Four cellists, Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Max Lilja, and Antero Manninen formed Apocalyptica in 1993 at Sibelius Academy. The band released their debut studio album, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, in 1996. The album consisted of only Metallica covers. The band was featured on two songs on the Waltari album Space Avenue in 1997. Apocalyptica released their second studio album, Inquisition Symphony, produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa in 1998. Inquisition Symphony contained covers of Metallica as well as Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera. The album included three original songs by Eicca Toppinen.
Antero Manninen left the group in 1999 and was replaced by Perttu Kivilaakso. Perttu had previously performed with the band in 1995. Apocalyptica released their third studio album, Cult, in 2000. It featured 10 original songs and 3 covers. The first Apocalyptica track to include vocals, "Path Vol. 2," was released shortly after Cult. Max Lilja left the group in 2002 and joined Hevein.
Apocalyptica released their fourth studio album, Reflections, in 2003. It featured all original songs. Reflections featured an experimental sound different from the acoustic arrangements of Inquisition Symphony and Cult. Dave Lombardo from Slayer played drums on five songs from Reflections. Session drummer, Sami Kuoppamäki, covered the rest. When Lombardo declined the following tour, Apocalyptica hired Mikko Sirén, who would stay with the band for future tours as well as the recording of the next album.
Apocalyptica released their self-titled fifth studio album in 2005 which featured Ville Valo of HIM, Lauri Ylönen of The Rasmus, and Dave Lombardo.
Apocalyptica was on the track "Intro" from Bullet for My Valentine's album The Poison in 2005. The group performed with Marta Jandová and represented Baden-Württemberg in the Bundesvision Song Contest 2005 with the song "Wie weit", placing 5th with 77 points. Mikko Sirén became an official band member in December 2005 having played around 200 shows with the band.
Apocalyptica released their sixth studio album, Worlds Collide, on September 17, 2007. It was produced by Jacob Hellner. To the surprise of many, the album includes a remake of the German version of David Bowie's song "Heroes". Till Lindemann of Rammstein, for whom they opened on the Reise, Reise tour, was the guest vocalist on the track "Helden". Worlds Collide was released on April 15, 2008 in the United States. The first single "I'm Not Jesus" featuring Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour from the "Worlds Collide" album cracked the top 10 of both the Active rock and Alternative rock charts.
To end 2007, the band toured Europe successfully, selling out many of the venues they played.
In 2008 the tour continued in the United States and included numerous festivals in Europe.
Paavo Lötjönen 2018, With Full Force
Perttu Kivilaakso 2018, With Full Force
Antero Manninen 2018, With Full Force
In June 2008, during the Rock in Rio concert in Lisbon, Apocalyptica joined the Greenpeace "energy [r]evolution campaign" and played the Beethoven 5th symphony from the stage.
The band also appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly on October 31, 2008. Here they made their American television debut with a performance of "I Don't Care" with Toryn Green.
In November 2008, Apocalyptica featuring Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace hit first at the BDS and Mediabase Active Rock radio charts with the single "I Don't Care". Later that month, the band ranked 3rd on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Track chart and 2nd on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart just after AC/DC and just ahead of Metallica, an ironic twist since the band's origins lie in performing Metallica covers. Recently, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard rock chart, making Apocalyptica the first Finnish band to top the US charts. The song "I Don't Care" was also featured in the 16th episode of Season 8 of the TV series Smallville, which aired on March 19, 2009.
The seventh Apocalyptica studio album entitled 7th Symphony, produced by Joe Barresi and Howard Benson, was released on August 23, 2010 in Europe (Germany on August 20, 2010), and August 24 in the U.S. The first single aired on radio June 29, 2010.
The album features eight instrumentals plus four tracks with guest vocals. The first single, "End of Me", features Gavin Rossdale, vocalist from the British alternative rock band Bush, who had previously collaborated with the band. Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo played on "2010." "Bring Them to Light" features Joseph Duplantier, singer and guitarist from the French death metal band Gojira. "Broken Pieces" is a collaboration with Flyleaf singer Lacey Mosley. "Not Strong Enough" was performed by Brent Smith, vocalist from (Shinedown). "Not Strong Enough" was re-recorded with Doug Robb of Hoobastank before being released to US radio on January 18, 2011 due to distribution rights.
On October 7, 2011, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, the band (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release their future material on the RCA Records brand.
Apocalyptica performed live with Metallica on three songs, "No Leaf Clover", "One" and "Seek & Destroy" in celebration of Metallica's 30th Anniversary on December 5, 2011.
The band released an exclusive pledgers-only song "Solo Tu" featuring Erik Canales of Allison via fan-funding website Pledgemusic, as part of their Apocalyptica photo book project on October 28, 2011.
Apocalyptica took a year off from touring and recording after concluding the 7th Symphony world tour in Beijing September 2012. During the break the band worked on a crossover musical and theatrical project titled Wagner Reloaded, combining Wagner's music with the sound of Apocalyptica, to celebrate German composer Richard Wagner's 200th birthday. There were two live performances in Wagner's birth town Leipzig, Germany on July 5 and 6, 2013. Eicca Toppinen arranged and composed the music for the production. The band released an album titled Wagner Reloaded-Live in Leipzig, in November 2013.
Apocalyptica released "Psalm" on May 10, 2013. It was performed by Perttu Kivilaakso on their most recent tour. The band also announced a tour with Finnish Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, which premiered in March 2014. The set will consist solely of instrumentally performed Apocalyptica songs, especially arranged for the band and the 25-piece orchestra.
On October 21, 2014, it was announced on the Eleven Seven Music website that the band will be signing to their label. Their eighth studio album, titled Shadowmaker, with Franky Perez singing on all vocal tracks, was released through Better Noise imprint of Eleven Seven Music Group in April 17, 2015. Regarding the possibility of having Perez as an official member, Eicca said "it's too early to think about it but nothing is decided! Now we got the record done and then we will have touring more or less for 2 years and at the end of that time or sometime during those 2 years we will know. But it wouldn't be an impossible option to have Franky [...]". They also released a collaborative single with Vamps titled "Sin in Justice" on November 20.
Apocalyptica made the music for the episode "On Finn Ice" of Rovio Entertainment's video game Angry Birds Seasons.
Apocalyptica celebrated their 20th anniversary of the first album Plays Metallica by Four Cellos in 2016 and was re-released with 3 brand new bonus tracks, a tour was based on the celebration with Antero Manninen returned to performing with them for the first-time after a 8-year haitus during his job as an orchestra cellist. On November 16, 2018, a live album version of the tour was announced containing, not only the original tracklists, but all the other Metallica songs they’ve covered on other studio albums and the inclusion of two unreleased covers and the 3 bonus tracks from the remastered first album.
Despite Manninen’s departure from the band in late 2018, they brought in a new touring member, Lauri Kankkunen, the first cellist of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, to continue on the 20th anniversary tour in April 2019.