Articles : 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Day 1 and 2 Review
70,000 Tons of Metal
Day 1 and 2, February 1 – 2 2018
Miami to Grand Turk and Caicos Islands
Featuring Primal Fear, Leaves’ Eyes, Swallow the Sun, Insomnium, Rhapsody, Kreator, Witchery, Amberian Dawn, Seven Spires, Masterplan, Alestorm, Septicflesh, Freedom Call, Sabaton, Meshuggah, Dark Tranquillity, Samael and Witherfall.
Words: Lewis Allan
The world-renowned 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise set sail for its eighth voyage from 1 – 5 February 2018, from Miami to Cockburn Town, Grand Turk and back. This year the cruise hosted 61 bands, from absolute Metal heavyweights such as Meshuggah, Sabaton and Exodus, to newer and less well-known talent such as Gyze, Seven Spires and Witherfall. Like most festivals, one of the hardest parts of the experience was only being able to be in one place at one time, with bands playing almost 24 hours a day across four stages, and plenty of other things to do such as meet and greets, merch shopping, plenty of food and drink, and a shipload full of other attractions. But of course, the music is what 3,000 Metalheads come together for, celebrating our passion with a week-long party – including the fan-run events centred around the Clevelander hotel.
First cab off the rank on day one were the German Power Metal sensations Primal Fear, playing on the Ice Rink stage. Primal Fear opened the festival with tremendous energy, with frontman Ralf Scheepers popping the cork on the bottled up passion of the room full of Metalheads. With the exception of the Pyramid Lounge, every stage on the ship runs perfect sound, and Primal Fear were presented with the crisp clarity the band need and deserve.
Meanwhile, Norway’s female-fronted Symphonic Viking Metal darlings Leaves’ Eyes opened the Alhambra Theatre, the largest of the interior venues. Veteran frontman Alexander Krull and new female lead Elina Siirala put on a deeply charismatic show, pulling out all the stops to get the crowd singing and jumping. Aside from the die-hards, the response was unfortunately relatively luke-warm, perhaps because fans have not yet settled into Leaves’ Eyes with Siirala. Doubtless they’ll come around, as her performance was impeccable, and her voice incredibly powerful in delivering the new Leaves’ Eyes material from ‘Sign of the Dragonhead,’ as well as a few classics. It was also an absolute treat to see Krull emerge in full Viking armour and armed with a sword for the final song.
Next up in the Alhambra Theatre were Swallow the Sun. Undoubtedly, this show was one of the heaviest on the ship in terms of pure Doom-laden misery. Newcomers and fans alike also received the special treat of a string quartet playing alongside the band, filling out their sound beautifully. The band were well placed to deliver a true sonic spectacle, which they did with aplomb.
However, it was when Finnish Death Metal veterans Insomnium played the Ice Rink that the festival really started to go off. This was the first of the absolutely packed out shows, with the Ice Rink filled to the brim. From the very start fans were shaking the floor with their jumping, and keeping security busy taking care of a constant stream of crowdsurfers. Insomnium ripped through a killer set touching on all points of their career, and topped if off with Dark Tranquillity frontman Mikael Stanne singing guest vocals on the final song, Weather the Storm. Stanne put his all into the performance, moving all over the stage and beyond it as he stage-dived into the crowd. Stanne’s stellar performance certainly built expectations for Dark Tranquillity’s performance, which were met on day 2.
The cruise’s first show of the Rhapsody reunion took place in the Alhambra Theatre, where the band showed off the truly epic scale of their music. Every song, excluding one slower ballad sung in Italian, felt like the climax of an opera; and indeed, frontman Fabio Lione‘s vocals would put many an opera singer to shame. One simply would not expect those deep operatic parts to emanate from the same vocalist as those high-pitched Power Metal wails, but Lione can do it all.
Kreator followed in the Alhambra Theatre, bringing a much more brutal intensity into the mix. The band certainly proved why their considered one of the “Teutonic Big Four” of Thrash Metal with their absolutely relentless assault. At the same time, there is a slight infusion of German Power Metal melody that makes Kreator stand out from the Thrash Metal crowd. There was an intense feeling of unity as Kreator embraced their fans warmly throughout the set, even as frontman and guitarist Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza literally waved the Kreator Flag of Hate on stage.
Swedish Death-infused Thrashers Witchery played their first set in the Pyramid Lounge, which is unfortunately a difficult venue. The sound simply isn’t as crisp, meaning that a very fast and heavy band such as Witchery struggles to get their sound across. As such, the performance sounded muddy and homogenous, though frontman Angus Norder did his utmost to get the crowd riled up. Thankfully the crowd were forgiving, but Witchery’s performance on day three in a more salubrious environment was certainly stronger.
It was 3:00 am by the time Amberian Dawn hit the stage in the Alhambra Theatre, but those fans who weathered the very late (or very early) hour were in for an absolute treat. Frontwoman Paivi “Capri” Virkkunen held the crowd in the palm of her hand with her energetic and charismatic performance. Her vocals were refined to perfection, and her on-stage persona charming. Virkkunen took plenty of time to interact and have a few laughs with the audience, but never lost the momentum of the performance for a moment.
Following Amberian Dawn were Seven Spires, a relatively new addition to the Metal world fronted by Winds of Plague keyboardist Adrienne Cowan. As a frontwoman, Cowan is deeply engaging, with enchanting clean vocals and brutal growls intermingling into a beautiful and varied vocal landscape. Cowan also sets herself up as a compelling storyteller as she delivers the narrative of Seven Spires’ debut full-length concept album, ‘Solveig.’ The lyrics are refreshingly powerful and moving, contributing to an overall package that will no doubt see great things ahead for the band.
Day two kicked off at 10 am with the first pool deck show of the cruise with Power Metal veterans Masterplan. The pool deck is the biggest and most impressive stage on the cruise, combining an outdoor festival atmosphere with impeccable sound, and the ability to watch bands from the hot tub. Masterplan proved their place in the Metal landscape with a ripper of a set, with a fast pace and engaging banter that brought the slumbering and hungover Metalheads back to the land of the living for the day ahead. Roland Grapow‘s shredding was first rate and mind-bending, while Rick Altzi‘s vocals soared over the ocean with perfection.
Also gracing the pool deck was the incomparable spectacle of Pirate Metal pioneers (or is that buccaneers?) Alestorm. The alcohol-fuelled swashbucklers ripped through a set of new and classic songs, kicking off with live mainstay Keelhauled and including the anthemic Hangover. As is to be expected, the show was utter chaos, with a massive inflatable duck being bounced around the audience for the duration of the show, as well as an inflatable duckie pool toy brought by a fan. While frontman Chris Bowes claimed this set included “all the shit songs,” in anticipation of day four’s cruise-closing show at the Alhambra Theatre, it absolutely went off with the fans.
In the evening Septicflesh played the Ice Rink, and while some fans bemoaned the quality of the sound, it did seem that the set sounded somewhat homogenous. Though the band certainly put in a lot of energy, there wasn’t a great sense of variation. That being said, their excellent set to follow proved there may have been something in the assertion that the sound wasn’t working for them this time around.
The world’s happiest Metal band, Freedom Call, played their first show in the Pyramid Lounge, and they certainly took control of the room. Frontman Chris Bay kept up the banter throughout the show, though the crowd contributed their own laughs when Bay brought out an assistant to hold his acoustic guitar, opening up the biggest chant of the show with “Hu-man stand! Hu-man stand!” This got the band laughing and sharing even more mirth for the uplifting show that focused firmly on the unity of the Metal community.
Quite possibly the strongest show of the entire cruise however, was Sabaton’s pool deck show. The military history-themed Power Metal band from Sweden hit the stage to an absolutely packed deck, and the fans weren’t the slightest bit perturbed as the tropical rain came down upon them – especially those in the hot tubs. The whole deck was shaking with the constant jumping of the crowd, and even frontman Joakim Broden seemed genuinely overwhelmed by how often and loudly the crowd broke out in chanting the band’s name. The career-spanning set seemed perfectly chosen, with fans giving equal passion and welcome to deep cuts such as Cliffs of Gallipoli that, according to Broden, initially didn’t go over so well with fans, as Sabaton classics such as Panzer Battalion and Primo Victoria.
One of the heaviest bands on the cruise, Sweden’s Meshuggah took to the Alhambra Theatre and absolutely tore it apart. The wall of technical, progressive, Death Metal sound was a stark contrast to the Power Metal of Freedom Call and Sabaton, but likewise drew a massive and active crowd. Meshuggah are well known for their technical precision, and this show was no exception – but it also possessed a transcendental intensity that made it a special example of the already powerful Meshuggah experience.
Next up on the pool deck were one of Gothenburg’s finest in melodic Death Metal, Dark Tranquillity, with another of the very best performances of the cruise. Dark Tranquillity have had a number of changes to the touring line-up with the addition of Johan Reinholdz and former Arch Enemy member Christopher Amott on guitars. Reinholdz and Amott add deeper layers of complexity to the music, particularly in the band’s judiciously placed solos. Meanwhile, Mikael Stanne is one of the most energetic and charismatic frontmen in the business, as well as having deeply soulful clean vocals in addition to tremendous growls.
Dark Tranquillity were followed on the pool deck by Samael, a similarly heavy Swiss band but with a very different approach. Samael have the most outright “Gothic” look of all the bands on the boat, closely followed by Witchery’s Angus Norder. With a strong Industrial influence overlaying a Black Metal feel, Samael are on of the few bands on the line-up who can really get the crowd dancing. It’s something a little different to see bikini-clad girls swaying their hips to Samael, but that’s the boat for you. Samael put on a fiendishly heavy performance, with frontman Vorph presenting the perfect balance between his sinister occult persona, and joyful interaction with the crowd.
Punters at 70,000 Tons of Metal were very fortunate to witness the ffirst-ever performance of Witherfall, featuring former Iced Earth guitarist Jake Dreyer, who also performs live with Kobra and the Lotus. Witherfall hit the crowd with a solid Heavy Metal sound, not as deep down the Power Metal path as Iced Earth, let alone a band like Freedom Call. This was a particularly touching performance, as the band had the ashes of their fallen bandmate Adam Sagan scattered on the stage of the Alhambra Theatre, a fitting and moving tribute to the man who always said he would get one of his bands to 70,000 Tons of Metal. Witherfall made sure he made it.
With Witherfall finishing in the very early hours of the morning, little was left but to anticipate a day on the beaches of Grand Turk, and of course the performances of day three.
Head to 70000tons.com to secure your tickets for the 2019 edition of 70,000 Tons Of Metal, and find out more about the boat, bands and crew.
About Lewis Allan
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