70000 Tons of Metal Diary, Day 3, February 6, 2016
It’s 6 am and I’m again wide awake… but this time, it’s on purpose. Today was the day we ported in Jamaica and my daughter wanted to go on an early morning shore excursion. By the time my alarm rang I had gotten a glorious 5 whole hours of sleep so I was well rested (read with heavy sarcasm). The ship ported in Falmouth, a quaint little tourist port town that seemed mainly made up of tourist shops, restaurants and bars, at least the part I saw… the part near the ship. The town is actually historic, dating back to the 18th century when it was a major export point for sugar and rum. Most people got off the ship to explore as there were no shows scheduled while the ship was in port. Some just went into the tourist area, others explored the historic town and the beaches. As it was a Jamaican national holiday of sorts… i.e., Bob Marley’s Birthday… some went off to celebrate the holiday in their own way… There were many shore excursions available, and my daughter and I went on one of the more popular ones to the Green Grottos Caves and the Dunn’s River Falls.
The excursion we chose was fun, but definitely very touristy. The caves were interesting; not the most stunning caves I’ve seen, but they had an interesting history and our guide was entertaining. The Dunn’s River Falls climb was interesting as participants actually got to climb up several tiers of the falls. My daughter did the climb while photographed the event from the sides. (it was way too wet of an event to bring a camera). We got back to the port about 90 minutes before the ship’s scheduled departure and had a brief walk around town where we shopped and ran into members of Epica and Delain during which brief pleasantries were exchanged. We got back on the ship at 3:15, just in time to get a real lunch (the lunch buffet shut down at 3:30).
When the ship left port at 4pm, the metal mayhem began again in earnest! The first show I caught was in the Alhambra theater where Russian folk metal titans, Arkona, put on one hell of a show. Arkona was up there on my list of band’s I really wanted to see, but hadn’t yet had the chance. They did not disappoint! After a brief bit a social time with friends I returned to the Alhambra to finally seen Visions of Atlantis… and they were definitely worth the wait! The set was vocally, musically, and visually awesome! Then, it was elevator time again and after a nine floor ride up I was back at the Pool stage for the Swedish melodic gothic/doom metalers, Katatonia. Seven floors back down the elevator later, I was in the Pyramid lounge with November’s Doom. Seven floors back up later, it was time for Lacuna Coil’s second set; this time on the larger Pool stage. Although they were great the first night, they were over the top up on the outdoor stage. We got a special treat late in the set when Simone Simons of Epica joined the band for a stunning rendition of the Lacuna Coil classic: “Heaven’s a Lie”. This one also falls in my top 5 shows of the cruise!
After Lacuna Coil’s set I headed back to the Pyramid for Fleshgod Apocalypse and then onto the Alhambra for Paradise Lost. Fleshgod Apocalypse is an Italian death metal band know for their great stage presence and elaborate costumes. Paradise Lost is considered one of the pioneers of gothic doom metal and it was a thrill to finally see them live! I had to split time between both of their sets, unfortunately, as they were both playing at the same time and I’d already missed their first sets due to time conflicts. I then returned to the Pool stage for Eluveitie’s second set. It was quite a thrill to see them on the large outdoor stage and they completely outdid themselves on this second set! The audience was also in rare form with lots of moshing, headbanging and circle pits. The main vocalist, Chrigel, took advantage of the large outdoor stage by instigating Eluveitie’s infamous “Wall of Death”. As a final treat of the set, Anna, sang their song “Call of the Mountains” in their native Swiss-German, instead of the usual English language version. This definitely made my rank in the top 5 sets of the cruise! The final pre- midnight show of the evening for me was Epica’s second set, this time nine floors back down in the Alhambra theater. It was fantastic as expected.
Due to the fact I was so well rested from my 5 hours of sleep the previous night (again, read with heavy sarcasm), I elected to make it another late night as there were too many great bands left to call it an evening. Next up in Studio B was Firewind, a Greek power metal band formed by Gus G (Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist). I really enjoyed the set, especially the awesome guitar work. Hammerfall hit the Alhambra next with an hour long set of epic power metal. I’d never seen them before and I was really impressed with their set. Definitely a band I’m looking forward to seeing again. Then it was back to Studio B for a portion of Holy Moses’ set. Holy Moses is a thrash metal band from Germany whose front woman is known for her ferocious and often chaotic stage presence. I had to leave the set a little early to make it up to the Pool stage again for At The Gates. At The Gates delivered a blistering set of their unique brand of over the top Swedish melodic death metal. The crowd was in a frenzy with lots of crowd surfing. It was a treat to see this band live as they have just recently returned to the music scene and are finally releasing a new album after a 19 year (not a misprint) hiatus. I hope they plan to stick around for a while!
My final band of the night was Starkill, a heavy metal band from Chicago that I had previously seen open for Arch Enemy a couple of years ago. Of all the bands that played the festival, I think they got stuck with the worst schedule as both of their sets were in the smaller Pyramid lounge and both were after 2am. Despite that, they gave it all and gave the audience and awesome and very animated set, frequent swinging from the rafters and jumping up on the audience barricade. It was a great way for me to end the night. It was my busiest day yet as I attended 14 of the 29 shows performed. In keeping with the theme, there was no time for dinner and I stopped for yet more pizza on my way to bed. Day 4 was coming!