Top Heavy Metal Albums of the Last Decade

The new decade has already started seven weeks ago but it’s not too late to talk about the best heavy metal albums of the past decade.
Such lists popped up here and there on my social media feeds at the end of last year and I felt inspired to create my own personal list 🙂
 
2010 – Fear Factory – Mechanized
Fear Factory does not even belong to my favorite bands but that album just fascinates me. The mixture of industrial metal, pretty damn dark sounds and that intriguing voice gets under my skin. I am listening to this album when I am in a destructive and angry mood and after that I feel better 😉
2011 – Insomnium – One for Sorrow
For me this is the pinnacle of the Insomnium albums. The title song can drive me to tears when I’m in the right mood. The power and anger of The Blackest Bird is just bloody awesome and Unsung has fantastic lyrics, a fantastic melody and enormous energy. And and and. I could rave about every song of that album.
2012 – Sabaton – Carolus Rex
Sabaton has a great sound, a great vocalist and is a fantastic live band. My “problem” with them is the topic of war. I’m kinda tired of all that war in their songs, thus Carolus Rex, which focuses more on the Swedish king than on war stands out for me as the best Sabaton album. The beat of the title song is simple but awesome for headbaning!
2013 – Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
Definitely my favorite Amon Amarth album. As Like Falls has the best riffs ever written. What a song. Also the Shape Shifter is one of my favorites. This is the album that got me into Amon Amarth. Old fans might find it too soft, but I love it.
2014 – Hm…
That year leaves me a little blank. There is Shadows of the Dying Sun from Insomnium of course, but I prefer One for Sorrow by a tiny bit. Another album that sticks out though it does not get my personal album of 2014 title is Titan by Septic Flesh.
2015 – Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
I’ve been an amorphis fan for quite a while and my favorite album of theirs is and remains Skyforger (from 2009), but concerning the past decade Under the Red Cloud is my top runner. Bad Blood, Sacrifice, Dark Path and especially Enemy at the Gates are knocking my socks off 😉
2016 – Be’lakor – Vessels
2016 was a very good year for the kind of metal that I love. The pinnacle of it all and currently my favorite album of all times is Vessels by Be’lakor, it’s a concept album masterpiece and I’ve never heard a song yet about a photon, or a plant, or insects 😉 If you don’t know Be’lakor yet, check them out! Fantastic prog/melodeath metal from Australia, very sophisticated. Give them a few listens, not only one, their mastery needs a while to reach home. Also their 2012 Of Breath and Blood is more than special. But another two albums are also very much deserving of the best album of the year title. Atoma by Dark Tranquility. In my opinion their best album. Forward Momentum or Force of Hand or Faithless by Default are incredibly powerful songs. And then there is another concept album around Winter’s Gate by Insomnium – this 40 minute one song opera was/is one hell of an achievement
2017 – Hm…
Another year where I find it difficult to name a winner so let me mention two Finnish albums from not so major bands. There is Nicumo and their Storms Arise album. Clear vocal for a change and very nice clear vocals. They are an up and coming band and 2020 will see their next album coming out. Then there is Embers of a Dying World by Mors Principum Est, very good and solid melodeath.
2018 – Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light
The Wolfheart frontman Tuomas Saukonen is one hell of an artist. He produces a lot with various bands, kinda one album per year somewhere. He is one of the most prolific heavy metal dudes that I know. Wolfheart is bordering on death metal, but there is still melodeath to be found.
2019 – Rotting Christ – The Heretics
What a band name, what a history. Rotting Christ = the Tolis brothers from Greece are around for 30 years and have produced a lot of albums. I personally like their recent sound of the past decade with the three major albums Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (2013), Rituals (2016 – another awesome 2016 album) and their latest The Heretics. They are labeled as black metal, but there are plenty of styles mixed into their music. Non Serviam!
 
Let’s see what 2020 will bring! I am expecting another Be’lakor masterpiece, Dark Tranquility is due to release something and Nicumo as well. It will be a good year for metal, I believe! 🙂

Average 97 Decibels – Part 2

Some words about the bands for those not so familiar with this world. Stam1na is a melodic death metal band from Finland, singing in Finnish. Mentioned Black Dahlia Murder is an extreme metal band from Detroit, USA. Insomnium is an English singing melodic death metal band from Finland as well. Silver Dust is a gothic, steampunk metal band from Switzerland, singing in English, Rotting Christ is black/dark metal from Greece, singing in many languages, mostly Greek and English, but also French or Farsi for example. Moonspell is a dark, gothic metal band from Portugal, singing in English and Portuguese. While most of the six bands are t-Shirt bands, Moonspell does a little bit with props and costumes, and Silver Dust does a lot. It was actually refreshing to see some effort put into clothing and makeup and putting on a „show“ with a video screen also, showing clips and bits fitting to the songs.


The audiences were all the same tribe, no matter in which country: metalheads! Moshing wise the French were most active and squeezed the first two, three rows pretty well, on all other gigs, I was safe in my beloved first row. The first row is just the best place to be. Despite creating a meter or two of space between the bands and the audience, I actually prefer a railing, since you can put your coat there, lean on it and use it as head banging support, lol. The unobstructed view to the stage is of course the best part of things. The sound in the first row is actually not the best, but that can’t be helped. Only after the Rotting Christ gig in Budapest, I gave up on the first row, because of the low stage, no place to hold onto and back pain and retreated to the back of the hall for Moonspell to have a wall for support. I didn’t see a thing anymore, but the sound was excellent.


Some people may shake their heads at crazy trips for heavy metal, but I’m proud of my passions, lol. It’s the adventures you make, the people you meet and the things you experience that define you. I met French metalhead friends in Lyon, I made a new metalhead friend from Brazil, I chatted with Austrian fans in Vienna, I talked to a lady from the Netherlands in a bus somewhere, a super friendly Hungarian grandpa helped me in broken English to find the airport bus, I met my sister in Dresden, where neither of us had ever been before. I managed to explore Lyon, Dresden and Vienna for a bit, I’ve been to Budapest again after nine years. I saw excellent concerts of bands whose music touches my heart and soul. All that would not happen without the passion. I hope it never dies and that the next trip will be around the corner soon! Cheers!

Average 97 Decibels – Part 1

Ahhhh, a sweet week is over, three bands four times (Stam1na, The Black Dahlia Murder, Insomnium) and another three bands two times (Silver Dust, Rotting Christ, Moonspell). It was a blast! Any time again please!
In the very good venue of the Pratteln Konzertfabrik Z7 (in Switzerland) was something I have never seen before in the plenty of concert venues big and small that I so far had the privilege to visit: a decibels counter. Insomnium and the other bands averaged out at 97 decibels. There was one spike cracking the 100 decibels mark, but most of the stuff was between 95 and 99 decibels. So that’s the magic number: 97 decibels 😉 In some venues things might be louder, but judging from the comfort level of my (earplugged) ears, the around 100 decibels seems to be the norm 😉


There is no debating about taste, but frankly I didn’t care for The Black Dahlia Murder at all. As stated by the vocalist, they are an extreme metal band and in my humble opinion did not fit to Stam1na and Insomnium, which work very well together. I have nothing against extreme metal, Meshuggha is an awesome band for example, but the Dahlia guys just didn’t do it for me, which made the hour of their set quite a drag.


I thought the three other bands of Silver Dust, Rotting Christ and Moonspell made a much better combination. Steampunk, ghost themed Silver Dust, then the black, dark metal of Rotting Christ and the dark, gothic metal of Moonspell, now that went down smoothly. I enjoyed those two evenings immensely.
The traveling within Europe went flawlessly, even the most challenging part of getting from Budapest to Dresden went well thanks to on time airplanes and trains. But, to a limited extend, I have come to understand the challenge of touring. These bands hop around from city to city in their tour busses, apparently also sleeping in them, taking showers at the venues. While I traveled about for fun, they have to give their best every night for new audiences. Well new audiences??? Lol there were people I saw three times, traveling around with the bands like myself, lol. But the majority of the audience is of course not doing the city hopping.


The best Insomnium gig was in Pratteln, Switzerland I suppose, thanks to an excellent venue and great sound. The best Rotting Christ gig was in Budapest, due to first row, no barrier, my hand on the monitor of the guitarist. The stage was very low, since the venue was on a fixed boat on the Danube river that resulted in a low ceiling. That gig was very close up and personal and earned me the pic that Sakis Tolis, the front man of Rotting Christ, played with 😉

The Grave Digger in Japan

There is something special about the Grave Digger 😉 Though at the same time, sorry, Grave Digger, but you have never been my band number one. LOL. However, Grave Digger has always been there, somewhere, among my top ten bands. The band does have a special personal importance to me, since one of their albums was the inspiration for in total over one thousand pages of novel = my Hagen Patterson Trilogy: She Should have Called Him Siegfried, To Mix and to Stir and Give Substance to a Thought. Those musings were the result of Grave Digger’s take on the Ring of the Nibelungen Saga in form of their album Rheingold, which let me find a Nibelungen story of my own.

Also, one of their songs “Excalibur” is among my top ten songs of all times. The guitar riff of that song is a killer and has an undisputed place in my pantheon.


I missed their gigs quite often and only rather late, in 2017, I had the privilege to see the Grave Digger for the first time live during 70,000 Tons of Metal, then, the same year in Wacken (yeah!) and now finally finally in Japan.
That band is around since 1980 (!), next year they will have their 40th (!) anniversary, or rather the singer, Chris Boltendahl will have his 40th band anniversary, since he is the only constant band member. The guy is now 57 years old.
I am not sure why they did not come to Japan for a staggering 23 years. Last time they were in Japan it was 1996! Wow! But yesterday, finally, they played at the Evoked Fest with Alestorm as the headliner.
Note the drums of Alestorm with the joke on it: Drave Gigger 😉


I hope it doesn’t take another 23 years for the Grave Digger to come to Japan again. I surely enjoyed banging my head to Excalibur and the Tunes of War last night. Well done guys! See you again soon, hopefully 😉 And thanks for writing that Rheingold album 😉

Wacken 2019 Report

My fifth Wacken trip happened without a single of my favorite bands being present, which on the one hand was a bit sad, but which on the other hand, meant a very stress free and relaxed Wacken for me 😉
The weather was actually excellent, a bit hot, but not as hot as the previous year and not as dry and as dusty either. Nevertheless there was of course a weather-happening. On the Wacken Friday they suddenly stopped the gigs of Eluveitie on the Faster stage and Gloryhammer on the Louder stage because of a thunderstorm. With security people and do-not-enter bands, they drove the entire 75.000 people out of the holy ground, Wackinger village included, and into the tent town behind the venue. They asked people to return to their cars. Since daily parking was a mile away, I decided to stay at a breakfast/coffee place while my two companions returned to our car.

It then rained about for an hour and there was some distant thunder and lightning, but the show could go on after an interruption of about two hours in total. Trouble was that a few bands didn’t fit into the schedule anymore and were sent home! One of the bands, Tribulation, was one I had wanted to see. I was disappointed of course, but had this been one of my favorite bands, I would have been devastated and gone wild. You fly all the way to Wacken and then they cancel your favorite band because of a tiny storm?!??? I surely hope that this won’t happen again next year again. I can sort of understand that the organizers are careful after apparently several accidents with fatalities happened during other open air gigs that were hit by thunder storms. But it did feel a bit like overkill to send 75.000 people away from the venue.


Other than that we had an excellent time at Wacken. The atmosphere at the festival is awesome with everyone being happy to be there. I of course saw quite a couple of bands, but I shall only focus on the highlights. Warking looked fun and I shall download some of their stuff. Jinjer impressed me very much. That lady has a roar that knocks your socks off. I will definitely check out more about them. There were of course the Powerwolf and Sabaton gigs, though that business with the two stages for Sabaton worked only to a very limited degree with the Harder stage being empty the first hour of the set…
The small highlight was Demons & Wizards for me. It was the first time to see Hansi from Blind Guardian on stage in Wacken and they even played some Iced Earth and Blind Guardian songs too. A very nice gig and a great show.

My personal big highlight though was Septicflesh.
I had seen them once before at 70.000 tons of metal and had them in good memory, and in the meantime my taste has turned ever more towards rough vocals and melodic death metal and my ears were kind of prepared more for Septicflesh. I also managed to get into the first row (for the first time inside the Headbangers Ball tent) which always has a big appeal and the gig was exceptionally good. I shall most certainly listen in to more of Septicflesh’s albums. The gig was awesome.


My fifth Wacken was great and I immediately bought the Wacken ticket for 2020, since at least one of my favorite bands will be there, Amon Amarth! Let’s see if other favorite bands will join them! It will be sad again of course to go to Wacken 2020 without my British buddies, but they can only join me every second year. Guys, see you again in Wacken 2021! But before that Wacken 2020 for me with Amon Amarth! Muahahahahahaha!

From Vladivostok with Love – Part 4

All the Russian fans told me I should look out for the band because they would surely be staying in the same hotel as I did. So in the morning I did keep a look out at breakfast but nobody was there. I later found out that the poor guys must have left much much earlier than when I sat at breakfast at 9:30. They were going to Novosibirsk next and when I got to the airport myself the next day I saw that the flight to Novosibirsk left at 8:50. Uh… that means being at the airport before 7:30 surely. I suppose they left the hotel at 6:30 or something like that! So much for tour live. Since the Amon Amarth fan lady, just let me call her AA, promised to pick me up at 14:00, I wandered around some more, found a nice spot for a Vladivostok skyline picture and also found two more shopping centers, slowly finding out what looks like a shopping center and what not.

I confirmed already the day before that the Chinese and Koreans are coming for shopping. The rubel is apparently quite low these days, prices in Vladivostok are lower than in Korea for sure and apparently it’s even becoming attractive for Chinese mass tourism. AA also told me that the Koreans and Chinese don’t need Russian visas for Vladivostok and she does not need one either if she wanted to go there. It’s some special agreement for the Russian Far East as well as some areas in China close to the border. If they want to go to Moscow they need visas, but not for the Far East. Interesting, I didn’t know that.
I bought some souvenirs and then waited for AA at the hotel.
She was very punctual and then we drove off towards Russky island over the impressive two bridges.

At some point the asphalt road ends on Russky island and the adventure begins. We were not the only ones on the dirt path, it felt like a caravan at times. AA said this is nothing yet, in the summer there is traffic jam at these dirt paths!


There are several “parking” areas and we stopped at one with a beach and where a hiking trail starts to a scenic spot.


I was totally amazed by the amount of people there. Well, it was Sunday, but nevertheless. Much of the area is wooded, but was extremely dry and also dusty, it has been a super dry winter with not much snow even. There was actually a small bush fire a hundred meters away at one point. AA said the best time is in summer of course, when people go swimming at these beaches but also September and October, when the leaves change color.


We had a great walk and the last cliff looked really beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected adventure, that I never would have been able to do without a local and AA drove me all the way back to the hotel again. Very cool addition to an already great trip.
To say goodbye to the place, I went down to the shore once more and was in for another treat. There were several elderly men who were actually, one after the other, taking a swim in the ice cold ocean!!! Kyaaaaaaa. I was walking around in arctic gear, these guys, jump into the ocean! Air temperature was around zero Celsius and water temperature… well look at the floating ice! OMG!!!

It was my second time to Russia and both times I made nothing but good experiences. I thought also in St. Petersburg and Moscow that people were friendly, but I must give it to Vladivostok that people there were even more friendly than in the big cities. There was not one moment where I would have felt unsafe, despite the adventures in finding the concert venue. Okay, there was a shady “taxi driver” hanging around the hotel who kept on asking me if I need a ride every time I left the hotel. But even he never got rude or too close. There was less police and military around than in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There is of course also less to see than in those two big cities, since after all Vladivostok is a mere 160 years old.
I wonder since when there are direct flights from Tokyo and how long they will keep those up. On the way to Vladivostok there were maybe 60 people on board, on the way back 40 people.
I can totally see myself going to Vladivostok again though if some band of interest decides to come all the way there for a gig. And even if there is no direct flight anymore, there will surely be some from Seoul 😉

From Vladivostok with Love – Part 3

On the Amorphis website it read that the Vladivostok venue was called San Remo, apparently a hotel. On the ticket I somehow bought online the venue read Submarine Club. Hm. I asked at my hotel lobby, and the guy did not speak English too well. For standard questions he could somehow answer in English, but not such non-standard stuff like whether the Submarine Club is maybe inside San Remo. He pointed vaguely into the right direction and I thought oh, heck, I’m gonna find it somehow and went looking. It said 19:00 on the paper. I was not sure whether that meant concert start or start of letting you into the hall and the hotel guy couldn’t tell me either because of lack of English. So I went looking for the venue at 17:30 and good that I did so. At a sign which read San Remo, I actually ran into the two guitarists of the band and quickly addressed them and told them I’d see them later, they greeted nicely back, then walked down the road. Good, so it had to be around here somewhere if the band members are close!
I ventured into a spooky alley and ended at a nightclub, all right, but it had another name, and the door was closed, nobody there. Some shifty looking dude wearing an indistinct hoody came out of a side door and I showed him my print out and asked where the venue is. No English really, he said, niet niet, and pointed up and right. Hm.


So I went up and right and landed on the roof of the San Remo building. It’s built kind of into a hill and you could easily walk onto the roof. some youngsters hung out there, but they didn’t look like heavy metal fans and were too young also. One kid walked into the roof access of whatever was beneath it and I thought, what the heck and followed him.

I ended in the seventh floor lobby of a super old style hotel way beyond its prime. Everything screamed seventies and that in Russian. At the reception I asked the lone lady present if she spoke English. A little. I showed her my paper and she was going, Hu? Never heard of it kind of “Hu”. She went into the office, asked someone, then came back. Go down and left. Hm.
I went down with the elevator to the first floor, nothing but a shady restaurant. Outside of the building to the left, closed doors, no metal fans. Damnit, it must be here somewhere, even the band members were around.


Under normal circumstances I never ever would have gone near such night clubs, shady hotels and run down buildings! Lol. But there I was wandering, feeling like in a Russian spy movie. I decided to walk around the complex and went up the hill again outside of the building. And there! In a corner, next to a bar, “Submarine”! Yeah!

And there were a few heavy metal looking dudes around! I approached them and felt safe, ladies and gentlemen. To “normal people” Russian dudes in leather, with long hair, beards, whatever chains dangling from their clothes look scary. But I felt right at home, lol.
I said “hi” and they immediately noticed I’m not Russian and there were actually three, four guys and girls who spoke English and immediately questions started, where the hell are you from? You came to Vladivostok for metal? Oh man! So cool! One girl had been to Europe several times, going to Amon Amarth gigs, so much appreciating I bothered to fly to Vladivostok. They were all super nice and friendly and we are all one big heavy metal family where it does not matter where you come from.
The girl who had been to Europe and I exchanged social media stuff and then she offered to drive me to Russky island the next day so that I see some more of her home town. What? Seriously? Yes, yes, no problem! Wow!
With the promise to pick me up at 14:00 the next day, we were finally allowed into the venue and since I had been early, I managed to get first row together with the other early birds.
While waiting we talked about metal of course, but also the weather for example. It’s been the warmest winter ever they said, usually in March the west side of the bay is still frozen solid and not only a little bit, zero degrees is so warm! Okay. It’s all a matter of perspective. One of the guys said, he hates winter. Uh! A Russian who hates winter! I asked another guy whether he can recommend a vodka brand to me. I wanted to buy one bottle at the airport duty free before I leave. Hm, he doesn’t drink vodka and has no clue about the stuff! There go your stereotypes! He doesn’t drink even a beer before a gig, he wants to be in full capacity of his senses to enjoy the music. Yep, same here!
One guy works for Mazda, another for Carl Zeiss, the Russky island lady and her husband are both programmers.
The gig was great, the band was in a good mood, the crowd was screaming and going nuts, not too many bands bother to fly all the way to Vladivostok, so the metal community is happy and grateful when they do come. It was a fantastic gig and I made a bunch of great friends 🙂

The End of an Era

I’ve been going to the Yamaha music school for around thirteen years out of my eighteen in the greater Tokyo area. Maybe it was even fourteen years. I started out with drum lessons, which I picked up again after having gone to drum lessons in Germany for a while too. But, after two or three years, my drum teacher suddenly passed away. I think he got only around 65 years old. Next up were around seven years of vocal lessons. Last but not least, around four years of piano lessons. I just quit those piano lessons last Thursday and thus ended an era of some thirteen or fourteen years of music lessons. Wow, that’s been a long time.

Why did I quit? I quit drum lessons because the teacher died of course, but I could have gone to another drum teacher. I didn’t because of lack of practice opportunity. Japanese houses (and German houses neither) aren’t exactly large or soundproof. Going to a studio for practice is costly and also time consuming.
Singing I gave up because I cannot sing what I’d like to sing – heavy metal. My voice just ain’t made for that 😉
And now piano. Even though I have a keyboard at home and have the opportunity to practice putting the thing on low volume, the amount of practice needed to play like I imagine I want to play is so large that again lack of time is the killing factor. Writing takes the priority and I am not willing to sacrifice writing time for piano practice time.
Another thing was that the music center I went to the past two years after moving to Yokohama, is a pain to get to (train ride into the opposite direction from home after work and fifteen minute walk from the station), which contributed to the lack of motivation to go.
Well, the keyboard still stands at home and if I feel like playing, I can 🙂

Of course already new plans are in the making, not concerning music but for my not-getting-any-younger body. The New Year 2019 resolution will be to go to yoga or pilates or something like that to counter the stiffness of advancing age! Gosh, how terrible that sounds! LOL. It feels kinda odd to not have any music lessons anymore in the future, but hey, I shall of course practice something I am pretty good at concerning music and that is head-banging! 😉

Paying for Energy

I just saw the Bohemian Rhapsody movie and it left me with this urge saying – when’s the next concert I’m going to? 😉 It will be only in two months when the Finnish melodic death metal act Wolfheart will come to Tokyo. When was the last concert I went to? That was German power metal band Primal Fear exactly one month ago. Before that I saw my new favorite band Insomnium, Finnish melodeath as well, in Switzerland. The Bohemian Rhapsody movie made me jittery – wanna bang my head and shout to bands I like or love! 😉 Music is one of the most powerful and wonderful things humans have invented. The energy music gives people is amazing. Music and also dance of course are much more let me call it “primeval” than reading books or looking at paintings, because they make you move. Well, not all music of course, sitting at a classical concert just listening is not very active. Such “passive” music does not appeal to me at all, I want stomping and shouting and head banging ;-). Music also brings like minded people together. It’s magic.
But: to survive as a musician or any kind of artist these days is not an easy thing (well, it has never been). Apart from the “real fans” of a band who buy CDs or Vinyls for their collections, most people use whatever streaming services (myself included). It’s quite shocking how little artists get paid per stream. This article here gives some insight in case you are interested. https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/01/16/streaming-music-services-pay-2018/

It’s the same for books of course, you need to have a hell of a lot of downloads on Kindle to put bread onto the table.
I cannot understand people who want things for free. Art, whatever art it is, gives us so much and people want it for free? If artists cannot survive by what they make with their art, then who does that help? There still seems to be this illusion out there that artists make shitloads of money. Some, very few, big names do, yes, but those people are maybe 0.1 or whatever percent of those who produce art, which is one of the greatest sources of energy and joy in our lives.
I might be writing books, but music is the thing where I get most of my energy from and I’ll hella continue to support my favorite bands by paying for what they produce and I hope others will do so as well. Go out there and pay our artists! Thanks!

Wacken Open Air 2018

This year marked my fourth trip to Wacken and it was remarkable in so far as that I went for the first time alone without my trusted English buddies and oh miracle there was no rain! Zero rain, nothing, niente! Who would have thought that to be possible? Instead it was hot as hell and dusty beyond measure 😉 I suppose that ideal weather for Wacken does not exist 😉
Since I am not staying in tents under any circumstances 😉 I had chosen a hotel package including bus transfer. 
How cool that I already met two Japanese girls in havy metal gear on the plane to Helsinki, who were having the same destination. Even more remarkable was that one of the girls bought the same hotel package as myself. We shared a taxi to the hotel and thus the arrival in the tiny town of Bad Bramstedt was nice and smooth. 
The daily commute to the holy ground was a bit longish unfortunately, since the bus took an hour, partly over an hour, to get there. Also, there was only one bus to the holy ground and one bus back, no alternative, apart from expensive taxis. 
Wacken was as epic as always. The atmosphere is unbeatable (I heard Hellfest is the same or even better, but I’ve never been there yet.) Wait, there is another unbeatable atmosphere, the one on the boat (70,000 tons of metal) but that is quite a different pair of shoes. In Wacken, where 75,000 fans are gathered, it’s just the amazing atmosphere of being on the holy ground that you breathe in with the dust or drag with your boots in vase of mud 😉

Since the bus was arriving too late for some bands, I bluntly asked around on the Friday morning whether anyone was willing to share a taxi with me to get to the holy ground earlier. Turned out asking was a good idea, since I found a couple from Romania staying at the same hotel, but without the bus transfer package but their own rental car. They were so kind to take me along and I made it in time for the desired concert 😉 I saw a ton of bands of course (23 to be exact), hung out with excellent people and had a great time despite the dust and resulting nose trouble from the middle of Saturday.

My band highlights were Amorphis of course, then Alestorm and Ensiferum in the first rows (if at the side, away from the surfers), but also Nightwish was fabulous, as well as good old Judas Priest and Helloween. A new discovery was Behemoth from Poland, I have to check out more about them. It was the first time that a black metal band “spoke” or appealed to me. Then two re-discoveries, the smaller band Diabolo Boulevard from Belgium and Children of Bodom. I actually saw Diabolo Boulevard on the boat (70,000 tons) and liked them there too, but now they reconfirmed that they are worth looking into. Children of Bodom I saw once at Loudpark but they didn’t impress me so much then, this time I found them to have much more impact on me. Very interesting was Arkona from Russia, who played on the Wackinger Stage. 

I found myself rather often in the headbbanger tent and at the Wackinger stage this time. During my first two Waken tours, I hardly ever left the infield (where the three big stages are), but this time I was in the tent as much as never before. 
The busses back in the night were a bit too late for my taste, on the Friday and Saturday they only left at 2:00 in the morning, brining you back to the hotel at 3:00 respectively. (The busses to Waken left at 12:00 every day and got there around 13:00 or later, due to traffic). The busses already arrived around 1:30 though, so at least you were out of the evening cold for a while. Yes, cold! When it’s over 30 during the day and drops to 15 at night that’s cold, especially when you come from a more humid climate where it never gets much below 23 during the night in summer.
It was a great Wacken tour this year and it was interesting to experience it with the bus tour package, but I’m glad that next year, I’ll be back with my English buddies and their car, which makes you more independent. Our lovely hotel in Buesum is also closer to the holy ground than Bad Bramstedt. Tickets are ordered, hotel is booked, we are ready for the big 30th anniversary of the holy ground! See you in August 2019, rain or shine. 

Up the Mountain

I’d like to share my fascination with a German colleague (who does not live in Japan) who has been climbing Mt. Fuji ten times by now. I kid you not.
And I’ll be using his “hobby” to justify mine, hahaha 😉
So, during the months of July and August, when Mt. Fuji is mostly snow free, the mountain suffers “open season” and hordes of people are climbing it. You can climb Mt. Fuji in other months as well, but then you face snow on the top and also, the mountain huts are not open. There are several mountain huts between the 6th to 9th stations, but they only operate during those two months and if you go outside of the season, you have to do real “alpine” climbing without “help”.
So that colleague is finding some business trip “excuse” every year, comes to Japan, stays over a weekend and climbs Mt. Fuji. Usually he is taking other colleagues with him, who are more or less enthused by the prospect, but who don’t dare to decline, because the Mt. Fuji fan is high up the pecking order.

I have tried to do the Mt. Fuji climb as well, some fifteen or so years ago and it was a horror trip! 😉 There was brilliant weather in Tokyo on the day of my climb, 35 degrees Celsius, sunshine, but when the bus arrived at the fifth station at 2500 meters, where the end of the road is, there was a mighty thunderstorm. It rained cats and dogs, it was windy, it was bloody cold.
The most popular way to climb the beast is to arrive there at 22:00 in the evening, climb up during the night, be for sunrise at the top and then climb down again.
I struggled up the mountain in the dark in rain and sometimes I had the feeling the wind would blow me off the slope to an untimely death. I slipped somewhere on the wet rocks and hurt my knee and gave up at the 8th station, which is at around 3000 meters and climbed back down after the sun rose (I had a magnificent sunrise above the clouds too after waiting a few hours at the mountain hut and the weather getting better).
Apart from the physical strain – you are not alone while climbing. In July and August there is a queue up the mountain. You cannot walk your own pace, you are trapped in the path with hundreds of others in front of you and behind you.
Where is the fun in that? Once it’s quite interesting, but why do you have to do that ten times??? Every year??? There are plenty of beautiful mountains in the European Alps just around the corner for the German colleague, why climb Mt. Fuji with thousands of others once a year? It totally escapes me what is interesting and fascinating about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mt. Fuji, but I decided that it’s a wonderful mountain to look at because of its symmetry, you don’t need to climb the guy! Once maybe, yeah, but not ten times! 😉

Nevertheless, looking at the Mt. Fuji fan, I feel very comfortable about my own “madness”: flying around the world to see heavy metal bands, hahaha. Sometimes I have that short, brief, insignificant thought that I’m crazy hanging out in rain and vicious knee-deep mud for three days to see bands, but when I hear/see this story of the dude who flies half around the world to climb Mt. Fuji every year, I feel very sane, normal and unweird! Thanks, Sir, for making me feel good about myself. And, Oh yes, I depart for Wacken in five days! Yeah! 😉

Suomi Feast 2018

It’s been a while since I went to the Suomi Feast. In the past it was called Loud and Metal Attack. I don’t know when the name changed.
One way or the other, it’s a mini heavy metal festival with Finnish bands (also sponsored by the Finnish embassy in Japan ;-)) and this year we had six of them with the headliner being Turisas.
The opening act in the cozy 800 people venue Shinjuku Blaze right in the middle of the nightly amusement center Kabukicho, was Noumena, a death metal act with a clear female vocal and a rough male vocal.

Next up was Mors Subita, the hardest and most death metal act of the evening. They had a great sound but the growling vocal was a bit too high for my taste 😉


Frosttide was more akin to folk metal. I must admit that I don’t remember much about them, sorry! 😉
S-Tool was easier to remember, since they are old school heavy metal and reminded very much of the 80ties. Some of their members seem to have migrated from Poisonblack to S-Tool. It was cool to see these 50+ guys rocking hard (at least they looked like 50+ ;-))

Then something interesting, Beast in Black, a lovely, intentionally over-dramatic power metal act. They even had a ballad and made us get out our iPhones for lights. They were great fun to watch, but again I had a bit of trouble with the too high vocals, I definitely prefer baritone or bass!


Then it was Turisas’ turn. I think I saw them for the first time in 2013 or something like that and it was nice to see them again. Even though I have not kept up with them, I knew most of the songs they played, which surprised me, nothing much new in 5 years? Or did they play the old stuff on purpose for the Japan fans? I especially like the electronic violin of Turisas, that’s an instrument you see quite rarely with a heavy metal band.

Even though there was not a “favorite” band playing at this year’s Suomi Feast, I had a great time and it was very relaxing to hear some live metal. Just was the doctor ordered 😉

70,000 Tons of Metal – Part 4

Last Day of the 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018
The way back to Florida saw better and hotter weather than the way to the Grand Turk and after the infamous belly flop contest (which is great fun) I hit the pool myself, if without belly flopping 😉 I also watched parts of the gig for Leaves Eyes from one of the hot tubs. Watching live heavy metal from a Jacuzzi is quite a unique experience 😉

The highlights of the day were the Dark Tranquility and Sabaton gigs in the Alhambra. Mikael Stanne got familiar with the crowd again, the sound was pretty damn good and I thoroughly enjoyed the gig from the first row. Getting some water, revoked my space in the first row and I had to retreat to the very edge of the stage but that also had the advantage to avoid the constant flow of crowd surfers for Sabaton 😉


I rushed back to my room to pack my suitcase, then hurried to catch the rest of Kreator and the announcement of the skipper (the inventor/organizer) of the 70,000 tons of metal. I thought the skipper would make his announcement at the end of the Kreator gig but he did the announcement rather in the last quarter and I missed the beginning of it. I got that much that we broke the previous record and he said that there were people from 75 nations on board 🙂 Our next goal 2019 will again be Haiti, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. I like to go to new places and apart from that they don’t let you out of the Royal Caribbean leased compound and you actually get to see nothing of the real Haiti. We will again be sailing on the Independence of the Seas next year. But the skipper also said that for the year after, there would be a surprise. Since it will be the 10th anniversary of the 70,000 tons of metal, I have the hunch that we might get a bigger boat. It can’t get much bigger but there apparently is the “quantum” class of Royal Caribbean’s ships, which is even bigger than the “freedom” class to which the Independence belongs. Well, we’ll see what happens. If possible I will be back on the boat next year as well, since it’s a bloody awesome thing to have a heavy metal festival on a luxury cruise ship 😉


The last gig of Alestorm was great fun too and we destroyed the duck! At least the air left the beast 😉 Alestorm was a great way to end the cruise. The night was extremely short, since we arrived early in Florida and I was off the ship at around eight in the morning and back in the hotel at ten. They let me into a room at noon which was very decent of them and instead of going to a shopping mall, I preferred to get some shut-eye. Departure happened early the next day and I was up at four in the morning to catch the bus to the airport at five.
Getting to Florida is quite a pain from Japan, but the trip is worth it! Fingers crossed that I will make it onto the lovely boat also in 2019! 😉

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 3

A Day at the Grand Turk Island
When we went to Haiti in 2017, we were confined to the patch of land that Royal Caribbean has leased there. To my great pleasure, on the Grand Turk island though, we got to see the real thing. First of all, the island is tiny! There are apparently some 3000 people living there.


I left the boat at around ten in the morning and wandered up and down the amazing beach next to the ship for a bit before resting from the super intense sun at a beach bar.

Then I had booked what Royal Caribbean calls an excursion. In my case a bus tour in an open bus/jeep around the island. It was sold as one of the excursions where members of a band attend and in our case it was the band Wolfchant, folk metal from Germany. However, there were three buses and no band member was on mine 😉
Our local driver and guide drove us around the island explaining things and we saw the entirety of the Grand Turk island within two hours. That’s it, the island is that small. It’s highest elevation is lower than the ship, making the ship the biggest and tallest structure on the island as long as it is there.

In colonial times the main industry of the island was the production of salt from artificial sea water basins. Those are now abandoned and apart from fishing, the only industry on the island is tourism. It is a British protectorate. I’ve been on plenty of islands, but I’ve never seen an ocean so blue and turquoise as on the Grand Turk. The ocean was absolutely amazing.

The island was hit heavily by two of the hurricanes of the 2017 hurricane season and about half of the roofs of the island were still under repair, some houses looked abandoned. It’s hard to imagine what this paradise looks like during a hurricane and I’m almost surprised the island is still there! It’s so flat and small! Amazing that it emerged from the waves again…

At the end of the tour I happily did some souvenir shopping, with the thought in mind to support the locals.
Back on the boat, the gigs stared again at 17:00, our departure time. I wandered around deck twelve mostly filming the island, the incredible ocean and our departure while Germany’s Apokalyptischen Reiter were playing on the pool deck.


A few miles out I spotted some dolphins who were playing with the draft of the ship and were wildly jumping around. Heavy metal dolphins! 😉
Music wise the highlight of that day was my second discovery, again melodic death metal from Finland, a rather new band called Wolfheart. I shall check them out soon!

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 2

Day 1 and 2 of 70,000 Tons of Metal
A first highlight of the gigs for me was the Finnish band Insomnium, a melodic death metal act, which seems to be my preferred heavy metal sub genre at the moment 😉 Their gig in the ice rink was especially nice because for one song Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquility came to support them. An awesome gig and the band is one of my two “discoveries” from the cruise. I shall check out their stuff in more detail once I’m back home. Trash giants Kreator were a must and I watched them from a safe distance in the Alhambra filming a nice “wall of death”, difficult to achieve in the Alhambra 😉

A word about the stages. There is the pool deck, which only operates from day two onwards and is being constructed in record time. It’s built over two pools on deck eleven and as soon as the boat arrives from its previous voyage, the pool is drained and the work crew constructs the beast within some 24 hours. The Alhambra is the in-built theater of the boat. The ice rink is quickly covered and the smallest stage is the pyramid lounge, the boat’s biggest bar on a normal cruise.
The boat leaves at 17:00 on a Thursday, sails the entirety of Friday and arrives at the destination port on Saturday morning.

Friday is a super busy day, the pool deck stage is ready for action and there are also all “meet and greet” sessions on that day. I was up and about from around 9:00, chasing from one gig to the other and I squeezed four meet and greets into the schedule. The first one wasn’t planned, but after seeing Alestorm on the pool deck in the morning in the first row, I decided to get my banana duck t-shirt signed 😉 for the other three target bands I had brought album booklets, Dark Tranquility, Sabaton and Primal Fear. I also like the meet and greets because you get to chat with the people waiting in line around you. We broke a record again this year with 75 nations on board!

While the Sabaton guys seemed a bit stressed by all the attention and the crew allowed pictures with only three people at a time, the other bands were more “personal” and you got to take pictures with them on your own, nicely provided by 70,000 tons staff.
The gig highlights of the day were Sabaton on the pool deck, followed by Dark Tranquility on the pool deck as well. I managed to get my favorite first row both times, if at the edge of the stage. One downer was that it was raining quite heavily during the Sabaton gig, but thankfully the rain stopped for Dark Tranquility. I had seen Dark Tranquility twice before, once at Japan’s Loud Park and once at Finland’s Nummirock. Both times the stages were far away from the audience. It also depends on the festival rules I suppose, but neither time did Mikael Stanne jump off stage into the audience. He did so happily at 70,000 tons and was singing right in front of us bathing in the crowd and helping out with the crowd surfers. Wow! What a day, all meet and greets done and first rows for three of the gigs. 🙂