Day 4 – 70,000 Tons Of Metal 2013:The Adventure
We woke up as we were pulling into the island of Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks & Caico’s Islands Nation. It was a lovely day in paradise.
It was -25oC where we live (and snowing!) a full 50oC degree difference to our day on the island. After a few hours of sightseeing, we had the pleasure of bumping into Peavy from Rage, Sy from Onslaught and saw Delain taking a moment for a photo-shoot on the beach. It was amusing to see the drunks head banging to Manowar in the swimming pool (with swim up bar) at a bar called Jimmy Buffet’s Margeritaville. The local DJ was quite amused at the crowd and did his best to play as many Metal requests as possible as the Black Horde took over the bar, much like we did at South Beach in Miami a mere four days ago!
After a very relaxing time on the island of Grand Turk we were ready to start the second and final leg of our journey home. We boarded MAJESTY OF THE SEAS and the first formal ‘Metal related’ event of the day was Vika Goes Wild at 4:00pm in the piano lounge.
Vika, a young pianist played metal songs on the grand piano in the lounge on the first day and the main concourse on the second day. She drew a surprisingly large crowd but I did not instantly recognize the songs which are so radically different in their piano form. Probably the most instantly recognizable was ‘Master of Puppets’ by Metallica. Her performance was a touch of class.
Back into the sunshine of the pool deck for the first electric concert of the day, we got to discover Subway To Sally. (Must see # 7)
This band is absolute huge in Europe, specifically Germany with many albums and hits but they are virtually unheard of in North America. To the best of my knowledge they have never played in North America nor have they ever released an album in North America. In fact, I think in 19 years since they released their debut in 1994 I have never seen a Subway To Sally CD in a store, and yet in Germany they are on Nuclear Blast! The indisputable fact that have one of the most stupid band names in all Metal has likely hurt their global credibility. The crowd was surprisingly small considering they were the only band playing at the time and I know everyone was on board because we had left shore!
The fact that the singer sung in German and addressed the crowd mostly in German didn’t help. At one point he asked the crowd if there was anyone from Germany and almost everyone in front of the stage was! Fans from Germany made up the largest percentage of people on the cruise so it was not shocking that they were all there to enjoy their countrymen. Despite being a regional anomaly of a band, I really enjoyed their folk/pagan/viking sound and they should probably get more credit for their pioneering work in this field. All seven of the band members performed admirably including Frau Schmidt the violinist and Bodenski who played some sort if cool, black, electric hurdy gurdy.
I enjoyed their music which seemed to be a mellower,more rock oriented version of Blind Guardian mixed with Orden Ogan. I left thinking it might be good to track down an import copy of a Subway To Sally Greatest Hits CD for my collection.
My curiosity satisfied with that pleasant surprise, I headed inside from the windy pool deck to see Fatal Smile (Must See #6). This band was a very late addition to the cruise, or at least a late announcement on the last day. Despite having three albums, I had not yet heard this Swedish quartet on several occasions I had seen these four tall, young good looking guys always hanging around in a pack who were obviously a band looking like rock stars. They were not acting like rock stars but they just looked like a band. When Fatal Smile hit the stage in the Spectrum Lounge I made the connection and from the minute the singer opened his mouth I knew I liked these guys. They look good (like a cross between Mötley Crüe and the Black Veil Brides) and their stripped down sleazy 80’s inspired Metal was delivered with fire. Their sound was certainly not the norm on the cruise but I certainly enjoyed their sound made a note to hit the merch boot to grab an album of theirs.
After Fatal Smile I enjoyed some Turisas for the second time in the large Theater. They had a much better time slot than before (and no conflicting concert either) and as the sun slipped below the stormy horizon, the viking crusaders got the ample crowd going with songs of drinking and piracy, both perfect themes for the cruise.
Now I had come to my largest conflict of the entire trip; Angra vs. Ektomorf. One one hand I really like Angra and have almost all their albums. I don’t like Ektomorf nearly as much, their uninspired sound is largely derived from mid-years (CHAOS A.D., ROOTS) Sepultura, which is my least favourite era of Sepultura. On the other hand, I had seen Angra at their first show on the boat and I had never seen Ektomorf as they were on my Must See list. The chance of seeing either band ever again is extremely slim as Angra is from Brazil and Ektomorf is from Hungary and doesn’t really tour Canada ever. What to do? In the end you have to follow your heart and while it bothered me to pass up a chance to see a band I had never seen (Ektomorf) and see a band I love (Angra) again. So there is is no write up on Ektomorf (sorry guys!) but here are some pictures of the band performing.
My choice was the right one (in my mind anyway) as Angra played a similar set from their previous show. Fabio epitomizes the classical, operatic performing style so well, it was a pleasure to see him and hear him sing. As a treat they brought a guest on stage to do a cover if Iron Maiden’s ‘Wasted Years’, namely Courtney from the popular, all-female, Iron Maiden tribute band, the Iron Maidens. I was disappointed that they choose not to play anything from the debut album ANGELS CRY as were many in the crowd.
After Angra, I dropped in on Metal Church who were treating the enthusiastic crowd in the packed theatre to the debut album in it’s entirety. I know it is kind of a trendy thing to do (play a whole album live) but it was nice to hear some of the songs that had probably not been played live in decades. Vocalist Monroe did his very best David Wayne impression and it was impressive to say the least!
It was a real treat for the die-hard fans and I hated to leave early to catch Tyr, but I wanted to see Tyr at least once because I had missed them the first time around. Tyr had been on the boat the first time in 2011 and were still massively entertaining.
Despite having a tough break running up against the reunited Metal Church who were playing downstairs, Tyr performed admirably. They included the fan favourite ‘The Wild Rover’, which is always fun. It was good to hear Tyr break away from their usual lyrical theme and play ‘Shadow Of The Swastika’ from their last album, THE LAY OF TYRM. After Tyr I could relax just a bit because I had already seen the next four bands (Doro, Ensiferum, Onslaught, and Helloween) on their first concerts, so instead of another write-up on each artist, I made a few notes for each show.
Doro: Doro held court on the Pool Deck and mixed in a bunch of newer songs into the set including ‘Running From The Devil’ from FEAR NO EVIL, the title track from her new album and the very rare song, ‘We Are The Metalheads’, which has never been released on a Doro album. She also thanked fans in about five languages!
Ensiferum: As much as I hate to admit it, Ensiferum (who were overlapping with Onslaught) are the younger, more charismatic, more fan-friendly band of the pair and so while Onslaught was grinding it out in the trenches upstairs in the small room, Ensiferum entertained a crowd three times the size in the larger Theater. I felt they were a little subdued compared to some of the times I have seen them live but that could just be my perception as the crowd was into it.
Onslaught: The only British band on the cruise played their 1986 album THE FORCE in it’s entirety and I had almost forgotten how relentless that album really is! They also shot some footage for their upcoming 30th Anniversary DVD!
Helloween: The sound problems and long delays that plagued the last Helloween set were eliminated as the headliners ran unopposed on the pool deck at prime time for another one hour fifteen minute set. The same four songs opened the show, the same choreographed stage moves, the same stage rap, the same sing-along parts…even the same drum solo! Not much changed from the previous gig. Fortunately, the band offered some good song variation in the set. I feel Helloween may be suffering from an undiagnosed case of ‘Iron Maiden Syndrome’. This is a scientifically true, factual and medically documented affliction of Metal deficiency. It is known to strike when a band is legendary and brilliant but is getting old and suffers from any number of symptoms, such as a lack of imagination in song selection, no live spontaneity and limited innovation. I feel blasphemous slagging one if my favourite bands but I felt they could do better. Then they busted out ‘I’m Alive’ and all my grumbling got swept away on the the warm tropical wind. Eventually, Andi Deris relaxed, chatted with the crowd and all was well. Long live Helloween.
I was pretty satisfied after seeing one of my favourite bands (Helloween) again and that took us up to midnight and time for Lacuna Coil the last show of the night in the large Theater. On our way to the show we needed to conduct some business. Co-ordinating press duties for Day Five with the friendly and helpful UMC staff (Allison and Andy) took a bit longer than we thought, so we had to miss Lacuna Coil. I had seen them before and the photography and interview arrangements we made were well worth missing Lacuna Coil. No offense to that excellent band intended but wait until you are what we cooked up for Day Five!
It was now 1:00am and I had a big choice to make. Do I do the ‘responsible’ thing and go to bed and get some sleep or…do I stay up until 5:00am, drinking and see Nile (again), Heidevolk (again), Helstar (again) and catch a chance to see Holy Grail and Immolation for the first time on the trip even though I have seen them both before? Naturally, I did what any true Metal warrior would do… stay up late and drink!
My photographer bought me a drink called an ‘Italian Tea’ which consists of 2 shots of vodka, 2 shots of rum, amaretto and a slice of lime to ward off the scurvy. My liver took one for the team as my drink fortified me for a 1:00am, hour long attack of Death Metal delivered with bludgeoning heaviness on the pool deck. I love Nile, I have all their albums and even bought the Ramses EP on cassette back in 1996 but for some reason, sitting in the warm, tropical breeze by the pool sipping on my ‘Italian Tea’, Nile’s skull fracturing tales of Ancient Egypt didn’t have the same impact as the earlier gig in the Theater. The crowd was getting a bit thin but the few hundred in attendance loved every crushing note.
Back in the crowded and lively/drunken Spectrum Lounge Heidevolk entertained the moderately inebriated crowd. When the fans did not cheer loud enough during ‘Saksenland’, the vocalist, Boris asked the crowd if this was a Disney Cruise or a Metal cruise!! He reminded the fans at 2:00am that they could cheer loud as they wanted and not worry about the neighbours! The large drunk Viking fan in chain-mail drinking out of a horn and the dude dressed as the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle seemed to take it to heart!
The clock was creeping towards 3:00am as Helstar hit the Pool Deck in full flight. It was the third time in about 72 hours I had seen the band and they didn’t really change their set at all which was disappointing. The crowd was getting thin maybe a few hundred diehards and a dozen or so fans asleep (or passed out) on deck chairs in the warm air. But live James Rivera said, ‘No sleep allowed!’ However, it was great to hear cuts from NOSFERATU and REMNANTS OF WAR again as they did their best to wake the dead. Somewhere along the way, between Heidevolk and Helstar, I lost my photographer so I was last man standing… again.
Before I had a chance to recover from Helstar it was time to see the young and energetic power/thrash of Holy Grail for the first time on the cruise. Not the best time slot but they have it everything they had for the die-hards at 3:30am in the Spectrum Lounge. The 70,000 Tons tradition of the lounge chair mosh pit continued on as drunken Metallions rolled the wheeled lounge chairs around the floor in some sort of evil (but fun) Metal bumper car ride. The band finished the ripping set with ‘Fight To Kill’ from their debut album.
I must admit I was fading by the time Immolation hit the Pool Deck at 4:00am. Maybe it was the sun, the booze, the lack of sleep but I almost packed it in. However, I felt that if the band could stay up and perform for the fans I should support them. I feel the band got a bit of the shaft playing at 2:00am on Tuesday and 4:00am on Thursday. As a proud owner of the first half-dozen Immolation albums on CD (including the rare STEPPING ON ANGELS) I felt I owed it to the band to support them. To me Ross Dolan ranks up there with the other US, East coast Death Metal titans such as Glenn Benton, Chris Barnes, and John Tardy. The last 100 survivors were running on alcohol fuelled adrenaline at that point as Immolation delivered a minimalist set of spine-grinding, classic Death Metal. I was looking forward to seeing them on tour in North America with Cannibal Corpse in Canada in a few months. The fans were in for a special treat as the band did the World Premier of not one, but two songs! For the first time ever the band played ‘A Spectacle Of Lies’ from the (at the time of writing) forthcoming, new album KINGDOM OF CONSPIRACY and ‘Swallow The Fear’ from the PROVIDENCE EP.
The New York Death dealers were the perfect prologue to Day Five and the Day of Black Death! As Day Four came to a close it occurred to me that in past few hours we had seen five of the biggest Pagan/Folk/Viking bands from across the globe: Subway To Sally (Germany), Turisas (Finland), Tyr (Faroe Islands), Ensiferum (Finland) and Heidevolk (Netherlands) it was as if Day Four on 70,000 Tons of Metal was a mini PaganFest. Tomorrow promised to be much heavier!
We had now photographed almost every artist, covered 34 of the 41 bands and knocked a few more bands off my Must See list. After being up for 22 hours it was a working holiday indeed and time to hit our cabin for a few precious hours of Viking dreams of home.