70000 Tons Of Metal 2017 - Day Two: The Longest Day Gets Even Longer
Day 2 of 70000 Tons Of Metal is usually packed with "can't miss shows" and the 2017 cruise was no different. Tired, definitely hungover but determined nevertheless, I dragged my butt to the upper deck after a 3'ish hour sleeping stint in my cabin.
To my surprise the pool deck stage was actually finished (running just a little behind) and after a quick breakfast battle plan meeting, I was able to watch the end of Stam1na. Hanging around the pool deck, sipping on a much needed spicy Bloody Mary, the "soothing" sound of Suffocation might have not been what the doctor ordered for my pounding headache, but f*ck it, you only live once, right? I also can't even remember the last time I have seen Frank "the Tank" Mullen on stage with the Suffo guys and as expected, it was awesome; signature "hand-chops" and all.
Soothing morning music courtesy of Suffocation
But enough about how my day started, enjoy the below recap of Day Two, and if you haven't yet, catch up with the happening of Day One by clicking right HERE.
Article by CROMCarl
How does an eternal early riser deal with getting to bed an hour before the internal alarm clock goes off? Let's just say your author never misses breakfast…ever. By 6:30am, I began plotting what has annually become "the longest day" on 70000 Tons Of Metal. When you still haven't lost any steam and the adrenaline is still on the back burner, the first full day is the longest of all. Having preset my challenge of seeing more than 34 shows (my max on any 70000 Tons Of Metal) before I departed the Northeast U.S., I was locked in on a glorious Caribbean Friday and headed to the Windjammer to fuel up and check on the potential for a dreaded pool deck delay.
I was gleefully happy to learn that there was no real delay and Stam1na's 10am performance was left intact. Ironically, I missed it, just not from lack of "stamina" - but due to a Metal Storm breakfast meeting (with D.T. Metal and 8bitglitch) followed by a memory card dump and camera equipment checkup. It marked the first 70000 Tons Of Metal where the only delay was caused by yours truly.
Over the years in metal there have been some funny anecdotes about metal: "If you throw a rock in the Netherlands, you will hit 3 female fronted symphonic metal bands"; "5 out of every 7 Swedes you meet are in a metal band"; "Leif Edling is the creator of 100 bands and plays live in none of them." Another is: "if you gaze at a lake in Finland for five minutes, a melodic death metal band will surface." And with this in mind I headed down to the Alhambra Theater for the eagerly anticipated first set of Finland's Mors Principium Est.
After a three year wait since Dawn Of The 5th Era was issued in 2014, mighty the Finnish warriors returned with Embers Of A Dying World and I was damn excited to hear some of it live. In the first set, the crowd was treated to one new song "Reclaim The Sun" to conclude it. At the time of the set, the new album was still a week away from release, so this performance played out with a heavy dose of Dawn Of The 5th Era material with previous classics "Pure", "Birth Of The Starchild" and "Altered State Of Consciousness". No complaints from this fan - it was just incredible to see them. Of course, the band isn't all Finnish - as brilliant lead guitarist/songwriter (and eight foot tall) Andy Gillion is a U.K. native.
I ran down to Studio B to check out Striker. I don't know whether something in the cosmos has prevented me from seeing the Canadian metal act live (the tour that was set to have the band appear in my home state was cancelled when then guitarist Chris Segger departed the band) or what, but I was pretty excited to check them out on the high seas. With the self-titled new album in my head (less than a year removed from the fantastic Stand In the Fire), I was ready. As expected, the band was a ball of energy, with guitarist Tim Brown, bassist Wild Bill and live guitarist John Fallon all trading places with speed and fevor as Dan Cleary belted out new stuff like "Former Glory" alongside some classics like "Lethal Force" and "Fight For Your Life". Cleary commanded the stage and the band was a testament to a long and viable Canadian metal scene.
I headed on back to the Alhambra Theater to check out a band that is quite dear to my heart. Back in 2014, I had the sincere pleasure of co-sponsoring Orden Ogan's first ever U.S. appearance at ProgPower USA. My bond with German power metal has been rock solid since 1986, when I was first introduced to Rage and Running Wild. Orden Ogan isn't just a band on the rise, but guitarist/vocalist Seeb Levermann is one of the fastest rising producers in metal. With the band's best release "Ravenhead" as its latest (and another album in the works), I was beyond excited to see them again, having believed 2014 would be my one and only time short of a European holiday visit.
If there was one band on the cruise where I would spend the entirety of the set in the pit, this was it - as I once again witnessed the likes of "F.E.V.E.R.", "We Are Pirates", "The Things We Believe In" and "Here At the End Of the World" up close and personal. Most notable was the crowd's reaction to the band, which had be choking up with emotion. I couldn't have been prouder of these guys.
Leading up to 70000 Tons Of Metal, there was only one of the "Big 3 modern German folk metal" acts that I have yet to see. Thanks to UMC, I have been able to check all three off the bucket list - first Subway To Sally, then In Extremo and now Saltatio Mortis. Damned if I could have guessed that the best was saved for last. As I arrived at the pool deck, the set was off and running, the crowd was already hot and from a distance I could already see Luzi das L leaping from the drum riser in full bagpipe prose. This was just going to be brilliant.
I entered the photo pit and I was utterly exhausted from watching the energy of this band. After watching Subway To Sally and In Extremo (no disrespect) get half of the crowd response (and attendance) in years past as this incredible live act, I knew I was witnessing something special. The pipes were swinging, the hurdy-gurdy was churning and the band was pumped and looked ecstatic to be on this cruise. It showed in the faces of the crowd. You couldn't possibly watch this set without smiling. Alea der Bescheidene was literally flying as he belted out tunes from the band's latest offering Zirkus Zeitgeist and classics from the past. Hands down, this was one of the best sets of the entire weekend.
Well that took a ton of energy out of me, and the day was just getting started! However, I had some reserve adrenaline in the tank for the first set from Orphaned Land at the Alhambra Theater. Not only is this band one of my favorite, but the wait for a follow up to All Is One (my album of the year for 2013) is almost unbearable. Fortunately, the incredible acoustic collaboration with the mighty Amaseffer (Kna'an) has been a nice holdover. If there was a "metal for peace award," Orphaned Land would win every year. After witnessing so many concerts, no other band has ever loved its fans and preached tolerance and peace more than these guys. The love that they reflect to the crowd is infectious.
Starting the set was the essence of that message, the title track for All Is One. The band burst forth a plethora of classics that included "The Simple Man", the appropriate "Ocean Land (The Revelation)", "Olat Ha'tamid" and "Norra El Norra (Entering The Ark)". Led by Christ incarnate, and one of the sweetest guys on earth, Kobi Farhi and backed by the piercing stare of bassist Uri Zelcha, energetic drummer Matan Shmuley, happiest guitarist on earth Chen Balbus and cool kid sidekick Idan Amsalem, Orphaned Land mesmerized the crowd and had us all singing "Bekol zman azor el nora, geza avraham, netzer tifa'ara".
I took a bit of a break, most of which was listening to Xandria's sound check before they hit the stage at the Alhambra Theater. I was checking out some photos when drummer Gerit Lamm tapped me on the shoulder to say hello. The guys and gal in Xandria happened to be some of the coolest musicians you will meet. Unlike so many of the other female singers, who (rightfully so) want to avoid a lot of creepy dudes from drooling behind every step, Dianne van Giersbergen could be found all over the boat interacting with fans and taking photos. She is incredibly sweet and very approachable.
Xandria sits atop of the symphonic metal world, one of the finest bands of the subgenre. Live they present no less. Few times can symphonic metal translate so perfectly in a live setting (without added elements), but Xandria succeeds on all levels. The band started with "Where The Heart Is Home"- the opener of the fantastic Theater Of Dimensions - before bringing some of the best of 2014's Sacrificium with "Nightfall" and "Stardust". Xandria has been on a roll of late and the live performance is no exception. Great set and I was looking forward to the second one on the pool deck.
Avatarium playing their first set in Studio B
In what was another highlight of this cruise - I headed down to Studio B for the doom sounds of Avatarium. Anything that Leif Edling touches is gold. Back in 2013, less than a year removed from Candlemass releasing a "final album," the world was introduced to an amazing talent - Jennie-Ann Smith - wife of guitarist Marcus Jidell (ex-Evergrey). "Candlemass with a female singer" was a reality and Jennie-Ann's haunting and powerful vocals were pure perfection. I've longed to see this band live ever since I first heard one of the greatest doom songs ever - "Bird Of Prey".
I arrived as Jennie-Ann was doing a quick sound check. The band started off in a sea of red light and the sweet sounds of total doom. They plodded through selections from The Girl With the Raven Mask - "Pearls And Coffins" and "Run Killer, Run", before hitting some modern classics like "Moonhorse" and "Avatarium". Watching Jidel's cool, calm somber guitar and Smith's interpretive dances was well worth the wait. For me, this was the closest I've come to seeing Leif live even though he wasn't present. (Mats Rydström was the live bassist)
Off to the Alhambra Theater for Therion; and the two sets from the Swedish legends were bittersweet. Founder/songwriter Christofer Johnsson has been suffering from a severe neck injury that will likely force him from the road, making 70000 Tons Of Metal the last two Therion shows ever. That fact remains to be seen, but Johnsson was a trooper - wearing a neck brace in this performance and he showed very limited motion. You can tell Christofer did not want to let down the fans and the performance was impeccable, only he really appeared to be uncomfortable and in pain. Fortunately, guitarist Christian Vidal kept a close eye on the leader.
As always, the great Thomas Vikstrom was one of the main attractions along with daughter Linnéa and Crysalys vocalist Chiara Malvestiti. Live versions of such greats as "Lemuria" (sung so beautifully by Malvestiti), "Son Of The Sun", "Cults Of The Shadow" and "The Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah" were a reminder of the incredible talent of this band, the vast diversity of the discography and the intense visual live memories of what might be left behind if Christofer decides his live days are behind him.
It seems that every year, in some fashion, I run into my all-time favorite singer Fabio Lione. When he performed his first show as the then "temporary" singer of Angra in 2013, that was my first 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise. Then last year, who can forget the incredible "Rain Of A Thousand Flames" set from Rhapsody Of Fire that shut down the pool deck. Everywhere I turn on a Royal Caribbean boat, it seems Fabio is there. Last year, I gleefully took selfies every time I saw him, but this time only once, since I'm certain that getting creeped on by a fat American dude is not an idea of a great vacation. Truth is though, Fabio is an incredibly engaging, honest person who is great fun to chat with.
So here comes Angra once more - this time bringing the Holy Land set (for their second performance) to sea. For the first set, the band hit the pool deck in the early evening. As I sat in the photo pit, anxiously awaiting, the wind started to kick in. When the band hit the stage, I was reminded of that set to the point where I had to shout "Fabio, the fucking wind," which was received with a laugh and an "I know."
Angra is such a special band and to say I've witnessed them five times is pretty incredible since the band has never toured the U.S. - a testament to both the power of 70000 Tons Of Metal and ProgPower USA. The band blasted through a best of set, centered on the latest album Secret Garden and the crowd loved it. It was great to see Almah's Marcelo Barbosa again, the perfect fill in for Kiko Lourerio as he tours the globe with Megadeth. One thing is certain, the band is a sincere honor to watch and I can literally shoot pics of Angra all day, every day.
It was time to head back to the Alhambra Theater for the first of two sets from the mighty Carcass, the band who won the special shirt contest, hands down, with the "Love Boat." If it hadn't been for the change to a "death 'n' roll" on Heartwork in 1993, I might have never fully latched on to this amazing band, since straight grindcore is not my forte. Heartwork was a game changer, especially in a time when grunge was on the rise and death metal needed a kick in the ass to keep it fresh. Of course, Swansong marked, what we believed was the end, in 1995, at a time when the band was just hitting its stride. Fortunately, a ferocious return in 2007 resurrected a beast that only became stronger.
Now, as we wait for a follow up to 2013's Surgical Steel, Carcass continues to slay on the live front and the Alhambra Theater was the next victim. The band paid great homage to that landmark release playing "Buried Dreams" and "Heartwork" in this first set along with a best of old and newer. Jeff Walker is one of the coolest frontmen, a balance of total ferocity and dry British humor. As always, he is backed by one of the best death metal guitar teams in Bill Steer and Ben Ash, who look more like rock star pretty boys than filthy death metal axmen. Make no mistake about it though; they are as lethal as it comes.
Back to Studio B for another bucket list band Axxis. For years, I have been a fan of the German hard rock institution. Here is a band that has covered rock, traditional metal, power metal, melodic metal and hard rock throughout its storied career. I was a bit saddened that I wasn't able to finally meet my friend Marco Wriedt, as he left the band in 2015. This takes nothing away from Stefan Weber at all, who put on an amazing performance in both sets. Before arriving on the boat, I hadn't yet heard the new album Retrolution (released on Feb 24th), so I was hoping to catch a glimpse here.
It was a bit unfortunate that hunger held me back for the first part of the set (missing "Blood Angel" and "Tales Of Glory Island" among others), but when I arrived the band was calling up a lovely female fan to do what I now have come to know as the "percussion participation" segment of the band's live show. Apparently, the European version of this includes bringing out a small drum kit for the picked fan to attempt to mimic Dirk Brand during a performance of "Touch The Rainbow"; I believe the fan was from Colombia.
Vocalist Bernhard Weiß had her air drumming with a pair of sticks as he danced all around her singing "You watch the clouds and dream, Follow the flight of birds, Try to describe the feeling, But you can find no words" from the 1990 classic off the band's sophomore album Axxis II. Weiß was another on this cruise with endless amounts of energy; a spry 52 year old! The band completed the set with "Living In A World" (from their debut album Kingdom Of The Night), "Little Look Back" (Axxis II) and back to the debut title track "Kingdom Of The Night". There was no way I was missing any of the second set on the pool deck.
After another break to check equipment and relax on my ocean view balcony, I headed back to Studio B for another "Swedeath" great to check off my list - the mighty Grave. The band's 2015 album Out Of Respect For The Dead was a brilliant follow up from Endless Procession Of Souls, and was one of my favorite death metal releases of that year. As with Unleashed, Grave just plays death metal straight up, old school with no visual effects or elaborate stage costumes - just music in your face. As with Johnny Hedlund, guitarist/vocalist Ola Lindgren pounded the ice rink inhabitants with a best of selection from one of the best of the genre.
Per usual, cruise veterans Overkill brought their A-Game
At the conclusion of their set, I caught up with my friends in Serenity to discuss the band's first gig at the comedy club (aka Pyramid Lounge) that I missed, as well as the anticipated upcoming show in Atlanta this September. As I was sitting there, a good friend brought a much needed double cappuccino from the coffee shop on the promenade and it was this very elixir of the gods that propelled me through an immense day of what would be 18 shows. Kudos to you, David Levin and see you again soon Serenity!
Back at the Alhambra Theater, Kamelot was ready to unleash its first set and the band had a selection of past guest vocalists that just happened to be on board. I wonder if Fabio would be there, I jokingly thought? Nah, for Tom Youngblood and the boys it would have to be either Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) or Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) or both. With "March Of Mephisto" on the set list, you can bet on both, and so it was.
Kamelot has been on a bit of a tear since hiring Seventh Wonder frontman Tommy Karevik, releasing the highly successful Silverthorn and Haven albums and moving on from the departure of Roy Kahn to the local Norwegian church choirs. In a live setting, the band thrives - with risers to make each member larger than life. Between Sean's braids, Casey's arms flailing, Tommy running around and Alissa and Elize's outfits - it's a total eye candy and a feast for the cameras. In this first set, the band pulled out some Kahn classics like "March Of Mephisto" (complete with White-Gluz), "Center Of The Universe", "The Great Pandemonium" and "Forever" to go with newer material like "Veil Of Elysium" and "Insomnia". As always, it was a typically good Kamelot live performance.
Up next was yet another bucket list band for yours truly, the mighty Draconian at the Alhambra Theater. The only disappointment was not witnessing the haunting beauty of Heike Langhans, the South African native who remained in Sweden awaiting resolution to a visa situation that prevents her from leaving. However, the band tapped brilliant Irish vocalist Lisa Cuthbert to take her place. Though forced to read lyrics from sheets on the floor, Cuthbert's vocal style was a perfect fit for the classy, but brutal grunts of Anders Jacobsson. As expected, the band wrapped the theater in a warm blanket of gothic doom, where slow and haunting rhythms were the perfect complement to the incredibly varied styles of the day.
I cannot say that I was a fan of Vreid before I boarded the Independence Of The Seas, but I sure am after. As one of the very few bands on the boat that I wasn't too familiar with, I headed to the pool deck as mostly a spectator to check out the melodic black metal masters. In similar fashion I immediately took to live Satyricon a few years back (but with far less impact), Vreid was a no-bullshit rock 'n' roll band just belting out aural assault on the pool deck crowd. This was highly entertaining stuff.
I took another breather and stayed close to the pool deck for Omnium Gatherum's performance. If there was yet another Finnish band that has been consistently rock solid over the years, it is them. Having just recently caught them live in Connecticut with Sonata Arctica, these guys present a melodic death metal that is so sweet and melodic it could be mistaken for power metal, before Jukka Pelkonen puts on his death metal game face. These guys are tremendous fun live and that pool deck stage was nice and big for them to expend some energy feeding off the crowd. Set highlights included "Skyline", "The Unknowing" and "Majesty And Silence".
With the double cappuccino keeping up its end of the bargain, I was going to hold out for that 4:45am Allegaeon pool deck set as a challenge to myself and because I really wanted to finally check these guys out. To help me with that goal, I headed back to Studio B to check out Columbian thrashers Witchtrap. In the exact same fashion as Distillator in 2016, Witchtrap was the "2017 Destruction." There is virtually nothing that separates these guys from early Destruction; from the vocals of Carlos Mario Uribe Munoz right down to the old school thrash monikers (Carlos a/k/a Burning Axe Ripper). None of this should be taken as insulting, as Witchtrap was a whole lot of fun!
In a nearly fatal mistake, I headed back to the room to switch out some memory cards and do some photo dumping on to my external drive. On arrival, I nearly packed it in for the night…but I didn't. I grabbed one of my cameras and headed back to the pool deck for the 18th and final band I saw this day - Allegaeon. If there was one band that could literally zap what little fumes that carried me through to this ungodly hour, it was them and especially vocalist Riley McShane. Trying to follow McShane's stage movements was like trying to predict where a housebound cat would go if the door was left wide open. Man, what a great band though and it was so worth the wait.
That was it…I headed back to the room just before the sun rose upon a Haitian landscape. If we hadn't docked yet, it was going to happen before I hit the pillow, I suspected. At least today, there would be a good long rest that may or may not include a trip off the boat.
and long rest….pffffffft.
Top 5 Sets of The Day: 1. Saltatio Mortis, 2. Orden Ogan, 3. Avatarium, 4. Orphaned Land, 5. Carcass
And there you have it - day two survived. Due to the length of this article, I omitted my personal remarks for this action packed day. No worries though, I already jotted down some notes to be published with the next one. So, keep your eyes open and make sure you also check out the band galleries for Day Two (listed in the header or on the event page).
My personal Top 5 sets for Day two were: Anthrax, Saltatio Mortis, Amorphis, Equilibrium and Striker
Watch the official Day Two video recap; courtesy of http://70000tons.tv
Written on 04.03.2017 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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