70,000 TONS OF METAL – DAY 4

Words/Photos – Bonnie Archer

What could be better than to start the day with a band that formed before many of the ships’ occupants were born but had the energy level of the youngest sailors?  That’s what we got from Canada’s Exciter on the Pool Deck at 10 a.m., who delighted the crowd with favorites such as “Victims of Sacrifice”, “Cry of the Banshee” and, of course, “Pounding Metal.”

Most folks stuck around for Destruction at 11:30 a.m. (and more joined the ranks), and there was huge, huge love for these Teutonic legends.  It was thrilling to see Mike Sifringer and Schmier on stage together, doing what they do best and have done for over three decades. Schmier joked that this was the band’s earliest show in 35 years.  Performing “Nailed to the Cross”, “Invincible Force” and “Thrash ‘till Death”, the Germans in the crowd made their presence known, but everyone present knew they were seeing a band that had helped shape the thrash genre and influence a multitude of artists.

The All-Star Jam is always the much-anticipated event of the cruise.  The brainchild of Annihilator guitarist/songwriter Jeff Waters as a self-admitted way to ensure he gets to cruise every year, this years’ lineup featured the songs “Metal Health/Bang Your Head” (Quiet Riot), “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (Scorpions), “Killing Machine” (Judas Priest), “The Number of the Beast” (Iron Maiden), “Neon Nights” (Black Sabbath), “Running Wild” (Judas Priest), “Hells Bells” (AC/DC), “Pull the Plug” (Death), “D.O.A.” (Van Halen), “Swords & Tequila” (Riot), “Chemical Warfare” (Slayer) and “Whiplash” (Metallica).  The jam was mostly successful, but as in years past, there were some misses.  Mike Howe from Metal Church totally nailed “Killing Machine” – his wail at the end of the song brought the house down.  Päivi “Capri” Virkkunen from Amberian Dawn was an absolute disaster on “Number of the Beast.”  She clearly didn’t know all the words and could not tear her eyes away from the lyric sheet. It was an utter embarrassment to every single metalhead in the packed theater who could probably sing the song in his or her sleep.  The songs and line-up are published on the 70K website before cruise sets sail. There is no excuse for not being prepared before you take the stage.

Rick Altizi from Masterplan did a respectable job on “Neon Nights”, accompanied by the stellar talents of Eloy Casagrande (Sepultura) on drums, Kurdt Vanderhoof (Metal Church) and Per Nilsson (Meshuggah) on guitars and Hugo Doyon-Karout (Beyond Creation) on bass.  Noorah Louhimo from Battle Beast belted out rousingly great performance of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells”, with Cato Bekkevold (Enslaved), Jeff Waters (Annihilator), Elias Viljanen (Sonata Artica) and Mat Sinner (Primal Fear) as her band.  Finally, a female vocalist who didn’t destroy a song by stumbling over the words or over-sexualizing it.  Which, unfortunately, is what happened when Adrienne Cowan from Seven Spires sang Van Halen’s “D.O.A.”  She knew the words, but her slinky moves did not work with the song.

It was a treat to have Snake from Voivod perform vocals for Riot’s “Swords and Tequila.”  He had the perfect voice for this song, and stellar musicians to back him up – Tom Naumann from Primal Fear and Mike from Destruction on guitars, Stet Howland from Metal Church on drums and Jesper Anastasiadis from Korpiklaani on bass.  

The Metallica finale of “Whiplash” featured Kreator’s Mille Petrozza on vocals, Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser and Exhumed Matt Harvey on guitars, Destruction’s Schmier on bass and Vaaver on drums.  Close your eyes, picture it, hear it in your mind…yeah.  It was good.  Axel Mackenrott, keyboardist from Masterplan, was in the pit, and it was an amazing way to end another incredible jam session.

It’s always hard to follow an event like the All-Star Jam, but the show(s) must go on.  I was determined to catch Enslaved again, so I headed up to the Pool Deck, and thankfully, all was in working order this time.  They had a respectable if not completely packed crowd, and their devoted fans appreciated songs off their latest album E (“The River’s Mouth”, “Sacred Horse”) as well as songs from earlier works such as Vertebrae (“Ground”) and “A Winter’s Night.”  Their music is mesmerizing, and all band members were completely engaged in the performance.  These guys are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they definitely have a strong following and they won me over.  

I knew my last show of the cruise was going to be a special one, and it absolutely was.  A Septicflesh show is an event: The lights darkened a minute EARLY, eerie music filled the Alhambra Theater, and from beyond the serpentine backdrop we heard a growl: “Are you ready, my friends?”  What followed was the enormous, symphonic sound of this unique Greek foursome, that was intense, hypnotic, thunderous, and, at times, furious.  Vocalist Spiros “Seth Siro Anton” Antoniou engaged the crowd, stating, “We will play a song from Codex Omega.  Do you have energy?  You will need it.”  Performing mostly songs from that album (“Enemy of Truth”, “Portrait of a Headless Man”, “Martyr”, “Dark Art”) and Titan (title track) this band left everything they had on the stage.  It was an absolutely perfect end to another perfect metal experience.

I hope to be back for Round 9 of this amazing voyage. Until then, keep it metal!