Chapter 1: Sailing the Seas of Metal – Pre Boarding & Day 1
By Gilberto Morais
Welcome! All aboard!
No, Actually, not yet! Please let me explain to you how it works prior to the boarding.
To start off, I’m afraid the milestone of this journey for most of the travellers started overall while being in transit from any airport, somewhere in the whole world, heading out to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or even the farthest West Palm Beach Airports, depending on the schedule. These are the ones available as close as possible to the Port of Miami (Dodge Islands), whereas the journey has begun.
First of all, we, the passengers, have received our Sailing Invitation ca. 3 weeks earlier from the day of departure in order to be able to check-in online which I personally recommend you to do so. This procedure makes you not only save precious time, but also avoid standing in line on the day of the journey with no need. Besides, you allow yourself extra time to know a little bit more about the cruise world, exploring this awesome 14 Decks “Majesty of the Seas” ship and getting easily familiar with it. Believe me: Apart from the concerts, there is still a lot to do!
Right after entering the boarding terminal on your way to the ship, bear in mind you are supposed to undergo the same experience, as if you were travelling by plane, concerning the legal matters .
First off, you must present both your passport for foreign people (with Visa or ESTA, depending on your citizenship) or valid photo ID for US Residents; the Seal Pass (kind of Boarding Pass suitable for cruise ships, generated by filling the sealing invitation out) and the credit card you submitted the infos to the Seal Pass to cover all your expenses during the stay. Coming up next, you’ll fill a form out, certifying you’re holding good health condition, sign it and check your luggage, if you wish to do so. Having that done, just proceed straight to security checking, leaving your personal belongings on the belt to be scanned, as if you were at the airport. Last but not least, The final task is the official „Welcome photo“ taken with a banner on the background featuring the logo of the festival, available for purchase later on board.
Hey, sailors. From now on, you’re ready to enjoy your trip!
As far as I’m concerned, the first Metalheads started boarding at 11:30 AM, ca 4 hours ahead of the limit for all the guests. In the meantime, while the cabins were being cleaned, prepared by the crew members and not ready yet, we were kindly suggested visiting the Windjammer Restaurant located on the 11th Deck in order to have your first meal. I noticed many people were out there. This might be considered the starting point of the whole trip for many of us.
At 4:00 PM, everyone was asked to leave the cabins and introduce themselves to the crew member responsible for our cabins, who would lead us to the appropriate deck for mandatory safe instructions, according to local laws, no matter whether or not you’re experienced!
The Departure time was punctually at 5:00 PM as planned. After this long (however necessary) introduction, it is about time to describe the festival itself.
Being the pioneer of the Metal oriented Cruise ships in America, 70.000 Tons of Metal doesn’t let you down. Fun is guaranteed for sure! No matter what you’re doing, even during ordinary needs as eating, drinking and even playing at the casino or just relaxing at the swimming pool, you breathe Metal all the time, if you’re into it! Anyway, if you’re taking your wives, fiancees, date or children along with, no sweat! Aren’t they interested in metal at all? No worries! The ship offers plenty of acitivities for them and they will not get bored and keep on being busy with something related to their interests and likes. There are fun things to do designated for kids. Imagine yourself, you will find almost everything inside the ship!
Now it’s time to introduce to you the 3 Stages of the Cruise Ship, whose matching is absolutely perfect and fulfilled my expectations and you will figure it out why below:
SPECTRUM LOUNGE: This is the smallest one, with a capacity around 500 people. I guess The Spectrum Lounge simulates what a club show is all about. Although there are seats inside this area, mainly located on the rear rows, you’ve got the feeling and experience you’re attending an ordinary and sweaty club show somewhere else, not inside a ship. Despite the ship’s motion, you forget you’re sailing. That’s just as well as in the Chorus Line Theater. Generally speaking, the sound quality of this room was good enough, depending on the band that performed at, a little bit irregular, however, varying from good to almost excellent sounding. My only complain about this room is the fact that the stage is located a little bit low regarding the vision of the attendees who were not standing as close as possible to the stage. Having that changed for the next issue would be an amazing upgrade.
CHORUS LINE THEATER: It’s located between Decks 5-7. That goes without saying, this venue is a theater that has a balcony located on the 6th Deck and it was well prepared, removing the first rows seats, which are likely available for ordinary performances, not Metal stuff. In my humble opinion, this room was really a blast! I loved attending most of the shows right there! The sound quality was in general better than the Spectrum Lounge for my surprise. Wether if you want to stand or take a seat, the vision is quite good. The capacity might be 1300 people, not sure about it.
POOL DECK: Aside the first two aforementioned stages, this is the only open air stage, located at 11th Deck, which simulates a typical outdoor festival.Actually I was taken by surprise how great it was to attend all the shows out there. First off, the sound quality has been regular from beginning to end, it doesn’t vary that much, way too regular and precise. I would say regarding this topic: EXCELLENT Sound Quality! Compared to worldwide known EU festivals I am used to attending on a regular basis, it didn’t disappoint me at all! Standing ovation for the organizers who provided the right gear and conditions for both the crowd and the musicians. Most of all, I could watch all the concerts I attended right there with no hassle, no matter where I was standing!
Every band out of 41 has played twice, being once indoor concert (Spectrum or Chorus Line) and once at the Pool Deck Stage with just one or another exception.
Nevertheless, let’s go straight to the concerts I was able to check out. After all, that’s what you are looking for, right?
HELSTAR (5:30 –6:15 PM) – SPECTRUM LOUNGE
Helstar, the Houston,Texas Heavy/Power Metal Institution had the honor to be the first band to perform live at 70.000 Tons of Metal 2013 and they deserve it as well as more recognition on the headbangers‘ part. I still don’t have a clue why they are so underrated, because they provide us with all the best, regarding the great and old 80‘s American Power Metal scene featuring bands like Liege Lord, Savage Grace and overall Metal Church, the only one to achieve more commercial success thanks to their first two albuns.
The fact is that Helstar got on stage punctually at 5:30 PM and brought us a tight performance as always! What a hell of a show to start off! I’m not really sure, but I think this is one of their first shows in 4 months right after the last gig of „30 Years of Hell“ tour in Europe, which took place in Berlin and I attended it by coincidence.
„Pandemonium“ was the opening of this short set featuring also anthems as „Evil Reign“ and a new classic on „King of Hell“. They played once more „Good Day to Die“ which I couldn’t understand why. It took so long to perform it live and instantly it turned into a classic, despite being part of the controversial Multiples of Black album. If you’re into sharped edge metal, please do yourself a favor and check their albuns out, mainly Remnants of War, Distant thunder, Nosferatu and the last ones right after their Comeback: King of Hell and Glory of Chaos. Please take note that I am not going to provide to you the whole setlists of any bands. Having attended or not, it’s not possible to memorize everything and overall I kept myself being on a busy schedule, taking pictures, shooting live performance, etc. I suggest you take a look at sites such as metalsetlists or setlist.fm, where they might be available sooner or later.
One thing I must mention is the fact that Mike Lepond from Symphony X stepped on the shoes off Jerry Abarca, Helstar’s bass player, who took time off to get over from his current health issue and made such a brilliant job! Although I miss Jerry because his ability and identity on Helstar’s camp, I couldn‘t not complain about Mike’s performance. It didn’t seem he was replacing a vital band member, it sounded he has been playing with the guys for such a long time.
To sum up, the rest of the boys kicked serious ass! James Rivera is one of the most talented singers in the US of all time. No wonder, whenever a lead singer of an important american band left, he was dropped a line to fulfill their positions such as Seven Witches, Flotsam and Jetsam, Malice, Vicious Rumors, etc. Larry Barragan and Rob Trevino, the guitar players smoked out! What a great way to start off such an unforgettable experience I had!
SABATON (6:00 – 7:00 PM) – CHORUS LINE THEATER
Having attended the whole set of Helstar, I have missed the beginning of this show. Although I’ve attended several concerts from Sabaton before this one in particular, I was not sure what to expect. I‘ll explain to you what I mean: right after the album Carolus Rex came out, suddenly 4 out of 6 band members quit! Inspite of the positive reviews about their current performances I’d read about, I was a little bit skeptical, whether this huge line up change would affect their performance. Fortunately not, Joakin Broden and Pär Sundström have brought the right guys to put the band back on track!
As to prove my point, this has not affected their popularity, Sabaton was by far the most packed concert of the whole festival I could notice. There was no room left both on the ground floor as well as upstairs on the balcony, where I stayed at.
Anyway, it was not clear for me up to that point, if Sabaton had taken on America as well or of that was due to their huge North European fanbase being out there (later on, I realized how many Swedes and Germans attended this event. However, as far as I’m concerned, they are also getting bigger and bigger in North american soil too).
IMHO, Sabaton plays better indoor than outdoor concerts. This time, this concert was not that awesome as the ones I experienced before, both in Berlin or Hamburg clubs and arenas, however, their perfomance was good enough.
It is incredible, no matter where they are playing, the reaction of the crowd on songs like: „Cliffs of Gallipoli“, „Attero Dominatus“ and especially „Primo Victoria“ , where Joakin asks regularly the crowd to sing along and jump up and down and the attendees react very positively upon his request.
Enclosing, it is worth mentioning the sextet features currently 5 members and the keyboard tracks were recorded by the original musician who also left the band recently, right after the release of the last album as mentioned.
NILE (7:45 – 8:45 PM) – CHORUS LINE THEATER
Once again I am back to Chorus Line Theater to check Nile out for my very first time. Actually my debut was supposed to take place on last December during the coheadlining Kreator& Morbid Angel tour including the Americans on the bill, however, due to personal turmoil,I couldn’t get to the club in time to watch them.
To tell you the truth, I am not really into their stuff. I knew they were a solid Death Metal act, so I was expecting something as good as Death, Morbid Angel, Possessed, Obituary and Cannibal Corpse that are my favorite ones regarding this genre.
The fact is their perfomance was OK, especially due to their great musicianship and skills on their instruments. Honestly speaking, I love being taken by surprise by bands that I’ve never heard of before just by attending concerts for the first time and becoming a new fan. And it didn’t happen in this case.
Having that said, I am not saying it was bad. Hell no! On the contrary, it was OK, but not good enough to freak me out and start purchasing their stuff immediately. Anyway, I would give them another chance to get me to follow them. I am sorry I wrote no highlights on their setlist, but I can’t really remember any of their songs‘ title. I left approximately 10 minutes before schedule to check the next concert out.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM (8:45 – 9:30 PM) – SPECTRUM LOUNGE
Back to Spectrum Lounge, it was time to attend a concert of one of my favorite Thrash Metal bands ever, the one and only Flotsam and Jetsam, which I had the chance to attend only once before.
There was also one more reason to celebrate this unique moment: The band had just released the brand new album „Ugly Noise“ , of which the success of the crowdfunding campaign permitted the fans to grab it and the album could finally could see the light of the day. That’s not all: Counting on the „Cuatro-Drift-High“ line up reunited after 17 years, this stands for one of the first live perfomances of guitarrist Michael Gilbert and drummer Kelly David Smith right after their comeback. On the other hand, bassist Jason Ward pulled out of these shows and the tour to come, due to private and family commitment. Anyway, Jeff Barbaree, his substitute, played pretty well.
It is needless to say how amazing this performance was. „Hammerhead“, one of the highlights of their career was the beginning of the set, followed by „Iron Tears“ both from the debut album „Doomsday for the Deceiver“. I was actually taken by surprise how many tunes from the first 6 albuns were chosen, besides two new song off „Ugly Noise“, the title track and „Motherfuckery“, whose intro is sort of weird mix of techno music.
Eric AK, aka Knutson, keeps on being such an outstanding singer and hits the high notes as if he were younger. I watched the rehersal available on their Youtube channel awhile ago, and was not convinced enough. I thought they might bring us a tight performance and I am glad I was definitely wrong. Hammerhead sounded exactly like the old times. What a hell of concert! It’s tough to point any highlights out. All the band members played quite well! At that time, it was for sure a serious nominee for the best live performance of the whole event.
To sum up, songs from the second album, „No Place for Disgrace“ like the title track and „Escape Within“ were part of the set as well some surprises such as „Swatting at Flies“ and mainly „Natural Enemy“ off Cuatro album. I Couldn’t wait to attend the other set. In fact, many bands varied the setlist, which was a wise choice, I will tell you later at the appropriate time about the changes.
HELLOWEEN (9:30 – 10:45 PM) – CHORUS LINE THEATER
Having attended the whole Flotsam and Jetsam set, I was aware I would also miss the beginning of the Helloween concert, however, it didn’t end up being like this.
By the time I arrived at the Chorus Line Theater, the concert hadn’t started yet. Actually, it took some time to start the soundcheck off. Because of the delay, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, the crowd was getting impatient and nervous. Suddenly, the band got on the stage.
At the beginning of the show, the sound quality was not that good, being improved as long as the performance went on. Helloween mixed up bunch of old and new tunes representing both Michael Kiske and Andi Deris era. Thus, these are the tracks that I remember from this set: I’m Alive, Future World, I Want Out (with sing along), Dr Stein as well as Are you Metal, Power, If I Could Fly, When the Sinners Go and Burning Sun.
Although they were granted a 75 minutes slot, the show lasted 60 minutes approximately. The delay might have been the main reason why they have reduced their set. The performance was good, but I’ve seen Helloween in better days. The highly criticized Andi Deris has sung well, even the Michael Kiske tunes, considering his range, obviously.
LIZZY BORDEN (10:45 – 11:30 PM) – SPECTRUM LOUNGE
Due to the delay during the Helloween show, I missed most of the amazing Lizzy Borden performance, which I regret so much.
Since I had only attended Lizzy Borden open air shows, except the one at Wacken’s Headbangers Ballroom/ WET Stage that might be considered as an “indoor performance“, I was very curious to check out how it would end up, being that first experience as a “club show”.
Man, I watched the last three tracks: „Me against the World“; „American Metal“ and „Tomorrow never comes“ and I couldn’t believe what I had just eyewitnessed! It was enough to certify it was by far the best performance up to that occasion.
Being a typical 80’s American Hard and Heavy band including shockrock performances led by singer Lizzy Borden, this show is definitely a big deal, it never gets dated, my friends! Make no mistake and attend one of his shows, you will never regret. This time, a slight lineup change was noticeable: the band performed as a quartet, one guitar player was missing. Anyway, Dario Lorena could handle the guitar duties easily, due to his talent as an amazing musician. Having that said, I didn’t miss the second guitar.
It is a shame a great band like this doesn’t play regular tours even in Europe, only festival performances. People don’t know what they are missing!
METAL CHURCH (12:30 – 1:30 AM) – POOL DECK
The wait is finally over! It took more than 27 years to attend a Metal Church concert. No matter David Wayne has passed away and this is not the lineup of my dream. I made it!
This one features all the members before spilitting up back in 2009: Steve Unger on bass, Ronny Munro on vocals, Jay Reynolds on guitar and Jeff Plate (Ex-Savatage) on drums, who have made such an outstanding job! If I had to pick 3 concerts up as the highlights of the whole event, Metal Church would definitely be one of my choice! Represented only by Kurdt Vanderhoof as a founding member, the setlist of this performance consists of the greatest hits, chosen through votes of the fans who attended the event granting 10x more points for each of their votes than the general people who wouldn’t attend this gig who had also the opportunity to choose 10 out of 30 tracks. Basically most of the chosen songs are from the „Metal Church“ and „The Dark“ Albuns.
To tell you the truth, I was a little bit scared because of the reviews about Ronny Munro’s performance I read. But I don’t agree with them at all, looking back at the 2 shows I’ve attended. He deserves my applause to step on David Wayne’s shoes and Mike Howe‘s, who is my favorite Metal Church singer ever. He has honored the legacy of the band.
The other guys played a tight performance and I really had a ball. Even people who were not very familiar with Metal Church seemed to react favourably during this set. Furthermore, It was the very first show at Pool Deck in 2013.
Enclosing, I must tell you how tough it is to pick some songs up as highlights of the show, but I won’t leave without mentioning „Watch the Children Pray“, „Badlands“, „Beyond the Black“ and „Gods of Wrath“.
TIAMAT (1:30 – 2:30 AM) – CHORUS LINE THEATER
Although I was so tired, I joined forces to check just a little bit off Tiamat out. Having attended one of their concerts back in 2009 which I actually didn’t enjoy it, I got late because of the hard schedule and the first track really made me stay there to watch the rest of the set.
The second song I watched was already different from the first one. Therefore, I made up my mind leaving in order to go to the Spectrum Lounge. Not my taste!
IMMOLATION (1:45 – 2:30 AM) – SPECTRUM LOUNGE
Honestly speaking, I was not interested in attending this show that late. What I write below doesn’t necessary mean it was like this. I noticed Immolation has great musicianship as most of the Death Metal bands. However, I was not convinced I should stay there and watch the remain of the set. Having that said, I would remain that late only for a couple of bands which I really love.
As a matter of fact, I’ve been travelling extensively up to that point and my body was immediately begging for rest, considering in different weathers and time zones. Believe me, Metalheads also need a break sometimes.
Click here for Chapter 2.
COMING UP NEXT: CHAPTER 2 – ROCKIN‘ IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS – DAY 2
SPECIAL THANKS: Allison Painchaud (The Ultimate Metal Cruises)
Jan Rosenberg & Björn von Oettingen (CMM Marketing)