70000 Tons Of Metal Day 2: If The Boat's A' Rockin'...

February 15, 2016, 5 years ago

By Mark Gromen

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Awoke to find that the overnight construction of the Pool Deck Stage, located topside, out in the sunshine, was not completed in the allotted time. Vision Of Atlantic became the initial casualty and as the clock neared noon, it looked like Holy Moses would also succumb to the perils of building a world class venue, on the deck of a cruise ship, in about 16 hours. It was almost laughable that when the construction crew bent a metal pole, meant to support one of the decorative vertical scrims, they not only abandoned it's raising, but cut down the one they'd already successfully hoisted in-place. Mind you, things were already two hours behind schedule. Why not just leave one up and get the band onstage? (The next day, they'd get both pictorial sails righted.) As a result, the long standing German thrashers were given just twenty minutes (less than half the intended set), to blitz through some material.

Before there was a Angela Gossow, or more recently, Alissa White-Gluz, there was Holy Moses' roaring mouthpiece Sabina Classen. Onstage she announced, for those unfamiliar with their history, that this was part of the band's 35th anniversary. While there were eight un-crossed out titles on the setlist taped to the floor, she quickly had to juggle which ones to play. 'Finished With The Dogs' saw a call for a mosh pit. In leopard print spandex, Classen repeatedly bent at the waist, half-workout video, half exaggerated headbang. By 'Current Of Death' it was audible that they had just seven minutes left, so she decided to end with 'Life's Destroyer', announcing to the throng, "Because they destroyed our life by only allowing us 20 minutes!" After a final bow, she dove into the waiting arms of those down front. The next day, once the music re-convened, following our return from Jamaica, Holy Moses got to perform a full set, where Classen called up Kim Dylla (formerly known as Vulvatron, in GWAR), for a blistering rendition of 'Too Drunk to Fuck'.

A frazzled army of tech guys struggled to get Henjo Richter's guitar effects working properly, necessitating a 20 minute late start (and therefore edited set) by Gamma Ray. Despite the tropical heat, Richter saw fit to wear a toque! As a longtime supporter of Kai Hansen's post-Helloween outfit, was interested to see/hear how recently recruited vocalist Frank Beck would be employed, the diminutive guitarist/founder having been the mouthpiece, ever since Ralf Scheepers left for Primal Fear, back in the early Nineties. Opening with 'Last Before The Storm', the new guy was nowhere to be found. 'Fight' followed, with Beck taking over as lead throat, but Hansen adding gruff vocalizations. The old Weenie chestnut, 'I Want Out' saw Kai louder in the mix, but the two singers trading vocals in the chorus. Rest assured, Mr. Hansen has yet to fully give away the keys to the vocal department. In fact, today, he remained the star of the show. Sort of odd seeing "frontman" Beck, in the back, standing on riser, or amps, while the guitarist was center stage. The pre-recorded Illuminati rap introduced 'Dethrone Tyranny'. Bassist Dirk Schlächter in shorts, walked with a limp, minus the knee brace that's built into his stage outfits, yet he clowned around. 'Master Of Confusion' was followed by 'Rebellion In Dreamland', begun with Kai alone on vox. The new guy mostly screams, hits the high notes and flushes out the sound. A few bars into 'Heavy Metal Universe', the Rays switched to 'Ride The Sky'. Beck had his moment to shine on 'Somewhere Out In Space', backed by its creator, who was more intent on laying down a bluesy guitar breakdown, before ending with a rocking reprise. Left feeling the addition of Beck will not be a real solo singer adventure.

Had heard some good things about Nervosa, a young, all-female thrash trio, from Brazil. Given the limited opportunities for women in their homeland, gaining international acclaim is something of a coup. Fernanda Lira, singer/bassist plays in a virtual split at the front of the stage, while blond guitarist Prika Amaral prefers to remain towards the back. Other than green lighting and the occasional strobe, they played in near darkness. Definitely played 'Into Moshpit' and possibly a newbie ('Physical Aggression'). Couldn't watch the full set, as had to bail to see Moonspell, but adequate legacy material that warrants further investigation, especially with a new disc recorded and release on the horizon.

In their zeal, apparently the crew forgot to add black bunting, or a 70000 Tons skirt to the bottom of the dual risers for Moonspell (one for drums, the other for their keyboardist, behind a Tuomas Holopinen inspired wall of pipes). The atmospheric Portuguese black metallers were playing Irreligious in its entirety. Later this year, said disc will celebrate two decades since its release, thrusting Moonspell onto the international scene, thanks to the 'Opium' single and 'Full Moon Madness'. Ironically, the pair bookend the full-length, with was played sequentially on the ship. The stage was bathed in red, with streaks of white lights, for lead singer Fernando Ribeiro's entrance. He's very expressive, working his way around the stage with heavy mic stand. He also made it known they were the lone representative from Portugal. Shame the money shot, aforementioned 'Opium' resides first in the album running order. A blue lit 'Ruin & Misery' was followed by 'A Poisoned Gift' which the singer claimed they hadn't played in 20 years. Had to miss personal favorite 'Alma Mater', in order to traverse ten flights of stairs and wait in line for HammerFall.

The Swedish Templars were under bright skies on the deck, sun shining right into the photographer's face. Joacim Cans has lost a lot of weight, undertaking a running regiment and staying away from booze. Opening with 'Hector's Hymn', their first of two sets predominately concentrated on material AFTER the initial platters. In fact, Cans told the Templars of the Caribbean there'd be 70% different songs, the next night. A big kid, guitarist Oscar Dronjak always seems to have fun and during 'Renegade', he dropped to his knees and let the singer strum the strings. When he switched guitars, Dronjak ripped off stage costume, for just a simple t-shirt. Introducing 'Blood Bound', Cans joked, "If you know it, sing along, if you've never heard it before, have a beer!" The crowd sang, thrust fists and Oscar jumped on the drum riser, like he needs any height. Lots of action at the deckside bar as the singer asked, "How many of you crazy MFers are seeing HammerFall for the first time? We've been around for 20 years. How'd you miss us?" Just to make sure they knew who they were seeing, they launch into 'Let The Hammer Fall' (their signature tune was reserved for later). A good portion of these attendees never had to do without traditional metal sounds, as throughout their lifetime HammerFall (and others spawned in their wake) has always been there. Center stage, Cans mockingly claims to hate guitar players, giving Pontus Norgren the finger as the second guitarist goes into an Yngwie Malmsteen inspired (yes, they ARE Swedish) instrumental.

With a 15 minute overlap, took off early, to see Bloodbath. Onstage, they lived up to the moniker, faces and appendages splattered with the red stuff. Almost all of Nick Holmes' face was crimson, like he'd bobbing for apples in an open chest cavity. He wore a priestly alb, with inverted cross dangling from his neck. Behind the band, an electronic screen generated random patterns of dots, nothing really keeping with the music/image. The band which also feature Katatonia members Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström and Jonas Renkse, are still touring in support of our BravePick 2014, the massive extremity Grand Morbid Funeral. So from said album spewed forth “Let the Stillborn Come to Me”, “Anne” and “Unite in Pain”, Blakkheim along with Per "Sodomizer" Eriksson shredding to the extreme with vicious variety. “Breeding Death”, the glorious “Soul Evisceration” and epic closure “Cry My Name”  emerged as one of the finer sets of the day.

As Metal Tim plied his expertise to a critique of the Bloodbath set, I focused on Jag Panzer, getting ready to go onstage in Studio B. Got there to witness a jazzy warm-up, along with about a half dozen others. John Tetley is back on bass, the long running Coloradans having employed a sub during last summer's festival run. The band was ready AHEAD of schedule and actually could do a pre-run through 'Viper' as well. A storming 'License To Kill' opener gave way to the violin begun 'Black', with The Tyrant (aka singer Harry Conklin) doing his best Rocky Balboa flex/pose. 'Iron Eagle' sees Conklin bent at the front of the stage, as Joey Tafolla takes a solo. There's a brief, pre-recorded acoustic intro to 'Chain Of Command' and an old school gem, 'Death Row'. The singer explains the origin of the title, relating to the early 80s thrashers and bashers down next to the stage. A second, albeit official, rendition of 'Viper' saw me heading to the big theater, to catch a glimpse of the next band.

Stratovarius might be the only band I don't consciously think about snapping a photo of the guitarist, with characters like Timo Kotipelto, bassist Lauri Porra and the man with illuminated rubber bathtub ducks affixed to his keyboard, Jens Johansson. They flew in from a Japanese tour just a day before sailing and were still a bit jetlagged the first day, not so now. Opening with 'My Eternal Dream', early on, it was newer stuff, but as the set progressed, classics were intermixed. Porra walks over and props his leg on the keyboard stand. Kotipelto tosses the mic back and forth between alternate hands, with ease. Under a yellow hue, an electronic clickety-clack denotes 'SOS'. The oldest tune in their current repertoire, 'Against The Wind' comes next. A short Johansson spotlight gives way to the telltale intro for 'Black Diamond, all while Timo remains offstage. 'Lost Saga', 'Unbreakable' eventually ave way to a 'Hunting High & Low' finale.

Moving on to shoot a couple photos of Rotting Christ, who began with a slow, grinding crawl, before picking up the tempo. Each member was hunched over, practically dragging bass/guitar on the ground, Sakis Tolis (guitar/vocals) opting for an exaggerated headbang. Now after 8 PM, time for a quick bite to eat in the dual cafeteria Jade (Asian fare) / Windjammer (more Americanized offerings) and swing by the stateroom for a long sleeve, before heading back to the now windy/night fallen topside deck.

Security worried about us having a beer in the photo pit, when there was a hot tub feet away from all that electricity and revelers splashing/throwing water everywhere! Speaking of electrocution, time for Cradle Of Filth. Is it just me, or does Dani Filth's most recent make-up owe much to Nightmare Before Christmas character Jack Skellington? While a fan of the first couple COF releases, haven't listened to them much lately, having lost me with the goth period. Rest assured, this was a metal performance, albeit devoid of those old femme fatale adorned Cacophonous CDs. Make no mistake, Dani's high pitched shriek remains his calling card, both hands, cupping the mic, jumping up & down three times,in place, as he delivers the piercing notes. Otherwise, he stalks the stage, often walking in circles. Despite an overactive finger on the trigger of the fog machine, no matter how they tried, couldn't cover the stage with fog, thanks to a steady wind, which repeatedly wiped the deck clean. 'From The Cradle To Enslave' was one of the earliest tracks aired (indoors, a couple of days later, they played the debut tile cut). Newbie 'Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych' saw strobes lighten the stage, female singer Lindsay Schoolcraft on semi-circular keyboard, pinwheeled her hair. A festival for sight and sound, even if somewhat unfamiliar.

Children of Bodom had all kinds of issues getting started and when they did, Janne Warman's keyboards didn't work, so they had to perform 'Are You Dead Yet' a second time! A total of three I Worship Chaos selections were in the set, a pair right after the opener, along with 'Halo Of Blood'. From then on, it was sort of a greatest hits (at least in terms of title tracks) package, including 'Hate Me', 'Every Time I Die' and the back-to-back 'Lake Bodom/Silent Night, Bodom Night'. Mainman/guitarist Alexi Laiho stood near stage's edge, boxed in by a  little bunker comprised of a trio of wedge monitors, often playing the guitar vertically, propped on his thigh. When not there, he retreated back towards the drum riser and Warman. New guitarist Daniel Freyberg was left on his own, to Laiho's left. Will be interesting to see how the forthcoming North American tour will differ from the choices here.

A little after midnight and before retiring to the casino bar for some well earned relaxation, caught old pals Paradise Lost, outdoors. In an hour, they played five songs from last year's return to form The Plague Within. Shortly before taking the stage, a crew member X-ed out the setlist, adding 'Pity The Sadness', 'Requiem' and the 'Say Just Words' finale. At the foot of the monitors sat an Ipad/tablet, for the singer, just in case. Crushing, moody and an unusually cheeky Nick Holmes, who reprised his Bloodbath intro, saying, "We're Paradise Lost, from Sweden." Sporting a left-handed V, guitarist Gregor Mackintosh, dreads behind a Keith Richards headband, was alone, to Holmes' right. On the aforementioned 'Pity' his noggin was bobbling. 'Widow' backed up the 'No Hope In Sight' kick-off. The singer turned comic introduced 'Gothic', saying, "We wrote it about 55 years ago and grew tired of playing it in the Eighties." Aaron Aedy plays in a trance-like state. Discussing the album, Holmes claimed it was available, "on good torrent sites." Green lights and fog covered the stage for 'Terminal'. 'The Painless' broke up a trio of bruising Plague Within tracks, before 'Enchantment'. Sort of surprising it was the first (and only) Draconian Times inclusion. They should embrace the past, not be afraid of it.Great songs, dying to be heard. Now how about some North American dates?

Don't want to stay out all night, as we arrive in Jamaica early tomorrow morning!

Previous stories and even more photos:

Cruise overview.

Day 1


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KILL RITUAL - “Thy Will Be Done”

KILL RITUAL - “Thy Will Be Done”

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