The world-renowned 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise set sail for its eighth voyage from 1 – 5 February 2018, from Miami to Cockburn Town, Grand Turk and back. This year the cruise hosted 61 bands, from absolute Metal heavyweights such as Meshuggah, Sabaton and Exodus, to newer and less well-known talent such as Gyze, Seven Spires and Witherfall. Like most festivals, one of the hardest parts of the experience was only being able to be in one place at one time, with bands playing almost 24 hours a day across four stages, and plenty of other things to do such as meet and greets, merch shopping, plenty of food and drink, and a shipload full of other attractions. But of course, the music is what 3,000 Metalheads come together for, celebrating our passion with a week-long party – including the fan-run events centred around the Clevelander hotel.
First cab off the rank on day one were the German Power Metal sensations Primal Fear, playing on the Ice Rink stage. Primal Fear opened the festival with tremendous energy, with frontman Ralf Scheepers popping the cork on the bottled up passion of the room full of Metalheads. With the exception of the Pyramid Lounge, every stage on the ship runs perfect sound, and Primal Fear were presented with the crisp clarity the band need and deserve.
Meanwhile, Norway’s female-fronted Symphonic Viking Metal darlings Leaves’ Eyes opened the Alhambra Theatre, the largest of the interior venues. Veteran frontman Alexander Krull and new female lead Elina Siirala put on a deeply charismatic show, pulling out all the stops to get the crowd singing and jumping. Aside from the die-hards, the response was unfortunately relatively luke-warm, perhaps because fans have not yet settled into Leaves’ Eyes with Siirala. Doubtless they’ll come around, as her performance was impeccable, and her voice incredibly powerful in delivering the new Leaves’ Eyes material from ‘Sign of the Dragonhead,’ as well as a few classics. It was also an absolute treat to see Krull emerge in full Viking armour and armed with a sword for the final song.
Next up in the Alhambra Theatre were Swallow the Sun. Undoubtedly, this show was one of the heaviest on the ship in terms of pure Doom-laden misery. Newcomers and fans alike also received the special treat of a string quartet playing alongside the band, filling out their sound beautifully. The band were well placed to deliver a true sonic spectacle, which they did with aplomb.
However, it was when Finnish Death Metal veterans Insomnium played the Ice Rink that the festival really started to go off. This was the first of the absolutely packed out shows, with the Ice Rink filled to the brim. From the very start fans were shaking the floor with their jumping, and keeping security busy taking care of a constant stream of crowdsurfers. Insomnium ripped through a killer set touching on all points of their career, and topped if off with Dark Tranquillity frontman Mikael Stanne singing guest vocals on the final song, Weather the Storm. Stanne put his all into the performance, moving all over the stage and beyond it as he stage-dived into the crowd. Stanne’s stellar performance certainly built expectations for Dark Tranquillity’s performance, which were met on day 2.
The cruise’s first show of the Rhapsody reunion took place in the Alhambra Theatre, where the band showed off the truly epic scale of their music. Every song, excluding one slower ballad sung in Italian, felt like the climax of an opera; and indeed, frontman Fabio Lione‘s vocals would put many an opera singer to shame. One simply would not expect those deep operatic parts to emanate from the same vocalist as those high-pitched Power Metal wails, but Lione can do it all.
reator followed in the Alhambra Theatre, bringing a much more brutal intensity into the mix. The band certainly proved why their considered one of the “Teutonic Big Four” of Thrash Metal with their absolutely relentless assault. At the same time, there is a slight infusion of German Power Metal melody that makes Kreator stand out from the Thrash Metal crowd. There was an intense feeling of unity as Kreator embraced their fans warmly throughout the set, even as frontman and guitarist Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza literally waved the Kreator Flag of Hate on stage.
Swedish Death-infused Thrashers Witchery played their first set in the Pyramid Lounge, which is unfortunately a difficult venue. The sound simply isn’t as crisp, meaning that a very fast and heavy band such as Witchery struggles to get their sound across. As such, the performance sounded muddy and homogenous, though frontman Angus Norder did his utmost to get the crowd riled up. Thankfully the crowd were forgiving, but Witchery’s performance on day three in a more salubrious environment was certainly stronger.
It was 3:00 am by the time Amberian Dawn hit the stage in the Alhambra Theatre, but those fans who weathered the very late (or very early) hour were in for an absolute treat. Frontwoman Paivi “Capri” Virkkunen held the crowd in the palm of her hand with her energetic and charismatic performance. Her vocals were refined to perfection, and her on-stage persona charming. Virkkunen took plenty of time to interact and have a few laughs with the audience, but never lost the momentum of the performance for a moment.
Following Amberian Dawn were Seven Spires, a relatively new addition to the Metal world fronted by Winds of Plague keyboardist Adrienne Cowan. As a frontwoman, Cowan is deeply engaging, with enchanting clean vocals and brutal growls intermingling into a beautiful and varied vocal landscape. Cowan also sets herself up as a compelling storyteller as she delivers the narrative of Seven Spires’ debut full-length concept album, ‘Solveig.’ The lyrics are refreshingly powerful and moving, contributing to an overall package that will no doubt see great things ahead for the band.
MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR RECAP OF DAY TWO HERE!