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 2

My driver from the Vladivostok airport into town drove like a berserker in a fat Mercedes. He spoke not a word of English but I said Germania and then he was raving about German cars, I believe 😉
First impression of the town was gray, cold, pre-fabricated high-rise buildings from the seventies.

My hotel was nice though, nothing special, but all the international standards available that a hotel is supposed to have. The room looked out over the western half of the bay and there was ice floating at the shore.


I ventured down to the shore and checked out the ice. Half the shore was a construction site, but people walked through the fences, taking a stroll, as if that was all very normal. The constructions sites were around two defunct buildings from the sixties maybe and made the impression on me as if they were permanent.
I had chosen my hotel strategically close to the venue of the concert and already found the place on that first stroll, or so I thought at the time, and was quite relaxed about that, eating dinner at the hotel’s restaurant before going to bed.

The first day of exploring: I walked down to the shore again, this time venturing further towards an amusement park by the yacht harbor. All the facilities looked very much seventies or eighties to me. From there I walked through town for about five hours with a short break for a late lunch and checked out most of the sights of the city.

The big cathedral at the central square was unfortunately closed do to repair. I counted 12 military ships in the harbor and their radar etc. masts looked like a collection of alien space ships to me.

Much like in Moscow and St. Petersburg the Second World War is quite present still in every day Russia. War memorials and eternal flames and an old submarine exhibit take you back seventy years. The submarine was interesting though, a museum part and then a “live” part where you have to squeeze through bulk heads.

Then I got a bit lost on the search for the mini funicular promised in a Vladivostok walking map I got at the WW2 submarine. I walked too far as it turned out, but stumbled across more tanks and war stuff in a park. Finally I found the funicular. It’s a two minute ride only up the hill which costs 14 rubles, which is some 30 yen. On top was a closed viewpoint but the sight over the city was okay from the side of the funicular also.

Apart from long distance trains the funicular is the only railway inside of Vladivostok, all public transport happens via buses. Those buses look old and they blast a lot of unfiltered exhaust into the air. I did everything on foot, which is okay though, since the downtown area is not that big after all. Nowadays Vladivostok has about 600,000 inhabitants. Funny thing was that I had difficulties recognizing shopping centers for what they were. Due to the cold they don’t have open inviting big entrances but there is a glass door somewhere, which leads into a foyer and then another glass door, all in the attempt to keep out the weather.
I luckily found one shopping center where I could buy some fast food lunch by pointing at pictures. Public rest rooms are also a rarity and shopping centers are your best bet for that. Then I walked back to the hotel past the Vladivostok railway station.

It is still a dream of mine to ride the trans Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok or the other way round one day. Without getting off in between it takes seven days. Well, let’s see! At least I was now on either end of the tracks 🙂 After a rest in the hotel I readied myself for heavy metal!

From Vladivostok with Love – Part 1

Vladivostok is surely not the most common and easiest to get to holiday destination, which is a shame actually. I thoroughly enjoyed my short journey there.

A few things about Vladivostok before the details of my trip. Vladivostok was a Chinese fishing village called Haishenwai, before the Russians seized it in 1860. China was weakened from the opium wars and didn’t oppose Russia seizing that frigid port to the north. The Russians renamed it Vladivostok and quickly developed the place to make it theirs for everyone around to see and brought people there. Nowadays more or less zero Asians are residents of Vladivostok, if in a way they partially claimed it back, but more about that later.
Even though Vladivostok is on the same latitude as Sapporo or the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean (!), winters are brutal and the ocean around it freezes. Vladivostok lies on a peninsula that sticks out into a large bay. There is ocean on three sides of the town, and, as mentioned much of the quiet bay freezes over in winter.
During Cold War times, Vladivostok was closed to foreigners, since it was and is the one and only big harbor for whatever Russian naval military forces. I wonder what life was like in Vladivostok during these dark times.

The town saw a major development boost when the APEC summit was held there in 2012. They got the two big bridges connecting parts of the city and the city to the island of Russky in the south of Vladivostok. Before the bridges you had to drive around a big part of the inner bay and go by boat to Russky island or rather don’t go there at all. They also built a giant convention center and university on Russky island and a big aquarium.

So, why go to Vladivostok? People who know me know that it’s one of my passions to travel and to combine that if ever possible with going to gigs of heavy metal bands. It came to pass that one of my favorite bands, Amorphis from Finland, was going to Vladivostok. Ha! That sounds like an adventure worth undertaking 😉 Since after all, Vladivostok is just a two hour twenty minute plane ride from Tokyo. To get a Russian visa is the biggest hustle about going to Russia, but also that is manageable, if super inconvenient.

I must admit I was quite excited about the trip, not knowing at all how much remoteness to expect. I was not majorly encouraged by the tiny propeller plane of Aurora airlines, the Far East subsidiary of Aeroflot, at Narita airport either.

Though, thanks to okay weather, the flight was smoother than expected. I think about 80 people fit onto such a plane and there were maybe fifty or sixty heading for Vladivostok. Some Japanese adventurers, but mostly Russians. Arrived in Vladivostok though I was in for a surprise. The airport immigration was swamped with plane loads full of Chinese and Koreans. Uh? What to they want in Vladivostok? My first hunch was shopping and my hunch got verified later. I shall come back to that.
They let me into the country thanks to my visa no questions asked. I waited forever at the baggage claim until I came upon the idea to walk around because some suitcases fell of the band once in a while and yes, mine must have fallen too and I found it at the farthest, darkest corner of the baggage retrieval.


I had ordered a taxi via my hotel and they were supposed to pick me up with a sign stating the hotel name, but there were only tons of Korean signs and none in western writing. I happened to arrive though, luckily, on the international women’s day, which is even a national holiday in Russia, and people were giving all women who arrived tulips at the arrivals area. I went to the side and stood there waiting and got out my phone to call the hotel, as one of the young women who gave out flowers asked me if she could help in very good English. I explained and she whipped out her phone, called the hotel and ran through half the airport for me searching for my driver, apologizing that he must be stupid and that I have to wait. Wow, so friendly! She did ask though, what are you doing in Vladivostok, with the undertone of ‘why the hell have you come here’? Lol. I explained to her about the gig and she said she’ll check out the band! Lol. Then she found my driver and off I went towards Vladivostok which is about an hour drive away from the airport.

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. 

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. 🙂

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 1

After having been on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise for the first time in 2017 and having thoroughly enjoyed it, I decided to do this again and off I went to Florida once more. After a long but uneventful flight to Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, I arrived at the airport at about 14:00 local time and phoned my hotel asking for the complementary shuttle bus to pick me up. The hotel… last year I stayed at the Ramada Airport and Cruise port Fort Lauderdale and had wanted to book it again. When I went on booking dot com, something saying Ramada came up and the photo looked like the entrance of the Ramada I know and I booked it last year. Then, in January, I had to fill in the ESTA to get into the US and they ask for your address in the US and I noticed something was odd. The hotel I had booked said Ramada Plaza something. Uh? Wasn’t it supposed to say something about airport and cruise? I went back on booking dot com and realized I had booked the wrong hotel! The Plaza something is far away from the airport and everything else… Luckily I managed to change the booking. But, two of my friends from last year made the same mistake! They ended up having to go to the other Ramada and had to pay 50 USD with an Uber and 120 USD with a taxi to bloody get there! Uah! I’m damn lucky that I noticed something was wrong about the name of the hotel.

Trying to stay awake a bit, I hung out with other metal heads at the bar in the garden of the hotel, nicely getting in the mood 🙂
After a jet lagged night, off we went to the boat! What a pleasant sight to see the Independence of the Seas again towering over the Port of the Everglades 🙂
Last year the boat came in late apparently and they made us wait in the big waiting area of the cruise port, but this year it was a smooth going on board and after the check in and photo we could wander on board just like that. The staterooms (I still don’t know why they are not called cabins) were not ready yet, so everyone met at the Windjammer cafe.

It felt like home coming, really. Last year, I was overwhelmed by the size of the ship and gaping at everything and exploring everything, this time it was like, yeah, back on the boat! Everything is still there, the car on the promenade, the ice cream dispenser on the pool deck ;-).

After lunch in the Windjammer, they let us into our rooms by 13:00 and luggage could be dumped. At 16:00 we had the security drill and then off to the stern of the boat. First time around I did not find the access to the stern on the first day and witnessed our leaving from deck 12, this time, I knew the way and headed straight to the stern at deck 4 and watched out departure. I just love that sound of the mighty horn blowing signaling that the big, fat boat is leaving harbor!


The departure was at 17:00 and at 17:00 also the first band was supposed to play and it was Primal Fear who had the honor to open the musical part of the 70,000 tons of metal 2018. Primal Fear happens to be an old favorite of mine and after we left port I rushed to the venue. Luckily they were running a bit late and I arrived just in time for Primal Fear to start 🙂 here we go!

Things You Can’t Buy with Money

I have many passions: writing, heavy metal music, movies, traveling, to name the most important ones. There are some smaller passions too like riding my bicycle, playing the piano, chocolate, a tiny bit of gardening and so forth.
At work I do not talk about writing and my books, but since I’m a talkative person, I am making no secret out of being a big heavy metal fan and traveling around the world for concerts and festivals. Thus I am talking about Wacken and 70,000 tons of metal when I go for lunch with colleagues, or I tell one of the colleagues who already knows that I’m a metal head enthusiastically on the way home that Amon Amarth is coming to Japan again for the first time in four years (and I missed them four years ago). The lady’s comment struck me quite a bit as she said, “ah, I wish I had a passion like you”.
Uh!
My sister and I are calling it the “fan gene” and I am sure I have made a blog entry about this topic in the past as well, but who cares. I honestly feel sad for people who do not have a “fan gene” or a passion that makes their blood boil. It is ridiculously important to have your blood boil in a positive way from time to time! It releases stress, it keeps your mind healthy and sane! When you look forward like a little kid to getting on the boat again (70,000 tons of metal in five days, baby) despite being over forty, that is goddamn necessary and I kid you not, a key to happiness. When you look forward to seeing another country, another island, going on an adventure, you can take on more stuff with a smile on your face. If you have no passions like that, man, how dull must life be.
But the thing is, if you don’t have the “fan gene” you simply don’t have it, you can’t force it, either you love it or you don’t. Learning to love something is in my humble opinion only possible to a limited extent.
The passion can cost a lot of money, but the experience you get out of it is priceless and I regret nothing. Do what you wanna do, as long as you can do it, before old age, illness, or crazy politicians put an end to the fun.
I shall meet another 4000 people or so who think the same way in a couple of days if the planes don’t crash or the doomsday clock doesn’t advance to midnight.
Cheers! And in the picture – that’s my gear for the coming week 😉

Loud Park 2017 Day 2

I started the second day of Loud Park with the opening act Cry Venom, a new formation which plays “neo-powermetal” whatever that is 😉 It sounded more like hard rock to me.
What was in the time schedule listed as a “secret act” turned to be the band Black Earth comprised of former and current members of Arch Enemy with male vocals.
Next up the Japanese hard rockers Outrage and I watched them from the arena half that was waiting for Apocalyptica.

Apocalyptica
Is a Finnish cello quartet playing instrumental heavy metal. This time they played Metallica songs. While it is amazing what these guys do with their cellos and while it is also amazing that you can headband while playing cello it’s tough to whip the crowd into action without vocals and cellos. It was interesting and I enjoyed it, but I do need vocals to get excited about something 😉
I took a bit of a rest and lunch during Japan’s Loudness, another 80ties heavy band that fiddles a bit too much with the guitars for my taste.
Devin Townsend Project sounded interesting, but I made the mistake to google him and landed at a devastating article which was not very kind to the gentleman and wondered what the heck was that all about 😉

Black Star Riders
Every year Loud Park has some rock band that in my opinion does not belong into the line up because it ain’t metal. This year it was these never heard of before Black Star Riders. They consist of old and new members of Thin Lizzy. Now that’s a band whose name everyone knows. Anyway, they were much much too soft for my taste.

Cradle of Filth
Right after the soft Black Star Riders was a bit of a shock 😉 I was already in the arena to try to get a good place for Sabaton and was close to the mayhem 😉 Cradle is a gothic metal band from the UK and they dress up nicely 😉 Despite my obligatory ear plugs I was struggling, since Dani Filth has an incredible falsetto that can shatter your eardrums. There was one Japanese girl head banging constantly and I just found it amazing that she doesn’t fall over!

Meshuggah
After the cradle, I managed to grab a spot at the inner balustrade and had a good side view at what was going on on the other stage for Meshuggah. I saw them once at Brutal Assault in 2013 and they freaked me out a bit, but while still freaking me out, man these guys can play. They have a very clear and powerful sound that you can feel in the mark of your bones. Extreme metal from Sweden by the way.

Sabaton
Then the personal highlight of this year’s Loud Park – Sabaton. It was only their second time in Japan and both times they played at Loud Park. For the first Loud Park in 2015 many people had not yet heard of them here and the crowd was rather neutral with a few excited people who already knew about them. Meanwhile though, more Japanese have heard about them and the arena was madness. People pushed for the stage and you got squeezed from all sides. I was very happy for my spot at the balustrade. The Sabaton “virus” has reached Japan. That was probably also why they did not signing session for Sabaton unlike the first time, since their presence at the signing booth might have caused a panic. While they sang my favorite song Carolus Rex in Swedish the first time around in 2015, they did me the favor to sing it in English this time ;-). It was amazing, but now you can’t watch Sabaton even in Japan anymore without the crowd freaking out 😉
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Japanese crowd did too.


I must admit that I left Loud Park after Sabaton and did not see the Gene Simmons Band and Michael Schenker Fest anymore. Frankly, both are “too old” for my taste and I had the long ride home etc. to consider.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 Loud Park again and am already looking forward to what kind of line up they’ll have next year!

Loud Park 2017 Day 1

Every year in autumn there is Loud Park, Japan’s biggest heavy metal festival in the Saitama Super Arena.
I went every year since 2012 and this year as no exception. As (almost) every year it was raining for Loud Park and hallelujah that it’s indoors! 😉
On Day 1 I saw the following bands: Beyond the Black, Anthem, Brujeria, Opeth, Overkill, Alice Cooper, Emperor, Slayer
Not bad for one day 😉

Beyond the Black
Is a young German band founded only in 2014 with a female vocal. They do symphonic metal / power metal. I saw the in Wacken just two months earlier and liked their sound. They are a bit “soft” for my taste but make up for that with good melodies that stick in your head.
A nice opening for my Loud Park weekend!

Anthem
Is an old school Japanese heavy metal band originating in the 80ties in Tokyo. I saw them a couple years back at a former Loud Park already. It’s lovely, no frills, classic heavy metal. The 80ties flavor comes a bit through at times, but these guys can still rock!

Brujeria
Is quite a different beast. Extreme metal from Mexico. They’re not exactly easy listening and their shouting style reminds me too much of hip-hop, but these guys are brave and male no secret out of their political stance. They don’t exactly like the USA and especially not Agent Orange. They made us sing “Fuck Donald Trump” and the Japanese crowd and myself were happily sining with them!

Opeth
Is a progressive metal band from Sweden and while they were interesting, they are a bit too “elaborate” for my taste with too much “fiddling”, if I may say so. I had always wanted to see them though, which is now accomplished and I shall leave it at that.

Overkill
Is an American thrash metal band and I already saw them on the boat this year (70,000 Tons of Metal). They were also formed in the 80ties, but yeah, there is still a damn lot of power in these guys. They are fun to rock to.

Alice Cooper
Needs no introduction. Man, I saw the guy for the first time in the 90ties and then he was already old. The gentleman is 69 years old, by the way. I also saw him in Wacken just two months ago and he did the same show in Japan. Albeit, somewhere revealing a pretty katana, which I cannot remember from Wacken 😉 Alice, you’re a legend and it’s always a pleasure to see you again.

Emperor
Is a black metal band from Norway formed in the early 90ties. They disbanded and got back together several times. A Japanese friend of mine (who is a huge black metal fan and plays herself in the band Sungoddess) had come to Loud Park (which she hasn’t done since 2006 (!)) mostly to see them and we went together into the arena. My friend feared the crowd would go berserk for Emperor, but they were rather quiet and we stayed in the back of the first arena block where it was nearly “empty”. Well, that gave us the opportunity to watch them in peace. Emperor was good, but I found them a bit “sterile” is that’s the word and maybe that’s also why the crowd did not freak.

Slayer
Needs no introduction either. They love Slayer in Japan and they are coming to Loud Park every two years or so 😉 It was my third time to see them there. I was never that close before, afraid of the berserking crowd 😉 It was okay though in the other arena half and man, has that guy an amazing beard 😉


Day two of Loud Park with the highlight Sabaton: in next week’s blog entry.

Wacken 2017 Report

After three times you can start to call it a tradition to go to Wacken Open Air festival. Two British friends of mine and myself have been going to Wacken every other year in 2013, 2015 and now in 2017. The first Wacken was superb, nice weather, hot, only a bit of rain on the last day and a tiny bit of mud. Our second Wacken was mud-hell with constant rain a week before the festival, constant rain on the first day and knee-deep mud. 2017 Wacken greeted us with only a tiny bit of mud and spirits were high until a flash flood in the afternoon of the first day, which I would like to call Odin’s Wrath. Everyone got wet to to bones and the holy ground of Wacken turned into a mud battle equal to the one of 2015. 2017-08-04 10.13.41
Nevertheless it was a great festival, because it’s Wacken 😉 I wonder what makes Wacken special. I have been to quite a number of festivals by now, Artmania in Rumania, Sziget in Hungary, Nummirock in Finland, Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic, Bloodstock in the U.K., Vagos in Portugal, Loud Park in Japan and the 70.000 Tons of Metal on the high seas. The only two festivals that have this special flair and air about them are Wacken and the boat (70.000 Tons of Metal). They are, for one, both truly international festivals, on the boat as well as in Wacken there are people from all over the globe. There are people from Australia, North and South America, Asia, all over Europe. They are (almost) all happy to be there and that they can enjoy their favorite music together with like minded people. This Wacken or 70.000 Tons atmosphere is special and no life stream can compensate for it. You gotta be there to feel it.
2017-08-05 17.33.14

A small highlight for me was the Grave Digger gig, which was excellent, 2017-08-04 15.27.25
but the big highlight was seeing one of my favorite bands, Amon Amarth live for the very first time. Despite them being super popular, I managed to sneak into the first row at the left hand side of the stage and it was a blast to see them live from a first row for the first time. Tons of crowd surfing interrupted the experience, but hey, that’s part of an Amon Amarth gig.2017-08-05 20.38.47
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to my next time in Wacken. For me the next time will be already next year, since I cannot stand to not go to Wacken if my number one band Amorphis is playing there 😉 Unfortunately, my two British friends will not be able to join, but we already made a pact to go again in 2019. It will be weird to go to Wacken without the boys next year and I still have to figure out a hotel and a means of transport, but it’ll work out somehow 😉

The Road to Wacken and the Rest of Europe

In three days I’ll be on the road again and I’ll have a full program. At first there will be Wacken, baby, Wacken. That’s where the world’s biggest heavy metal festival happens. It’s a tiny town in German’s most northern state of Schleswig-Hollstein, just below Denmark, and once a year the population of the town swells from 5000 people to 85,000 people when the metal heads fly in. It will be my third time at the festival and I’m looking forward to it mightily.
I just hope the weather will be better than the incredible rain and mud battle from two years ago.
On I’ll go to visit my sister and my Dad for two days and then I will fly to Scotland, since I’ve never been to Scotland yet. I’ll go on two bus tours in Scotland visiting lochs and castles and whisky distilleries 😉
Then on goes the journey via ferry to Ireland. Two nights in Belfast and two nights in Dublin with more bus tours and castles and scenery.
I have decided on this trip rather than going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Finland, because frankly, the convention would only frustrate me. I’ve had enough of aloof agents and publishers and more or less frustrated authors running around begging for attention between a few established authors who get all the attention that the newcomers and nobodies would need. I still want more people to read my books, but I’ve had it with having to do things I don’t like doing for that.
My time is too precious to waste it with crap I don’t wanna do. I love going to places I haven’t been to yet. I wanted to go to Scotland since kinda forever and that seems to be a much much better thing to do than hanging around on a convention that will bring me zero joy.
The weather will be a challenge though! It’s been over thirty degrees for nearly every day in July in Yokohama and now I’m going to places where it’s barely twenty during the day. It feels weird to be packing warm clothing tomorrow 😉
So, beautiful cliffs, green meadows and whiskey, here I’ll come and relax my neck from the highly welcomed headbanging in Wacken before that. It will be a great pleasure to see Amon Amarth for the very first time! (Yeah, I know, unbelievable, but I’ve never seen them yet!) And I’ll see Grave Digger again and Alice Cooper and Powerwolf and and and. Raise your horns, metal heads and rejoice in the holy land of Wacken!