Artist Interview | Page 3 | Revolver

Artist Interview

SikTh's new album, The Future in Whose Eyes?, features a guest shot from Periphery frontman Spencer Sotelo on "Cracks of Light." Check out an exclusive interview below of Sotelo and SikTh frontman Mikee Goodman discussing how the collaboration came together and hear a preview clip of the track.

"They're really nice people, everyone on that U.S. tour felt it was the best one they'd been on," says Goodman of his band's summer 2016 trek with Periphery. "I suppose a funny story was when we stopped at a service station in the Arizona desert. The only thing was that when we left and drove away, [drummer] Dan Foord was not with us. We assumed he was in his bunk," he laughs. "But he had actually been left behind at a gas station. He had no phone on him so an hour later, we got emails from our management, saying he had made contact through email. We then drove an hour back and got him."

It was during the tour that Goodman knew he wanted to team up with their fun tourmates for the group's next album. "I especially love Spencer's voice. He's not your usual djent singer and he's very much a spiritual man. He knows his mind well and so we nailed the song really quickly," he says.

The first-ever guest vocalist on a SikTh record, Sotelo says he first heard of the band in his early 20s from an old bandmate. "One of the guys in the band was a huge fan of SikTh and this was way back in the early days. He turned me on to them and ever since and that's what pushed me into the progressive genre and listening to progressive metal. SikTh, to me, have always been at the forefront of the genre."

As for the song, Goodman explains, "Cracks of Light' is a journey in the mind of someone who is dwelling in darkness and negativity. After a while they realize they must try hard to find light and hope to better their journey. As it is not only on the inside but people start to see outwardly what effect this is having. This was based on my own personal experiences with depression and journeys I've had to try and surpass those thick black clouds."

The Future in Whose Eyes?, the British mathcore sextet's first new studio album since 2006, is out on June 2 via Millennium Night. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on SikTh, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Fire-breathing facemasks. Flaming angel wings. A giant penis that ejaculates soap bubbles onto a frothing arena audience. These are just a few of the eye-singeing spectacles on display in the new concert film from the German industrial Neue Deutsche Härte/industrial band Rammstein. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, the Swedish filmmaker behind the 2002 meth comedy Spun as well as videos and concert films for the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, Rammstein: Paris was shot with 30 cameras over two nights in the French capital in March 2012. After a successful theatrical run in 46 countries, an extended version of the film was just released on DVD and Blu-Ray. "They do a pretty old-school show," Åkerlund says. "They don't have the big screens on the side of the stage. They go for beautiful lighting, big pyro and good old rock & roll."

We recently spoke with the veteran auteur (and original Bathory drummer!) about working with Rammstein, the process of making the film and his long-awaited movie based on the notorious black metal tome Lords of Chaos.

REVOLVER You shot a couple of videos for Rammstein prior to this concert film. What do you like most about working with them?
JONAS ÅKERLUND It's a combination of me liking them and them liking me, I guess. It's gotta be close to 15 years now that we've worked together. Mostly videos, but we're always trying to do other things and take our relationship to the next level. Rammstein is one of those clients that I need in my life. I need to be reminded about what integrity and creativity and fun are because not all projects have that. So I need a little injection of Rammstein every once in a while. 

The production for the tour you filmed them on was massive: Two stages, a giant floating ramp, tons of props and more pyro than I've ever seen in my life. Was it challenging to keep track of everything that was going on?
The bigger the show, the more cameras and the more people you need to get it all covered. You gotta make sure all your guys—especially the camera operators—learn the show so they know every step of the way. So we rehearsed a lot with cameras by watching the show over and over.

The good thing with Rammstein is that everything is very precise. It's exactly the same every night because of all the pyro and the safety of the band members onstage. They can't really move around that much, so I always know where they are, and we always know when all the pyro and effects are gonna happen. So in that sense it's easy, but like you said, it's massive and it's a long show so there are a lot of [camera] cues. I think there were over a thousand cues that my assistant director shouts out over our intercom.

The amount of pyro Rammstein uses is insane. What kind of safety concerns did you have?
That's more on the band. All the band members are licensed pyro technicians; otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to be onstage and that close to the fire. So for us, having cameras onstage was a big no because the whole stage is this metal grid and all the pyro is right underneath the band. You can imagine if they stand in the wrong place at the wrong time. [Laughs] It's not good.

Were there any concert film clichés that you wanted to avoid? 
All of them, actually. I'm not a big fan of concert films because I think concerts are made to see live. The experience that the audience has while seeing it live, you cannot translate onto film. Most of the concert films I see are made with ten cameras on dollies, edited live on a bus in the back of the venue and then you're done. I don't want to see that. I want to see it live. So my whole take on this film was to come up with a way to capture what we see onstage and translate it into a different experience for the screen. The only thing I really have is their fantastic music and their great show, but then I add a lot of film tricks.

You've added quite a few special effects to the live footage, which seems like a new approach to making a concert film …
Yeah. We added color grading, slow motion, extreme angles, sound effects, and other things that you cannot get when you see it live. You have to be careful, though. You don't want to make it into some weird art film, either. [Laughs] We're asking a lot from the audience to sit down and watch this for so long. The theatrical version is one hour and 45 minutes, and the DVD version is well over two hours. So I feel it's my responsibility to add a little bit of a flavor to it and make it a different experience.

Rammstein's set is interesting in that some parts are very dramatic and others are basically comedy routines, like when they roll out the giant penis during "Pussy" and spray the crowd with soap bubbles. As a filmmaker, do you see it as your job to enhance those parts of the show or simply capture them?
I like that about Rammstein. They have these theatrical costume changes; they're acting out scenes onstage. It's like theater. And of course they have their sense of humor mixed with these very serious songs, which makes it fun for the audience. So I'll do anything I can to enhance these things. I love the ups and downs that the shows have. Rammstein are true artists—they tell the stories that they want to tell. 

Last but not least, I have to ask you about your work on the film you're making based on Lords of Chaos. What's the status of it?
In a few months we can do a proper interview about it. All I can say now is that we are almost finished with the edit. It's a pretty massive project, so we're still working on it. These longer projects, you just get caught up in them. You live and breathe them. But it's almost done.

The cover art for Mastodon's seventh full-length album Emperor of Sand is traditionally "metal." There's a toothy skeleton creature with shriveled brown arms holding a scepter and a fur-lined cloth with spikes. The beast is decked out in armor and regal military garb. He wears a Viking helmet on his head and stands in a parched desert in front of an apocalyptic wall of flame. For drummer Brann Dailor, who commissioned the art, the painting from surrealist Medusawolf (Alan Brown) represents more than an iconic, heavy image.

"I feel like what you're looking at on the cover is cancer manifested in some kind of humanesque form," he says. "It's something that kills without consequence, and doesn't even know that it's wrong to infect people with disease."

Sadly, it's a vivid illustration of art imitating life. Three out of the four members of Mastodon were directly affected by the disease while making Emperor of Sand. Dailor's mom has been undergoing chemotherapy for a while, guitarist Bill Kelliher's mom died of a brain tumor while the band was making the record and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders had to miss early writing sessions while his wife received treatment for breast cancer (she seems to be recovering well).

The sadness, anger and periodic disruptions could have been disastrous to the band's creativity, but the musicians were able to use their music as a coping mechanism, an escape valve from their daily medical-related frustrations.

In the end, they created a galvanic and musically adventurous concept album that's reminiscent of their 2009 prog-metal epic Crack the Skye, but colored with more of the melodic straight- ahead rock elements of their last two releases, 2011's The Hunter and 2014's Once More 'Round the Sun. With production by Brendan O'Brien (who also worked on Crack the Skye), Emperor of Sand is dark, fiery, experimental, and cathartic. "It's proggy and psychedelic, but super heavy at the same time," Dailor says.

BRANN DAILOR The Emperor of Sand is kind of like the Grim Reaper. Of course, sand represents time. When the sand in the hourglass is gone, your life is over. And no one knows how much time they've got left. In the story, the protagonist gets handed down a death sentence from a diabolical sultan. He escapes into the desert to find some kind of sanctuary, but he gets lost and walks through this vast desert for days, and the sun is absolutely crushing him. I tied the sun into radiation.

It's what we were all dealing with and we used lyrics to get our experiences across without being too literal. So as this protagonist is stumbling through the desert he tries to telepathically communicate with tribes throughout the world that have rain rituals and dances. He thinks that if he can bring rain it will stop him from dying from dehydration. And the different tribes with the different rituals represent the different forms of treatment that you can receive for cancer. Along the way, he meets these crystalline beings that invite him in. But they have ulterior motives. They represent the snake oil salesmen, the people that say they can cure you but have no power. They just take advantage of you for your money. Finally, the sultan's men capture him and lead him into a tent, but he's so far gone he's hallucinating that he's going into a tent with the sultan's daughters, who are going to bathe him. He fantasizes about this scenario that's not happening while he's being killed by the Sultan's men. But in death he assumes the shape of the Jaguar, which is what the Mayan shamans become when they're going to go into another dimension to fight disease and illness.

We had "Sultan's Curse." That was the first song we finished. I was getting such good visuals from it of the desert, and I just started to see the story coming together cinematically. I put together an outline right away, but I didn't finish the story until we were in the studio tracking the album.

I don't think so. What are you going to do? When you have someone in your life that's one of the closest people to you and they're really sick and you're far away it's just frustrating. You want to be able to wave this magic wand and make everything all better. But that's just not how it works. You can't do that. The best thing to do, really, instead of sitting in a room and watching them be sick, is to continue doing what you do best and continue on with what makes that person proud of you, especially if that person's a parent. Bill's mom was always the proud parent of the guitar playing son, so the best thing we could do was to go down to Bill's basement and just start jamming and compiling riffs.

Bill and I would get together in the mornings. He lives about a block and a half away from me, so I'd just walk over there and we'd sit and have a cup of coffee and talk about the various states of illness of both of our moms. We'd tell each other what the doctors were saying. I think that was helpful. But my mom's been ill for most of my life and most of her life, unfortunately. But she's a total trooper. She's been in and out of the hospital, she's been pronounced dead four or five times. It's been an ongoing thing. But she gets up every day and gets in her wheelchair and figures out what she's going to do. She goes across the street to the movies. She's just in a lot of pain all the time and it's not the best life, but she puts on a smile and gets through it.

He did a lot of writing this time. I wrote a lot of Once More 'Round the Sun with Brent [Hinds, guitarist]. With this one it was a lot of me and Bill sitting in Bill's basement. Troy was very busy with his wife. We talked to him and said, "Hey, listen, we're gonna start." The holidays were over. It was January. I was starting to get antsy. I don't have side projects, I just have this Mastodon thing and I start to feel kind of like a loser after a while if I'm not doing band stuff.

I kind of was not wanting to even put "Show Yourself" in there at first. I was not really into it. I liked it, but I thought it was too catchy and too easy. But then when I saw the scope of everything I realized there was a lot of density on the record. Every song had six or eight working parts, so "Show Yourself" is like a nice breather from the rest of it. And for me in the story, it fit in the mania of our protagonist. I could picture him half-naked, delusional and dirty from the sand, just splashing around in a puddle that wasn't really there.

TheContortionistStudio.jpg, Erez Bader
photograph by Erez Bader

A wise person once said that you're never really finished—you just have to stop," laughs Eric Guenther, keyboardist of The Contortionist. "We definitely understood that saying on this record, because even though we've had more time to make it than in the past, we've still been obsessing over the details until the last possible minute."

For The Contortionist's long-awaited, as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2014's acclaimed 'Language,' the progressive metal sextet returned to Jamie King's Basement Recording in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with King once again producing. "We knew we wanted to work with him again," explains vocalist Mike Lessard. "He gets what we're going for, and he's got good ideas of his own, so it makes the work flow easy. Some days you get in there and you're not feeling inspired, but he has a way of pulling it out of you. You'll be like, 'Ugh, I don't know about today…' and he'll be like, 'Well, how about this idea?' And you'll go, 'Oh wow, that sounds great!' And you'll get excited, and all these ideas will start flowing."

Before going into the studio with King, the band spent a month in pre-production at the Maine home studio of Evan Sammons, drummer of Last Chance to Reason, the band Lessard sang with before joining The Contortionist full-time in 2013. "We went up there in November and rented a cabin on a lake, so we got to have a bit of seclusion," Lessard recalls. "Evan helped us piece some of the puzzle together. It's nice to have an extra mind there to help you shape it—someone who knows the band, knows what we're going for, and can even say, 'No, you shouldn't do that!' That was very valuable."

Guenther tells Revolver that the mix for the album is "90 percent done," and thinks that the record will finally see the light of day in late summer or early fall. However, he admits that he has difficulty describing what it actually sounds like. "People who have heard it have said that it sounds like a natural progression for the band," he says. "What we're doing does feel new for everyone in the band, in a way that's super-exciting. We are making some strong-arm decisions to go in certain artistic directions, and the fact that we're stretching some different muscles is encouraging to me. There's always that lingering feeling of, 'Are we going the right direction with this?' But we're really going for something here that's a little different."

"I think some bands get caught up in thinking that they've got to stick to the same sound as their last record," adds Lessard, "but we've always been a band that's embraced change. We don't phone it in at all; we definitely go in there and try to make the best thing we possibly can. We wanted to write a record that we could be proud of—and at the end of the day, I think we did that."



Australian metalcore band Northlane just dropped a surprise release! Recorded throughout September 2016 with producer David Bendeth (Bring Me the Horizon, Of Mice & Men), their fourth album, 'Mesmer,' can be picked up right now.

"Through determination, hard work, sacrifice, and a bit of luck, we are able to travel the world taking our music to fans both old and new," said the band in a statement. "We're able to spend time crafting the music we want to hear with the benefit of not having to leave the studio early to go and work a job. To an artist, these are real luxuries. We appreciate them more than anything and we're in the position of being able to do this because of you — our incredible fans who continue to support us. You free us to be the artists we want to be.

"This is our way of rewarding our fans for everything they've given us. What our music means to you is what it means to us. Art is an experience, and to us it reserves no room for competition, and the only accolade that matters to us is the place this holds in your heart."

Here, we caught up with guitarist Josh Smith for an exclusive interview on the new LP, why they decided on this release style, the challenges they faced doing it, and much more.

REVOLVER So you guys just dropped a surprise album, 'Mesmer' via Rise Records! How did the plans for this come about? Were you inspired at all by Avenged Sevenfold, who also dropped an album in a similar fashion?
JOSH SMITH We aim to do something different every time we release music. For us this time we really wanted to both harness the element and excitement of surprise, while also giving our fans the opportunity to hear the entire album the moment it came out. Like a gift from us to them in thanks for all of their amazing support.

We weren't really influenced directly from anybody else, but we learned from both how Avenged Sevenfold and Beyoncé did it. We adapted the model to our fans, they always expect more from us because of the history of how we release music, so from the moment we dropped "Intuition" at UNIFY we were laying Easter eggs the whole time. The biggest one of course was the 'Mesmer' visual clip filled with samples from the record, clips from upcoming videos and even hints for every song title.

As a fan of music, what is the most surprising or shocking thing you have seen a band do?
As a music fan, I thought the [Beyoncé album] 'Lemonade' visual album was amazing, but to be honest not a whole lot surprises me in the way of releasing music as these things are really set in stone for the most part. I think the most interesting thing I've ever seen a band do with a record though is what Tool did with 'Lateralus/The Holy Gift.' They wrote the record to have an alternative arrangement based on the Fibonacci sequence and the clues to this arrangement were hidden throughout the lyrics on the record. To me that is absolutely amazing.

What were some of the challenges or concerns you faced, if any, when attempting to keep the release under wraps?
Absolutely. From what my label told me some outlets were a bit hesitant about it, we had to be extremely careful with who we told, who we did press with in advance and how we rolled it out. We had to blackout our personal social media outlets while recording and get everyone on the project to keep their lips sealed. That's a really difficult thing to do for an album because well over 100 people are involved from recording to release. We were also less likely to chart as well as we might have. We didn't have the opportunity to release preorders in the normal fashion. Charting doesn't really matter to us though, we have had a No. 1 record in the past and the emotional connection we have with our fans through our music is why we do it. Our biggest priority is what they take away from the music.

So let's talk about 'Mesmer'—everyone is basically hearing it for the first time right now. What do they need to know about his album as they dive in?
I don't think they need to know anything. Whenever you enter an experience with an expectation it can dictate how you feel about it. Just know it's full of twists, turns, surprises and we poured our hearts and souls into the record. It mainly explores the theme of loss. This was unintentional but we experienced it a few times during the writing process and had to talk about it ("Heartmachine," "Fade," "Veridian," "Paragon"). Prior to writing these passages there were a lot of songs written about existential topics like the violent, frivolous nature of humanity ("Savage"), the destruction of the environment ("Solar"), intellectual programming ("Intuition") and the invasion of privacy through electronic surveillance ("Citizen"). Strangely enough though, the songs that were not written about physical loss in a way still conformed to that theme, whether it's exploring a loss of liberty, or attachment with our intrinsic human nature.

Musically, we wanted to challenge ourselves to write a record that was in parts as heavy as anything we'd done before, with some real juicy riffs but also incorporate a seamless sounding electronic element. More so we wanted to really focus on the vocal approach and really harness the emotion in the voice of the songs, which our producer David Bendeth helped with to an extent far greater than we imagined was possible. He worked us to our breaking point, especially Marcus [Bridge, vocalist].

Now that we know you have many surprises in store, what else does Northlane have planned for the rest of the year, if you can tell us?
We'll be touring 'Mesmer' quite a lot, starting with regional Australian dates this May, followed by tours and festivals all around the world. We should be finally making our long-awaited return to the USA in the second half of the year too. It's been way too long since we were in your country. Can't wait to see everyone's faces at a show!

SuicideSilence_3.jpg, Dean Karr
photograph by Dean Karr

The following is an excerpt from the Suicide Silence feature in the February/March issue of Revolver. Here, frontman Eddie Hermida talks about the stylistic departure on their new self-titled record, how the band represents fearlessness, the music industry, chats with Mitch Lucker, and much more.

To read the rest, pick up the new issue on newsstands February 21 or get your copy here. Story by J. Bennett.

Reactions promise to vary wildly when Suicide Silence drop their fifth album right around the time this magazine hits your grubby paws. In fact, the comments pages have been lighting up ever since Hermida and his bandmates—lead guitarist Mark Heylmun, drummer Alex Lopez, guitarist Chris Garza, and bassist Dan Kenny—announced that the album would feature mostly clean vocals. "It's going to completely change everything you probably ever will think and have thought or ever will fucking feel about Suicide Silence," Heylmun told Revolver TV in an interview he and Hermida did last summer at the Ozzfest Meets Knotfest extravaganza in San Bernardino, California.

"If you wanted the same record out of us, if you wanted 'The Cleansing' part four, it's not what you're gonna get so you're gonna hate us," Hermida says today. "And that's fine. If you hate us for the rest of your life and you wanna sit there and throw darts at a picture of me and scream 'Laces out!' for 20 years, then, yes, we're going to change your perspective forever."

But he's not convinced that most fans will run for the hills. "In the years of touring I've done with these guys, I've got to know quite a few fans and most of them aren't death metal elitists who just want to hear the gnarliest breakdown," Hermida explains. "They like Suicide Silence because the band represents fearlessness. It represents the go-ahead to be themselves. And this record is that. It's your ticket to do whatever you're inspired to do. For other bands, it's a straight-up challenge. For the music industry, it's two middle fingers in the air saying, 'You're never gonna stop music no matter how hard you try.'"

The Music Industry: Somewhere in that murky, stagnant swamp lies the reasoning behind Suicide Silence's bold departure from expectations. "Look at the state of music," Hermida offers. "There's no money in it. There's no passion. It's all computerized. It's all fake. Everything that has real music and real art is going down the drain. And we're all in this sinking ship together. There's a reason Whitechapel decided to sing on their last record [2016's 'Mark of the Blade']. There's a reason all these bands are 'selling out.' It's not selling out. They're just tired of making the same rehashed bullshit and having people give it the same amount of attention they did to the record before and the record before that."

"Everything I'm saying right now has been said 50 times over by 50 other artists," he acknowledges. "But I believe Suicide Silence was in a very unique position because we had our singer pass away and that gave us an opportunity to say, 'Fuck everything.' So we really are back to those five dudes in the garage. Everyday I walk into that room and I see Mitch staring down at us from these two posters that we have, and it's a really self-reflective moment. I think, If I write another record like 'You Can't Stop Me,' I'm taking for granted everything that I've ever fought for or believe in."

Released in 2014, 'You Can't Stop Me' was Hermida's first record with Suicide Silence after original vocalist Mitch Lucker was killed in a motorcycle accident on Halloween night in 2012. Prior to joining the band, Hermida was singing for Bay Area deathcore outfit All Shall Perish, who toured with Suicide Silence in 2011 when the latter were supporting 'The Black Crown'—which would prove to be their final album with Lucker. "In All Shall Perish, I had already explored the various styles of my voice. That band was very melodic to begin with," he explains. "On that tour, I had a conversation with Mitch about the future of deathcore and the future for Suicide Silence. And he said he had started taking [vocal] lessons on 'The Black Crown' and that the next record they did would probably have some sort of clean vocals. So even when I first joined Suicide Silence, I knew this next record would have some."

"What I did not know," he adds with a laugh, "is how much."

For the rest of the story, pick up the February/March issue.

StoneSour_11.jpg, Matthew Stubs Phillips
photograph by Matthew Stubs Phillips

The following article is from Revolver's February/March 2017 issue. It is on newsstands February 21 and available for purchase in our webstore.

by Dan Epstein

"People have had it wrong about Stone Sour for a long time," says Corey Taylor. "We're not a metal band that plays hard rock stuff—we are a rock band that plays everything. And to me, this is the first Stone Sour album that's really going to prove that point about this band."

The vocalist is currently holed up at Sphere Studios in Burbank, California, where he and his Stone Sour mates—guitarists Josh Rand and Christian Martucci, bassist Johny Chow, and drummer Roy Mayorga—are working on the band's first full-length studio album since 2013's 'House of Gold & Bones — Part 2.'

Co-produced by Jay Ruston, who mixed both volumes of 'House of Gold & Bones' as well as Stone Sour's 2015 covers EPs, 'Meanwhile in Burbank…' and 'Straight Outta Burbank,' the basic tracks for the as-yet-untitled album are being cut live in the studio, with the whole band playing together in one room instead of slowly overdubbing individual parts. "The first record [2002's 'Stone Sour'] was recorded that way, but honestly that was just because of time and budget constraints," Taylor explains. "But the reason we're doing it this time is the material is that exciting, and we wanted to be able to really capture the energy and excitement of the band."

While the record has been touted as more of a straight-ahead hard rock outing than anything Stone Sour has done before, Taylor says the reality is more complicated. "It's hard to explain," he says. "It's hard rock, but not in the typical hard rock sense. It's heavy and melodic, but not in those typical senses. Anybody who likes the 'Burbank' stuff [on which the band covered classic rock and metal anthems by The Rolling Stones, Bad Brains, Alice in Chains, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and others] is going to love the originals. As eclectic as those covers were, that's kind of where we're at with the music here. But when you listen to the songs as a whole, it all just fits so well together!"

This will also be the first album of original Stone Sour material to feature Martucci and Chow, both of whom came aboard after 'House of Gold & Bones' were recorded. Chow replaced original bassist Shawn Economaki, who amicably left the band in 2012, while Martucci replaced longtime guitarist Jim Root, who was fired from the band in 2013 (but who has since continued to record and tour with Taylor in Slipknot). Taylor says the difference in dynamics between the old and new Stone Sour lineups is "like night and day, man. It's so easy right now! That's really the only way to describe it—everything's so fucking easy! Not only is getting together and jamming easy, but any time we have to change something there's no fight, there's no argument, there's no loss of excitement…

"We all collaborated on the songs," he continues. "I wrote some, Josh wrote some, Roy wrote some with Tooch; Tooch brought a bunch of stuff in that was killer; Chow brought some stuff in. So it's really a great representation of who the band is right now, you know? We're just throwing stuff at each other and saying, 'All right, let's try it!' It's literally that simple, and it's made this whole creative process so much better, in my opinion. Honestly, you're going to fucking shit yourself when you hear this!"

In other words, Revolver asks, we should probably stock up on adult diapers before spinning the album for the first time? "Yeah," he laughs. "And put some towels down, too, because it's going to get sexual!"

70TOM.jpg, Mark Hennion
photograph by Mark Hennion

Revolver writer Chris Krovatin and photographer Mark Hennion boarded The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise, 70,000 Tons of Metal. Taking place February 2 through 6, the voyage went from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Labadee, Haiti and back. Here, they recap the events, scene, shows, and debauchery taking place on Day 1 and Day 2—and for more on their real-time shenanigans, look back on Revolver's Instagram.

The heavy metal cruise phenomenon boggles the mind, but it makes perfect sense. On the one hand, a cruise is the ultimate in middle-class faux luxury, a floating buffet where attractive people in polo shirts teach you to hip-hop dance. On the other, however, being isolated on international waters while enjoying the one thing that makes them truly happy without the real world nagging them over their shoulders is what most metalheads dream of; that they can do so with inclusive room service and hot tubs is an added bonus.

While 70,000 Tons of Metal is not the only metal cruise—there was Shiprocked, Barge To Hell, Motörboat before Lemmy's death, and the cock rock Monsters of Rock cruise—it remains the standard, and rightfully so. The largest and longest-running of its kind, 70,000 Tons is a yearly tour de force, in 2017 it featured 61 bands playing 123 live shows on 4 stages to fans from 74 different countries. For many of the attendees, it's the highlight of the year, a reason to work overtime hours and a rare chance to hang out with good friends from all over the world.

Day 1: Dance of the Water

The air surrounding Fort Lauderdale's squat industrialized dock Port Everglades is crackling with raw energy as the 70,000 Tons' vessel, the Independence of the Seas, rises in the distance. Almost everyone power-walking towards the check-in doors wears a black band T-shirt, though a few leathery tourists mull around with smirks of amusement, gawking at the freaks. No one gives a shit—they're about the leave society's baggage on shore. Not even last-minute cancellations by Nile and Gojira can bring the fans down (especially when their slots are filled by Carcass, Overkill, and Allegeaon).

The promise of the coming journey also makes the polite citizens out of the headbangers shuffling through the metal detectors and registration desks; after all, the cheapest cabin on the ship costs $999, not to mention the $369 in taxes and fees per person. Why blow it by talking back to a cop or getting caught with a dimer of weed?

Once they're given their on-board cards—immediately the most valuable item any passenger owns, acting as both room key and payment method via an online credit account—the ship's guests are forced to wait a few hours before boarding. This isn't as tedious as one might think; old friends uniting in bear hugs, while newbies get a chance to see who they'll be shipping out with and meet some of the people who've given them sage advice over social media, such as Kai Robidas, a photographer on Canada whose history of attendance have made her a font of 70,000 Tons wisdom. "You're going to not want to get drunk the first night," says Robidas. "And get in a few hours of sleep when you can. Honestly, just get ready not to sleep."

Finally, everyone's allowed on the boat, the inside of which looks as though a Vegas resort collided with a Midwestern mall. Deck 5 is the main thoroughfare, lined with bars, restaurants, and luxury shops; at the far end sit the Pyramid Lounge, a cozy club with an Egyptian theme, and, one floor down, the Alhambra, a concert hall that puts most New York stages to shame. As soon as the first passengers are on board, Deck 5 overwhelmed, and everyone there is either drinking or drunk; Foster's is the poison of choice, the Australian lager's giant cans providing the most bang for one's buck.

By the time the crew has coerced the crowd into roasting in the sun for a safety drill, many people are on their way to shitfaced (remember, no one's even played yet). But though it's hot and takes forever, the wait forces even more people to meet their new neighbors and trade stories. Chris and Noel Umbricht are 70,000 Tons veterans, Noel on her seventh year. They were both from Chicago, but didn't know each other until they met on the ship; they're now married. "We were probably going to same shows at home and had no idea," says Noel. She points to a nearby couple: "We met those two on the cruise, too. They were in our wedding party."

Finally, the ship casts off, with onshore onlookers throwing the horns and screaming farewells. The Alhambra opens with Swedish pop-metallers Amaranthe performing their specialized brand of hyperactive dance rock, complete with vocalist Elize Ryd dancing along to the frenzied, kinetic beat. Though the band certainly isn't the most traditionally metal in the voyage's massive lineup, their upbeat riffs and soaring choruses seem appropriately joyous for the ship's departure. "I think a cruise crowd is more dedicated," says Amaranthe bassist Johan Andreassen. "I think they're more on. They're more rowdy. People book tickets before the bands are released, because they know it will be a good time."

With four venues, there's no possible way to catch every band playing at any given time. To catch Death Angel, you have to miss Cattle Decapitation, and only if you're quick can you make it to Grave Digger on time. But some sets stand out as absolute necessities, and even though they start almost an hour late, Testament play to a packed crowd that moshes rabidly to new and old tracks alike. Even while noticeably dealing with sound issues, vocalist Chuck Billy beams at the opening night crowd, and guitarist Alex Skolnick hams it up at the edge of the stage.

"It's special in that you can finally catch some band that you might never see before," says Billy when Revolver catches up with him later. "I think the crowd experience with the artist is probably the best thing about the cruise. The artists mingling with the fans, getting drinks—it's just so relaxed. You won't get that anywhere else."

One band that fans are excited to witness live for the first time are Finland's Kalmah, whose shirts seem to outnumber all others on board. While many headbangers leave after Arch Enemy's massive set in the Alhambra, a great number stay, and hordes of black metallers pour in, who would be ultra-grim if they weren't giggling. When the band takes the stage at almost two in the morning, the venue is packed, and soon explodes with what can only be described as kvlt party metal (to the uninitiated, imagine Children of Bodom but with melodic black metal replacing the power metal influence). Guitarist and vocalist Pekka Kokko laughs and smiles at the joyous mixed crowd, one of whom screams, "PLAY SONGS ABOUT SWAMPS!" to raucous laughter.

By the time Kalmah finish, many fans are totally wiped out. While some trudge off to catch late-night pleasures like Pain and Demolition Hammer, others pound their last beers and collapse in their cabins.

Day 2: Gung Ho

While Thursday's embarkation was an exciting beginning to 70,000 Tons, Friday is truly the first day of the festival, in part because the pool deck—a proper outdoor festival stage, which can be viewed from a hot tub set right in the middle of the standing area—has finally opened to the public. The day begins with sets by Finnish thrashers Stam1na, whose crowd is jovial and European, and Long Island brutal death metallers Suffocation, whose moshpit includes a man in spiked leather gauntlets and a thong bearing the band's logo. For breakfast, the Windjammer buffet offers every food under the sun, but most people just have a Foster's.

The early start means more bands of varied taste While the Alhambra offers performances by oddballs like Israeli prog group Orphaned Land, the Ice Rink stage is where it's at, serving up a three-hit combo of Canadian power thrashers Striker, American death-thrashers Revocation, and cosplaying nerd-metallers Powerglove, featuring last-minute bassist and vocalist Ivan due to, ah, technical difficulties. "Our bass player and frontman got sick as shit coming down here," says drummer Bassil Silver. "He spent the entire flight pissing and shitting in the plane bathroom. So he didn't make it on the boat, and Ivan hopped on and has been locked in the room learning the songs. We didn't ask Ivan how he was at bass, only, 'How's your stomach?' They were doing vodka shots last night, and we had to determine if it was the flu, or just a hangover. If it just comes from one direction, it's a hangover."

Haggard, Therion, and Dying Fetus all play in quick succession. Musicians can be seen everywhere; you can't get a bite to eat without nearly colliding with Dez Fafara from DevilDriver. Modesty goes to the wind, and people wander the ship in thongs, bikinis, and filthy Halloween costumes. A menacing-looking dude with a shaved head stalks around in a pink bunny outfit reminiscent of A Christmas Story. The Dog and Badger, the ship's Irish pub, is filled with surly smoking metalheads laughing about the previous night and sucking down whiskeys. The entire thing is a whirlwind of laughter, liquor, and friendly violent fun.

As the sun sets, the introductory period officially endes—they belong to the cruise now. By the time Carcass takes the stage, everyone is tenderized and looking to rage; the band draws an odd crowd of ultra-underground sickos and beaming metal zealots, all of whom get along famously. Jeff Walker himself seems a little tipsy as he takes the stage, snickering and cracking wise at the crowd between crushing gore metal tunes. For those who couldn't be bothered to wake up early, the band's set is the first real taste of extreme metal, and they lap it up with clawed hands in the air.

But the night's pinnacle is easily Anthrax playing on the pool deck stage. The minute the band comes stomping out, the crowd whips into a drunken frenzy, especially the hot tubbers, who make a point of sending huge cascades of water flying all over the deck (and the other fans). Anthrax exude energy as they crush classics old and new, like "Caught in a Mosh" and "Fight 'Em Til You Can't," while thousands of fans bounce as one and mosh in swim trunks. It's as though both band and crowd are also caught up in the absolutely strangeness of what they're seeing. Fans on the many balcony levels pause in their fist-pumping to laugh at one another in awe. Here they are, seeing Anthra playing a fest-size stage on the pool deck of a cruise ship sailing to Haiti. Passengers in passing UFOs must consider us a fun race.

"We've done cruises before," says drummer Charlie Benante. "We did two Motörboats and we did a Shiprocked. It's cool because we're all on the same vessel, and we all have to get along, so they're cool with giving [artists] time and space. We were walking around earlier, and it was nice. And it's a mixed crowd—when we did the safety drill, we had Vikings, Latin Americans, all going nuts. It's a good thing Trump didn't ban metalheads."

Tonight, the fans go all out The booze consumption somehow jumps a notch; the Labyrinth is mobbed with heshers and ship staff alike dancing as Metal Injection's Brian Storm covers the Bloohound Gang at the ship's nightly 70,000 Tons of Karaoke party. A 1:15 in the goddamn morning, Norway's Vreid play an absolutely blistering set of blackened witching metal to an audience of rapt kvltists; the irony of rocking out to icy Norwegian black metal on the humid deck of a cruise ship is either lost on the audience or considered unimportant. "This is one of the strange things you do in your life," bassist Hváll tells Revolver. "Play on a fucking cruise. Fans are sometimes just doing nothing, because they're surrounded with this really special thing. If you look at the history of dark, militant people, they've been partying pretty hard over the years!"

The night continues its descent into madness. At 4:00am, Witchtrap from Medellin, Colombia, take the Ice Rink stage to play some Motörhead-ish thrash, and draw a surprisingly stable crowd of total drunks. But soon, exhaustion overtakes the masses, and soon every table, bench, or sunchair features a slumped metalhead sleeping off the night's silliness and preparing for yet another day of madness tomorrow.

Check back for Part 2 soon!

Photos by Mark Hennion. For more of his work, visit his website.

Shadows621.jpg, Travis Shinn
photograph by Travis Shinn

Avenged Sevenfold appears on the cover of Revolver's February/March issue, which will hit newsstands on February 21 and is available for purchase online right now! You can view the cover below, which was photographed by Travis Shinn.

Below, you can also read an excerpt from the issue's cover story, written by Dan Epstein. In this section, frontman M. Shadows discusses how the band's seventh studio album, 'The Stage,' was received by fans and the media, as well as challenges other bands could face.

REVOLVER Overall, did the surprise release go off as you'd hoped?
M. SHADOWS I thought it was awesome. I thought it was exciting, and the people that got it and were engaged were really appreciative of it. Yeah, it was great!

How has the reaction been from your fans?
It's actually been really weird. A lot of people are like, "Is it a real record? Then why didn't I hear about it? If I didn't hear about it, it must suck!" I think we were blindsided by that a little bit—that if you're doing something new and different, people think you're "up to something," or trying to hide something. I think we've run into more barriers being part of the rock and metal scene than what we anticipated; if Radiohead does this, they don't really get that kind of backlash. Only in our scene do you get that stuff.

Do you think that other bands will take a page from your playbook in the future, and drop their albums in a similar "surprise" fashion? And, would you guys take the same approach again?
I don't know that we'd do the same approach, but I'd like to do something else interesting. And I don't know if other metal bands will take the same approach; I don't like to complain about this, because it's really not an important part of my life, but it seems like the metal media has done as much as it can to try to blunt this thing, especially in the U.K. We've actually had magazines and radio stations in the U.K. that won't work with us because of it—they said that we had "a blatant disrespect for print magazines," because the way we did this didn't give them proper time to put out covers and reviews. We had radio people telling us they weren't going to play the song we gave them, because they weren't "in the know" about this. There are all these people that act like they're on your side, but they're really just these little gatekeepers who push back when you try to do something different. I get it, but as artists, we're not going to look at all these magazines and radio stations and say, "What's best for them?" That's exactly what people don't want; they want artists to do artist things, write the music they're going to write, and do what they want to do. But if people are going to act like that, that makes things a lot harder. As big as this band is, it's not really going to affect us; looking at the European ticket sales, it obviously hasn't affected us. But at the same time, jeez, I feel bad for any band coming up that could just get crushed by this stuff.

For the rest of the story, pick up the February/March issue.



Anthraxsidebar.jpg, Jimmy Hubbard and William J. Englehardt
photograph by Jimmy Hubbard and William J. Englehardt

Interview by Chris Krovatin

Aft­er over 35 years of trailblazing, it was only fitting that Anthrax take home the Innovator Award. As a member of The Big Four, Anthrax helped brake thrash, brake down race and genre walls with Public Enemy to unite metal and hip-hop with "Bring the Noise," and even brake sound barriers as "Got the Time" was chosen by NASA to wake up the Mars Rover. Here, Revolver chats with bassist Frank Bello and drummer Charlie Benante about the win.

REVOLVER Congrats on winning the Innovator Award!
FRANK BELLO Thank you. The real reward is having the fans for thirty-something years. I want to see people innovate, write for themselves. I want to see this music take the next step. I hope we inspired some kid out there to be innovating with a guitar tonight.

When you guys were starting out, writing the classic Anthrax material, did you realize you were changing the face of metal?
I think at the time it was happening, we were just caught up in the whirlwind. One day I would be in Florida playing a show, and the next day I'd be on a plane to Finland to play a festival. But when we were thinking outside the box a bit, that's when something like "I'm the Man" or "Bring the Noise" would happen. When we let our surroundings affect the style, that's when it changed. We broke down some boundaries.

Your 2016 album 'For All Kings' was massive. How do you keep innovating this far into your career?
I think the key to longevity is to never think it's good enough. We didn't just keep banging out [records], we waited until it was right. You cannot think that whatever you put out is great. That's what happened with 'Worship Music'—we recorded that record, and then we went back and recorded it again. There are just no standards anymore. Hey, isn't that a Pantera lyric?

At the Revolver Music Awards, you were introduced by 'The Walking Dead's' Norman Reedus. How did you guys get to know him?
BELLO I met him when we played in Atlanta. Scott [Ian, guitarist] asked if we wanted to come out and see the set of The Walking Dead. It was awesome; they were great people all around. Norman came to our show, and I pulled him up on stage that night, threw a bass on him. Since then, we've been texting a lot. I gave him a limited Among the Living bass, and he told me he's going to get me on a motorcycle. We'll see what happens!