Day Three, 70,000 Tons Of Metal: The Mayan's Didn't Predict The End Of The World....We Did!
Band Photo: Satyricon (?)
Day three was port of call day for the largest floating festival. This year, the destination was set by the fans who voted narrowly to make port at Costa Maya, Mexico - a new destination and within a short journey to the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben. The boat docked at about noon and I gathered a small group of friends, which included cabin mate and vocalist for Helsott, Eric Dow, LT Rhapsody/21 Octayne drummer Alex Landenburg (who was onboard playing with Bonfire) and Margie, a rabid metalhead who has attended every single 70K cruise. Joining us on the journey was Bonfire vocalist Claus Lessmann and bassist Uwe Kohler, as well as Metal Injection's Dave Pando.
It's was a hot, humid and unforgettable journey into one of mankind's most advanced and mysterious civilizations in Mezo-America, the Mayans. We boarded the coach buses and made our hour long journey into the flatlands of the Yucatan peninsula, now largely abandoned due to high category 5 hurricane strikes in the last 10 years (though you can get a sweet land deal if you wanted to take the risk). Our guide was Manuel,,,who is also known as the "Silver Fox." He provided valuable information on the history of Mayan civilization and touched on the obvious reasons why the word failed to end on December 21, 2012 and the possibilities why the civilization may have disappeared. The map of entire Central American region of ruins also seemed to contain a site that could unlock a title of a future LT Rhapsody song...."The Temple of the Turtles" - or so we had a pretty good chuckle about.
We made it to the site where, like any good tour does you are filtered into the gift shop area to both visit the banjos (restrooms) and partake in battering with locals for Mayan temple trinkets and statutes of those most fierce of Mayan warriors....you guessed it, the Predator (yes, from the movie), which for some reason is a major deal in Mexico. The Silver Fox brought us down the path to the first of three pyramids. He started the site tour with a local farmer call for cattle...one which rivaled the most guttural death scream heard from any band on the cruise. This prompted tour members to ask Manuel whether he was at the shows the previous night. He would use that call to summon the group to the buses.
The tour was fantastic, with visors to three pyramids in varying sizes, the biggest of which was a 100 ft long plaza up staircase of wet limestone that our group called "The Assmaster." We boarded the bus back to the ship nourished with rich culture and safe with with knowledge that death metal was alive and well 2,000 years before Christ.
Gloryhammer' second set was at the Spectrum, but having seen the full on experience and knowing it could not be properly duplicated in the that venue, I used the time to change and get ready for Obituary on the pool deck. If there ever was a display of absolute perfect old school death...it's comes from the Tardy Brothers. Riffs with pauses that force you to headbang, the band revisited old classics with a smattering of new material from the upcoming new album. From the sound of it, it will be fantastic. We were able to grab a picture with Jeff Walker and Bill Steer of Carcass, who were in attendance and nodding in approval of Obiturary's new stuff. Obituary sounded tight as that snare sound and was mindblowingly great.
We headed out for a bite to eat after that set and ran into Asis of Haggard. I let him know that his set from the previous night was a spectacle that was one of the best I've ever witnessed. He expressed appreciation and let me know that he wasn't quite sure how the crowd was going to react. He indicated that he is trying to find a way to tour the United States. With the cruise on international waters, the band has still technically has never plated in the U.S. before.
Orphaned Land's second set on the pool deck was a must see next. For this set we would hear older material, like "Mabool" mixed in with "All is One." To say that watching this Israeli powerhouse is a "religious experience" would be only half the description. Fighting centuries of hatred and bloodshed with the neck of a guitar rather than a barrel of a gun may seem pointless, but Orphaned Land is proof that minds can be changed, if you recall the recent interview with Tunisian greats Myrath that our own Frank Serafine (Progressivity_For_All) conducted at ProgPower USA last September (see here), the best show Myrath played was with the "hated Israelis." If I recall correct, there was a band from Palestine, Tunisa and Israel along with a Christian band. In the end, it was "All is One" when the bands joined each other on stage to sing together in unity and shed tears for peace.
Kobi is rightfully proud when he declares that Orphaned Land is the most popular band in the Muslim Middle East. Once again, the band showed the boat a reason why they are such a special band. During the set, Kobi engaged the crowd to dance and sing along, to which we all practiced freedom from religion and dedication to love. As in the previous performance, he invited up some women from the audience to participate. This was a performance that ranks as one of the best on the boat.
I ran up to Spectrum to check out Bonfire's second set, which had a bit more variety from the "Fire Works" tribute on the pool deck. A smaller crowd gathered, but still this essential hard rock act triumphed. There is something about longevity in the music business that speaks volumes about a band. Bonfire was on top of the world at one point and with no regrets or complaints, the band persists even in a world that would easily throw them out. As it turns out, this cruise desperately needed the balance, along with the guilty pleasure of a great hard rock act to liven up the otherwise extreme/harsh air. One of the best moments was when Claus Lessmann told the background of the song "Proud of My Country" - that Germany continues to try to make amends for its past and nearly all the Germans today were born apart from those atrocities and still they seemingly get blamed for a birthright.
Satyricon was up next and represented yet another first time live act for me. I've been a fan of the band for a very long time and really have come to appreciate the later more "traditional" style material that has come out like "Now, Diabolical," "The Age of Nero" and the self-titled release of last year, as well as the classics like "Volcano" and "Nemesis Divina." For the cruise, the band enlisted the assistance of Soilwork's Dirk Verbeuren on drums to fill in for Frost, who is banned from entering the U.S., along with Diogo Bastos (Abstract Rapture) on guitar, Job Bos (Hate Meditation/ex-Dark Fortress) on keyboards and Silmaeth (ex-Mayhem (live)) on bass.
The performance was yet another excellent as all have been on the boat absent technical issues. I ran into Raven's Joe Hasselvander, who told me that he was blown away by this performance and described them as the only band he witnessed that played "real heavy metal." The band went through new and old material and even played one of my personal favorites "The Wolfpack."
Haggard's second set was an absolute must, as the band's pool deck performance was one of the best shows I have seen in my lifetime. Even though the set was much the same, just to witness this again - something never seen on this side of the Atlantic (unless you live in Mexico). It was just as amazing the second time around. Haggard literally stole this cruise for me.
I dropped off my camera after the show to take a photography break to enjoy the performances by Carcass on the pool deck, as well as a couple of songs from Dark Tranquility's set at Chorus Line Theater before heading up to film a couple of songs from Leaves Eyes' set at spectrum. Carcass was monstrous as expected...though the set up for the screen projections was not quite as high as in a Chorus Line, so video images were blocked on the stage left by guitarist Ben Ash. Of course, Jeff Walker had to make a humorous remarks about it. The set list was pretty much the same, as Walker put it "People were asking if we are going to change the set and the answer is no....we are just going to change the order." It didn't matter..."Captive Bolt Pistol" was still going to drive the pool deck pit wild. Outside of Obituary, Carcass were the kings of old school death metal on this cruise!
I caught a few tracks of Dark Tranquility's second set. Utilizing the screens, the band's performance was like watching a live lyric video, which was pretty damn cool if you as me. In the time I was there, the band played "Construct" tracks "Apathetic" and "For Broken Words."
I headed up one floor to Spectrum to catch and film a couple of songs from Leaves' Eyes second set. Anytime I can get the opportunity to see one of my favorite death metal frontmen Alex Krull, I was there. They played "Fading Earth" from the latest album "Symphonies of the Night" and "My Destiny" from the "Njord" album.
By this point I was a couple of hours into my birthday morning, so I headed off to Boleros lounge to drink with friends and watch karaoke. Of course, Symphony X's Russell Allen stole the whole damn night with his rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." He really should be banned from karaoke for making everyone look bad. I saw Freedom Call's Chris Bay up at the mic as well as Chen Balbus and Kobi Farhi with a bunch of women doing a traditional Jewish track. It went on and on until I had way over my limit and stumbled back to the room at about 4am. The next...er, the current day was the last of this year's installment and I was starting to get depressed at the prospect of leaving this amazing experience.
I was starting to feel that "post cruise depression".....
(For more information on 70,000 Tons of Metal, head on over to this location).
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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