70 Thousand Tons of Headbanger's Paradise
I started my 70000 Tons of Metal journey, my first ever cruise, scraping myself out of a bed in Miami Beach. Mornings like this are why I travel with a spatula, to remove my face from the pillow when it’s firmly stuck to one. Hazy memories of a heavy metal beach party, rocking out with hundreds of headbangers at a local bar, a sea of heavy metal battle vests, meeting lots of cool fans, and even metal karaoke.
After knocking back two coffees and a humorous morning visit to a local pharmacy that was filled with shuffling, hungover metal fans like me, it was time to jump on a chartered bus and head to the boat. A chilly, drizzly Miami morning wasn’t getting anyone’s spirits down, and neither was the top 40 radio station on the bus. When we finally caught our first glimpse of the cruise liner, Independence of the Seas, chants of “Boat! Boat! Boat!” erupted in the bus, and when Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played on the radio, everyone started singing along, just as we rolled into port, a magical start.
Shortly afterwards, everyone was assembled on board, and we had all attended our safety briefing on the decks. So as the engines fired up and we began to creep out to sea, it was time to get this floating fortress of a party started. Over 3,000 metal fans clad in black shirts, 60 bands playing 20 hours a day across four different stages, awesome food and bars that never close. Bands would finish at 6am and the stages would take a quick rest until 10am when bands would start up again. For sanity sake I refer to days up until the last band finished at ~6am.
Now it was time to unleash my ‘nap-not-sleep’ strategy, photograph, thrash and absorb as much of the 2019 edition of 70000 Tons of Metal as possible. Enjoy a recap of my favorite highlights and moments, and check out over 400 shots of fans, bands and ambiance from the 2019 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise. \m/
Were you on this year’s edition of 70000 Tons of Metal, what were some of your favorite moments, what do other bangers think about the idea of a metal cruise? Let us know in the comments section.
Day one showcased 22 performances included Soulfly, Sodom, Black Dahlia Murder, Exmortus, Accept, Delain and Dark Funeral. It may have only been January, but I have a sneaking suspicion this incredible Fleshgod Apocalypse set might make my “best of list” for 2019. It was a stunning show, with bodies flying everywhere. Francesco Paoli and I had a great time, I’m not sure about the security guys catching all the crowd surfers though, this one had to hurt. #RainingBodies
While they were still busy building the pool deck stage on the first day, after using massive cranes to lift all rigs to the top of the boat, the other three stages were rocking. The smallest venue, the Star Lounge was a low-ceilinged club like atmosphere, offering a chance to get up close and personal with a lot of incredible bands. Frontman Rami Jämsä and his Finnish death metal outfit Convulse hammered the crap out of this little stage the first night.
In the meantime the two larger venues inside of the boat featured 7 or 8 bands each the first night. Great venues to either get into the pit to mosh, or alternately there are lots of amphitheater type seating for those wanting to chill out and take in a show. The first act to perform at the Royal Theater stage, Dutch symphonic metal act Delain performed to a packed audience.
The lineup and cadence of day two was absolutely incredible. I particularly enjoy some of the heavier death/thrash music, and got to see Warbringer, Atrocity, Nile, Bodyfarm and Night Demon amongst others all in the same day, hell yeah! The first performance on the Pool Deck was a 10am ripper by the Swiss symphonic metallers Gloryhammer. The stage was packed and it was a great way to gently wake up, for those that bothered to sleep.
So many incredible performances the second day, it’s impossible to pick a favorite. Certainly near the top of that list would have to be a wicked set from LA thrashers Warbringer, laying ruin to the Royal Theater stage.
Indisputably, another top performance on day two, or the entire cruise for that matter, was a blistering set by US death metal legends Nile. This must have been among the heaviest hammerings the Pool Deck stage took the entire cruise, incredible!
Yet another stellar day two performance, German metal outfit Atrocity flexed their genre-diversity in a high tempo, well honed set.
And for all the nappers and non-sleepers who were savvy enough to catch a 5am Pool Deck performance by Night Demon, they were well rewarded by an incredible set. The consummate three-piece outfit belted out a stellar performance into a thrashing crowd, while front man Jarvis Leatherby was very interactive, at one point playfully making fun of the other bands that need to lean on cookie monsters, computers and flutes in their shows.
Day three saw the ship port in Labadee, Haiti for several hours and many bangers elected to take this as some time to rest up and sleep on the boat, bracing for more bands instead of hitting the beach. For those of us that crept out into the daylight however, it was very cool to see beaches covered in headbangers, people blaring their own music, pockets of Dimmu Borgir, Septicflesh and Pantera riffs peppering the beach with shrieking zipliners flying overhead. They had some cool artist excursions this day as well, from kayaking to catamaran cruises, where you could chill with members of Sodom, Kalmah, Vomitory, Visions of Atlantis and Gloryhammer.
By 5 o’clock fans were back on the ship, bands were firing up on the stages again, and the thrashing was back to business as usual. A shorter band schedule, but action packed as 28 performances ensued including sets from Sodom, Perpetual Warfare, Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Napalm Death, Twilight Force and many more. I managed to catch both Dark Funeral shows, and it was incredible personally to finally see these Swedish black metal legends perform live. It was their second set though on this day that was something really special, an incredible set on the Pool Deck in front of countless, moshing fans, it was delicious blackness.
Meanwhile back at the more intimate Star Lounge, a number of terrific bands were delivering riffs there. Certainly one of my favorite performances of the entire cruise saw US riff-masters Exmortus deliver an absolutely incredible set that had hundreds of fans bouncing off the ceiling. There is no sensation quite like being bounced around in a thrashing crowd, then the boat also lurches. At times during the Exmortus set I was seriously wondering if we were possibly rocking the gargantuan boat. Amazing crowd and flailing riffs from this incredibly talented band.
Another standout performance on day three was an incredible Pool Deck stage by German thrashers Sodom, possibly the most anticipated band of the entire line-up. This was one for the ages, and the deck of the ship was absolutely packed with fans thrashing wildly.
I guess it was inevitable that the last day would arrive, and I couldn’t help but think how quickly the cruise had been flying by, and that it would be “back to reality” soon. This was one hell of an action packed day though, that provided little time if any for introspection and sadness about the inevitable end. The party was ratcheted up to the next level for the last day and love it or loathe it, many fans elect to dress up in cool costumes, or very scant costumes, it was all mad fun in my opinion. If you don’t see any day four Accept shots in our gallery, it might be because my camera got a little wet at the immense and amazing belly flop competition. Well worth checking out all the belly flop competition shots, including an amazing double belly flop with one dude sitting on another guy’s shoulders.
Opening the Pool Deck action on the last day were Austrian power-metallers Visions of Atlantis who delivered an incredible set to an already packed deck. Visions lead singer Clémentine Delauney was also one of the celebrity judges at the belly flop competition.
Of the 300 or so performances and events during the cruise, there were many legendary moments, but the most epic of them all had to have been the day four Pool Deck performance of Obituary. I had never seen these guys live before, and they unleashed an incredible performance that gave me even deeper respect for the band. However it was the insane crowd, at peak lubrication levels, thrashing and partying, that stole the show here. Mass amounts of crowd surfing, debauchery, crowd interaction, hot tub circle pits, people in costume; it was mad, chaotic bliss. If there was one moment to define why this cruise is so incredible, this had to be it.
Another incredible day four performance was an amazing set by Finland’s swamp-metal outfit Kalmah. A jammed pool deck moshing and thrashing, continuing the rabid party as the sun set for the last time on the cruise.
Next year will be the 10 year anniversary of the cruise, and porting in Cozumel, Mexico. We’re going to need a bigger boat?