Live Gig Review and All Photos by Zenae D. Zukowski
Day three was the day of excursions and rest. I was under the impression that was when I could sneak in and grab a merch ticket and have a little break from the mass crowd. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is awesome, but if you are an introvert/loner/outcast like me, you need your solitude moments. However, to grab your merchandise ticket was closed, and every plan I had to do something to avoid the crowd, failed. For next time I would recommend selling the merchandise in the stores. On the ship, there were designer brand stores including Michael Kors, and I don’t think metalheads are eager to book the cruise to buy designer bags. I noticed the sales associates looking bored to tears that it would be nice to see metal merch instead. Come on, it’s a metal booze cruise, and we were there for the bands, fellow metallers, and alcohol. I don’t think you hear people saying, “I got a great deal on the latest Michael Kors bag while at 70,000 tons of Metal.” I understand it’s one of the Royal Caribbean ships, the Independence of the Seas. However, it would be creative if they can figure a better system out with the merchandise than making it feel like a DMV process or a five-hour wait from previous years.
With that said, I had a nice lunch, ended up sharing a table with a cool fella from Texas. I don’t know why, nor do I expect that I deserve anything from anyone; however, he handed me “the golden ticket,” a ticket to buy merch. I didn’t even ask; he just gave it to me because he saw that I wanted it. With that said, I had a little jolt of energy and explored the boat a bit further. I didn’t get off of it, yet I regret it since it seems I could have taken a few excellent photos of the boat. I don’t run well on minimal-no sleep and plus I was sick, so my mind was all sorts of out-of-whack. It was nice to have a few cocktails during this time, catching up with a few shipmates as well. A decent break from the endless rush between stages, there was even time for a few quick cat naps.
After a decent break, it was time to see Mors Principium Est again, this time, outside on the Pool Deck. It wasn’t as windy as the day before, and they kicked things off nicely playing songs such as “Enter the Asylum,” “God Has Fallen,” and “I Will Return.” After a few songs, it was time to run down to the Alhambra Theater for round two of Moonsorrow. I remember speaking to guitarist Mitja Harvilahti, telling me their second set was going to be much different than their first. I already planned on seeing them for round two. However, I was intrigued to compare both performances. I didn’t stay for the full set like their first one but did stick around for a decent amount. The lights were much darker than the first, bringing in a depressive and horror vibe to the stage and I loved every moment of it. They played their material including the title track from their 2016 album “Jumalten aika.” Looking at the time and knowing I already missed New Jersey thrashers Overkill, I had to run to the Pool Deck to see them. At this time their new album ‘The Grinding Wheel’ wasn’t released yet and I was curious to hear if they would play a few tracks from it. Luckily, I made it to their set on time, and it was well worth it seeing Blitz. Their performance is always top-notch there’s nothing else to say about it and the crowd is always the best part to see. The Pool Deck was surprisingly on time that day compared to the prior, schedule ran smooth, and it was time for Testament. Unfortunately, since I missed Trollfest the first night (which I will always regret and hope they return next year), I was conflicted between the two. Trollfest and Testament were playing at the same exact time and the opposite ends of the ship. Therefore, I stayed briefly for Testament and seeing Chuck Billy’s facial expressions is all that you need. After their latest release of ‘Brotherhood of the Snake,’ it only shows how much they still have it. Now, it was time to run to the Ice Rink to catch a bit of Trollfest. Luckily, I made it just in time to see them do “the yoga” which means the band and crowd were practicing yoga by going down into squats. I noticed a flying banana and a crowd surfing alien as well, and it was well-worth catching a bit of their set. Again, I missed the conga pit because, after Haggard’s performance on the Pool Deck the day before, I had to catch them again indoors without any wind interference.
I arrived early for Haggard at the Alhambra Theater, and any moment to sit down was worth it. Haggard’s impressive performance was filled with endless hair flips, classical renditions, and growls galore. What a difference from the previous day and they shined on that stage playing songs such as “The Final Victory” and “Eppur Si Muove.” Despite being mesmerized by their performance, it was time to head to the Ice Rink for set 2 of Marduk. Eventually, you wish you had a few clones in order not to miss any performance, however, sacrifices had to be made. I wasn’t going to miss Marduk, especially since they dropped out of their tour in 2016 and had no rescheduled dates for NY. I took full advantage of seeing them twice to get my Marduk fix. They played straight through their set, and it was more merciless than the first night. The crowd had much more energy than their first night. I stayed for at least half of their set because, after the chaos from Amorphis on the Pool Deck, I had to run to the Alhambra Theater to get my full Amorphis feel. This set was different as they celebrated the 10 year Anniversary of their seventh studio album ‘Eclipse’ in its entirety. It was well worth staying for most of their set, but the clock was ticking, and it was time to run to the Pool Deck for German metallers Grave Digger. I thought I was going to miss it but, as I walked onto that deck, I was relieved hearing them perform the title track from their new album “Healed By Metal.” I have seen Grave Digger a few times already especially from their double tour with Blind Guardian. However, this evening was probably the best I have seen them live. Sadly, I looked at the time and realized I had to run to the Alhambra Theater to see the band that made me book the entire trip, German folk metallers Equilibrium’s second set. Yes, I had to see both and both in its entirety, and at that point, I didn’t care who I missed making it happen. They had a different order of songs, but they did play “Prey,” “Rise Again,” and “Born to be Epic.” However, my face must have lit up when they closed their set with my all time favorite Equilibrium songs “Blut im Auge.” It was bittersweet to see since I knew that meant my time was up seeing them until who knows when and it was time to see the second reason why I booked the trip, Xandria.
Xandria on the pool deck was everything any Xandria fan could imagine, and more. The energy and chemistry were visible that night. I ended up staying for the entire set, enjoying every moment of it. Steve was wearing his Xandria merch again, and I think everyone wore the same clothes which didn’t fully matter. It was a fun set and hearing them close with their classic tune of “Valentine” made my night, and I’m sure many others.
The evening was coming to a near close, despite wanting to see Canadian heavy metallers Striker (ended up missing them). I decided it was time for some Hungarian folk metal and I walked to the Alhambra Theater seeing Dalriada. I stayed there for a few songs including “Napom fényes napom” and “Leszek a csillag.” Vocalist Laura Binder stole the performance, surpassing her vocals by her unstoppable stage presence. She knew where to walk, pose, and headbang while not missing a single note. It was great to see, and I’m glad I didn’t pass out just yet. As exhausted as I was, I decided it was time to see Maryland death metallers Dying Fetus on the Pool Deck to close the night. I knew it was the last one for me, despite having every intention to see Striker. Sometimes your body screams at you with “you’re going to bed.”
Dying Fetus is always a pleasure to see live and what a different it was seeing them with lights on the stage. Performance wise, they ruled and fit well to close the night for me, and I Can’t wait to find out about their new album set to release sometime this year.