70,000 Tons of Metal 2012 Day 2 Report: Adrift in a Sea of Metal
Band Photo: Dark Funeral (?)
My fellow cruise ship warriors and I awoke on day 2 to a cloudless sunny sky and blue oceans as far as the eye could see in every direction. With the movement of the boat barely noticable, I went to find my friends - mobile phone communication had been impossible since the previous evening, so if you wanted to find someone, you had to know where they would be. I found them at the buffet, where metalheads in varying stages of wakefulness were ploughing through mountains of eggs, bacon, sausages and pancakes. Tea and coffee were the more popular beverages but the drinks waiters were already getting busy ferrying beers back and forth.
As it turns out, Cannibal Corpse had played the previous evening, albeit two-odd hours later than planned. Damn - there was another band I would have to catch on their second show. First up this morning though, my camera had an important appointment with God Dethroned on the main pool stage.
Guitarist, singer and main songwriter Henri Sattler made the decision to end God Dethroned in 2011, and over the past year the band has played a series of farewell shows. I'd seen them at Summer Breeze in August for their last German show, and in December they played their last European show, at Eindhoven Metal Meeting. These sets on board the Majesty of the Seas would be their final ever shows. It seems a real shame - the last two albums, 2009's "Passiondale" and 2010's "Under the Sign of the Iron Cross", both World War I concept albums, have been some of the strongest releases of their career and lineup changes notwithstanding, the band is tight in a live setting.
The pool stage sound quality wasn't as good as the two theatres, particularly the Chorus Line Theatre - an outdoor stage setting, let alone one on the upper deck of a moving cruise ship at sea, rarely sounds as good as in indoor one. However, this was the best place to see any band. Not only was the stage bigger and higher for better visibility, it was also in close proximity to the pool, hot tubs, deck lounges and outdoor bars. By the time I came out into the sunshine for God Dethroned's set, quite a few people were availing themselves of these facilities although it was obvious a great many people were still below deck (and possibly still asleep).
God Dethroned's set kicked off with "Under a Darkening Sky" and included some old songs like "Serpent King" and "The Grand Grimoire", but focussed quite heavily on the last two albums. The blazing sunshine and tropical settings didn't quite mesh with the grim themes of war but the band really seemed to be enjoying themselves - new guitarist Danny Tunker in particular couldn't stop grinning.
After God Dethroned's set, I found myself in the company of some fellow Australians and a Scottish pirate, who were doing what Australians and Scots do best: drink beer - and naturally, I felt obliged to join in. So the next band on my list fit the mood perfectly: German thrashers Tankard. With around half the festival's attendees sharing their country of origin, the small (and now very, very smoky) Spectrum Lounge was packed.
Tankard have a reputation for being not very serious at all, and that's exactly what I saw in the 10 minutes I had to shoot them. The singer and guitarists ran around the tiny stage throwing back beers with gusto and the crowd went nuts. Unfortunately though, I couldn't stick around as Suffocation were starting in the Chorus Line Theatre.
Being one of the few extreme metal bands on the lineup (and curiously, one of the few that didn't get to play on the outdoor stage) I was pretty keen to catch Suffocation. For anyone who has seen them live more than once, Frank Mullen's between song banter doesn't change a great deal but it's always amusing. Frank ranted and raved on various topics, and the band was suitably brutal even for the early afternoon timeslot.
After Suffocation's set, I bumped into Crowbar frontman and all-round metal legend Kirk Windstein at the bar. Looking at my schedule, I asked him how on earth I was supposed to stay up past 4am to see the whole of Crowbar's set, and he gave me some excellent advice: have a nap, as he was intending to do. Considering the number of beers I'd consumed and the number of bands I still wanted to photograph, I decided this was definitely a good idea and headed for my cabin.
When I woke up again it was too late for the dinner buffet, so I grabbed some food from the restaurant on the upper deck that never stopped serving pizza, day or night. Then it was down to the Chorus Line Theatre where Venom were preparing to take the stage.
Visually, Venom were great - very interesting to photograph. But in general I found them quite odd - it's hard to reconcile the band as they sound with how massively influential they have been on modern black and death metal. For a band that spawned such a grave genre, they seemed strangely jovial.
The next band I wanted to see was one I was especially keen to photograph - British doomsters My Dying Bride. There was nothing light-hearted about their set, except for frontman Aaron Stainthorpe's apology for bringing the tone down when everyone was otherwise having a good time. The lighting and stage show was fantastic and they sounded appropriately tortured - great stuff.
Out on the main deck stage, it was time for Dark Funeral's first set, one of their first with new singer Nachtgarm (Steve Marbs), new bassist Zornheym (Tomas Nilsson) and with Dominator (Nils Fjellström) returning on drums. I'm not familiar enough with their material to comment on how the new lineup sounded compared to the old, but the crowd were definitely getting into the show and again, the visual aspect was great.
Crowbar was the final set of the day, starting at the ungodly hour of 3.30am in the Chorus Line Theatre. It was well worth the effort required to see them though, and I'm thankful I took Kirk's advice and got some sleep. The set started with "All I Had (I Gave)", included "The Lasting Dose", my favourite Crowbar song of all time, and finished with the new song, "Cemetery Angels".
There were lots of people in the Karaoke bar, but I chickened out and headed back to my cabin to get some more sleep, well aware of the fact that the ship would be arriving in the Cayman Islands in a few short hours. Day 3 coming up real soon...
Kay Smoljak is an Aussie photographer, geek, metalhead and goat aficioado who is currently hiding out in Berlin. She blogs sometimes at enter the goatlady.
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