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70000 Tons Of Metal 2018: Day Two

Photo of Exodus

Band Photo: Exodus (?)

After a superb first day aboard the Independence Of The Seas, it was time for another long day of seeing and meeting some of the most revered bands in metal. There's worse ways of spending a long weekend I suppose...

A late night and jet lag meant sleeping in longer than expected and missing out on the first few bands, though I was up and fed in time to head to the pool deck for the first time and check out one of the greatest names in British death metal, Benediction. While some may onky recognise them as the group Barney Greenway fronted before joining Napalm Death, the Birmingham based bruisers have had a long career with some outstanding music under their belts and it's fair to say that a live setting is the best place to sample it. There's no frills and no pretentiousness about Benediction, they're working class English guys who play old school, thrash inspired death metal and they do it wonderfully. I imagine Benediction to thrive in a small venue, which makes an outdoor venue with thousands of potential crowd members something of a risk, as not all bands used to intimate stages can work on a bigger setting. I'm pleased to report however, that Benediction don't have this problem. Those in attendance were treated to a blistering performance, which no doubt won over those who are put off by the poor production of their earlier work and delighted fans and curious parties. A great way to kick off the day.

Following a meet and greet with Sepultura, it was back to the sunshine and whirlpools to catch one of the most anticipated acts of the cruise, Alestorm. The Scottish pirate metal buccaneers seem like the most obvious candidates for a metal cruise and they didn't disappoint, playing with great humour, as one would expect and bringing with them a treasure trove of sing alongs such as, "Keelhauled" and "The Sunk'n Norwegian," as well as favourites from their popular new album, "No Grave But The Sea," including the title track, their eponymous song and "Fucked With An Anchor," which finished the set. One thing which was especially noteworthy was the use of a giant, inflatable rubber duck, which was let loose into the crowd and passed around, before almost taking out the drum kit at the end of the performance. As you'd expect...

Next on the agenda was a truly legendary name in American metal, Metal Church, who took to the Alhambra Theater. Promoting, "XI," their first album with vocalist Mike Howe since 1993's, "Hanging In The Balance," Metal Church were representing the more old school and traditional brand of the genre at an event dominated by thrash, death, folk and power metal, not that Metal Church haven't veered into at least one of these styles at some point. They're a solid live band, doing justice to their legacy and showing younger attendees why they're so revered by headbangers from the eighties, unleashing such staples as, "Fake Healer," "Start The Fire" and " Badlands," as well as the awesome, "Watch The Children Play." All in all, a very good set from a very good band.

It was then time to head to the Ice Rink for the first time that day, which had played host to most of the bands reviewed on day one, to catch English progressive metal band, Threshold. "Progressive metal" is something of a broad term and those expecting a band to sound like Anathema will be surprised, but these gifted musicians pull off complex and technical songs live, seemingly with ease. The quintet also possess and perform with enormous energy, which bridges the gap between metal fans who live to rock out and prog fans who like to sit back and take in the musicianship. Threshold has plenty to choose from a lengthy catalogue, but promoted their new album, "Legends Of The Shire" most notably by closing with the single, "Small Dark Lines," which will surely go down as a classic song for the band. Well worth watching for fans of any type of metal.

I mentioned American metal legends earlier and back at the Alhambra Theater we were treated to another band who fits this tag, Bay Area thrash gods, Exodus. Controversially without driving force Gary Holt, the band nonetheless put on a typically frenzied show, with frontman Steve "Zetro" Souza leading the charge, who seems to have improved his vocal delivery since the last time I saw Exodus. Again, there were plenty of beloved songs from their back catalogue on display today, including, "Toxic Waltz," "Bonded By Blood" and set closer, "Strike Of The Beast." From first note until the last, Exodus were in bestial mode, unleashing a storm of power until they left the stage.

And now for something completely different... Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, who you may have worked out from their name come from Germany. They're a peculiar bunch, with shades of industrial metal and Neue Deutsch Harte among other styles. Fans of the band will no doubt be delighted by the performance and the neutral will find them intriguing, at least until the tempo of the set slowed considerably. Without knowing their catalogue, there's not too much else I can say, but I would recommend at least giving them a go, since a leftfield sound like this can't be pigeonholed.

Following a break, it was back to the Ice Rink to catch Greek death metal veterans, Septicflesh. Since returning in 2008, the Hellenic quartet has discarded their previous work and focused only on music from "Communion" (also from 2008) onwards, though these records all feature some excellent and intelligent works. Unfortunately, their set was blighted by sound issues, which I had warning of when arriving a little late and walking past a German woman insulting the sound engineer. Barely did the sound improve, with frontman Seth Antoniou's vocals often being inaudible and the guitars fading in and out, resulting in a performance where the rhythm section drowned out everything else and a muddy sound. As disappointing and frustrating as this was for the audience, it muzt have been even more so for the band, who were dedicated to their art, though Seth Antoniou was still able to get the crowd hyped and remain in his palm throughout.

When you go on vacation, what essentials do you pack? Passport, money, phone, seven foot dinosaur costume? Someone in the crowd had brought just that with them and bravely wore it for the entirety of Brazilian metal kings, Sepultura's set. After a disappointing set at Graspop last year, it was unknown how the Belo Horizonte born icons would perform today, though I'm very happy to report they're back on form, delivering an awesome performance where material from their latest album, "Machine Messiah" sounded more refined than before and old favourites like, "Inner Self" and "Biotech Is Godzilla," which was notable not only for being dedicated to the aforementioned dinosaur but also for having a cover of the Titas classic, "Policia" inserted into the middle. Of course, fans were treated to classics "Refuse/Resist" and finale, "Roots Bloody Roots," which got the crowd bouncing from one side of the room to the other. Back to their best and with their energy returned, Sepultura prove they're still the kings of Brazilian metal.

Not being a fan of Sabaton, it was decided to get some food and take a rest before returning to the Ice Rink to catch another thrash metal gem, Canada's, Exciter. For those unfamiliar with the band, they're noteworthy for the fact that drummer Dan Beehler is also the vocalist for the trio. Impressively, this doesn't slow down his drum work or the tempo of the music and the likes of "Heavy Metal Maniac," "Violence And Force," and "Iron Dogs" still sound excellent today. Most of the mainstream focus on thrash is centred on America and Germany but those who know their stuff will tell you that Canada's contributions simply must be checked out and with Exciter's original lineup back together and performing, they should certainly be on the gig list for any self respecting thrash fan.

Back upstairs for a midnight show, as Swedish melodic death metal pioneers Dark Tranquillity graced the pool deck to showcase their brand of atmospheric audio. Though I was unable to catch all of their set, Dark Tranquillity provided the crowd with a mix of vintage material and tracks from their latest album, "Atoma," which has been a large talking point for many fans. The music is also suited for a late performance outside, particularly with natural wind adding to the atmosphere.

As mentioned before, Canada has plenty to offer in the thrash metal department, including perhaps the most unique and outlandish thrashers from any country, Voivod, who were up next in the Alhambra Theater. The difference was clear between fans of the band and those simply checking out what was on, as the latter seemed very unsure what to make of the quartet from Quebec. For fans however, it was another smorgasbord of wonderful weirdness, with newer songs like, "Post Society" and "We Are All Connected" standing up next to older material seamlessly, while other songs like "Order Of The Blackguard" still sounding fresh and innovative, before they finished, as always, with their eponymous song, which never fails to ignite the crowd. Vive le Voivod.

Now into the early hours and struggling to keep my eyes open, I attempted to catch Swiss extreme metal veterans Samael, with whom I was impressed but unable to watch in full due to the ongoing battle with tiredness. Don't worry however, fans of these Sion natives, every band played twice and like some others missed on the first few days, I was able to catch their second set. Off to bed it was then, my ass soundly kicked by the plethora of talented metal that took to the stage today.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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