FEBRUARY 22nd 2013
70,000 TONS OF METAL 2013
Review/Photos by Hans Park

I will start by saying that having been to many concerts locally, in the United States, and across Europe, I would say without a doubt that 70 000 Tons of Metal is an astonishing concert going experience and one I would recommend to any metal fan that can make the trip.  The easiest way to describe it is for you to picture 40 heavy metal bands playing on a cruise ship.  But seriously, it’s much, much more than that. 70 000 Tons of Metal is a heavy metal festival on a cruise ship and then some and 2013 marks the third year and having met a few people around Miami that had been in previous years boarding it seems that there are quite a few repeat customers.

For all those onboard, including 55 countries, its an opportunity to enjoy some sun while enjoying some significant amounts of music. 2013 sees this metal cruise SOLD OUT.  There are 3 stages, The Spectrum Lounge, the smallest and more intimate with the stage being almost floor level. Chorus Line Theatre, a medium sized stage with elevated seating, so more choices to be to view the bands. The largest of the 3 is the outside Pool deck, where you can also enjoy relaxing in the hot tub at the back. Some found it odd to feel the ship sway while the bands played. 

Each of the bands played  twice on the cruise, and it started early evening on the day we departed, and continues until the wee morning. Then in the morning the first band would play at 10AM with the last band hitting the stage at 5AM. Trying to take in as many bands as possible can be a bit tricky. I shared a room with guys from Germany, Finland and South Africa. The room is pretty cramped but the beds were comfortable, but it doesn’t matter because you are not in there long, you are out catching all the bands you can, so only sleeping in your room. Food on this ship was a pleasure, and was happy to see there were many options to choose from. The main dining area had several large buffet areas, a deli with sandwiches/salads and Johnny Rockets a 50’s style diner. There was also a more traditional style restaurant with various menu options.  There was also a 24 hour pizza bar.

For me, I was simply excited at the prospect of seeing 40 bands, all in a relatively close setting. I definitely had to make decisions on who or who not to see. The cruise is almost like a meet and greet, no lines to get autographs or photos. There were some interesting events to check out as well :

- Drum clinic with George Kollias (Nile)

- Violin clinic with Olli Vanska (Turisas)

- Belly flop contest judged by different band members

- Performances by Vika Yermolveva (think heavy metal on Piano)

- Jam sessions hosted by Jeff Waters (Annihilator)

The jam sessions were hugely popular and like concerts in their own right. Band members from Ensiferum, Tyr, Helloween, Doro, Kreator, Flotsam and Jetsam, Metal Church played classic heavy metal by such bands as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Every now and then Jeff would ask if there was someone in the crowd that would be able to sing some of the songs. Something that is really worth checking out. 

Third day of the cruise was spent in Cockburn Town, the capitol of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was a glorious sunny day, and if you wanted to get off the ship and enjoy some beach time you were able to. There was a beach bar/restaurant that played rock music such as Bon Jovi, but as time passed on, the sounds of Iron Maiden and Metallica could be heard. The DJ thanked everyone between songs for introducing him to some new music, and was met with raucous applause from people at the bar. The day at the beach was enjoyed by fans and band members alike. 

I am not familiar with many of the bands, have only heard of a few, but was looking forward to seeing many of them. A lot of the bands I had heard of and was interested in seeing, figuring they wouldn’t come through my hometown of Vancouver. I am always happy when I am introduced to a new band, especially one that I might never see or hear. And some I still eagerly await seeing even though I have seen them before. 

SABATON was one of the first bands to play, and their first set was on Chorus Line. Vocalist Joakim was full of energy and quickly said they didn’t have much time to play. Instead of saying “Thank you 70000 Tons of Metal!” he simply said “Thank you boat!”. He asked the crowd to refer to the band as “band” instead of “Sabaton” because it would take too long to say. There were may “Thank you boat” and “Thank you band”. Their second show was on the pool deck. I have seen them on several occasion and they never disappoint. I would say they were easily on of the top 5 most popular bands on the cruise. DRAGONFORCE, I have known for quite a few years, but never seen live. Their first set was in the theater and the second on the pool deck. The energetic guitar work of both Herman Li and Sam Totman was definitely the highlight. Of course this is not to say that the rest of the band members were not energetic. Vocalist Marc Hudson maybe a relatively new member but you wouldn’t be able to tell and he never missed a step as DRAGONFORCE played a variety of from their discography. 

IMMOLATION, have been playing their own death metal style for 25 years. Vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan thanked the fans for their support over those years. Their first set was played in the Spectrum Lounge with fans being a few feet away from them. They opened with “Close to a World Below” on both sets. The remainder of their songs were completely different for both shows. I was able to spend a lot of time with Ross and Bob chatting about the cruise and their upcoming tour with Napalm Death/Cannibal Corpse, and life in New York. They are stand up guys who enjoy spending time with their fans.

HELLOWEEN is a band that I never thought I would have the chance to see, even though I have known of them for quite a few years. Their first set was in the theater and started 40 minutes late due to technical difficulties. I am not sure if that was the reason for the performance being a bit lacking. Their second set was pool side and didn’t disappoint, so I was happy to catch that show. Guitar work of Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner along with vocals from Andi Deris eliminated any memory of their first set. I was blown away by their performance, although other Europeans who had seen other shows said they have seen them perform more energetic sets. I had no complaints. 
NILE is a band I
have been a fan for many years, but only seen them once and that was more than 10 years ago on Black Seeds of Vengeance Tour. They played a mix of songs from their discography and it was a pleasure to hear material from their last 10 years live. They closed their sets with Black Seeds of Vengeance and crushed the audience during the second half of the song. I had a quick chat with Karl Sanders later on the cruise as we pasted each other and am happy to say he seemed very down to earth. He took the time to chat and take a photo with me. 

I’ve been a fan of Kreator for quite a few years and I first saw them in the mid 90’s, had a long stretch when I didn’t see them, but happily have been seeing them play regularly in the last few years. Kreator played a wide variety of songs old and new with highlights being: Phantom Anti-Christ from their latest album, Hordes Of Chaos, Phobia, Violent Revolution, Extreme Aggression, and Enemy Of God. The bonus
 of bands playing two sets was that they could vary the setlist if they chose to, which Kreator did.  Mille Petrozza announced that their second set on the pool deck would be slightly different feature other songs which further excited the crowd. 

70000 Tons of Metal was also a place for older bands to reunite and/or play to an entirely new audience. METAL CHURCH is another band on the cruise that I never thought I would be able to see. One of their sets consisted of them playing their whole debut album “Metal Church”. The other was a “greatest hits” set, which the fans voted on. 

HELSTAR are a speed metal band from Texas that formed in the early 80’s. Another band I was not aware of, but didn’t disappoint. Its great to see a band that is clearly enjoying themselves as they perform, and Helstar was a great example of this. 

Another long running band I had not heard of was RAGE, they have been playing since the mid 80’s and in the mid 90’s started playing with an orchestra called “The Lingua Mortis Orchestra”. For both sets the orchestra played with Rage. 

There are many people that I would like to thank. First is the Royal Caribbean, their staff was first rate. I took the time to talk to some of the staff members who were from various countries and they all agreed that the “metal cruise” was the easiest to work. They also added that all the staff wanted to work this particular event. I was surprised but after some thought, not surprised at all, I am confident that the heavy metal people are generally pretty easy to please. As long as there is beer on hand, a place to sleep, food and the music, everyone is happy. The cruise offered that and much more. Some of the staff would even take in some of the bands performing while off duty, enjoying and bobbing their heads up and down. 

 The other person I want to thank is Andy and his whole crew from UMC. Andy is the skipper and towards the end of Sabaton’s set, he came on stage, everyone started to chant “AN-DY! AN-DY! AN-DY!” Andy at that time went on to thank all the companies that provided the security, power distribution and stage/sound, his staff and volunteers, the staff of Royal Caribbean, but most importantly his brother. He went on to explain that his brother made him listen to all the heavy metal and without that the cruise would not exist. The crowd showing their appreciation again pumped their fists in the air and chanted Andy's brothers name. 

This was definitely a cruise I will not forget for a long time and will likely talk about it for even longer. The next cruise is already slated to depart Miami on January 27th 2014 and my calendar is already marked. Is yours ?