Day 2 – 70,000 Tons Of Metal 2013: The Adventure
We woke up to a beautiful day. After breakfast we made our way to the Seaport. At about noon people started trickling in. While in-line to board, we could see members of In Flames, Angra, Dragonforce and Anacrusis. Spirits were high.
There were the occasional bemused looks from the staff at the freakshow on parade but as this was the fourth Metal themed cruise run by UMC in three years (the most recent being Barge From Hell, a mere 6 weeks ago at time of sailing) the staff seemed to be more relaxed and accustomed to seeing the black horde preparing to board. After getting our boarding passes, we boarded and checked our stateroom. The TV in the room showed Metal Videos in the rooms including a documentary about the three previous cruises. Sweet!
It was time to reacquaint ourselves with the Metal Majesty of the Seas. As we toured around we could hear Metal on the intercom through the ship. Brilliant!
Here are some facts about the cruise and some shots of the boat
Name: Majesty Of The Seas
Operator: Royal Carribean
Speed: Full Speed or No Speed
The Freak Parade!
Age Range: 1 to 71!
We visited the Chorus Theater, the Spectrum Lounge and watched the crew building the pool stage. We picked up our media passes and chatted with journalists and fans from around the world, the photographers compared cameras, lenses, shooting tips and so on.
After a rowdy (but mandatory) evacuation drill, including a chanting call for the ‘Wall Of Death’, the festivities were ready to begin at 5:30 with Helstar in the Spectrum Lounge.
There were a few hundred faithful for the opening show while many other enjoyed the last rays of the sun and a quiet refined, pre-diner cocktail (ie. slamming buckets of Corona) above the pool deck as the Pool stage continued to take shape.
Helstar took the stage as more and more loyalists filtered in. The sound was surprisingly good. I never cease to be amazed at the power and range of James Rivera as he sounded remarkably fresh considering he had just left the stage at the pre-party less than 17 hours previously! His voice is indestructible.
The boat left on time and I actually spent some time watching as we sailed away, because last time on the inaugural cruise in 2011, I was busy watching a show and didn’t even notice we had left until we were out to sea. It is that smooth. Helstar played a compressed set from night before and James suggesting to the ‘Metal Family of the world’ that we should start our own country and that he would be president! A highlight cut for me was to see ‘Good Day To Die’ again. There was a slight bit of crossover and since I had just seen Helstar (as mentioned less that 24 hours ago) I headed to see Sabaton in the main theater.
Unlike Helstar who just walked on with no fanfare, plugged in and started to play, Sabaton played Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ to the packed theater with the entire crowd singing enthusiastically along, proving in my mind that the song is not as hated by Metalheads as some suggest! The show started (on time!) as the band, who also played the first cruise, entered the arena of battle like conquering heroes. They opened with Ghost Division and never looked back. As much as I love the band have all their albums I must admit that I didn’t really notice the fact the whole band (except the singer) had changed since the last time I saw them, especially since they all dress the same in the grey cammo pants and black shirts. Robban (drums), Thobbe (guitar) and Chris (guitar) are just as competent and entertaining as Daniel (drums) Oskar (guitar) and Rikard (guitar) were. Joakim had his patented sense of humour by saying ‘Hello Boat!’ (To save time, because saying ‘Hello 70000 tons of Metal’ in between songs in one concert takes too long to say) and then he promised a very different set before launching into the ‘Cliffs of Gallipoli’ with the crowd singing along.
I took a quick break to check out Metal Team trivia in one the lounges but it was cancelled due to lack of interest. As a trivia fan myself I was disappointed but it is fully understandable because people would rather be watching a show than playing games so back to Sabaton for the end of their hour long set.
After the one-two punch of Helstar and Sabaton I was worried that the progressive, gothic keyboard laden tones of Delain (Must See #20), arguably one of the mellower bands on the boat, would not sit well but the juxtaposition of sound worked very well. Delain was the first band of the cruise I had not seen so my anticipation was high. The oceanic turbulence was the most I’d ever felt up to that point on both cruises but it just added to the fun of the dark and crowded Spectrum Lounge.
Vocalist, Charlotte sounded just as sweet live as in person, a tribute to her talent and skill. The guitar tone seemed much heavier live than on the albums.
One of the major drawbacks of the cruise is the agonizing decision of when to eat. No matter when you choose to eat (because the restaurants are only open at certain times) you will miss something, unless you can go 24 hours without eating! Knowing we would be up until at least 3:00 or 4:00am we had to sacrifice a few Delain songs to go eat, because it had been 9+ hours since breakfast and would be another 13 hours until breakfast. We made a very quick enroute stop to see the progress of the pool stage which was scheduled to host Metal Church at 12:30. It was coming along nicely. We wolfed down some decent food in 15 minutes. At times it felt a bit rushed but the Metal is the priority and so we rushed back to the Spectrum to catch the last couple songs including finishing off with ‘The Gathering’.
Speaking of spectrum, next up on the opposite end if the musical spectrum was the crushing brutality of the technical Death Metal band Nile. (Must See #19) While the Chorus Line theater was not nearly as packed as for Sabaton (I think people were getting hungry) I was excited to see this unique veteran who will not play in Canada for various reasons.
It was great to hear their crushing death add some weight to the lineup which was admittedly top heavy with Power Metal. Watching the fluid mastery of Kolias behind the kit for the first time as I checked Nile off my ‘Must See’ list (I don’t like the term bucket list, it seems lame), I was now even more excited to see his drum clinic on Tuesday. The show highlight for me was ‘The Black Flame’ with its atmospheric opening, and transitions between super fast and slow ominous conclusion. They finished their exceedingly loud set with ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’.
Up next was Flotsam and Jetsam again. I hadn’t seen them in 14 years and now I was seeing them perform three times in 72 hours! Much like Helstar from the night before the played a truncated set. I was glad to see they didn’t cut the songs from the new album like ‘Ugly Noise’ and ‘Motherfuckery’. I could not get over how good the sound was upstairs in the Spectrum Lounge compared to last time in 2011!
Up next was a huge highlight for me, one of my favourite bands of all time, Helloween. With their new album STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL just being released on the Tuesday before the cruise I was hopeful they would debut some new material and I was not disappointed as ‘Burning Sun’ made it into the setlist. However I was disappointed because of the massive 40-minute delay that messed up the rest of the night which had been running like clockwork.
Now, because of technical delays with the drum set up painful compromises would have to be made. They finally hit the stage opening with ‘Are You Metal?’ from SEVEN SINNERS.
Informally, one of the headliners allotted more than one hour on the biggest stage at one of the best time slots, they lived up to their reputation as one of the worlds longest running, best selling, most prolific Metal bands of all time now with 16 albums under their belt. Running a set of career spanning hits the show went from highlight to highlight including, ‘Eagle Fly Free’ and ‘If I Could Fly’.
Although it almost caused me physical pain to leave Helloween early it was a calculated risk because the chance if seeing Helloween again was higher than ever seeing Lizzy Borden again who I hadn’t seen since 1989 on the Master of Disguise tour! Helloween will extensively tour the world to support their new album starting in March whereas Lizzy Borden will probably not ever make it to Canada again. I love drum solos at concerts. It is the epitomize of the over the top indulgence that is a hallmark of Heavy Metal. However, when you are playing a one hour and 15 minute set AND are running 45 minutes late, Helloween should have opted to drop the drum solo. It was at that point I made my break to see Lizzy.
Lizzy is another really under-rated and talented vocalist, his voice still having all the force and range despite being in the business for 30 years. I’m still not sure if I’m used to straight black haired Lizzy compared to 80’s ‘classic’ Lizzy with the frizzy, blond hair. His show was extremely theatrical with multiple costume changes and I lost count how many masks he wore. From smearing blood from a skull (carried by a guy in a hockey mask) on himself and the crowd to biting the throat of a willing buxom blond victim, to wielding his traditional axe (and baseball bat with spike) Lizzy was by far the most visually entertaining of the night. Despite being around for 30 years Lizzy only has six albums to pick from so the song selection was a bit predictable although the inclusion of a version of ‘ Rebel Yell’ and closing with Tomorrow Never Comes’ was nice.
His new guitarist Dario was separated at birth from Hammerfall guitarist Oscar Dronak. It was (just) worth leaving Helloween for.
Dario (Lizzy Borden) VS. Oscar (Hammerfall)
Separated at Birth?
Because everything was being pushed back the smooth transitions between sets fell apart and then there would be long breaks when no one was playing and then two bands would be playing at exactly the same time. I had to choose between Dragonforce and Threat Signal, which was a no brainer for me, but then Dragonforce was overlapping with Metal Church…or so I thought . I left Dragonforce, more on them in a minute, because I had see them five times in the past few years but had not seen Metal Church since 1989. However, Metal Church was late on the pool deck (backed up to accommodate Helloween) so it was not their fault naturally but I was not thrilled to be standing outside in the rain on the slippery pool deck when I could have watched most of Dragonforce.
Dragonforce opened with ‘Holding On’ and never looked back! Vocalist Mark Hudson instantly silenced all cynics and critics (who had suggested he could not do it live) as he nailed the opening scream in the aforementioned opening song from the new album THE POWER WITHIN. Herman and Sam demonstrated why the term ‘Dragonforce level’ (meaning exceedingly difficult) has seeped into popular culture.
Although I hated to leave, I could not miss the Metal Church reunion. On July 7th, 2009 the band announced they were breaking up partly because of lack of interest in the new material. So a mere three years later they have returned to give (most) people what they wanted. Ronny Monroe was in fine form as a light rain fell as the (THIS PRESENT WASTELAND) lineup ran through a set that was voted for by the fans on the 70,000 Tons site before the cruise. Although it was fantastic to hear the classics from the first three albums I was disappointed in the retro feel of the set. Prior to sailing the band announced they were going to perform all of the debut album in its entirety so that meant the band ignored six of their nine albums completely. Of course the (so called) ‘fans’ voted for the old stuff so the people had spoken but personally I liked the last three Metal Church albums and would have line to hear some songs from each.
The scheduling delays and overlaps meant I missed Immolation completely as well as I hurried cold and wet back to the Chorus Line Theater to see Tiamat (Must See #18).
While I am only familiar with about half of their deep catalogue they were exactly what I needed to see. Finally, warmed up and sitting for the first time I hours I enjoyed the deep baritone of as he delivered one if the more unique sets on the cruise. The heavy keyboard laden gothic sound of the minimalist band was a perfect antidote to the blitzkrieg of the previous four bands. The crowd at 2:30 am was small but loyal and more European in makeup than the crowd at Metal Church. Minimal talking, minimal stage set, subdued lighting, no theatrics, or showboating, Tiamat just rocked the barge with excellent songs a highlight being ‘Wings of Heaven’. The slower pace and tone of Tiamat was a welcome change to recharge before getting fired up for Turisas (Must See #16).
I rounded out my day seeing the Finnish Viking sextet and they did not fail to live up to my expectations. I decided to pace myself on Day One (on the boat) and hit the sack at the not unreasonable hour of 4:00am.
Next (Day 3) –>>