Dear Diary: I Love Heavy Metal Cruising!
February 22, 2023, 9 months ago
BraveWords gives you a play-by-play when you sign up for 70000 Tons Of Metal, which finally cruised after a three-year “break” due to COVID. Commencing on January 30th, the cruise left the Dante B. Fascell Port Of Miami (stylized PortMiami - the “Cruise Capital Of The World”) in Florida for Bimini, Bahamas, returning on February 3rd. 60 bands. Each band playing two sets. One in-doors on one of the many stages and and one outdoors on the Pool Deck stage. Here is a first-hand account of Sephora Henderson’s journey on arguably the most exciting musical moment in your life!
Friday, January 27th
Three days after “Metal” Tim's 56th birthday, we woke up at 3 AM to start our journey. It was smooth sailing to Pearson International airport in Toronto, and our flight was on-time. We wanted to head out a few days early, as weather in our part of the world is always a little unpredictable at this time of year, and we almost didn't make it on time for the last cruise (2020) because of it. This year we had a huge snowfall just the day before, so it's likely that we narrowly avoided a cancelled flight, again. Nothing was going to get in our way this year, and I breathed a sigh of relief as the plane rose up and away from the ice and snow. We arrived to a sunny day in the sunshine state, and spent an awesome day.
Saturday, January 28
Another sunny day, spent talking about our plan of attack, what shows we want to see, etc. That evening we went to our favourite bar, and while we were chatting with some of our favourite locals, in walked Mark Gromen who arrived that evening. Now the 70K BW crew was complete!
Sunday, January 29th
It was a nice, leisurely day, spent buzzing with excitement for the next day's inevitable shenanigans. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to sleep - so much excitement!
Monday, January 30th
Miami-bound! The three of us were wearing our BraveWords gear, and made excellent time to the port. I was practically jumping out of my seat the moment I caught sight of the ship outside of the car window. After we dropped off our luggage, the whole process was quick and painless, and before we knew it, we were crossing the gangplank to the Freedom Of The Seas, our floating home for the next five days. We paused for a few photos along the way, and then proceeded to the casino to get a beverage. Some sailors were building a wall of Foster's cans on the other side of the bar - already 36 cans high, and it was almost to the ceiling before long - things were getting off to a roaring start!
We went up to the top deck to watch as the ship departed, and ran into a number of old friends, and made some new ones pretty quickly. I went to the bar to order the drink of the day - the Metal God Mai Tai - and was chatting with someone from Colombia and someone from Belgium while I waited. My Belgian friend ordered four beers for him and his mates, but was having trouble holding all four cups, so I offered to help. I walked him back to his friends, bid them Santé!, and was on my way back to Tim. It was exciting to watch as the pool deck was being constructed just below, and I couldn't wait to see it in all its glory the next day.
After more catching up and people watching Floor, Tuomas, and Troy from Nightwish were playing blackjack at one of the casino tables!), making sure our luggage was delivered, and a quick bite at the Windjammer, I was off to watch Kamelot and then the first of two sets by Kreator that I would catch this trip.
Tuesday, January 31st
Woke up, got some coffee, and headed to the press office with Tim to check out the interview schedule. I managed to find the library on our little walkabout. It figures that the Librarian would find the books, except it wasn't open. The space was being used as a temporary office space by some of the staff.
Tim's interviews for the day were with Uli Jon Roth, Esa Holopainen from Amorphis, Thomas Youngblood, Tommy Karevik, and Alex Landenburg from Kamelot, Ashmedi from Melechesh, and Sami from Kreator. Look out for those interviews in the coming weeks at Bravewords.com! In between interviews I managed to catch Uli Jon Roth and Destruction on the pool deck, Melechesh in the ice rink, and finally Hypocrisy on the pool deck, just after midnight. I was admittedly tired by the end of the day, but nothing was going to keep me from seeing one of my absolute favourites, and Peter, Mikael, Tomas, and Henrik delivered an incredibly energetic performance. Their stage presence and showmanship are absolutely magnetic, and they sounded amazing - crisp and driving drums, grinding guitars, deep and heavy bass, and Peter's vocals which defy description. They also started the set with "Fractured Millennium", my favourite song, so I was in a state of pure bliss.
Wednesday, February 1st
The boat anchored in Bimini, Bahamas, and it was a bit of a trek to the closest beach. We didn't bother to venture further in, choosing instead to stay put and have a few drinks and pass time with friends who were building a huge pentagram in the sand out of seaweed. It was an intensely hot, beautiful day. Everyone was seeking out the small patches of natural shade because if you so much as tried to look at the cabanas or beach chairs, an employee was there promptly to tell you that they were only for rent. The vibe on the beach was good, and people seemed genuinely happy.
Back onboard the BW crew hung out on the balcony for a while, and then it was time to shower and get dressed for another amazing evening. I caught Everygrey on the pool deck, who were delayed by 30 minutes, then Belphegor. Back in the casino I saw Tomas and Henrik from Hypocrisy at the casino bar and I approached them to thank them and tell them how much I enjoyed their set the night before. They were appreciative, and Tomas asked me what I liked about it. I told him that they opened with my favourite song, for starters, and he said that “Fractured Millennium” is a good song to play live as it is a very atmospheric song. He noted that it is usually buried a little deeper in the set, and I told him I noticed that when I saw them in Toronto on May 2022, and then in Germany at Summer Breeze in August 2022. After thanking them again and telling them how amazing they sounded, and that I couldn't wait to hear their next set, I took my leave. Such cool, gracious, friendly guys.
Next up was Amorphis in the Royal Theatre, and what a dreamy experience that was! They played tracks from their newest album, Halo (which, by the way, was my #4 pick of the year in the BraveWords Top 20 for 2022 here), and also older favourites. I really don't have enough wonderful things to say about this band. They manage to look so collected and cool, while delivering an incredibly dynamic performance. They weave together heavy beats and growling vocals with poignant melodies and soaring vocals that take your breath away. They are pros and it shows.
Back to the pool deck for the second set of Kreator that I would catch, and because the pool deck shows were running late, I caught the end of Feuerschwanz's set - very lively! Kreator were finally on after a delay of about 45 minutes, and it was loud! There was all the intensity of the first indoor set, but with newer tracks scattered throughout, and the deck was packed. I had a good view of Ventor from my spot, and felt every intense, hammering beat.
I capped off my evening with God Dethroned, and felt like I couldn't breathe by the end of it. I felt like Henri Sattler reached out into the audience with the first note, grabbed us, kept squeezing harder with every song, and didn't let go until after the very last note. I was transfixed during the entire set, and at the end of it my chest felt like it had received a beating. I floated out of the room in an utterly blissed-out daze.
Thursday, February 2nd
Groundhog Day! I had no idea what the groundhog was up to back home, nor did I care, because there was another full glorious day of shows ahead! Winter could take a hike, I was in the middle of the sea with my metal family. My first stop was Sight Of Emptiness, hailing from Costa Rica, and featuring my talented friend, guitarist Andres Castor. They sounded great, were full of energy, and in between songs the band showered the audience with their thanks and talked about how happy they were to be on the cruise.
The Crown were the next stop, in the Starlight Lounge. It was a crushing, punishing set with enough sound to fill a stadium - it made me forget that we were in a small space. Tim was able to chat with Marko (Tervonen) afterwards and get some collectibles signed by several members of the band. I spotted Henri Sattler across the room and made my way over to tell him how much I loved his set earlier that morning (they played after midnight, so technically it was still the same morning), and he chatted with me for a few minutes. I hope I get to see God Dethroned again soon, and in the meantime I will be listening to all of their back catalogue.
Rotting Christ was the next adventure, on the pool deck - another band I haven't had an opportunity to see live until then. Their band name is also one of my favourite exclamations - say it with me, "Rotting Christ!!!". I then trotted off to catch Atrocity in the ice rink, and Alexander Krull was in fine form, as always.
At this point in the evening, Tim had already headed off to the press conference for the media, and I wouldn't see him until later as he was also attending the Captain's dinner. I had a packed agenda of bands to see, and decided to go get a bite at the Windjammer before running all over the ship. I forgot that the buffet was closed between 4:30-6:30, however! It was just after 5:30 PM so I decided to head down to the Schooner Bar to get a drink, and then come back to the pool deck. Drink in hand, I got on an elevator, as I didn't feel like climbing back up to the 11th floor again. It stopped every few floors to gather more people, including members of Korpiklaani who were heading to the pool deck for their set! A woman near the door said, "Oh, we're all heading to 11, we must all be heading to the same show" - it's possible that she didn't notice who was on the elevator with her, but I was sandwiched between the wall and Jonne Järvelä, and I turned to him and said, "You ARE the show" - and he winked at me.
I headed to the buffet shortly after it opened up, as there would be no time later on - too many shows to catch, back-to-back! I was lucky and ran into Mark Gromen who was reaching for a glass of water at the same time I was, and he invited me to sit with him. After some of the yummiest lamb shank I've ever eaten, I was off to watch Vreid in the ice rink. I adore my Norwegian black metal, and they did not disappoint. I definitely got my fix. Toward the end of their set, I loved the way they started off Into The Mountains, with the almost-groovy bass line that normally occurs halfway into the song. I was dancing, I was head banging, I was happy! As soon as the set ended, I was off to the pool deck to catch Kamelot for the second time, then to the the royal theatre to see Hypocrisy again, then back to the pool deck for Dark Tranquility. I was so happy that I got to experience them and that Gothenburg sound live, as I'd never had the chance to before. Afterward I set off again to the royal theatre for the second of Destruction's sets - and finally back to the pool deck for the big finale with Nightwish. It was my first time seeing Nightwish live, and the energy in the crowd was really quite amazing. Floor is so effortlessly charismatic.
Friday, February, 3rd
The day that is inevitable, but you never really want it to come - the final day when we bid the boat adieu for another year. I admit, I was feeling a little emotional, leaving the ship - the last time we left we didn't get to return for two years thanks to the stupid pandemic. Ever since my first 70000 Tons adventure in 2018, the countdown to returning to the ship started the minute I left it and stepped on dry land again. There is no way to capture with words the wild, exhilarating, utter happiness of the experience. Well, the Skipper announced that there will be a cruise to look forward to next year, so I will wait impatiently until I get to do this all again. In the meantime, I will think about all of the amazing moments of this trip, the wonderful friends I reunited with, and the new friends I made. I will revel in the afterglow of all of the delicious music and artistry I witnessed, and the metal gods who create it.