Annihilator's Jeff Waters (left) and Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl
Here we are – day four. The last day of this amazing voyage. It feels bittersweet, sure, but there is plenty of fun yet to be had. Though this guy slept in a bit too long and missed Atheist’s second set, which was a bit irritating. However, sometimes sleep prevails and is needed. And it would prove to be, with this being a very long day of bands, bands, and more bands.
Alestorm was first up, and their show was even more over the top than before. Another one of those bands that are just about pure fun, and what a way to start the day! They also brought on a fellow cruiser and frontman of the hilarious parody black metal band Detsorgsekalf – which is Frosted Flakes spelled backwards, but with a G instead of an F in Frosted. A really fun guy, and it brought the silliness of the show to a whole new level. Overall, this was probably the most fun I’ve had watching Alestorm – and they’re always unexplainably fun. And for anybody who has seen Christopher Bowes keytar close up, join me in pleading Roland to please give Mr. Bowes a keytar endorsement. Bands like them, Swashbuckle (who played last year), and Tankard are made for this event. Next year, they need to get Powerglove, Jaldaboath, and The Excrementory Grindfuckers. If you don’t know any of these bands, shame on you, and change that status immediately. The campaign starts here.
After Alestorm, it was time to check out Virgin Steele. Having only been familiar with a handful of songs from them, one cannot be sure of what to expect. Their set ended up being delayed for a few minutes because their drummer was the first entrant in the belly flop contest on the pool deck! How great and hilarious is that? He came running into the theatre still wet from his leap into the pool. It’s things like this that make 70,000 Tons of Metal such a blast. That contest ended up being won by the previously mentioned Detsorgsekalf frontman, Mr. Rob Cranny. Wish I could have seen it live, but look up the videos on YouTube. Great stuff.
But, back to Virgin Steele. They put on a great set of classic heavy metal, with an energetic performance and a tight execution of their material. These guys have been around since the early 80s and it’s great to see them still bringing it to this day. Definitely a band whose catalogue this writer will be investigating a bit further.
Tristania were up next on the small club stage. For somebody who is sick to death of the whole female fronted symphonic/gothic metal scene, Tristania is one of the bands that manage to stick out positively. Though they definitely are more of a gothic metal band than anything, Tristania manages to stand out more than all of the Epica-like sameness that is currently infecting this particular scene. The band collectively put on a good performance, loaded with a hell of a lot of energy. There was even a marriage proposal in between songs, in which the band help set up. A good variance of their catalogue was played, giving something for every fan, considering the fact of their sound evolving much from album to album.
After watching all but the last song or two of Triastania, it was time to check out Eluveitie. Easily one of the most innovative and captivating bands in the folk metal scene, Eluveitie drew in a large crowed. And those in attendance were rewarded with a scintillating set, hurdy gurdy and all. This is one of those bands that you don’t really experience fully until you see them live. There are so many layers to their music, and to see it flesh out on stage so seamlessly is a phenomenal experience. This was also the first time I’ve gotten to see them with a full band, which certainly added to the enjoyment level. They’ve definitely gotten even better since last seeing them a few years ago (and they were amazing then), and their new album is a monster. Go see them if you get the chance – it’s a unique experience in the best of ways.
After Eluveitie, it was time for a very different experience. When I saw that Jeff Waters of Annihilator was going to be putting on a guitar clinic, it’s something that simply had to happen. With how hilarious he was during the Annihilator shows, this was bound to be a blast. And it was that and so much more. It was basically 1-1/2 hours of Jeff Waters making fun of himself and hosting a big Q&A session, while also jamming along to a few Annihilator tunes. Certainly not a technical “clinic,” but what a fun time. There were so many great jokes that there’s no way that I can remember most of them. One of the best was when a fan asked Jeff whom he had to blow to get on this cruise. Jeff immediately shouted out Andy – who is the organizer of the entire event – and said something to the effect of “what, didn’t everybody,” then proceeding to act embarrassed. A lot of silly banter like that was commonplace. My face hurt from laughter after the clinic, and Jeff hung around for a while take pictures with people, and gave out a ton of his custom guitar picks. A huge highlight of this cruise! I believe the entire clinic is up on YouTube to watch. I implore you to find it, and be ready to laugh. [Click here to watch]
Right after the clinic, there was supposed to be some sort of announcement – listed on the running order as “Something Special – Coming …SOON!” For those who frequent the 70,000 Tons of Metal forums, there’s an inside joke of when Andy would say an announcement is coming “soon,” but it always took forever. Per that trend, there was something special – a jam session with Dave Padden from Annihilator, Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger. They jammed along to some songs with any fan that wanted to – even Jeff Waters let fans play his guitar. It was fun, but no announcement like many thought.
After a little down time and some food, it was time to let the hammer fall. Yes, Hammerfall was up next. I love me some cheesy power metal, and there are few that do it better than these Swedes. As with the couple of times I’ve seen this band live, their set was full of energy and a lot of theatrics. These guys know how to put on a good show, and their songs soar in the live environment. They played a lot of classic tunes, such as “Blood Bound,” “Glory to the Brave,” “Legacy of Kings,” amongst others. Fun show from a band that this writer will always see when the chance arises.
Unfortunately, all of Hammerfall couldn’t be caught, because of a band clash. The phrase from Monty Python, “And now for something completely different” holds very true here, for the next band was Dark Funeral. You can’t get much more contrasting musically than HammerFall and Dark Funeral, can you?
Dark Funeral has always been one of those bands that have always evaded me. And they would have again if not for this cruise, as their North American tour had to be postponed. Luckily, they were still doing the cruise. And they put on a set that you would expect from a band of their ilk – fast, punishing and grim as the forests of Norway [DF is from Sweden, pal - ed.]. This is exactly what I expected from Dark Funeral, and every minute of it was a blast…beat. Stupid puns aside, these guys proved why they’re one of the premier black metal bands currently on the circuit. And new singer Nachtgarm – also of Negator, a great band – fit the band like a glove. Great to see that Caligula’s replacement is up to the task.
On a fun side note about Dark Funeral, guitarist Lord Ahriman was seen frequently with his little toddler on the boat, who had a shirt printed with the phrase “Daddy’s Little Rocker.” Cutest little kid!
After Dark Funeral, it was Amorphis time – this instance was much more comfortable, being in the theatre instead of the small club. And the theatre was absolutely packed, so you get the idea of how the show was in the small club setting. Anyways, the band played a wonderful set, filled with classics old and new. Their sound was absolutely incredible, and it was one of the best live performances I’ve seen them put on. As a special treat, Marco Hietala from Nightwish joined the band to sing a few songs with Tomi Joutsen. It was nice hearing Hietala sing, as he has a wonderful voice, especially when it isn’t buried by Anette Olzon’s painful shrieking. But that’s a debate for another day. Amorphis was as good as they’ve ever been, and it’s always a treat to catch them live. Would love to see them tour North America more. But, as I’m sure you all have noticed, that’s a common theme for me with a lot of the bands on this voyage. One of the many things that makes this trip so special – seeing bands you ordinarily don’t get to see often, or at all. Amorphis is unfortunately one such band.
Post Amorphis, it was time for a good nap. Unfortunately, that nap lasted way too long, resulting in missing Overkill and Edguy’s second sets. Still annoyed with that, especially when it comes to Edguy, but what can one do. Thankfully, there were two bands left, and they were both ones not to be missed.
Still groggy as you can imagine, I stumbled into the big theatre to catch a very special Candlemass performance. The band was to play their penultimate classic, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in full. If that isn’t special enough, the entire set was to be performed with original singer Johan Längqvist. A very special treat, to be sure. And what a treat it ended up being. Längqvist sounded phenomenal, and the band put on a performance for the ages. It’s a shame that the band is retiring, but they leave a hell of a legacy and are going out on top. And what a brilliant last memory of seeing them live – to see them play such a monumental record with their original singer. Talk about a rare occurrence, and one this guy is privileged to have seen. Farewell, Candlemass – thanks for the amazing music.
Speaking of fond farewells, one has to think about the mighty God Dethroned. The band were playing their last two shows ever on this cruise, and fittingly, the last set of the entire journey were set to be God Dethroned. Quite a bittersweet moment for me. On one hand, it’s amazing to be able to see the band’s last two shows. The negative, obviously, is that these are their last two shows. The band is still as good as they’ve ever been, but unfortunately, the touring life takes its toll, and it has certainly done so with these guys. Quite a shame, but they leave an incredible legacy that more people need to investigate.
Yes, on to the performance itself. The band most definitely didn’t go quietly, putting on an emotional and spot on concert that for those who attended was an event they will never forget. I know I won’t. It was a really fun farewell party of sorts, and the band got a perfect sendoff. We need more bands like God Dethroned, not less, and the proof is in their flawless discography and beyond tight live displays. Thank you, God Dethroned, for many wonderful memories and a career of music that will be enjoyed by many forever.