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Epica, Diamond Head Bring All The Energy Needed For Day Three Of 70,000 Tons Of Metal

Photo of Diamond Head

Band Photo: Diamond Head (?)

Port day on the 2016 edition of the World’s Largest Metal Cruise! We made it into Falmouth, Jamaica at some time in the wee hours of the morning. This part of the cruise is a necessary element for a journalist, especially one trying to see as many shows as possible before collapsing from exhaustion. Since the day is usually enjoyed by fan and musician alike on shore and about the country, it means rest and relaxation for me until about 4pm – a time to recharge both the physical and mental batteries for the second half of the mayhem.

In similar fashion to last year, I skipped the part about getting off the boat. Unless there is a Mayan ruin like in Mexico a few years back, my interest in beach activities and touristy shops pales in comparison to resting and taking a few walks around the ship. This year I freed my shoulders from cameras and relaxed with breakfast before heading back to the room to do a little photo processing. The first show I would attend today would be Stratovarius’ second set on the pool deck.

Now it was time to check out the boat. My only gripe – but I understand why – is why merch wouldn’t be open the entire day. There is no more perfect moment to gather any shirts I desired in the biggest gap of the trip. However, I do realize that many people are off the boat, so why spend the hours manning a merch booth (perhaps because there are still many people on the boat). But alas…I’d find another gap somewhere later on.

A peaceful lunch with a few friends was on tap – as was the time to consume a few “adult beverages.” This was my idea of recharging without the hassle of de-boarding and re-boarding the boat. The partly cloudy – turned mostly cloudy - day was about to pick up. An early dinner was on tap with another few friends who came back aboard after sunning on the beach and we were ready to go!

First up for me was Stratovarius’ second set on the pool deck. Now for some reason the “phantom 3 song rule” was put into effect – again with both security and band citing the “rule of the other.” Halfway through the second song, I was able to jump into the pit for a song and a half. The band was scaled down a bit in dress – especially Jens, who looked as though he just walked off the beach and onto the stage (which may be the literal truth, who knows).

The second set had a few changes – with “Speed of Light,” “Kiss of Judas,” “Legions” and “Paradise” added in. Since this was one of two shows going on – the crowd on the pool deck was pretty full. There really is nothing like an open air metal show on the top of a huge ship on the ocean in beautiful – albeit windy – conditions. The band seemed to enjoy it and the set was stellar.

I headed down to the Alhambra Theater to see Visions of Atlantis first set, as the one opening the pool deck yesterday was cancelled. First off, it was quite an honor to finally see and meet vocalist Siegfried Samer, who I had been corresponding with via Facebook for a while now. I’ve followed his work in Dragony and was eager to get the opportunity to photograph him in a live setting. There is a level of class with Samer that doesn’t go unnoticed by this fan. With Visions of Atlantis, it has always been a male/female vocal duo – and Clementine Delauney (ex-Serenity) provided the lovely female vocals. The last time I saw Clementine was when Serenity played ProgPower back in 2012.

So the stage was set with group of amazing musicians, including band founder, and Napalm Records CEO, Thomas Caser on drums. What a far cry from the Visions of Atlantis I witnessed on tour with Epica (way back when) in Hartford, CT, who played for a “packed house” of about 25 people. Back then, Melissa Ferlaak and Mario Plank were the vocal team. Lyrically well suited to a cruise in the middle of the Caribbean, Visions of Atlantis dazzled with a level of professionalism and musicianship unmatched on the boat….all the class I expect from this highly talented symphonic metal act. Siegfried and Clementine’s performance was everything I expected and I hope the duo propels the band into the future. It’s been a long while since new material has been proffered and hopefully the new EP “Old Routes – New Waters” (re-recordings of some classic material with the new lineup) will help bridge the gap.

With Katatonia’s second set about to start on the pool deck and Dave Lombardo’s Dead Cross at the ice rink – it was break time for me. I headed back to the room for a quick change, photo dump and the opportunity to post a few pics of the VoA set on social media in keeping with my “hot off the press” mentality on these cruises. A word of advice: if you purchase the unlimited internet in the very beginning of the cruise – that $150 will seem like a bargain compared to the hourly rates.

I headed back to Alhambra to check out Gamma Ray’s second set. Again – any time I have the opportunity to see Kai and company, I’ll take it. This set was pretty much the perfect release after a relaxing day on the boat….especially when they broke out into a Jamaican jam in the middle of “I Want Out.” I don’t recall a year on the boat when one of the bands didn’t set the mood of “port day” with a little jam Caribbean style.

One of my favorite things about live performances, especially on 70k, is when bands break out of the usual mold and do something a bit different and off beat than trying to sound perfect. In my opinion, live shows are supposed to have changes, crowd interaction and sing-a-longs, mistakes, fun and interesting musician interactions. There is way too much effort put into sounding “perfect.” This is metal – its ok to fuck up once and a while and act silly. I hardly lose respect for a band I love just because they screwed up or didn’t play that favorite song of mine exactly as it sounds on the record. That’s why I have the record. In any event, Gamma Ray’s performance was a party – as it should have been.

I headed over to see Diamond Head at the ice rink. The band was the last one to be announced by UMC and what a gem they are indeed. At first, I was wondering what Diamond Head would sound like live without the likes of vocalist Sean Harris. At the very least, I wanted to see them and take some photos – since they do have legendary status in the genre. I do feel a little badly since some of the greatest hits are attributed by many fans as being “Metallica songs.” I seriously had to chuckle when the lineup/track list reveal for Jeff Waters’ All-Star Jam revealed one of the tracks to be played was “Am I Evil?” but it was labelled “The Metallica Version.” Really? With Diamond Head ON THE BOAT?

Well....I certainly came in with a load of preconceived notions – because I was half expecting to see an older rock band come out – take a few shots and take off. However, what happened was a rock band came out completely rejuvenated by a high octane young vocalist named Rasmus Bom Anderson. The man had the most energy of any band member on the boat, bar none…and the rest of the band followed his lead. What a brilliant performance and the crowd really appreciated it. With Anderson hard to pin down – bouncing from one end of the stage to the other, the whole place was rockin’. It didn’t even matter what material was being played, old or new, the energy level was unlike any other I saw on the boat. It reminded me a little of Threshold stealing the entire cruise with a performance back in January 2015. I was absolutely stunned and really look
forward to seeing these guys again.

At this point, I was going to take a little break – choosing (begrudgingly) to skip Eluveitie on the pool deck for fear that I would get locked out of the pit. I was flagged down by Mark Briody of Jag Panzer who asked if I could do a couple of photos of he and Joey Tafola for the company that make’s their guitars. These types of requests never get old – and the honor was mine. I told Mark, I just wanted to take a few shots of Vader and I’d head over to the Pyramid Lounge a bit before Jag’s set there to do that.

I was able to head over to the pool deck to catch the very last part of Eluveitie’s set. They had the crowd captivated, as usual. They are just an unbelievable amazing band, both live and on studio releases. I made my way to the ice rink to check out Vader. Now here is a band that has been around for so many years and seemingly doesn’t get the respect they deserve. In the states…we hardly get Vader – even though the band has a legendary 33 year history and 12 full length studio albums. In fact, 2014’s “Tibi et Igni” was one of the band’s best ever. I was really excited to finally get to see them.

When the set started, I could feel I was in the presence of a death metal legend ….as the great Piotr Pawel Wiwczarek came out adorned with black leather and spikes with a black guitar with blood red trim. It was perfect…a metal stalwart that never compromised in spewing forth unadulterated fury. Vader projected the very essence of what a metal band should look and sound like. A brilliant set from a band I need to see more of.

Now for ten solid years, Epica stood at the top of the heap in my world. “Design Your Universe” is still among my favorite albums (by far my favorite Epica album). Just before I headed down to meet to meet up with Mark Briody and Joey Tafola at the Pyramid Lounge, I sat to have some drinks with Epica’s manager along with good friend and ProgPower USA co-promoter Milton Mendonca. Its hard to convey to a band’s manager just how much I loved the band…so it was better off that I showed him.

Epica’s performance at the Alhambra that night was the absolute best set I have ever seen from them, and this was just about my 6-7th time seeing them, including just a couple of weeks back in New York City at the beginning of the very North American tour that had 70k as a touring stop. The band had so much energy on this larger stage on the boat and the set list felt like I handpicked it. I took a glance at the set list before they arrived on stage and it ended with my all time favorite Epica tune “Kingdom of Heaven.” At this point, I decided I will leave it all on the floor and then put my camera away for a night of much needed drinking.

A few songs in, I exited the pit and met up Milton and Epica’s manager who were at the edge of the floor before the seats started. With camera slinging from side to side, I expended all the energy I stored for the day and went ballistic until the end of this amazing set. When the dust settled, I turned to the band’s manager and said “Now…do you think Epica might be one of my favorite bands?” He laughed.

That was it…I was spent. I dropped the camera off, showered and changed and then headed to a bar to commence the liquid portion of the night. From that point on…with great company it was drinks, drinks and more drinks while watching fantastic performances from HammerFall (at the Alhambra), At the Gates (on the pool deck) and the rescheduled DragonForce show (at the Alhambra). We partied hard….we rocked harder. What a perfect end to a perfect day!

Do not miss out when the 2017 installment of 70,000 Tons Of Metal departs for Haiti on February 2-6, 2017. Ticket prices include all on board entertainment, most non-alcoholic and non-carbonated beverages, all meals in the dining rooms, most on board restaurants and even 24 hour room service. For more information or to book your high seas metal adventure, head on over to 70000tons.com.

CROMCarl's avatar

From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.

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