They love them," said Ms Valentine.

"Their sound is more like Bach than Metallica but then some classical music, and certainly some Bach, is quite heavy in its own right. I think Apocalyptica will appeal across the board - both to people who like heavy metal and also people who like that particular kind of heavy classical music."

The band, who have just sold their millionth record, have already built up a group of fans in the UK.

Their CDs are stocked in Tower Records, in Piccadilly, central London, where a fan enthused: "I really like them and I have all their albums. It is all done in a classical way. Even though it's heavy metal it's not at all aggressive. It's really really good. It is stocked in the metal section but it's classified as alternative and it's selling really well."

Apocalyptica's Paavo Lötjönen said: "We love to punish our instruments. Most of the time they are full of hair and sweat and rosin - our old teachers definitely wouldn't be happy."

It remains to be seen whether Apocalyptica will storm up the classic charts (and then be allowed to stay there) or whether they will have to compete alongside Bond and the Babes for a place in the pop charts.

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