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70,000 Tons of Metal 2012 Review Part I

By: Dan Barkasi

A full-on heavy metal cruise. The very idea of having a floating metal festival was one that many wouldn’t have even conjured up, let alone attempt to execute. Who would have thought that would have ever became a reality? There were certainly doubts on my end of such an event ever happening, as the very concept seemed like a herculean task. To the surprise of many, however, that very event happened in January of 2011. Nobody could have possibly predicted how it would play out, and to those who read my review of the inaugural journey, then you know just how unique and spectacular of an event it was.

The question is this: are you ready for round two?

This guy certainly was, as well as 2,000 fans from 55 different countries! And if the team behind 70,000 Tons of Metal could even come close to pulling it off again, it would be another memorable experience for the ages. So let us hoist the anchor – made of
very heavy metal – and get right into my review of 70,000 Tons of Metal: Part II.

Day 1

Same as last year, the first day involves a lot of protocol. Getting to the port, boarding the ship – which again was the Majesty of the Seas. It was certainly nice to be going on the same vessel as the first time, as the familiarity of it makes it a snap to navigate around. While boarding, you are surrounded by all of the artists and other cruise goers alike. Immediately, we see the guys from Venom and Dark Funeral. Not an every day sight, to be certain. Let it begin!

For those wondering, or readers who aren’t familiar with the format of this event, here goes. There are 40 bands, and just like last year, we got two “bonus” bands at the last minute for a total of 42. Every band plays twice, for a total of 84 performances during this journey. Of course, one wouldn’t be able to see every single show, seeing as overlaps do occur. If one is diligent enough – as well as a master of sleep deprivation – catching every band is a possibility.

There are three different venues where the performances occur. The big indoor venue is the Chorus Line Theatre, which is a wonderfully set up 1,000 capacity setting that is a brilliant place to see a show. The small indoor venue is a small club setting – something us metalheads are certainly used to by now – but not a dirty hole in a not so fun part of town, but a really comfortable and good-sounding intimate stage. The third stage is outside on the pool deck, where one of the swimming pools is covered over with flooring and converted into a spectacular outdoor stage like no other.

And just like any other cruise, food is included. Breakfast and lunch buffets, pizza just about any time you want it, even a Johnny Rockets (though that does have a $4.95 cover charge). The buffets are especially awesome. Gorging on delicious food, while seeing some of the best metal bands in existence? Yes, this is the place to be. So after dropping off all of our stuff at the room and grabbing some food, it was time for a little bit of relaxation and anticipation time. Rest is at a major premium on this ship, so getting any when you could is a huge factor in survival. And I do mean survival. Once this craziness is over, you feel like you’re about to collapse.

The first band scheduled to start was the Scottish pirates of Alestorm. How appropriate! For the first two voyages, they’ve managed to book a very thematic and ridiculously fun band that just plain had to be there. Year one, it was Swashbuckle, and this year, it was Alestorm. Next year – even though they’re not Pirate themed, I nominate Powerglove as the crazy fun band that should be there. Though more than one silly fun band would certainly be a welcome sight!

Anyway, Alestorm kicked things off right with a ridiculous and over the top performance of which everybody ate right up. And don’t let their theme fool you – these guys are truly creative with their music, highlighted by the prowess of their keytar-wielding frontman Christopher Bowes. A perfect beginning to this amazing trip, though their second set would increase the wackiness by a large degree. More on that later!

The plan was to catch some Overkill on the Pool Deck stage, but there were major delays in the preparation of said stage, so their first show was postponed to another day. So it was on to catch Grave Digger. Grave Digger is a rare act here in North America. I personally can’t remember the last time they toured here, and with the band’s popularity very largely based in Europe, who knows if they ever will. Their style of powerful and thumping classic speed metal sound is one of their own, and the Germans put on a scintillating performance. Having seen them at Wacken and here were two very different experiences, and each being a fulfilling one. This show was more of a typical Grave Digger show, with songs ranging throughout their vast career, while the Wacken show was based around the album Tunes of War.

After some more food and a short break, it was time for Coroner. The Swiss thrash trio were and are one of the most technically proficient thrash metal acts in history, and their live shows are certain clinics on equal parts instrumental genius and just plain ass kicking tunes. Since their reunion, I was able to see them at Maryland Deathfest last year, and they put on a superb performance. This was no different, though I enjoyed this one even more so. The sound for this show was definitely better, and it showed in every riff. Coroner played a very well rounded set, including songs from all over their catalogue. What defined the band here was their intensity. Singer/bassist Ron Royce was in fine form, while guitarist Tommy T. Baron ripped away with striking proficiency, making me basically want to give up playing guitar due to inadequacy. See Coroner live if at all possible. They don’t have plans on making new material, and who knows how long they’ll continue to play live, so be sure to take the chance to catch them if it appears. I know I will again if at all possible.

Next up was the mighty Samael. Absolutely no band sounds nor has a live presentation like this band, especially since the infusion of electronics and drum machines into the band’s sonic tapestry. The band also had something special in store for this cruise. Samael were to sets emphasizing of their iconic albums, Ceremony of Opposites and Passage. Their first set focused on material from the former, along with some newer material as well. It was interesting hearing their older material performed in the vein of their newer industrial style, and it came off without a hitch. Samael have to be one of the most intense bands going, and they showed it with this performance.

A few songs of Candlemass on the pool deck were caught after some down time, and from that brief showing, they were on as usual. Their second set, however, would prove to be extra special. Edguy – a favorite of a few of us at Blistering – was next on our list. To anybody who has seen these guys, you know what to expect. For those unfamiliar, they’re one of the happiest bands alive. Their live shows certainly demonstrate this with obviousness. A fun time was expected, and that was exactly what went down. A wide array of material was played, including the always-classic Vain Glory Opera, catchier than the common cold “King of Fools,” as well as new single “Robin Hood,” which just may have one of the silliest music videos this guy has seen. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, do so. Even for those not really into Edguy, it’s a good laugh. Good show, guys, per always.

By the time Edguy finished up, it was nearing on 3am, and by that point, it was about time to tap out. Yeah, I know, Eluveitie and Massacre had yet to play – let alone the craziness at Karaoke. Just look on YouTube for 70,000 Tons of Metal karaoke and you’ll have a good bit of entertainment. Alas, the next day was about a 16-hour marathon (I know, not a good excuse), and it was time to give in to the cushy bed in the cabin.

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