70000 Tons Of Metal 2018 - Day One: I Planned Each Charted Course
|Event:||70000 Tons Of Metal 2018|
|Written by:||D.T. Metal, CROMCarl|
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day Three & Four by D.T. Metal (98)
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day Four by CROMCarl (190)
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day Three by CROMCarl (98)
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day One & Two by D.T. Metal (34)
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day Two by CROMCarl (272)
70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise 2018 - Day One by CROMCarl (141)
The Beach Party Crowd - Photo by Kabo Photografix
It's that time of the year again… time to poke the bear. PCD (Post Cruise Depression) is in full swing for most 70000 Tons Of Metal 2018 attendees and I assume even worse for first-timers. While for some the cruise is a once in a lifetime experience, for more and more metalheads it has become an annual pilgrimage.
That in itself is pretty rad since, let's face it, the overall cost of the cruise plus transportation to/from Florida isn't really all that cheap. But hey - it's only money, right? You only live once - go for it. And while you are at it, might as well show up a couple of days prior to the cruise to partake in the awesome cruiser organized festivities.
Yessiree - once a year Miami's South Beach is overrun by metalheads and for the second year in a row, we took over the hottest spot on the strip - the famous Clevelander Hotel. Usually the hangout of the Top 40 and EDM crowd, starting Monday before our Thursday departure the Hotel and its bars are under full control of metalheads from around the world; and not just the Clevelander Bar, tons of other establishments in South Beach as well.
But the crème de la crème still is and always will be the BYOB Beach-Party the day before some 3000 metal maniacs board a luxury cruise ship. Check out the below video to see some of the cruiser organized pre-cruise activities and sights and sounds from the Beach Party:
But, but…why Miami if the cruise sets sail out of Fort Lauderdale you might ask. In short, because Miami's South Beach is better equipped to host a horde of international metalheads than Fort Lauderdale. South Beach has a smorgasbord of restaurants, bars and hotels in almost every price range. You can find a room for as little as $25/night in one of the many hostels or splurge on a luxury hotel. Fort Lauderdale is more laid back and during that time of the year a lot of retirees from Canada and the northern parts of the US migrate to the area. To be fair, we tried it twice to have the pre-cruise parties (including the beach party) in and around Port Everglades, but due to the sheer size of people there just isn't a big enough place to accommodate us all. Yes, there are pros and cons to each location, but my personal opinion is and always was: I am old, but I ain't Fort Lauderdale old
Anyhoo, and before I get into the nitty gritty of what happened on this year's sailing of 70000 Tons Of Metal, here are some statistics for 2018:
First of all, and yes, the cruise is technically sold out every year, but for 2018 it was literally SOLD OUT months ahead of time with an ever growing waiting list. Congrats once again to the organizer and all the support staff.
There were 75 countries represented and the Top Ten Countries were: USA, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Mexico, Australia, Colombia, and Belgium.
Number of guests: 3087 (age range from 1 to 79)
Musicians and crew: 1032
Ship crew: 1448
Total number of people on board: 5567
Seriously, if you can swing it, try to be part of this adventure at least once.
Better yet, and to take a page out of Crematory's Markus Jüllich playbook: "get off your ass and buy a ticket".
I know, soooo off topic, but seriously, if you have not read what transpired over at the band's Facebook page and you want a good laugh, please read some of the band's posts and especially the comments by the fans. It's a gift that keeps on giving.
OK, on with it. Just as last year, this report will be a combined effort by myself and CROMCarl aka Carl Frederick of Blazing Metal Photography who once again was my main photographer for 70000 Tons Of Metal. Enjoy
(Notes from Carl:
As soon as the calendar turns to February, the annual survivor of 70000 Tons Of Metal kicks into high gear. If you are fortunate to be able to cover it, the task isn't just drinking, swimming and eating - and "kicking it into high gear" takes on a whole new meeting. Then there are some of us who desire to "best" ourselves by attempting to see just how far fatigue can be stretched in a four day stretch.
Coming into 2018, there was a renewed vigor to see every single band at least once, which would amount to 61 shows. Given no delays (the great dilemma on a cruise this size), it was possible - yet daunting. Surely, there would be a time when fatigue and hunger would be the driving force between catching a set of a band or not.
Swallow The Sun at Alhambra Theater
Day one was here and for the first time in my six times, I arrived at port early enough to the commencement of embarkation. Breezing through security and boarding the Independence Of The Seas two hours before rooms were available gave me a chance to walk the promenade and have a chat with Visions Of Atlantis/Dragony vocalist Siegfred Samer (onboard as a fan) and Sabaton/ReinXeed guitarist Tommy Johansson, both who have become friends over the years. As we played a round of "guess my age" (wherein I guessed Tommy was 16 ), my Rhapsody radar went tilt as Dominique Leurquin, Patrice Guers, Nadia Bellir and the great Fabio Lione came through - so there my attention went. Not surprisingly, Luca Turilli was tucked away in his room working.
With the whole cruise still ahead, these moments where I don't have to worry so much about cameras are precious and few - a time I can catch up with friends, musicians and meet new people straight through the mandatory muster drill. A group of the late Justin Shearer gathered together with his fiancée Erin for a very emotional toast in his honor outside the Dog & Badger. It just will never be the same without Justin.
After the muster, like a call to arms - I strapped on the gear and began a journey that seemed to last for 96 hours and for none of that time did I achieve a buzz, which is remarkable in of itself. One of the drawbacks of running around the four venues is the inability to catch many full sets.)
For us, Day One of the cruise started out rather relaxed; and with us I mean my entire family. Yap, once again we made a mini family vacation out of the annual 70K adventure. While the majority of the cruisers took advantage of the, again cruiser organized bus service to Port Everglades from Miami, we opted to rent a car and take our sweet time getting to the port. I am not a big fan of standing in line to board the ship, especially since the staterooms on the Independence Of The Seas are usually not ready until like 2pm to drop off the luggage.
Since the running order for 2018's 70000 Tons Of Metal was already posted online the day prior, we had plenty of time to map out a battle plan for each day. Thankfully there were almost no conflicts with bands playing at the same time, but the schedule made it also painfully obvious that we were apparently going to starve on the cruise. The ONLY time we actually carved out for a sit-down dinner at the fancy restaurant was on Day One. No fear, we didn't starve, we just made use of the Windjammer Buffet which was open daily from midnight to 6am the next morning or stopped by the Café Promenade for a quick sandwich or croissant or a scone… dear god their scones were good.
And no, not one single slice of pizza for this gal. I just can't wrap my head around why a lot of cruisers rave over the pizza. There I actually miss our old ship (Majesty Of The Seas); at least they served slightly better pizza, had a sandwich shop which also served Paninis and soup and the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine sure is missed on the new boat as well. But hey, one will NOT go hungry on the Independence Of The Seas that's for sure; or thirsty for that matter. There were plenty of "drink stations" in addition to the regular bars at each of the venues and throughout the ship.
Destruction at Studio B
While I ordered a Cerveza at any bar, I made a point of always going to the same server when the need for a Mojito or spicy Bloody Mary arose. Yes, tips are actually already included in the price of the drinks, but you tip the dude a couple of dollars extra and he will remember you and hook you up from thence forth.
Yap, you have to pay for your drinks; this isn't the Full Metal Cruise after all. But water (not bottled water though), lemonade, ice-tea and coffee is included in your ticket price. Some cruisers get a bottled water and/or soda package which is offered for a fee by Royal Caribbean on their website or available at any bar. Specialty coffee packages are also available, and for good reason I might add; the free coffee on the ship flat out SUCKS. The "colored water" at the buffet is undrinkable while the one at the Café is just marginally better. It is NOT that hard to brew good strong coffee in large quantities and a cup of java becomes a life line for those of us who despise Red Bull and stuff like that.
Royal Caribbean get ur shit together for next year.
Also free is the food at the Windjammer Buffet, the sit down Dining Room, Sorrento's Pizza and the Café Promenade. A nominal fee is required for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, the Cupcake Cupboard and Johnny Rockets Burgers and Shakes. There are also two Specialty Restaurants (one Steak and one Italian) which require you to make reservations and pay $20 or $30 I believe. We never took advantage of the Specialty Restaurant offers and I heard mixed reviews about them. But since one can eat at almost any time of the day, the choices are really good in my opinion.
Ever since 70000 Tons Of Metal moved to a bigger ship in 2015 there are now 4 venues to enjoy your favorite (or newly discovered) artists. With 60 bands (plus one bonus) playing 2 sets on the cruise, those 122 shows take place at one of those venues. I will highlight one of those in each of the cruise reports, starting with the smallest indoor venue.
Pyramid Lounge: by far the smallest venue; more of an intimate club atmosphere. The stage is really low, maybe 10" (25cm) off the ground and if you are short and standing in the back you can't see the band at all; their heads at most. While in prior years the sound was horrendous and way, way too loud, this year I was pleasantly surprised on how good the bands sounded in the Lounge. Granted, I only made it there for a whopping two bands, but still worth mentioning it.
But I am getting ahead of myself, so here are my Day One beginnings: made it onto the ship, dropped luggage into the room, went to the upstairs pool deck to enjoy the first (of many) adult beverages, chit-chatted with all kinds of people, hugs and kisses with old friends, reminded by cruise personnel to partake in the mandatory Emergency Muster Drill, met up with the family for last minute battle plan changes, hurried to Studio B for the first band (Primal Fear) of the cruise… only to stand in front of locked doors for another 30 minutes or so due to "technical difficulties".
Primal Fear at Studio B
Primal Fear at Studio B
Well, one of the first bands, since Exhumed played at the Pyramid Lounge and I didn't hear of any delays there. In all fairness, according to Skipper Andy Piller during our press briefing, the delay at Studio B was due to the ship's onboard hydraulic stage being broken and the 70K volunteer crew trying their best to fix it in time for the first band.
The doors to Studio B finally opened and in no time the room was packed with metalheads awaiting the mighty Primal Fear. The band had such a great reception on their first cruise in 2015 that I wasn't surprised that they were asked to play again. Primal Fear's entire set was great from start to end and a great way to get things rolling for 70000 Tons Of Metal 2018. As per usual, the band ended their set with "Metal Is Forever" which could be seen as the sole theme for the entire cruise. Young, old, male, female - everyone came together to celebrate music.
(Notes from Carl:
Primal Fear had the honor of commencing live band activities for round 8 of 70000 Tons Of Metal and they never disappoint as a solid live band. One of my favorite guitarists to both watch and shoot, Alexander Beyrodt was as charismatic as ever - including aggressively throwing the monitor to the side (more out of annoyance than showmanship), but it made for an interesting watch! The band blasted through "Final Embrace", "Nuclear Fire" and set favorite "Angel In Black" - with Ralf sounding amazing as always!
Over at the Theater and ever since Elina Siirala joined Leaves' Eyes, I've seen the band at least four times and the five piece is better than ever! Elina has the right vocal style to compliment the music and fellow vocalist and band leader Alexander Krull. The two are dynamic on stage. The last time around, Leaves' Eyes was short a bassist and made do with piping the bass parts through the monitor (not my favorite way), but in 2018 they enlisted Orden Ogan's Niels Löffler - a friend and welcome sight! The band stuck to newer material - "Sign Of The Dragonhead", "Across The Sea" and "Jomsborg" - seasoned with personal favorites "Hell To The Heavens" and "Blazing Waters".
Back at Studio B, I know Destruction was incredibly upset with the sound and mechanical issues, which seemed to have resolved by the time I showed up. The band made sure to recall this "total disaster" during the second set on the pool deck. From what I witnessed, the band sounded tight as ever - albeit with some undesired feedback - and mixed some classics (re-recorded for the recent release of Thrash Anthems II) with material off the latest album Under Attack (almost 2 years old now - shit how time flies).)
We planned to miss Leaves' Eyes in the Theater, as well as Destruction at Studio B since this time was actually carved out for our aforementioned only planned dinner in the sit-down Dining Room. The food was great, the service was awesome and we were in and out under an hour while enjoying appetizer, the main entre and even a dessert.
I was sitting with Destruction's guitarist Mike at breakfast the next morning and after some fans congratulated him on their performance I admitted that I didn't watch them, and he assured me that the gig really wasn't all that and they had some technically issues as well. I guess I didn't miss much after all and it's not that I haven't seen Destruction like a million times already.
Anyway, after freshening up I made it to the Theater for a bit of Swallow The Sun's first set before heading over to Studio B again to catch their countrymen Insomnium. Those dudes were fricking awesome on their first cruise appearance in 2016 and I was not gonna miss them. Well, I didn't miss them in 2016 neither even though both of their sets were at some ridiculous times early in the morning. I told the organizer back then that it might have been a misstep to schedule Insomnium so late (early?) in the day since the place was packed and low and behold, in 2018 their sets were at decent hours and one of them even on the Pool Deck. Thanks Andy!
Since Studio B was still running late, the rest of the Family headed over to the Theater to catch the Rhapsody 20th Anniversary Farewell show while I stayed for the entire Insomnium set. Smart move, since for "Weather The Storm", their last song of the night, Dark Tranquillity's frontman Mikael Stanne joined them on stage. At one point Mikael motioned to the people in the front his intentions and low and behold, there he was, stage diving into the crowd, much to the dismay of the security guards. Awesome show and great end of the set. Well, the beginning of their set was equally great since the intro music was the soundtrack to "The Love Boat".
Fabio, Luca and Co. were in full swing when I finally made it into the Theater, and I will leave it up to Carl to report on the happenings.
(Notes from Carl:
After a short break, I arrived at the Alhambra early for the highlight of the cruise for this author. The love of Rhapsody started right at the beginning and never wavered even through this recent stretch of two versions of the band. When the idea of a reunion of the band's classic lineup came up, all jumped aboard except keyboardist/co-founder Alex Staropoli, who decided to concentrate on replacing outgoing vocalist Fabio Lione and drummer Alex Holzwarth and then oddly re-recording what is practically the same setlist performed by Rhapsody Renuion.
The reunion tour proved to be a success despite initial outcries from purist fans who felt Staropoli needed to be a part. It should be noted that Alex was certainly offered a part and declined. The tour also lasted a couple of years now (still going on in Europe at press time). Your author has seen both versions of the band live on separate occasions, but having Fabio and Luca Turilli on the same stage on this cruise made 2018 the most special of years. I recalled a conversation with Luca Turilli's Rhapsody drummer Alex Landenburg back when Bonfire was on the boat in 2014 where Landenburg told me the band was pushing to play 70000 Tons Of Metal, trying to convince Luca of it. You can imagine the news of a Rhapsody Reunion made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
So it was time and this was the first of two sets I was compelled to watch from start to finish and the band did not disappoint. Turilli's acrobatic performance (I get tired every time I watch him), Fabio at peak precision, Dodo (Dominique Leurquin) and Patrice (Guers) looking ecstatic on every note and Alex Holzwarth providing the thunder - the band went through a highlight set of "Knightrider Of Doom", "Holy Thunderforce", "Land Of Immortals", "Power Of The Dragonflame", "Emerald Sword" and finally…I was able to witness "Lamento Eroico" in all its Lione glory! Not ashamed to admit that tears fell as I live streamed the majority of the set for friends on social media. I couldn't wait for set number two on Day 4 to cap off this amazing year!)
Unfortunately it was too late to head over to the lounge to watch Estonia's Metsatöll but I planned on watching them on Day 4 anyways, and since the delay at Studio B was still going strong and Enslaved was going to a) play on the Pool Deck stage for their next show and b) come to Denver shortly after the cruise, I opted to… hmmm, honestly, I can't remember what I did but I was sitting in my spot at the Theater, with a drink in hand, waiting for the mighty Kreator to take the stage.
Kreator is one of the few bands which I will never get sick of watching live; and that night was no exception. The band played 4 songs of their recently released studio album Gods Of Violence and the rest was a mix of oldies and goodies. They switched it up a bit for their second set on the Pool Deck with about half of the songs (out of 14 total) played during both shows. And if you are still pondering about my above comment: "…sitting in my spot at the Theater…", no worries, that went down the drain real fast. One can only do so much headbanging and air-guitaring and by the third song ("Enemy Of God") I was on my feet. Once again a great performance by Mille and Co and I was actually looking forward to their second set since Ventor told me earlier in the day that my 'song request' shall be fulfilled on the Pool Deck.
Useless Fact: the last time Kreator played on the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise was in 2013 and the destination back then was also Turks and Caicos.
(Notes from Carl:
Though this is the umpteenth time seeing Kreator, the band never disappoints live, even if the setlist doesn't change all that much. Still….teasing "Army Of Storms" and morphing into "Enemy Of God" - though expected - still drives me crazy (yeah, it's my favorite song from Gods Of Violence)! The stalwart tracks are still there (like always) - "Phobia", "Flag Of Hate", "Violent Revolution" but now shrouded in some new classics like "Satan Is Real", "Totalitarian Terror" and "Hail To The Hordes". I still dream of a show where the oft forgotten Endorama is represented (in full, perhaps?) - but Kreator is one of the best live bands on the planet. It's impossible to stand still - so with camera's flailing from my sides, I always engage in some full on - tried and true - headbanging.)
Almost on the verge of losing my voice after screaming from the top of my lungs during "Phobia", I made the conscious decision to get something warm to drink to soothe my vocal cords. Off to the Café Promenade I went, ran into some people and did some socializing. Apparently Carl headed over to catch some more Germans and here are his notes:
Belphegor at Studio B
(Notes from Carl:
Representing the neo-folk/German modern folk for this year's 70000 Tons Of Metal is In Extremo - no stranger to the world's largest floating festival. In fact, if it weren't for 70000 Tons Of Metal and the ability to cover it, I would have never witnessed bands like In Extremo, Saltatio Mortis or Subway To Sally, since U.S. tours aren't ever considered. In Extremo is one of the best of the lot (though Saltatio Mortis's pool deck performance in 2017 was one of the best I've seen on the boat in any year). I took in some of the set from the balcony and thoroughly enjoyed how the band whips up the mostly German crowd into a fury with its highly unique and entertaining metal.)
Thankfully someone told me that Studio B was caught up from the delays, since otherwise I would have missed Belphegor; again. I missed them during their 2017 North American Tour due to the fact that I was in Europe when they were in the States. And I was rather excited once they got announced for the cruise to hang with their drummer Blood Hammer again, only to wake up one morning with the news that he had left the band; figures. On a positive note, live guitarist Molokh was once again part of Belphegor just in time for the cruise and Helmuth tagged the current Vital Remains live drummer to fill in behind the kit; it all worked out in the end I guess.
I actually caught up with Helmuth while boarding the ship, since other than their two shows and one small encounter while walking through the Promenade, we didn't have time to chit chat at all. There is always next time I guess… unless they are once again here while I am over there.
(Notes from Carl:
I realize that the Pyramid Lounge had a few things going for it in 2018, other than being the boat's worst venue. For one, the sound was immensely better than previous years and the other the fun one can have if you don't plan to just sit and (not) see the band. Some of these shows can get pretty wild! Having never seen Evertale, but been promoting them for a long while, this was an opportunity not to be missed. They are sort of a living tribute to Blind Guardian's former days, though I'm sure the guys would rather be labelled a bit more unique. It's hard not to make the connection with similar vocal style (though Matt Holzapfel's voice is more like a cross between Hansi Kürsch and Iron Savior's Piet Sielck). They made great use of the small stage and put on a really cool performance showcasing some newer material from The Great Brotherwar along with classic songs like "The Crownguard's Quest". What a joy to finally see them live!
Speaking of losing band virginity - this was the first time witnessing Belphegor for your author! Strange, since the band is widely accessible. While not particularly a huge fan, I do love a spectacle and the band pulls off a raw and engaging live performance that was really incredible! The ode to "Gasmask Terror" was right there attached to the mic stands! Great live band, especially since Day 1 was like a tour of the entirety of metal subgenres.
With things running just about 45 minutes late, I arrived at the Alhambra to have a rare chat with some friends before Amberian Dawn took the stage. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the band - I do enjoy some of their material and really enjoy Capri's voice - but the material is hit or miss with me. The latest album Darkness Of Eternity was very enjoyable, so it was nice to see some of that realized live, but the style in general is a bit too weak for my tastes. Still, it was a pleasure to finally see the band - even at the late hour.)
Goatwhore at Studio B
I checked out some of Amberian Dawn's set before heading back to Studio B for Goatwhore; a band which I have missed over the last several years for one reason or another. Sammy threatened me with bodily harm earlier in the day if I wouldn't show up, so I obliged. For that, that this was one of the sloppiest Goatwhore shows I saw in a while, it also was one of the coolest; pure raw energy to say the least. Poor Mr. Sammy Duet let the crowd know that he had to drink with all of his friends throughout the day and is therefore a bit 'handicapped'. At one point, the band had just started a song, Sammy stopped abruptly and started tuning his guitar while chastising (jokingly of course) the audience with: "if any of you sons of bitches would have volunteered to be my guitar tech, I wouldn't need to tune this thing right now and here" - priceless Sammy.
I am glad I made it to this Goatwhore gig since their next one was canceled. To be fair, the band tried to have Vital Remains vocalist Brian Werner (who was on the cruise as a regular guest) fill in for Ben, but this proved to be not feasible. I actually talked with Ben during the last day of the cruise and he confirmed that he was sick as a dog; puking and all. During the press briefing someone asked the organizer what happened and Andy replied that Ben fell sick, talked with him and stated that Goatwhore is NOT a band known to cancel shows but he was not able to perform at all. Andy understood and hopefully the stars align and Goatwhore will be able to perform on future sailing.
Seven Spires at the Alhambra Theater
(Notes from Carl:
The goal of Day 1 was to make it to Revenge's set and see as much as possible. After checking out Goatwhore I headed back into the Theater for a nice treat. Seven Spires is a "local" band from my area and one I've become friends with over the past few years. The band has immeasurable untapped talent and seeing them live is just the tip of that iceberg. Possessing all the tools, mindset and passion that other bands with exceedingly more experience should have, Seven Spires is the future of metal and the live performances will just get better and better.
Having just released the debut full length album Solveig in 2017, the mix of symphonic, black, death, power is a breath of fresh air and every time I see them - even at 4:45am - it gets better and better. Adrienne Cowan is intimidating as hell, but you will not find a more sweet and intelligent person to converse with. Her vampire twin Jack Kosto, Peter Albert de Reyna and Chris Dovas are some of the young hot talents in the scene and they definitely made an impression (and a host of new fans) on the Alhambra stage for those that haven't heard them. Look out… Seven Spires is going to explode in the next year or two.
One of the bands I was waiting to see was Revenge from Columbia. Crawling to the ice rink after 5am, it was worth it. It's one thing to like a band for a number of years and imagine the faces to a live performance, but quite another to witness the glowing/happy faces in the first set aboard a star studded festival. Speed metal never sounded happier from a band that appeared so happy and grateful to be at the ice rink at this ungodly hour. The band made "Heavy Metal Friends" from the "Heavy Metal Maniacs" and "Metal Warriors" as they tapped a catalog that spans 15 years, yet many people here received just the first taste of the band. What a first day!
Top 3 bands: 1. Rhapsody 2. Belphegor 3. Seven Spires)
While Carl soldiered on, after Goatwhore I threw in the towel and after a quick nightcap in the casino bar off to bed I went.
My Top 3 bands that day were: 1. Kreator 2. Insomnium and a 3rd place tie between Primal Fear and Belphegor
Watch the official Day 1 Recap on http://70000tons.tv below
Stay tuned for our Day 2 report and make sure you check out the Photo galleries of Day One.
Written on 15.03.2018 by
Former boss lady. Now just a professional concertgoer... dangerously armed with a camera!
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