70000 Tons Of Metal 2017 - Day Three: Metal Music In The Haitian Sun
Before we head into the happening of Day Three, and as already mentioned at the end of the prior article, here are some of my thoughts on the fun, long and exhausting Day Two of 70000 Tons Of Metal.
Since this is the first full "metal" day on the cruise, to say that it's hectic would be an understatement. And in addition to all of the shows there is the Meet 'n Greets and special listening parties in full swing. This year we had quite a few bands who gave their fans a chance to listen to a new album ahead of the release date, and while this is great on one hand, it also totally sucks if a "must see" band is playing at the same time. But hey, every band plays twice on the boat so one just needs to plan ahead.
Unfortunately, no one can plan ahead in regards to the Meet 'n Greets and I am certain I mentioned this last year as well. Whoever schedules those really, no, seriously, REALLY needs to get schooled on which bands not to schedule at the same time and at different locations. For example: Anthrax and Carcass, Overkill and Kamelot or Arch Enemy and Testament. Those are huge names with shit tons of fans and pitting them against each other at the MnG's is no service to the fans.
So, now that this is out of the way, holy fucking shit - Anthrax on the Pool Deck!!!
Since that stage was running a bit late, I actually had the change to watch a bit of Axxis at Studio B… with all of Grave Digger sans Boltendahl sitting next to me. And this is one aspect of the cruise which I think is really nice. The 'rockstars' mingle among us 'mortals' and go and watch shows just as we do.
Anyhoo, Anthrax. I thought that when Amorphis played right before them, the Pool Deck was packed, but holy hell, was it EVER packed for Scott and crew. WOW. To be honest, ever since we moved to the bigger ship, I am venturing to say that this was the BIGGEST Pool Deck crowd yet. And Anthrax didn't disappoint. Kick ass performance. There were some ship crew members standing behind us during their set, in uniform and all, and they were rocking out just like the rest of us; taking pictures, videos and the obligatory selfie during the show.
And now back to your regular reporting…
Relaxing On Labadee
Article by CROMCarl
Day 3 marks "Port Day" on 70000 Tons Of Metal. It's a time for anyone to have the standard mainstream vacation portion of the cruise…but in metal is anything "mainstream"? What awaited fans and musicians alike was sunning, swimming, snorkeling, exploring, volleyball, boating, jet skiing, open ocean zip lines and a go-kart style rollercoaster.
Usually I spend this day relaxing in a near empty boat catching up on much needed rest…only I cannot remember anytime that I actually "slept in." To me, if the day starts at 8:30am it may as well be over with (thanks Dad!). Intrigued by our destination, the first one since Costa Maya, Mexico - I got myself ready, fed and decided to venture out in the Haitian sun. This time around, everything seemed so smooth. Unlike years past, where a line clogged the gangway with card scanning and return metal detectors, Royal Caribbean streamlined the return procedure with the metal detectors on the mainland before the pier. Its little things like this that make the decision to check out the destination without having to stand in a 2 hour return line so much easier.
I exited the boat with ease and ventured out for a short stay on the beach - enough to check out the lay of the land, take some pictures and thoroughly enjoy about 1.5 hours of people watching and fantastic weather. With the understanding that Royal Caribbean provides a great deal of aid to the struggling Haitian population which is battered by hurricanes, earthquakes, corruption and unemployment, the idea of enjoying myself amid the turmoil was much more tolerable. In fact, outside of the Mayan ruins of Mexico a few years back, Labadee was by far the best destination of my five times on 70000 Tons Of Metal. I hope the boat returns here very soon.
Mors Principium Est
Returning to the boat, I took in 3-4 hours of rest watching the beach and ocean from both the pool deck and room balcony. Fully recharged, I harnessed up for another night of non-stop live events. The first band up on the pool deck in the waning Haitian sun was the second set from Finland's Mors Principium Est. The afternoon sets on 70000 Tons Of Metal are often my favorites - reminding me of lazy summer afternoons in the orange-red sun, only with a stage and your favorite bands playing. For this set, Mors added a couple of twists to the set - adding "Leader Of The Titans" and the mighty "Destroyer Of All". There is nothing better than turning around in the pit and checking out that amazing crowd, which I can only imagine there cannot be better setting from the stage for these musicians. It's just crazy when you stop and think about what you are watching and where you are watching it from.
I nearly missed out on Ghost Ship Octavius completely, if not for a tiny gap in time I had before checking out Moonsorrow's second set. GSO is always a treat, having graced the stage of ProgPower USA just under a year ago as a replacement act for a dreaded visa issue. The band features ex-Nevermore drummer Van Williams and Ashes Of Ares guitarist Adõn Fanion, who is also GSO's singer. I managed to catch about 3 songs of the set at Studio B before heading back to Alhambra. This band is always solid and I'm looking forward to a sophomore album from them soon.
Since Moonsorrow isn't such a common view on the live stages in the United States, it was imperative that I check out the second set at the Alhambra. The band definitely switched up the set to gear towards the latest album Jumalten Aika - performing the title track, "Suden Tunti" and "Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen)". The new record is fantastic, so no complaints from your author here. The best part about Moonsorrow is the juxtaposition between the creepy corpse paint, near total darkness and the symphonic melodic nature of the music, which is some of the most poignant sweeping metal you will ever find. It was a sincere pleasure to finally see these guys.
Lured in by the largest stage at sea, I couldn't help but check out Overkill, though I have seen the band more often in the past three years than any other band sans Sabaton. As it thought back over my life, Overkill has likely been the band I have seen the most, starting with a show at Café 9 in New Haven on the Taking Over Tour back in '87 or '88. The biggest shock every time I see the New York legends, the amount of energy expended by Blitz, who is pushing 60 years old, is astounding. For nearly 40 years, Blitz has been doing this and I can only imagine the toll it takes on the body. However, he feeds off the crowd - especially one as hot as the pool deck in the band's second set.
Since 2010, Overkill has been on one of the biggest hot streaks in metal, in terms of high quality albums released. Whether its Ironbound, The Electric Age, White Devil Armory or the brand new one The Grinding Wheel, the band has never been better. Live - it's just a ball of energy with the band performing the fast songs faster and the slower groovy songs fast. "Feel The Fire", "Ironbound", "Fuck You" - the band just slays with so much power. Holy shit - I needed to catch come of Draconian at Studio B, because it would be forever before I see them again.
I ran down to Studio B (well, as fast as these thunder thighs can muster) and caught the last two songs of Draconian. I was able to snap a nice pic of Lisa Cuthbert as she knelt down on the stage to pick up her bottle of water. It didn't matter whether it was 10 minutes minutes or a full hour, I could not pass up any chance to see them. The cascade of blue light faded to black and that was it for the Swedish doom giants - with hopes to see them again on this side of the pond soon.
I headed up to check out the great Uli Jon Roth at the Alhambra Theater. This would mark the first time seeing the former Scorpions guitarist who milks his time with the German hard rock legends to the same extreme that Paul Di'Anno does with early Maiden. The big difference is that Uli is a far better musician, often mesmerizing the crowd with his brilliant guitar playing. He did happen to play on four of the absolute best Scorpions albums to date (Fly To The Rainbow, In Trance, Virgin Killer and Taken By Force). Back in 2013, I regretfully missed his U.S. tour that featured the great Henning Basse on vocals along with every stateside tour since. Roth's set was mystical, magical and spiritual and a pleasure to finally witness.
Testament's second set on the pool deck was the next destination - and this was sure to be a ball of energy and mayhem. I lined up for photo pit access early enough and over to stage left to have a great view of not only the band but the inevitable rolling waves of flailing arms and legs of the crowd. Larger than life and built like a brick wall - Chuck Billy not only stands in front of a crowd - but commands it. In this set, the band added a few twists - adding all-time thrash favorite "Disciples Of The Watch" to the mix along with album counterpart "The New Order". In addition, the band added some stuff off the heaviest Testament album The Gathering - with "Three Days In Darkness" and "D.N.R.". The crowd kicked into full gear and the band fed off that boost to make for one of the highest octane and memorable pool deck sets on the cruise. Testament never disappoints.
After missing Haggard's pool deck set that was pushed back by the only real hindrance delay of the entire cruise - there was no way I was missing the symphonic death metal traveling circus again. Haggard is another band that rarely travels across the sea to a U.S. port of call (but Mexico, yes). An extremely unique group, the surrounding orchestra is rarely the same, but the attraction is always bigger than huge. Making full use of the deep stage at the Alhambra, Haggard positioned musicians around the extreme rear outline of stage, with a huge swath in the middle mostly to allow Italian sparkplug Claudio Quarta to windmill around and interact with everyone. If there was a flash point for every band member, it was Quarta - inspiring Romanian flutist Cătălina Popa (Whispering Woods) and soprano Janika Groß, who proved they can headbang with the best of them.
This time around, mastermind Asis Nasseri employed ex-Eluveitie live violinist Shir-Ran Yinon, who took a spot with other violinists in the extreme back center of the stage. Shir-Ran is a brilliant talent, who single-handedly stole the show when Eluveitie last toured the U.S. before the big schism. The band stormed through "Per Aspera Ad Astra", "Eppur Si Muove" and "The Final Victory" among others. Here is another of the many instances where 70000 Tons Of Metal has given me every opportunity I've ever had to witness Haggard.
Kamelot's second set was next on the pool deck and with the wind kicking up and the fog machine belching out gobs of white mist, you just knew hair and clothing would be whipping in the wind - from Sean Tibbets' braids to Alissa White-Gluz's blue locks. One of the things that make this cruise so special is the centerpiece stage of the entire event, though I confess I miss the depth and space of the pool deck on Majesty Of The Seas - one where you can witness a show from the entirety of the upper ring. No matter though, Independence's "half deck" (the other half comprises a solarium and kiddie pool area) makes it more intimate amid the largest stage at sea.
For the second set, Kamelot brought some more of Ghost Opera into the mix - with the "Rule the World" and the title track starting off the set. "March Of Mephisto" heralded the chick drumcore along with the appearance of White-Gluz who seems to steal the show every time she appears (and she was on stage a whole lot over the weekend). This time around, Casey's drum solo was swapped out with a keyboard solo from Oliver Palotai. A mix of old and new filled the rest of another stellar set from one of the most consistently excellent live bands in the world.
After getting jettisoned from the pit in Amorphis' first set on the pool deck due to "too much crowd surfing" (I'll keep my grumbling on this to a minimum out of my respect and friendship towards the security crew), I was not going to miss out on the band's second set at the Alhambra Theater. For this one, the band paid tribute to an incredible landmark release Eclipse (released in 2006), which was played in its entirety. The album marked the first studio release for vocalist Tomi Joutsen (who joined in 2004), who - in my opinion - transformed the band into another stratosphere. His ability to both match the brutality of any death metal vocalist while having one of the most soothing, beautiful doom voices makes him one of the best in the business. Add to that the inevitable appearance of the steam punk microphone (the most unique microphone you will ever see) and it makes Amorphis one of the best bands you will ever see live.
Normally I am not a big fan of full album plays - opting rather to hear an array of songs from the entire discography. However, with Amorphis there is a synergy to hearing an album in full played before my eyes rather than in front of a stereo. That emotion and power that you only visualize in your head while home (or in the car) is displayed before you. Eclipse is one of those albums and to hear "Perkele (The God Of Fire)" or "Brother Moon" or "Under A Soil And Black Stone" with this much intensity was pure magic. The band capped the set off with "Death Of A King" from the latest opus Under The Red Cloud.
Editor notes: While Carl was over at Amorphis, I went to Studio B for a healthy dose of Einherjer. I tried to watch them the day prior in the small lounge, but the sound was not all that (a bit distorted and way too loud) so I was really looking forward to seeing them again. Einherjer played on the cruise before (in 2015) and I somehow managed to miss both of their sets back then. Luckily I had the opportunity to see them the same year in Baltimore, MD when they came to Maryland Deathfest. Nope, not missing them again… ever!
I nearly skipped Grave Digger since I have seen them so many times in the past few years, but this was the grand stage of the festival and the band had just released the excellent Healed By Metal, and I wanted to see which selections would make it to the live set. You cannot go wrong with a band like Grave Digger - a testament to longevity and never giving in. They has been around metal for the entirety of my time in metal - releasing Heavy Metal Breakdown the same year I found this amazing music. The band is experiencing the best lineup in its history - a lineup that has not been solidly together for eight years (with Axel the "newest" joining in 2009).
The band started off the night with new tunes "Healed By Metal" and "Lawbreaker", and as expected, they sounded excellent live.They added one other brand new one -"Hallelujah" - towards the latter third of the set. In between was what you've come to expect from the German greats - "Witch Hunter", "Season Of The Witch", "Tattooed Rider", "Rebellion" and "Highland Farewell", among other classics. The pool deck crowd gave the band plenty to feed off of. It was another great live set from one of the best pure metal bands in the business.
It was time to check out Equilibrium at the Alhambra Theater for the first time this cruise - always a great live act. The German epic symphonic folk metal act has gone through slight lineup change since last I saw them. Bassist Jen Majura left in 2015 to become the new guitarist for Evanescence and was replaced by Marcus "Makki" Riewaldt (ex-Suidakra). Last time Equilibrium graced the stages at 70000 Tons Of Metal, vocalist Robert Dahn donned a skipper's hat and declared himself "Captain Robse." This time around, the band seemed a bit more serious - and Robse got right to business with a lot more veracity. With another album under its belt (Armageddon), Equilibrium performed with a renewed sense of purpose.
The set featured some newer material ("Prey", "Born To Be Epic", "Rise Again"), recent material ("Freiflug", "Apokalypse") and some classic material ("Unbesiegt", "Heimwarts", "Blut Im Auge"). The band felt like it was shot out of cannon with a vicious edge to go along with the epic large choruses. Definitely one of the best live sets I have seen them perform.
Back up to the pool deck I headed to check out Xandria's pool deck set. I was definitely not going to miss the premiere symphonic metal band on this stage. The band's second set varied a bit from the first, with the most notable addition being "We Are Murderers (We All)" - one of the best from the new Theater Of Dimensions album. It never ceases to amaze me how much of a performer and stage commander Dianne Van Giersbergen is.The band as a whole is at the top of its game and at the pinnacle of its career. Astounding set.
In nearly one of the biggest regrets of the cruise, I nearly missed out on Hungary's Dalriada. Thank the metal gods (and another double cappuccino) I did not! In what was by FAR the surprise of the entire cruise - Dalriada was fantastic. It is one thing to know a band - and I knew Dalriada - but it is quite another to put the music you think you know into a live setting. This Hungarian folk metal act was just what the doctor ordered for a long day of predictable metal (not a slight, but I certainly knew what to expect for the majority of the day's lineup).
From the moment that Laura Binder started wind milling with that gorgeous head of blond hair, I knew this was going to be brilliant. I have never been to a Hungarian folk dancing show, but I would imagine that if you metalized it - Dalriada was the proper introduction. I couldn't tell you a single word that was being sung, but I can tell you that it felt full of life, full of love and a celebration of earth and spirituality. It was absolutely infectious and the crowd that made it to this set was won over!
Since I made it this far, why not run back of the pool deck and check out Dying Fetus' pool deck set, right? I confess, I'm not a big fan of the band - not sure the name makes me a little queasy or not - or that I've never really been into the brutal death metal/grindcore scene. I was glad to check them out - a three piece of total destruction - I enjoyed that energy and judging by the crowd that made it there, they did too! It was a crushing end to another spectacular day.
This day was very special because Labadee was amazing and gorgeous and though it felt a bit strange to stand on the beaches and celebrate as a nation struggles with poverty and lack of a good inner governmental structure to assist its people - I felt like a percentage of anything money I put into the economy that day would be paid out by Royal Caribbean. It truly far exceeded my expectations and I hope that UMC decides to go back at some point.
I took what little sleep time I had left and packed it in with hopes for another long and fruitful day tomorrow!
Top 5 Sets of the Day: 1. Amorphis, 2. Haggard, 3. Dalriada, 4. Xandria and 5. Kamelot
There ya go, Carl pretty much summed up the happening of Day Three. I for one actually went onto an excursion while at Labadee; Snorkeling with Trollfest. About 20 or 25 of us went onto a boat and the tour coordinator took us to a snorkel spot and while the water was warm and clear, the "sights" were not all that great and most of the coral was dead. But hey, we had fun with the "trolls" and even Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl was part of our tour.
I also managed take some pics of Revocation when they played in the small ass lounge… some pics - since the crowdsurfers came over the barrier from the word go!
A quick note about Equilibrium: at the beginning of their set, Haggard's Claudio Quarta was also onstage and did his best "airguitaring" while jumping around onstage. Pretty funny. I have been knowing their "new" bassist from the old Suidakra days and ran into him twice last year while in Germany. Equilibrium also played at last year's Metal Hammer Paradise Festival and one my friends unofficially crowned them "Band With The Best Hair For Headbanging"
Keep your eyes open for the last instalment and make sure you also check out the band galleries for Day Three (listed in the header or on the event page).
My Top 5 for the Day were: Overkill, Einherjer, Equilibrium, Grave Digger and Dying Fetus
Watch the official Day Two video recap; courtesy of http://70000tons.tv
Written on 18.03.2017 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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