So not ready to get up on Thursday morning but not wanting to miss Nightmare on the much bigger Pool Deck Stage, I reluctantly got my butt in gear after a brief stint with the mattress. And judging by the small amount of people present for their performance I assume most folks did the same as yours truly the prior night - got stuck in the Karaoke lounge.
Nightmare was just as good, if not even better this time around but since I needed to get some solid food into my stomach I left a bit earlier since I was also going to check out ETECC. Not that impressed with the guys out of Germany; I guess it wasn't all that bad that I missed their first show on Tuesday and back to the Pool Deck I went. Notes from Dan:
The final day opened with Nightmare on the Pool Deck. And I got to say, for a French heavy metal band with two albums from the Eighties in their catalogue, the music they play nowadays could've fooled me. I guess you could still describe it as heavy metal, though it's much darker, thrashier and pretty modern. But there is plenty of killer riffs and quality songwriting. Anyway, besides the riffs (which blew most of the other bands on the boat out of the water) what really shined were the vocals of Jo Amore. They perfectly fit the music and, if I had to make a comparison, sounded kinda like Ronnie James Dio (which helped for the "Holy Diver" cover). And the band seemed pretty comfortable with their new style; in fact they hardly played anything that wasn't off their last few records. For some modern heavy metal done right, Nightmare are definitely worth checking out.
Delain, who's first gig I also missed, were just getting ready to start their set and by that time the Pool Deck had filled up with tons of metal heads; nice. This was my first time ever seeing those Dutch symphonic rockers and I really enjoyed them but due to a final press meeting I had to skip out early. Bummer, but I will definitely keep my eyes open for when they hopefully come to North America. The last time Delain made an appearance on our shores was in 2010 for ProgPower but now that they signed a worldwide deal with Napalm Records I hope they will include the States in their touring schedule.
While stuck in the final press meeting for the cruise and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter did their second show. There were folks "crowd swimming" the first time around and according to some pictures I saw online, this time some of the audience members were carried in a blow up boat across the floor. Dammit, cool shit always happens when I am not there, but hey, at least I got to see the probably last ever performance by Anacrusis. Yap, after playing some reunion shows over the last couple of years, Anacrusis is finally calling it quits; well, at least according to their vocalist.
Having missed Steel Engraved for their first set and after Dan told me they are actually pretty good, I was just going to check them out real quick since the Belly Flop Contest was about to start in the pool. Real quick actually turned into - I stayed for their entire set. Heavy metal played right for once among today's sea of retro stuff and I really could kick myself in the ass for missing them the first time. Since there were a lot of Germans on the cruise, who apparently were very familiar with Steel Engraved, they threw some funny pink shirts on stage and the band's vocalist displayed them with laughter. Seriously, if you get a chance to see them live, do it.
Anyways, since I did stay for Steel Engraved's entire set, I only caught the very end of the Belly Flop Contest and decided to just hang out for a minute before Cryptopsy started playing on the Pool Deck. Again, missed them the first time around (apparently Thursday was my makeup day for missed bands) and was not going to miss them twice. Now while technical death metal is normally not my first choice of music, Cryptopsy is one of the few bands I actually don't mind. The crowd really got into their set as well and I have to say that while I am usually aware of my surroundings in the photo pit, I was in the zone and got hit several times by the dreads from their bassist when he was bending down. Oh well, no pain no gain.
I met back up with Dan to watch 3 Inches Of Blood who played their second set in the small Spectrum Lounge. Holy crap, the place was packed and the Canucks once again put on an amazing show. I think this was also the first time I did see guitarist Justin Hagberg without his Hawaiian shirt; for real now, Justin looked like your regular beach tourist the entire time on the boat.
I was walking out of the Windjammer Restaurant just in time to see Lizzy Borden "kill" a female on stage. He went down to the crowd with a bucket of "blood" and painted the faces of the fans in the first couple of rows. Like I mentioned before, his music is not my taste, but I was actually surprised on how many Lizzy Borden shirts were worn by the cruisers. Maybe he is bigger in Europe than here in the States, who knows?
I for myself went to the Boleros Lounge to check out the second installment of the Jeff Waters hosted All-Star-Jam. Crap, while on Tuesday I was actually able to secure a seat, not this time around. Apparently word got out that this was THE SHITS and hence, the lounge was packed to the gills. Arkona and Evergrey were playing during that time in the indoor venues and I have no clue how many people were present for their sets. But by the time Tiamat was playing on the Pool Deck Stage everybody made their way back outside. Including me, but since it was almost dinner time I didn't stick around.
We were seated with Gunnar and Kári from Týr during dinner, but even though we had so much fun I had to leave before dessert to catch DragonForce who had something special planned for their Pool Deck Performance. Dan and Kári actually went to check out Inquisition who played their second set in the lounge. Notes from Dan:
Hearing that Inquisition were on the cruise, I had to check them out, not only because they are one of the few second wave black metal acts I know, but also because they only have two members in the band. Not knowing how that would work out in a live performance, and after D.T. Metal told me that they really DO play with only two guys, I went with Kári to the Spectrum Lounge as he was also interested to see how that would go. It actually worked. And while the two-guy concept was apparently not Kári's cup of tea, I thought they pulled it off and sounded much like on the record.
Herman Li playing in the hot-tub
So, DragonForce. I just happen to stand and talk with Andy Piller when Herman Li came up to us and asked Andy if it would be OK for them to play the solo of their last song in the - hot tub! Of course Andy said yes and it was a sight to see Herman in one hot tub, their vocalist in the other and their keytarist standing in the shallow end of the pool; while playing their instruments and surrounded by the people who were actually sitting in the hot tubs when they came. Priceless!
Dan was already in the Chorus Line Theater for Rage when I got there and since we didn't report about their gig on Tuesday, here it is. Oh and while most of the other "bigger" bands did play at least one of their shows on the Pool Deck Stage, for Rage this was not in the cards since apparently the Lingua Mortis Orchestra with their string instruments - well something with getting them out of tune? Notes from Dan:
When I saw that Rage was going to be playing with an orchestra, I can't say that I was really thrilled. I heard that they've done this kind of thing before, but except for a few songs from the early 2000's, my knowledge of Rage pretty much ends when Manni Schmidt left the band. Not that I thought that it would completely suck like Metallica's S&M, but I figured the song selection would be made to fit the orchestra, and I felt that I'd much rather see the band alone.
Well, I was much surprised to see how well they pulled it off. First, the song selection. Thankfully, all the songs WORKED with the orchestra; it wasn't simply a haphazard attempt at musical wankery (again, Metallica). This means of course no "Don't Fear The Winter", "Refuge" and such, which would probably sound horrible with orchestration. Rage played the Suite Lingua Mortis, "Empty Hollow", some tunes from the mid to late-Nineties, and also some Bach compositions that Victor Smolski rearranged about ten years ago (the band announced before nearly every song where or when it came from).
Second, the sound production. It showed that they made sure everything was right; which is why they played both times in the Theater instead of on the Pool Deck. Besides the acoustics of the venue, the humidity would've affected the strings. Also, all the instruments were loud and clear. The orchestra was not simply a faint background noise when the band was playing, nor did it overpower the guitar, bass or drums. Everything seemed to work together, with a noticeable edge for the guitar (it was a metal show after all).
Finally, the orchestra. When I hear the word "orchestra", I think of a whole bunch of people. So back at the announcement of Rage playing with one, I was wondering how all those people could fit on any of the stages. Well, they couldn't, because there actually wasn't that many people; maybe not even ten. There was a keyboardist, around seven stringed instruments (including a lead violinist), and a singer. And the band made it clear that the show was more properly a Lingua Mortis Orchestra promotional gig, announcing an upcoming album and (if I remember correctly) a tour for the LMO. While I originally didn't expect much from them, all in all I was pretty impressed.
Luckily In Flames did let photographers into the photo-pit during their entire set on the Pool Deck, just not all at once. I have seen them a few times over the years and their performance that day was really, really good and spot on and the Pool Deck was packed as well. But I didn't stick around for their entire set, since Kreator was set to play immediately afterwards in the Chorus Line Theater and there was NO way I was going to miss even the first note of their set. And wouldn't you know it - there was a delay. Something with the bass amp and their guitar tech was very vocal to let the entire room (and the on-site sound guy) know that bands prior to them had the same issue and why the fuck this wasn't fixed yet. Way to go Marc, kicking ass and not taking prisoners.
Anyway, the gig started, Speesy's bass was NOT audible at all, he almost threw it down and walked off the stage. Great I thought, but luckily they were able to fix it and the show started. Not taking any pictures and just sitting in the upper deck, enjoying a beer and patiently awaiting a song I haven't heard them play live in a while; "Riot Of Violence" and Ventor was singing. Seriously, I haven't seen Jülle sing that song in such a long time that I actually recorded it for keepsake memories. In hindsight I should have also recorded "Flag Of Hate" since Mille gave the flag to some dude (wearing a short pink dress!) to wave during the intro since it apparently was his birthday. Pretty cool and I am sure there is some sort of video floating around online.
Set list: Mars Mantra, Phantom Antichrist, Death To The World, War Curse, From Flood Into Fire, Under The Guillotine, The Patriarch, Violent Revolution, United In Hate, Riot Of Violence, Enemy Of God, Betrayer, Flag Of Hate / Tormentor.
After the, once again, kick ass performance by Kreator I went back to the Pool Deck since Sabaton was the last band who performed outdoors that night. They were also on the very first 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise in 2011 and the audience actually carried Joakim off the stage and threw him in the pool. And since he announced on their first gig in the Chorus Line Theater that this will be THEIR thing, I made sure not to miss it.
crowd carrying Joakim to the pool
Say what you will about Sabaton, but the guys sure as hell know how to have a good time; on as well as off stage. All of the band members took the time to interact with their fans and it didn't matter how much stuff they had or how many pictures they wanted to take with them, the Sabaton dudes were there to please. Respect; a lot of bands don't do that anymore and I don't mean just on the cruise, but in general.
Right before the last song, skipper Andy Piller addressed the packed Pool Deck to thank everybody and to also announce that the next 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise would be on 27th of January 2014. And as an added bonus he said that those who would be booked passengers would have the choice on where the next destination would be. So, start saving money now since one has to do this cruise at least once during their lifetime.
Poor Anaal Nathrakh, they played in the Spectrum Lounge during the same time and I therefore missed them again and honestly have no clue how many people actually did watch their second set. And while Flotsam & Jetsam didn't start their set until after the Pool Deck was done, not all that many people were present for them neither. I guess everybody went to the Karaoke Lounge since by the time I got there the place was ridiculously packed.
I honestly was going to check out Threat Signal who were the last band to play on the cruise in the Spectrum Lounge, but one can not simply get back up after sitting down following three straight days of walking from venue to venue. Get off my back, I am old. Notes from Dan:
Since we were just on the Barge To Hell cruise, I pretty much knew what to expect. The relaxed atmosphere, the very friendly service, and the tons of things to do all were the same as before. But unlike the Barge To Hell, 70000 Tons Of Metal 2013 was, as the previous ones, sold out. And this made a huge difference. All of the shows were pretty packed (I didn't see any 10-person audiences this time around) and if you wanted to find a nice seat (or be right up front) you couldn't just get there right at show time. Of course this was great for the bands, but it meant that sometimes you had to sacrifice either the end of one band's set or the beginning of the next.
But nevertheless, it was a great experience. There were tons of bands that I got to see who don't come to the States (or when they come they play in total dives), and also plenty of bands that I hadn't heard before and really enjoyed. So, while there were many great shows on the whole cruise, my favorite were definitely Kreator and Rage, with Sabaton, Turisas and Doro not far behind. Bands who pleasantly surprised me were Steel Engraved, Nightmare and Heidevolk.
All (or most) of the bands were great on 70000 Tons Of Metal and therefore it is very hard to pinpoint which ones I enjoyed the most but I have to say that Kreator put down two kick-ass performances and I will leave it at that. The bands who surprised me the most, either since I haven't heard them before or because they were outstanding live were: Steel Engraved, Fatal Smile and Angra.
In closing, once again we had a great time on the cruise and for sure can't wait for the 2014 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise. Special thanks go once again to the entire UMC staff, the security guys from Event Operations Group, the dudes from CMM GmbH and last but not least to my fellow media warriors - ladies and gents it was a pleasure!