The Epic Battle Of A "Rain Of A Thousand Flames" As Rhapsody Of Fire Battles Nature In Day Four Of 70,000 Tons Of Metal
Band Photo: Cradle Of Filth (?)
I woke up at the usual 7:30am after arriving at my cabin less than three hours prior. I really thought there would be more of a hangover…but then again, it really wasn’t that long since my last drink. I usually reserve the last full day/night of the cruise (today) to be the time I lay down the camera and act more like a fan, but circumstances were such that Saturday night was the party night.
So the last full day of the cruise is met much like any other Sunday before you go back to work…the morning brings the feeling of “I still have a full day ahead of me.” By mid-morning you think “Ok…I have to find a way to slow this day down.” By noon its “I still have lunch and dinner and a bunch of shows to see.” By mid-afternoon its “well, the sun is still out.” By early evening its “Fuck…its almost over.”
I headed up to the Windjammer for some breakfast and I brought my camera so I can check out the 10am pool deck show with Twilight Force. After eating, I walked up to deck 12 and guards were blocking the pool deck from every angle. Apparently there was a banner that was blowing around that may cause harm if it detached…or so the story went. I checked back four times…even seeing many of the band members in costume and ready to go. It was not to be…Twlight Force would be cancelled and rescheduled…but this was just the beginning of the nightmare.
With nothing to really do, I headed down to the Alhambra to check out Dia De Los Muertos, a California death/thrash act featuring the voracious vox of Rosa Arias. This is one set where I had a real issue with the sound mix, which proved incredibly sharp – especially to a guy who refuses and/or neglects to wear ear plugs. That said, the band put on a very energetic and passionate performance, playing tracks from the two EPs and debut full length “Satanico Dramatico.”
As I was heading out, I ran into my good friend Matt, who told me he was on his way to see Visions of Atlantis at the ice rink. Thankfully, I ran into him since I hadn't seen the scheduling change anywhere I was about this and I would have totally missed out. I b-lined for the ice rink to check out VoA and arrived before the set started.
In a less than dramatic red light star background of the rink (as opposed to the much more theatrical Alhambra), there was more of a "club style" atmosphere in this second set of Visions of Atlantis. In many ways, this sort of "stripped down" appearance hit on more of a personal level - with the band closer to the audience and the feel a bit more campy. The band hit on a great variety from the catalog ranging from "Lost" to "New Dawn" to the very appropriate "Seven Seas."
When that phantom "three song limit" bit me back at the band's Alhambra set before I had made it over to the side of the stage where guitarist Werner Fiedler was, I was afraid I lost my shot at taking a few photos of him. The ice rink provided that opportunity. I truly enjoyed this new incarnation of Visions of Atlantis - and I applaud Thomas Caser for keeping it up despite his schedule with Napalm Records. After seeing them twice on the cruise, my excitement level for new material grew considerably.
I headed back up to the pool deck to see if the situation that caused Twilight Force’s cancellation was resolved. I also saw that the band’s rescheduled performance would be at the ice rink at 12:15pm – which would work out perfect. When I arrived, the mighty Greek warriors of Rotting Christ had started their set. It seems that every year there is one band that impacts me in a way that I never expected. In 2015, Kataklysm destroyed the boat with two of the best performances, in terms of sheer power, that I had ever witnessed. This year, it was Rotting Christ. Sure, the name might turn off many – but by gods, this band is magnificent both in the studio and on stage.
I’m told that most Rotting Christ shows are bathed in darkness and red light….but not on this day. In the bright late morning Caribbean sun, the band could be seen as well as heard. What followed was one of the best performances on the boat….with perfect crushing riffs that dared anyone on that pool deck to stand still in the face of such ferocity. With an almost regimented, militant tone – vocalist/guitarist Sakis Tolis commanded the crowd. They played a plethora of tunes from the band’s catalog, including the new album “Rituals.” What an amazing performance I would not soon forget.
One of the bands that I was most interested in seeing today was Germany’s Squealer. An interesting choice for UMC, one that sort of came out of left field for me since the band has pretty much been silent one the release front since 2008. Not shockingly, if you followed the history of Squealer, there were some tragedies that occurred over the years with vocalists – including original singer and then AFM Records boss Andy Allendorfer in 2005 (which prompted the band name change to “Squealer A.D.), as well as Gus Chambers in 2008.
I remember first becoming a fan of the band in 1999 with “The Prophecy,” though I had heard the band in the early 90’s through a local college radio station, so I was really curious to see them. They had recently recruited vocalist Sebastian Werner back in 2014, but have not released any material with him as of yet – though I was informed that new material is on the way.
When I arrived at the Alhambra – the band was on stage and in full stride. With matching white button down shirts from guitarists Michael Schiel and Lars Doring and bassist Manuel Roth – the band had that appearance of “dress casual cool.” Juxtaposted to the black button down shirt of vocalist Sebastian Werner, I was sensing there might be a theme here. The performance was pretty special and well worth seeing. I wish there was a bigger audience for this highly underrated band, because they killed it on stage. Werner’s vocals ranged from clean to death grunts and he was fantastic with great showmanship. The band put on a highly enjoyable set and I really hope I get another opportunity to see them live again.
I headed back up to the pool deck to check out Raven’s second set. I have made it an oath to never miss Raven when I’m able – since much of my metal life was spent missing out on them. This time would be my sixth time seeing them in the last six years. I hope for many more to come!
By the time Raven hit the stage, the sun was still out, but the winds which caused an issue for Twilight Force earlier in the morning were really picking up the pace….a precursor of what would come in just an hour or so. With all the fun and candor of one of the true legends in metal, Raven never disappoints…especially when they broke out my favorite song from the latest ablum “ExtermiNation” – “Battle March/Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red).” What a fucking brilliant band.
I watched Raven until they finished and then took a short break for some ice cream on the side of the pool deck (yeah, they really put an ice cream dispenser with cones right on the side of the stage). I headed down to check out Vallenfyre at the Ice Rink. I saw Vallenfyre’s first U.S. performance back at the Decibel Magazine sponsored show of Amon Amarth and Sabaton in New York City. The band features Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh on vocals, who was pulling double duty on the boat.
One thing you learn quickly about Vallenfyre, is that it is all about darkness. With zero front lighting, the band plays in near darkness with just occasional white and deep red back lighting – a nightmare for any photographer. Still, the band is fucking amazing – both in studio and live performances as they blasted through a selection of tunes from both the debut “A Fragile King” and the latest “Splinters.”
It was time for my highlight of the day – Rhapsody of Fire’s pool deck set. I headed back up to Deck 11 and made it to the then empty photo pit for the band’s second set. All of a sudden….just as the band’s intro started - as if a mystical force was present – dark clouds rolled in from the headwind…and I heard one of the guards say “oh man…that’s coming in quick.” The band came on stage and the winds really picked up in intensity.
Appropriately, the set list began with “Reign of Terror” – so the band matched all the intensity of Mother Nature with the most ferocious song in the catalog! “Unholy Warcry,” “March of the Swordmaster,” “Into the Legend” and “Dawn of Victory” all sounded masterful in the face of such a mighty breeze. Fabio Lione faced into the wind – his hair appearing to be pulled back by the wrath of the gods. Roberto Di Micheli faced the now pelting rain against his face like a warrior. Alex Staropoli gripped the sides of his keyboard – but never skipped a beat. Alex Holzwarth’s cymbal stands were wavering like palm trees in a Florida hurricane…forcing the crew to secure it with sandbags – but nothing would stop this set from happening.
It was almost too appropriate and not coincidental at all that the wrath of Poseidon strike at this very hour. This was a sight that would forever etch into the minds of those who witnessed and battled with our heroes, one we would dub the “Rain of a Thousand Flames.” At one point – it was all hands on deck as the crew sought to secure and save precious sound equipment with a tarp – which they all but lost control of. The mighty winds blew the blue tarp nearly clear off into Cuban waters – prompting the guards to help secure it.
The band played on….and fans raged with them – dancing mercilessly during “Village of Dwarves” and the ever appropriate “Holy Thunderforce.” The ominous “Knightrider of Doom” was perfect harbinger of the end of this amazing, thrilling and captivating set. Fabio had to quickly announce “Emerald Sword,” because the crew was now to the point where the band was forced to end the show. It didn’t matter – Rhapsody of Fire was not to be denied! They plowed through the song – eliciting the biggest crowd response of the set. With 30 seconds left in the song, the crew appeared right in the middle of the stage, trying to get the band’s attention with the “slit to the throat” cut sign – but Fabio just ignored them. It was glorious – a sight I don’t think I could witness anywhere else.
Then that was it…..the pool deck was shut down for the rest of the cruise. Not because the rain – that was pretty tame. It was the wind…and it wreaked havoc for the rest of the day, forcing promoter Andy Piller to completely re-work the schedule and call it the “Fuck the Storm Schedule.” All bets were off…all shows were flipped around – and worst of all – poor Twilight Force was relegated to the Pyramid Lounge at some ungodly hour. I missed them again….and thus stands my biggest regret.
Part of me wanted to just drop the camera – see what shows I could and enjoy the rest of this amazing weekend as a fan. However, Cradle of Filth’s Alhambra show was still there, as originally scheduled – and I had to make up for that pool deck debacle and capture them on stills. I met with cabin mate and Metal Underground.com owner Deathbringer for the UMC presses conference and then some dinner while we tried to figure out what to do about the rest of the night.
We headed out to see a bit of Cradle of Filth, well at least to the point where my frustration level could tolerate Dani Filth’s pig squeals. In reality, I really enjoy a lot of Cradle of Filth’s material – especially on recent releases as they became more and more symphonic. I realize that the pig squeal part of Dani’s vocals is a trademark, but wow…
Cradle of Filth put on a visually brilliant show – the creepy gothic black metal corpse paint truly works – even if the music isn’t your bag. The one thing I noticed about Dani is just how short he is in person…but he is a hell of a frontman. He flew around the stage in his blackened evil angel wings…or cape or whatever that was. It was ultra-cool to see Martin Skaroupka on the the drum kit, having seen him with MasterPlan at ProgPower USA a couple of years back and Lindsay Schoolcraft was a site on the molded/bent keyboard to his right. Overall, the band put on an incredibly and visually entertaining show…but that frustration level reached a peak, so I ducked out.
With the schedule now royally fucked by the howling winds – the planned event of Herman Lee (DragonForce) playing guitar in the hot tub on the side of the stage was out. I happened to see the special made guitar with the floatation board attached to the back while the band was waiting for transportation after customs at the end of the cruise. It’s sad that event couldn’t have taken place as scheduled. Iced Earth was moved indoors for a second performance at Alhambra and Bloodbath was moved indoors to the ice rink. Everything was screwed up – by no fault of anyone. Andy Pillar does a brilliant job trying to get everything rescheduled as best he can…so no complaints at all from me. Shit happens – especially in the middle of the ocean.
However, with the scheduling of bands I really wanted to see at times and locations not conducive with my level of fatigue at this point, I was sad to have missed Twilight Force and Samael’s second set – both regrets I’ll live with for a while. However, with my one night of debauchery in on Saturday and fatigue rapidly approaching limits – I only had a few more sets in me until I had to begin recuperating.
After Cradle of Filth, I headed back to the room to get all the camera and computer gear packed and ready to depart. After freshening up, both Doug and I headed out to see Bloodbath’s rescheduled set at the ice rink. The bar before the venue was PACKED with cruisegoers checking out the Super Bowl, which had only a few minutes left and the Denver Broncos having virtually secured the victory (much to the chagrin of this Oakland Raiders fan).
Armed with a bucket of alcoholic cider, I sat down (big mistake….I can’t sit at a metal show as tired as I was) to enjoy a near motionless Nick Holmes entertain the crowd. I decided I’d check in with my airline on my phone to get that out of the way, since I’ll be sitting in an airport for 10 hours waiting for a 9:30pm flight the next night. That’s when I discovered that déjà vu struck again…my flight was already cancelled and I was stranded in Ft. Lauderdale due to a snow storm back home. The details of that stranding goes like this: flight cancelled, booked same hotel as last year, went to same store and restaurant as last year, went to bed with the Weather Channel on….just like last year.
Bloodbath’s set over….we headed out – but not before getting a quick photo with At the Gates frontman Tomas Lindberg. Here is one of the nicest dudes out there…someone who appreciates the fans and never walks away or pulls an attitude.
With fatigue at its breaking point from a weekend of near zero sleep, the last show of the cruise for me was Iced Earth’s rescheduled set at Alhambra. I double fisted some beer and headed to the balcony to watch. Always a thrill to see, Iced Earth is better than ever – especially with Stu Block at the helm. The place was absolutely packed to the rafters and it was a great party. Sadly, sitting in the balcony with beer didn’t help with my fatigue and when I found myself all but nodding off…it was time to pack it in.
What a cruise….the best I’ve ever been to. If you ever considered attending 70,000 Tons of Metal – please do it soon….you won’t regret it and you will crave it each year once you get on board. Next year is fast approaching….and the destination is Haiti in 2017. Do it now!
If you missed our coverage for Days 1-3 of 70,000 Tons Of Metal....check out the reports here:
To book your 2017 70,000 Tons of Metal adventure and assure yourselves of an amazing time, head on over to 70000tons.com
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.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. 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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