70000 Tons Of Metal 2017 - Day Four: Wait, It's Over Already? The Grand Finale
Ugh, the last day of the cruise was upon us and despite trying to watch all the bands I was interested in, I missed a few. Seriously, one can plan ahead all they want, but due to the fact that there is so much going on, all the time, even the best laid out plan is easily derailed. One huge factor is definitely that there are tons of people from all over the world on 70000 Tons Of Metal, and over the years I met a great deal of awesome people and the cruise is usually the only time to hang out.
The last day is also packed with other activities which sometimes contribute to missing a band as well. There is the famous Belly Flop Contest, several artists' clinics, the always popular All-Star-Jam, the live coverage of the NFL Super bowl game, and in my case, also a press briefing with the cruise organizers.
Hectic is an understatement, but before you read what all happened on the last day of the 2017 cruise, checkout (if you haven't already) the previous articles:
Cruise Organizer and Mastermind "Skipper" Andy Piller
Article by CROMCarl
I woke up on Day 4 with a mixed feeling of excitement and sorrow and feeling more fatigue than I ever had in recent memory. However, metal provides all the adrenaline I need!
Ok, and coffee too….
Oddly, when I'm on this cruise, I find my coffee intake goes from 8 cups before noon to practically nothing…so perhaps it is metal. Having witnessed 43 shows in the first three days of 70000 Tons Of Metal, already blowing past my previous high of 37, Day 4 would only be more auditory gravy.
Having the memory of turbulent winds of Day 4 2016 fresh in my mind - one that sabotaged the schedule to the point where I gave up trying to figure it out - I braced myself for bad weather. Refreshingly, as it was for the entirety of the cruise, the weather was absolutely spectacular and the seas incredibly calm. I set out for breakfast and after a quick meeting to plan the day, headed to the pool deck.
First up was one of my favorites - Germany's Axxis. Having missed the first part of the first set back at Studio B, this one I saw in its entirety at 10am on the pool deck. Though there wasn't any deviation from set one in terms of songs, the band's energy level was 10x higher in the bright sunshine and giant pool deck stage. As in the first set, the band selected a lovely young woman from the audience who was brought up on stage to play tambourine during "Touch The Rainbow". If there was a ranking for most fun set, Axxis would be a true contender.
I did not want to miss Serenity's second set, since I omitted seeing the first since it was at the Pyramid Lounge, a venue I'd like to forget and one that I pray my favorite bands don't get stuck in. Unfortunately, Serenity's first show was in that place. I was told it was quite a fun show regardless, since vocalist Georg Neuhauser is one of the more active and athletic vocalists in the business.
Studio B was bathed in magenta light when the band blasted forth with the intro to the latest album Codex Atlanticus. They played an incredible set of old and new and Georg lived up to his reputation, spending the majority of the time on the edge of the monitors and making every effort to get as close to the crowd as he possibly can. He is a brilliant frontman that can conjur up excitement from crowds small and large. I hadn't seen Serenity live since my very first ProgPower USA in 2012 and I look forward to seeing them again in September.
I rushed back to the pool deck to catch Amaranthe's second set. I know I poo-poo the band because they are really not my style, but I never miss an opportunity to support and watch Olof Mörck, one of the most talented guitarists and gracious people in the industry. Despite my aversion to "pop-core" - Amaranthe is chock full of incredible talent even before you get to the obvious - Elize Ryd. The band supercharged the crowd with songs like "Boomerang", "The Nexus", "Digital World" and the made for live, but cringe worthy "Drop Dead Cynical" and "That Song". To be honest though, by that point, I was positioned to witness the 2017 installment of the Belly Flop Contest.
This is the first year of my five 70000 Tons Of Metal experiences that I've watched the Bell Flop Contest from the beginning until about midway through. In past years, I casually took a quick look in passing as it was happening. This time, I had a prime position right above the platform with a wide angle view of the entire solarium. Guest judges included Dianne van Giersbergen (Xandria), Felipe Andreoli (Angra), Kobi Farhi (Orphaned Land), Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger), Alea der Bescheidene (Saltatio Mortis) among others. The key for contestants - I imagined - would be to cast a wall of water that could hit both the judges and anyone else by the side of the pool. From the ones I saw, one a few got close. It's all in good fun, especially since Day 4 also doubles as "costume day" - so many contestants combined the two and belly flopped in a costume.
I headed down to the Alhambra Theater to check out Månegarm. I've said it in my earlier reports - but 70000 Tons Of Metal always impresses with the choices for folk metal. Though the 2017 edition didn't have those big names in the subgenre that would steal some headlines, the quality of the folk metal on the boat this year was deceptively fantastic. For instance, take Månegarm - they are a very well respected band that has a cult type following - and thrust them into the 70000 Tons Of Metal environment and you can pretty much guarantee that new fans will be made.
Fun In The Sun
Erik Grawsiö and company played an eclectic set of heavy and acoustic numbers, mostly surrounding around the latest album Månegarm - represented by "Blodörn", "Tagen Av Daga", and "Odin Owns Ye All". I would have deeply regretted missing the opportunity to see them and I nearly did. Persistence and adrenaline paid off!
I headed back up to the pool deck to check out Orphaned Land's set, which was sure to be a trip. While waiting to get in the photo pit, I took the opportunity to scout out the various costumes in the crowd and was able to snap a few photos of some of the fans' creativity.
The only thing better than witnessing Orphaned Land on stage is witnessing the band on a stage in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by warmth and sunshine. Let me set the scene for you: bright, blue sky, 85F, big crowd, water splashing up from the center whirlpool, a brisk wind and Israel's finest music on stage playing the very appropriate "Ocean Land". Few things get better than this.
I grabbed a quick lunch and happened to meet up with all of Axxis, who were hanging around the entrance to the Windjammer Buffet. Bernhard happened to remember my "Singin' in the Car" video I did some years back of the song "The War." It's pretty special when a musician you admire remembers you out of all the people they've met over the years. That never gets old with me.
I headed down to catch a bit of Trauma (USA)'s set at Studio B. I cannot say enough about the diversity of 70000 Tons Of Metal's lineups - and traditional metal always gets a nod. Trauma (USA) recently came back when they released a second album in 2015 (Rapture And Wrath) 31 years after their debut (Scratch And Scream). Trauma (USA) is the band Cliff Burton was in before joining Metallica. With an all new lineup around vocalist Donny Hillier and drummer Kris Gustofson the band has never sounded better. The newer stuff like "Egypt" and "When I Die" killed live and I was stoked to have finally seen these guys.
Since Unleashed was one of the bands I most wanted to see on this year's cruise - I made it a point to make sure I saw them twice. The pool deck in the waning afternoon sun may not seem like the ideal time or setting to see a death metal band - but this is 70000 Tons Of Metal! If I can see Septicflesh in the middle of the day outdoors, then the brightness can be Unleashed! As a photographer, I appreciate seeing the bands that are usually bathed in red (or no) light!
This time around, the band pulled out a lot of different selections for the set - adding "Execute Them All", "Never Ending Hate", "Into Glory Ride", "The Immortals", "Before The Creation Of Time" and the brilliant "Shadows In The Deep" and a glorious "Death Metal Victory"! As a big fan of Johnny Hedlund and the band, I was so appreciative that they made a serious effort to mix up these sets. It made checking them off that bucket list so much sweeter.
Editor notes: While Carl had a swell time on the pool deck during Orphaned Land, I checked out Witchtrap in the Pyramid Lounge and to my surprise it was actually pretty packed. I missed them on Day 2 at Studio B, and after some people told me that they rocked, I wasn't gonna miss them on their second set. Then I watched a bit of the All-Star-Jam and Unleashed before heading to the Press Briefing. This year was the first year where the Organizer decided to only have one briefing; in prior years we always had two. Smart move since the same questions usually were asked in both briefings. Other than the things I already pointed out in the Day One article in regards to how many people were on the cruise and how many repeat customers there are, the following was also mentioned in the briefing:
There was one more important point made during the press briefing, which I will mention at the end of this article.
Just with Serenity, I intentionally skipped Nightmare's first set based solely on location. Yeah, I know - how can I call myself a fan if I don't avail myself of every opportunity to see the bands that I love? The operative word is "see." Now, I could have kneeled down right less than a foot in front of Magali Luyten in the photo pit for the set, but that would only serve to limit her access to the crowd immediately behind me. Sorry, the Pyramid Lounge is off limits for me unless in a dire emergency and this year I had none.
However, at Studio B - the band has more room to roam with much better sound. I had the pleasure of seeing Nightmare a few years back (courtesy of 70000 Tons Of Metal) with the great Jo Amore on vocals. I'm sure some longtime fans of the band may have expressed some misplaced anger over the choice of Luyten for the new vocalist. I, for one, think the move was the perfect thing to do to rejuvenate the sound and style of the band. She is a true metal chick and can kick as much ass as any male counterpart and proved it on stage. Her voice has the perfect mix of grit, power and grace and when she commands the stage it's all about kicking your ass as a listener. For this set, the band did the new 2016 album Dead Sun in its entirety. Although it was brilliant, I would have loved to see Maggy's vocal take on some of Jo's most powerful songs of the past ("Sunrise In Hell" anyone?).
All Star Jam
Now I have very little interest in DevilDriver. No disrespect, but the band's style isn't my style. That's not to say I don't dislike every song - as the latest material ("Winter Kills" and "Trust No One") seems to resonate better with me. However, as a music fan I recognize the band's place in history so it was very cool to see finally them up on the pool deck. Dez is an imposing frontman and the band emits a serious amount of power and energy.
I left DevilDriver a bit before the end of their set, because nothing on heaven, earth and sea would keep me from seeing Pain's second set. After my first Pain live experience left me blown away and wanting more, I was eager to see Peter command another crowd, this time at the Alhambra Theater.
The mix up of the setlist was greatly appreciated, with the band switching in different older material like "Monkey Business", "It's Only Them", "I'm Going In" and "Dirty Woman". Speaking of "Dirty Woman", I turned around for some crowd photos during that song only to witness a sultry chick with vampire fangs gleefully removing her shirt. Irony or coincidence? In the end, Pain stole the whole cruise for me and their appearance in Atlanta in September should be over the top. Can't wait!
Another band that was incredibly impressive in their first set was Kalmah, so I shot off to the pool deck for the second set. As the purveyors of "swamp metal" - the fog machine and accompanying wind was the perfect setting! The band worked in some different older material here including "Swamphell", "They Will Return", "Dance Of The Water", "Rust Never Sleeps", "Heritance Of Berija" and "Heroes To Us", as well as one different 'newer song' - "Pikemaster". It just didn't matter which material the band presented - they have never released an album I didn't love.
Edenbridge was the last band of the cruise on my big list of bands that I needed to see, but hadn't up to this point. I'm a big fan of Dominik Sebastian via Serious Black, in addition to Edenbridge. At the time of seeing them, the Austrian symphonic metal powerhouse was still a few weeks away from releasing the new album The Great Momentum, but I had already listened to it a few times prior to the cruise and it was an amazing return after what was a subpar release The Bonding in 2013.
I headed down to Studio B to check out the second set after missing out on the first. The band kept the setlist primarily in the past, only playing "Shiantara" from the new album, which was the only single released up to cruise time. Sabine's vocals are more stellar in person than on the album, but she didn't look completely comfortable on stage (compared to, say - Xandria's Dianne van Giersbergen). I couldn't tell whether it was due to the ship's gentle sway or not, but it certainly didn't affect her voice. I was very happy to hear one of my favorites "Shine", the title track of what is arguably the band's best album.
I headed back up to the pool deck for the madness of Carcass' second set. It is without question that Carcass is one of the best death metal bands ever to grace a live stage. Intensity and adrenaline fill the night sky as wave upon wave of crowdsurfing fans lap up on the shores of the photo pit like the ocean on Labedee's beach. Every single time I see them, I see something extraordinary that makes me say "only at a fucking Carcass show"! This night a fan in a wheelchair came floating into the pit repeatedly.
First ever wheelchair crowdsurfer on 70K during Carcass
Editor notes: Since I missed Carcass's first set, there was no way I was gonna miss their pool deck set. As I was standing on the upper part of the pool deck I saw the wheelchair coming over the barrier and thought to myself… please Carl, be somewhere near that and get a sick ass picture of this; the first EVER wheelchair crowdsurfer on the cruise. And sure shit, he got it.
The band blasted forth a similar set of newer material (via "Surgical Steel") featuring "1985", my favorite "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" and "Mount Of Execution" along with some classics from the Necroticism… album - "Corporal Jigsore Quandary" and "Incarnated Solvent Abuse". The addition of "Keep On Rotting In The Free World" from Swansong is always a delight. Someday, I'd love to hear "Black Star" live. Much in the vein of Kreator, I can watch Carcass play the same set over and over and never grow tired.
With delirium and sickness quickly growing from four non-stop days of metal, I was fading fast. I was committed to seeing Angra every single time the opportunity arises, so I slowly headed back to the Alhambra Theater to watch the performance of 1996's Holy Land in full. As usual, the band shined.
I had my one "15 minutes of fame" in my life, when I released "Nothing To Say" on my compilation "The Resurrection of True Metal" - which was the very first release of any kind for Angra in the United States. Needless to say, Holy Land has a very special place in my heart. Yes, I would've loved to hear Andre Matos perform it, but Fabio Lione is my all-time favorite singer.
I headed back to the room with the promise that it was just a gear change and not a rest on the bed. Had I done that, it would have been lights out for me on this edition of 70000 Tons Of Metal. I quickly dropped off some gear and left before my body could force me to quit and headed back up to the pool deck to see Arch Enemy. If there was one band I didn't want to miss on the pool deck - it was them. I'm not going to lie, watching Alissa White-Gluz in 2017 is so much better than watching her 10 years ago. The maturation and level of ability is like night and day and she is "aging" gracefully, if only 31 years old. She commanded this stage with as much power as any vocalist I've ever seen live.
I wish I could have made it through the entire set, but now a fever was setting in and sickness was taking over. I headed back to the room and quickly packed up and packed it in.
Every year on 70000 Tons Of Metal there is a tiny microbe of regret for missing certain bands or certain sets. It happens without fail because the festival is just way too big to see every single thing you want, especially when you have a very diverse taste of metal. This year was no different. Had I not run myself into the ground, I would have loved to catch Therion on the pool deck, which could be the last live set ever from them (though I suspect that won't be the case). I wanted to check out Anthrax at least once on the ship, just for the experience, though I've seen them multiple times before.
However, the memories I do have far outweighed any regrets. The mere fact that I saw far more shows in 2017 than any other time on this cruise, I was pretty happy with what I was able to see and accomplish as a fan and a journalist. In the end, I caught just under half of the shows on the boat. If just under half can put me in a virtual coma, I can only imagine if there was one fan that was able to catch a portion of at least all 122 shows. Who knows…maybe this is a goal for 2018!
Top 5 Sets of the Day: 1. Arch Enemy; 2. Pain; 3. Carcass; 4. Orphaned Land; 5. Angra
And there you have it; another 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise in the books. As I was reading and posting Carl's reviews on here, I sometimes wondered where the hell I was during some of the shows. But like I already mentioned, there is so much to do on the ship and it's easy to lose track.
My Top 5 for the Day were: Carcass, Pain, Cruachan, Witchtrap and Death Angel
Unlike Carl, I actually saw quite a few shows at the Pyramid Lounge during this year's cruise, even ventured into the photo pit for two (Serenity and Revocation) but otherwise I totally agree with his assessment that the Lounge is not the best venue to watch a show unless you are right in the front. To add insult to injury, the sound wasn't the best neither in there; at least IMO.
I saw some of Cruachan in the lounge on Day 2 and am glad I saw them on Day 4 in the much bigger Studio B. The singer had me in tears when he stated that he overheard someone in the buffet after their first set and described the band to his friends: "dude, you really have to watch them. They sound like Dropkick Murphy's being raped by Behemoth".
tons of female crowdsurfing \m/
Now, I am impartial to crowdsurfing and as a photographer had my fair share of collisions with feet, elbows and full on bodies slamming into me. If the photo pit is big enough, go for it. But with this being said, crowdsurfing in the Pyramid Lounge, while fun for the ones doing it, is a hazard for the bands due to the close proximity and height of the stage. I honestly don't think we had crowdsurfing in the smaller lounge at the Majesty, at least not that I can recall. But on that note, there was some sick ass crowdsurfing during Revocation, Psycroptic and Allegaeon in the lounge.
At least there was no stage diving… well almost. I heard that a certain skinbeater unleashed his inner metal head during Suffocation, possibly accidently kicked a couple of my photographer peers while jumping off the stage and went all "east coast" moshing in the pit. While I can totally see him doing that, I can't confirm (or deny) the above.
This year it also worked out that the final night of karaoke was in the Solarium on the pool deck. It was packed when I got there, but due to total fatigue I headed to bed after a few beers. Some YouTube videos surfaced where Anthrax's Joey was apparently the life of the party. Hey, maybe next year I will pace myself throughout the day and party until the ship arrives back in Fort Lauderdale.
Oh yes, the other thing which was brought up at the Press briefing: now that Anthrax played on the boat and Metallica's Lars Ulrich apparently reacted positively to someone wearing a 70K shirt during an interview, the question was brought up on the possibility of having another of the "Big 4" play on future sailings. Andy Piller told the group that he doesn't want to spend all, or a big chunk of his artist budget on one "mega" band since then there would be little money left over for the remaining 59 bands; he would rather have a well-balanced line-up with one or two semi-big bands.
Sooooo, if anybody from the other "Big 4" bands' management happen to read this,… drop your artist fee and maybe we get a chance of seeing the other ¾ of the thrashers one of these years.
To end this year's coverage here are Carl's and my Top 5 performances of 70000 Tons Of Metal 2017:
|CROMCarl's Top 5 Sets of the Entire Cruise:|
1. Pain (Studio B)
2. Amorphis (Alhambra Theater)
3. Arch Enemy (Pool Deck)
4. Saltatio Mortis (Pool Deck)
5. Orden Ogan (Alhambra Theater)
|D.T. Metal's Top 5 Sets of the Entire Cruise:|
1. Anthrax (Pool Deck)
2. Amorphis (Pool Deck)
3. Saltatio Mortis (Pool Deck)
4. Pain (Studio B)
5. Equilibrium (Studio B)
Watch the official Day Four video recap; courtesy of http://70000tons.tv
Hopefully we will see some of you in 2018; so make sure you keep your eyes open for some official announcements. Check the 70000 Tons Of Metal website frequently for upcoming booking information, follow their Twitter feed and "like" their Facebook page to stay up-to-date so you won't miss the boat.
Written on 01.04.2017 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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