Pre-board day & 70k pre-party
Coming from the west coast for a cruise departing from Florida could be a bit tedious, in this case, tedious implies a 7-hour trip which was split in two with a two-hour layover in St Louis, MS. But once I reached Fort Lauderdale, and I got to met up with my partner in crime Stephanie Jensen in Fort Lauderdale.
Driving from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale is always extremely boring. The first part of the drive is nice since I-75 is loaded with palm trees and the sunshine. But once you get in the Fort Myers area is when it starts going downhill, especially since you have to deal with 70+ miles of alligator alley. But fortunately, I had good music like Meshuggah to keep me company, and the adventure of the cruise in the back of my mind! I made it to Fort Lauderdale safe despite the fact that I was driving my 15-year-old car, and picked Miguel up from the airport so we could start our metal sea adventure!
It was all good and the wait until boarding the boat was a question of hours. after going straight to the hotel and drop all our stuff, we decided to drive up to the Ocean Manor for the pre-70k beach party, and a hell of party that one was, arriving at 9 pm the place was full with metal heads from all over the world, in the first half hour we meet up with Mexicans, Australians, Brits, Germans and Swedish folks. It’s pretty crazy seeing all of these metal people in such a nice hotel! I guess this is what makes 70000 Tons Of Metal the United Nations of Metal floating yearly meeting.
Once we got beers in hand and got a calm time chilling at the ocean I started to see few familiar faces from other festival and concerts, after having chats and beers with other metal heads, we decided it was time to head back to our hotel and rest up for the trip at hand the next morning.
We arrived at Port Everglades around 10:30 am and start making the line which was moving rather quickly I must say as after passing through customs and getting our sea cards we move into boarding the Independence Of The Seas. at this time after looking at the how the majestic the boat looked like live and in person, I started to believe that we were about to board the biggest metal cruise in the world. By 12:30 pm we were already hitting the bar getting Lemmy’s to kill time until our cabins were ready at 1 pm.
The craziest thing about the cruise is how nice the boat is. From talking to others it was apparent the boat was huge, but all first-timers are baffled by how beautiful the boat is! Even the rooms, though small, are nice and accommodate really comfy beds. But the real special treatment for any journalist is perfect lighting on the stages; our pictures came out SO well!
After dropping our luggage at our cabins and get our gear ready we were ready for food, so we went up to the 11 deck were the Windjammer Cafe is located, interestingly enough this is when we started to feel the backstage treatment that 70000 tons is well known for, as we saw some members of Lacuna Coil, Stratovarius, Moonspell and Hammerfall getting the first taste of the rich buffet that the cruise offers.
After getting some food, we decided to wander around and explore the boat before the first show. As we descend the elevator we came across with the guys of Delain, and in our way to the first show we came across with Greg of Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre and Andrea of Lacuna Coil. After wandering around a bit, we ended up at the press office where we picked up our wristbands and checked the interview schedule for the next day.
The first show was at the Pyramid Lounge, a dark small stage with the similitude of a dive bar stage or a small stand-up comedy stage if you prefer. The first band that we decided to check out was Dutch ghost metallers Carach Angren who delivered a real intimate show for the handful of ghouls that were waiting for them. Their show was heavy and definitely phantasmagoric as fuck, you have to love a band that makes your skin crawl and give you goosebumps because of their music and concept are just that good. Being a huge fan of Carach Angren, it was incredible seeing them live. They hardly make it to the States. So ,being able to see them up close in the photo pit was awesome! It was hard focusing on taking pictures and refraining myself from head banging. They were as good live as expected!
After that we moved to the amphitheater of the cruise, the Alhambra Theater (which holds 1,320 people, and it’s the venue for the ship’s production shows) once there we catch yet another Dutch band, in this case our friends of Delain who opened their set with their new song ‘Suckerpunch‘ followed by selected songs from The Human Contradiction, We Are The Others, April Rain, Lucidity and the inclusion of a new version of ‘Don’t Let Go‘ which also appears on their new EP Lunar Prelude. So I guess besides the Suckerpunch show in the Netherlands a few weeks ago, we got to listen these new songs live in American waters (so yay! for premieres).
After Delain‘s set and around 6:45 pm we moved back to the Pyramid Lounge for Vallenfyre (Greg Mackintosh‘s of Paradise Lost other band) once again the venue didn’t fit the quality of the band, but regardless of that, they delivered one of the darkest and most crushing sets I saw over the weekend with material from their two albums A Fragile King & Splinters.
Around 7:30 pm we went down and back to the Alhambra theater for the Dragonforce who for technical problems was only able to play one song and was forced to cancel the rest of their show that night and look out for a makeup show later next day. We then moved to the Studio B or Ice Rink where the Swedish pioneers of melodic death metal At The Gates were waiting for us. They played a ton of material from their newest album At War with Reality such as ‘Death and the Labyrinth‘ and ‘Heroes and Tombs.’ They also played material from Slaughter of the Soul and Terminal Spirit Disease. At The Gates fans are still feeling the rush of this band reunited, and seeing them live was truly incredible. After At The Gates we return to the Alhambra theater for a gothic night with The Italians of Lacuna Coil who played a solid set that included some songs from their latest album Broken Crown Halo, and classics and fan favorites from Dark Adrenaline, Karmacode & Comalies.
Once Lacuna Coil was done, we head out to the Studio B to catch up one of the most exclusive shows in the ship, the legendary German thrash metal machine Sodom, as you know they rarely tour the US. So, having them at 70000 Tons was just perfect. They pretty much turned up the floor into a massive mosh pit with songs like: My Final Bullet, Outbreak of Evil, Nuclear Winter, Napalm in the Morning, Remember the Fallen, Stigmatized, Sacred Warpath, Bombenhagel, An Eye for an Eye, Blasphemer and a great tribute to Lemmy as they played Iron Fist! There’s another band from the Teutonic Big Four that was scratched off the list!
At this point, the hunger and tiredness started to creep into our desires for shows, so we decided to go ahead and eat something before heading up to the next show. Now with the batteries recharged we were able to get back to the Alhambra Theater for Rhapsody Of Fire‘s set, a band that we were quite stoked about. They kicked off their show with material from their new album Into The Legend, followed by some oldies from The Dark Secret, Dawn Of Victory, Symphony Of Enchanted Lands, and Power Of The Dragon Flame.
Next up it was Katatonia, a band that never fails live. They’re one of the few who sound exact like the recordings, and the live experience makes it even better. How this band is so heavy yet so beautiful is mind-blowing. It’s hard to refrain yourself from singing all of the words when you’re in the photo pit.
After that discharge of power and melodic metal we were quite pumped for more, so we rushed out to the Studio B to catch the Viking folk metallers of TYR who came all the way from the Faroe Islands, to deliver an astonishing performance as they conquered that stage along with the crowd that was there for Hail To The Hammer, Blood Of Heroes among others.
Next was Insomnium, another melodic death favorite. They’re another band whose music is so beautiful yet so heavy. And seeing them at 4 am didn’t change the brutality of the performance. Unfortunately, they didn’t play any song favorites other than ‘Lay of Autumn’ but their set was still solid. One of the more anticipated acts on the cruise, so it was incredible to see them!
We rushed back to the Alhambra theater to see Starkill as they are a band who has a lot of potential, but their live show was one that was unfortunately always missed. Until the cruise. And holy hell! The guys were running around on stage, jumping on amps, shredding in the crowds, and overall going berserk. It was almost 5 am and somehow these guys had an incredible amount of energy. They reminded the crowd that metal has no universal clock, so they made the ship fly with their copious amounts of energy and passion. This is a band everyone should check out live!
The last band of the night was Fallujah. These were some really good friends of ours on the ship, and they never fail to deliver the most heart-pounding set! On the cruise is when they were the best live. Even after 5 in the morning, they brought the cruise to their all, and showed the open seas just how Bay Area metal does it! While playing material off of their début The Harvest Wombs and even premiering a new song! Fallujah proves that no matter where you’re playing or what time, there’s no excuse to not deliver your all while performing.
Stay tune for the recap of day 2…