Everybody who was able to be part of the maiden voyage of 70.000 Tons Of Metal in 2011 was exhausted by this very special experience. It was absolutely proven that a luxury cruise ship and more than 2000 party-willing Heavy Metal pirates are a completely suitable match. And so it was quite obvious that a second edition of the outstanding event was going to be announced for January 2012.
The concept was the same as last year, just with a slight change in the destination of the cruise. Besides the fact that every band had to play two shows during the cruise, there was always the possibility to meet your idols, as there was no backstage area like at other festivals. All bands were placed in the same cabins and decks as the fans, so that they could even be your next door neighbours.
But there were also many other opportunities for fun apart from Heavy Metal, such as a karaoke bar, a casino with slot machines as well as poker and blackjack tables, a climbing wall, a fitness studio, a small shopping mall and much more. Especially the karaoke bar was a late night meeting place for fans and bands alike. Where else would you have the opportunity to sing karaoke and celebrate with the Nightwish guys, Chris Boltendahl of Grave Digger or Candlemass singer Robert Lowe, to name just a few?
After starting in Miami, Florida on the 23rd of January, we took a five-day trip through the Caribbean Sea to George Town, capital of the Cayman Islands, and back.
But, before kicking off with our report on five days full of Heavy Metal, party, and life under the Caribbean sun aboard the “Majesty Of The Seas”, here are a few facts and figures on this year’s Cruise:
On board this year:
- 2051 metalheads entered the ship, 51% of them for the second time.
- 42 bands, which means 452 musicians, roadies and their families.
- and, last but not least, 879 crew members.
Fans from 55 nations from all five continents went to Miami for this journey, including pirates from: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela. Most of the fans, though, came from the U.S., Germany, Canada, and Australia again. 13 trucks of equipment were necessary to realize the biggest floating Heavy Metal party.
The main stage at the pool site alone had a weight of 12 tons.
But now, enough with the statistics: cast off for 70.000 Tons Of Metal 2012!
Day 1 – Port of Miami
Although we participated in the maiden’s voyage last year, we were once again impressed while boarding the “Majesty Of The Seas”. It looks like the Love Boat from inside. Carpets on the floor (also in all the venues!), brass-colored polished banisters and officials in a suit. The only thing which reminds you that this is a Metal cruise is the Hard Rock music in the atrium. It’s really a clash of two different worlds.
Most visitors started off with a fantastic lunch at the buffet, while waiting for their luggage. Everything is free here: Pizza, noodles, sushi, chicken breast, beef, the salad bar, the sweets bar… We also tested the buffet rather extensively as the cabins were not completely finished. But that didn’t matter as there was so much to explore on a huge ship like the “Majesty Of The Seas“. At 2pm the cabins were ready. With a size of just 11 square meters, they were soon dubbed “the cell” by many. But despite their narrowness they proved to be a good accommodation: exterior cabins also had a balcony or window for a nice view over the Caribbean Sea, whereas interior cabins were connected with the outer world via TV screens. It was funny that in those cabins, the first view of the morning (and also the first indication of how long you had indulged in your hangover) was not “real” but on your TV screen. After the mandatory safety training, at 5 pm the horn sounded and gave the signal to cast off. There are three venues aboard, and the party started at 6:30 pm in the ’Spectrum Lounge’. The smallest of all three venues normally is a dance bar and smokers lounge alike. One can gather here in comfortable chairs around small tables and watch the bands play. Beer and other beverages are served directly at the table.
This wicked bar atmosphere perfectly meets the requirement for an energetic set of Pirate Metal, as performed by Alestorm. They kicked off with a cool show including all their Pirate Metal hits like Wenches And Mead or Heavy Metal Pirates. No surprises at all, but a very energetic start for the “70.000 Tons Of Metal“
The next show was announced in the ‘Chorus Line Theater’, the biggest venue apart from the ‘Pool Deck’. This theater is normally full equipped with priority leather seating, but a few rows of seats were removed to make a mosh pit possible. Drinks were served in the seating areas during the shows here and the gallery a deck above offered an excellent view over the scene. Grave Digger had to play their first gig here. It’s always fun to listen to their Tunes Of War and this evening made no exception. The German Metal institution played an awesome and powerful set which offered a colourful mix of old classics and new songs, including all their hits like Monks Of War or Heavy Metal Breakdown.
The next band to play should have been Cannibal Corpse, but the Pool Site was still closed. There was a massive delay in the stage build-up, because instead of the requested 5 tons crane only a 2 tons crane was available. Due to this circumstance it took much more time than expected to lift the stage aboard. Also, the pool covering set the stage builder before unexpected problems.
Nevertheless, the party went on… in the Theater, with Finland’s finest: Nightwish. They delivered a perfect mix of new material and old classics from Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum, and the big crowd became enthusiastic from second one. The new material fits Anette Olzon’s voice perfectly, whereas the classics like Wishmaster still remain problematic for her to sing with the same devotion like Tarja did.
The Pool Stage has the coolest stage concept ever seen: from the big pool or the adjacent whirlpools you can watch the bands on the stage as well as party on the surrounding upper deck. Having a drink while lying in the pool and watching your favorite bands, really is an awesome experience. The sound was very good, which came as a little surprise due to the fact that we were in the middle of the ocean with loads of gusty winds, especially in the evening. 90 minutes late, Florida’s Death Metal institution Cannibal Corpse entered the ‘Pool Stage’ to start the party on deck. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher is a brilliant shouter who has the ability to thrill a crowd immediately. Cannibal Corpse played an awesome gig, delivering songs mainly from their first four albums. They have so many hits, but with gems as outstanding as Hammer Smashed Face, A Skull Full Of Maggots or Addicted To Vaginal Skin – just to name a few - they proved once more why they are the most successful Death Metal act nowadays.
After such an explosive show, Edguy were supposed to have a hard time at the Theater. It turned out that their gig was just as amazing as Cannibal Corpse’s. Their charismatic frontman Tobias Sammet without any doubt delivered one of the best singer's performances on the entire cruise. Throughout the gig he had a smile on his face and cheered the fans on. He was in permanent action and made use of the entire stage. With Hits like Lavatory Love Machine, Vain Glory Opera Robin Hood or King Of Fools, they left no wishes of the fans unfulfilled and gave a show which was a “best of” of their whole career.
Soon after this cool Power Metal show, it was time to slow down for some really heavy Doom! Candlemass was and still is a more than worthy replacement for Pentagram. Robert Lowe is a charismatic vocalist who is able to perform the old classics as good as the new songs. The Swedish quintet delighted the large audience and clearly had fun on stage. Funny to see a Doom band raising their parasol decorated cocktails while performing Hits like The Hammer Of Doom or At The Gallows End
After this gig we swayed back to our cabin. And one thing had already become obvious on this first day: although the metal fans celebrated as wildly as last year, drunk and disorderly behaviour was hardly ever seen again. Fortunately, that did not change throughout the entire cruise.
Day 2 – At Sea
This was the first full day at sea, and the sun burned down the Pool Deck. Whiplash started their gig at 10am. But it really was an early bird event, so only a few metal heads managed to get up in time.
We had a copious breakfast, and the first band on our agenda was God Dethroned. The Dutch Death Metal formation played their last two gigs on the cruise, so it was quite obvious that their farewell shows would include a best of the best set list. And God Dethroned showed why we will miss them in future. They impressed the big crowd on the Pool Deck with a cool performance of all their hits like Execution Protocol, The Grand Grimoire, Villa Vampiria or Bloody Blasphemies, just to name a few. Unfortunately we missed their second gig.
After this gig, Exciter were not able to keep the level. They tried their best, but most of the fans on deck were more in the mood for drinking a cold beer at the pool, rather than head banging in front of the stage.
After these shows, it was time to take a little break from the stages and gather some impressions from the first full day on board. The first thing that came to mind was the permanent shaking of the whole ship. It was an absolutely weird feeling, like being drunk all the time. Drunk is a good keyword: just like yesterday, huge amounts of beer added to the amazing atmosphere. Corona or Budweiser were served as six-packs in buckets full of ice. And the most impressive thing was the permanent service during the shows. This was certainly a novelty for most metalheads: alcoholic beverages were served even in the middle of the crowd; you did not even have to leave your seat or sun lounge to get beer or cocktails. The service was used extensively. We also grabbed a bucket of Corona beer and took a time out at the pool. These beer buckets turned out to be the mega seller onboard again. But although loads of beers and cocktails were served, there was always respect between fans and bands and also for the waiters, cooks, and all other crew members. The whole success of this cruise depended on a harmonious relationship between all participants, and it again worked well: you always had the feeling of being part of a big family. The sun lounges where well frequented and all the pools were completely packed on the second day. It was a great experience to see all these relaxed fans. And for the bands it was fun, too. They, too, were able to enjoy themselves as nobody became too pushy. We also took a bath in the pool and had a coffee break before returning to the Chorus Line Theater. On our way we passed the Bolero's Lounge, where the meet & greet was held in the afternoon before the karaoke party started in the evening. Every band was scheduled for a meet & greet session once. Of course this element of the cruise is a bit questionable as the entire journey is a big meet & greet in some way. But it makes sense, because it is still the easiest way for fans and bands to get into contact. But now back to business on the stages.
Suffocation played their first show in the Theater. To be honest, the show itself was good, but only a few fans found their way to the stage. Therefore the atmosphere in the first rows was rather moderate.
Pretty Maids were a big surprise to many fans – in a positive way. They played their first shows ever in front of an overseas audience, and they took their chance. Their NWOBHM influenced Hard Rock really kicked ass at the Pool Deck. The band proved a lot of fans to be wrong with their opinion about the Danish dynamite. Pretty Maids delivered an explosive show fully loaded with classics like Back To Back, Sin Decade, Future World and, last but not least, Red, Hot And Heavy. Really a big surprise.
Stratovarius kept the level high. A big crowd gave them a warm welcome when they kicked off with Eaglehart, before switching to their classics Speed Of Light, Kiss Of Judas or Legions. The band really kicked ass this afternoon, as their mix of new songs and classics worked fine and their top hit Hunting High And Low ended a really cool gig.
After this, it was time for some medieval tunes and In Extremo took the ship by storm. Sterneneisen was the perfect opener for a powerful 60 minute set. The show continued on a high energy level and hits like Vollmond or Erdbeermund drove the fans completely crazy. The audience was well prepared for this invasion and went on singing the chorus of Pursuit Of Vikings for a long time after the band had quit the scene.
Even journalists have to eat sometimes. As said, the buffet was served on deck 11, which made grabbing a snack and going back to the Pool Stage fairly easy. Food and drink were really top-notch for a Metal event: there was a 24/7 buffet which left none of your wishes unfulfilled; you also had the option of À la Carte Restaurant, which was also for free. This is an absolute weird experience. You are being served like you would be in a five star restaurant, while Vader tunes reach your ears. Crazy…
We arrived at the Theater just in time for Annihilator. The Canadians around mastermind Jeff Waters are a superb live act, worth watching again and again. Jeff Waters fled over the stage like a dervish and encouraged the numerous fans. Annihilator played an energetic set, which reached its climax in Alice In Hell, of course. The fans thanked the band with a big party in front of the stage.
After this explosive show, the first appearance of Children Of Bodom was a little disappointing. Ok, Alexi Laiho seemed vocally hit and a little tired, but the Finns honestly tried hard. A real atmosphere never got the chance to arise between the fans, even though the first rows of the chock-full Pool Deck celebrated the band.
Must I say anything about Venom? I think no introduction is necessary. They are still a force on stage. Their artistic skills are without any doubt at a very high level and with Cronos they also have a living legend as vocalist. One of the most influential bands of the 1980s took the ship by storm. Black Metal was a perfect opener, but Venom performed all their hits such as Welcome To Hell, 7 Gates To Hell, Countess Bathory and so on. After 90 Minutes of pure Old School Black Metal, they quit the scene with Witching Hour.
The next band which plugged in their guitars on the Pool Stage was Hammerfall. After the last gigs I saw from the Swedes, I got a feeling that the band reinvigorated live again. I was proven right. They played an awesome gig, performing songs mainly from their earlier releases. The fans celebrated widely, and hits like HammerFall or Legacy Of Kings were sung by many.
Day 3 – Cayman Islands
At 8:30 in the morning the “Majesty of the Seas” reached the shores of Grand Cayman: the small capital of George Town was the destination of our travel. There, organized excursions to pirate caves were offered as well as snorkeling with stingrays, horse riding, rum tasting and jet skiing. Alternatively, you could just have some fun on the beach. For leaving the ship, each passenger had to check out with his Sea Pass. We were told to be back at 5:30 pm, as those who were not back in time would remain on Cayman Islands. After a short look around, we decided to rent a bus.
Our guided tour started with a disappointing ride through George Town. After the tour we visited Hell, a special Lava formation. It is funny to write a postcard from here, but not exactly what we had come here for. Also, we didn't want to go straight to the beach. However, the landscape was not that impressive and we were damned to take a few more stops, for example at a Dolphin Cove, a Rum Cake Point and a place which was announced to us by the driver as “a special landmark” - wow, cool, a turtle farm were you have to pay a 20$ fee to enter. For us it was just another rather touristy spot and not what we had intended to see… Nevertheless, we were on the way to the beach and although the ride didn't quite meet our expectations it showed us why you should visit Cayman Islands. It’s not because of the turtle farms or unseen pirate caves. It is because of the lovely beaches and the beautiful diving areas. Don't misunderstand me, the trip over the island itself was maybe worth the $20, but merely and simply not exactly the expected exploration of the island. Also, shopping turned out to be a bitter disappointment. Typical tourist junk and other trash were offered in the shops, with silver, rum, leather, or folk instruments being some rare exceptions. So, we headed straight to the beach, which turned out as a great idea. The beaches on the Cayman Islands are beautiful. So we had some buckets of beer at the beach and relaxed for a few hours before we had to return.
Back on board, a calm atmosphere prevailed. And so it was up to Overkill to reopen the venue gates and bring the party back. Overkill were re-scheduled on Wednesday after the massive delay in the Pool Stage build up on Monday. And they did a great job. Bobby and his band-mates were in a very good shape and mood. They proved why they are widely claimed as one of the most powerful live-acts nowadays. Also, the fact that Overkill had to replace drummer Ron Lipnicki because of a broken arm changed nothing. His substitute proved himself to be more than worthy and did a very good job. Their perfect mix of classic Thrash hymns and new material found its end in F**k You, which included an AC/DC cover of Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap
After that two more top acts had to play, but none had any changes in their setlists: Annihilator and Cannibal Corpse.
After those two had finished, Nightwish played their second 90 minute set, which did not offer any appreciable changes. This was a great difference from the first edition of the 70.000 Tons Of Metal: almost all bands offered “something special”, but this year they were mostly at theirs.
My Dying Bride was no exception from that either. The Gothic Metal band had a warm welcome by the fans, even though their music is full of melancholy and tragedy and no big party music at all. But the incredible strength of expression by vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe turns their live shows into an outstanding experience again and again, as they proved impressively that evening.
If there is a band which is totally underrated by press and fans, it is Vicious Rumors. The US Metal pioneers played an awesome gig in the Spectrum Lounge at midnight. The main focus of the set was clearly the Digital Dictator masterpiece. The fans were not disappointed. Especially the incredible voice of vocalist Brian Allen is very much in the veins of the old days of Vicious Rumors. In connection with the just as brilliant guitar performance by Geoff Thorpe, the US Metal pioneers are really back for more. Great gig!
Meanwhile Kamelot had to play at the Theater, and needed to prove that they had the ability to drag their fans directly in front of the stage. Of course, they were successful. The music spoke for itself as the band was widely celebrated by the crowd.
Still, the marathon of highlights was not finished yet. Kataklysm played an outstanding second gig at the Pool Stage. Their heavy Groove Death Metal is perfect for a huge moshpit, and it was formed in front of the Pool Stage. They played a completely different set. This time they were more focused on their latest releases like The Arms Of Devastation or Prevail, but they never forgot to include some classics. With these two gigs, Kataklysm received the recognition they deserved as one of the top Death Metal acts. The crowd went completely crazy and cheered for more songs; a long time after Kataklysm had to leave the stage with Shadows & Dust
Next band in the Theater was Samael and they played the complete Passage album this time. The crowd was exhausted by the time the second song ended. Like yesterday evening, Samael presented themselves in top form and the fans paid tribute to the absolutely professional appearance with a lot of cheers and applause.
At 4 am, Tankard entered the pool stage to celebrate their party tunes with the fans. Not many followed the call so that the show turned out to be more of a family character. But the small crowd saw Tankard doing a good job. They provided a representative cross section of their old albums. Many fans were convinced, and enjoyed this late night highlight.
After this enjoyable day, we had some Jackie Coke in the karaoke bar, which was completely crowded by fans and band members. It was absolute fun to be part of this big family aboard a cruise ship celebrating a big family party. We swayed back to our cabin shortly after sunrise and were once again deeply impressed by the absolute peaceful harmony of all participants.
Day 4 - Again At Sea
It was the last day on board. The sea became rougher, which made the task for bands and fans even more difficult. This permanent shaking of the ship is really nothing for people with a massive hangover like us.
Atheist’s second show was a bit of an early bird event. Musically, they were not necessarily a highlight, but the show suited the atmosphere on board. Every band had two chances, and this time Atheist did a good job as an opener for us at the Pool Site.
Meanwhile, Germany’s hope Sapiency played their second gig at the Spectrum Lounge, which was not frequented too much by us during the last two days. And, to be honest, it was a bit disappointing to see only 20 fans in front of the stage.
Instead of enjoying beer and sun on the upper deck, we moved to the Theater, where Virgin Steele were meant to rock the stage. OK, they had good sound and showed a good performance, but they did not rock at all! The impressive skills of the musicians and impressive vocalist David deFeis did not make up for the rather boring set list.
But this is nothing to be worried about, because there was so much entertainment on this last day of the cruise. One could have done guitar workshops with e.g. Jeff Waters, or a Drum & Bass Clinic with Jörg Michael and Lauri Porra of Stratovarius. Or if he felt man enough, try to win the Belly Flop Contest at the pool. Simply having some drinks at the upper deck was also a good alternative, because the sun burnt down on the fans like fire.
After a short break, watching Grave Digger for a few minutes at the Pool Stage, we decided to have a look at the Theater again, where Eluveitie played their second gig. Unfortunately we missed their first gig, but this time we arrived just in time. It is always fun, to see a crowded stage AND a crowded Theater. Both was the case when Eluveitie plugged in their instruments. They had as much fun as the audience, which was completely exhausted by the band. The crowd cheered and celebrated a big party, as the gig reached it’s climax in the Bands top hit Inis Mona
We entered the pool area to watch Therion’s second performance. All I have to say about that is: marvelous! Although, I must admit that their epic music is even better when darkness falls on the cruise ship, as we had seen at their first gig. They were really in a good mood and performed with an impressive sound and an even more impressive precision. The crowd was also grateful and gave Therion the respect they deserved.
Apart from Therion, another band deserved great respect: Riot. Mark Reale, the founding guitarist of the legendary metal band, was admitted to a San Antonio hospital the week before 70000 Tons Of Metal in critical condition due to complications of Crohn's Disease — an ailment he has battled for most of his life. He passed away on January 25th. (R.I.P Mark). But nevertheless the band played both shows on the cruise, the second one to honor a great and often underrated musician and songwriter. The band played a set which included all of the Riot classics. Swords & Tequila, Fire Down Under, Road Panic, Flight Of The Warrior and, last but not least, Thundersteel. Great show.
The next band of the evening for us was Dark Funeral. Although only a few diehard fans found their way to the Spectrum Lounge, Dark Funeral fully satisfied the audience by playing a full load of their tight and crude black metal.
After we had missed the first show of Amorphis, this time we were at the stage on time to fully enjoy the second show. After the intro was over, the Finns started extremely powerful with Sky Is Mine. Their energy level was incredibly high throughout the whole show. A huge mosh pit was formed in front of the stage, and showed how important Amorphis are to the fans. Every song was greeted with wild cheers. In between Marco Hietala from Nightwish appeared on Stage to sing a duet with Tomi Joutsen. And they improved their energetic performance yet again. Vulgar Necrolatry, Into Hiding or My Kantele were presented during the set, but the grandiose House of Sleep was the show's final climax.
The gig of Whiplash, however, was anything but cool. The vocalist probably had to suffer not only from the swaying of the ship. It was just cruel, but maybe his voice only paid tribute to air-conditioning? But despite the thin rotten voice, the gig was OK musically and the crowd simply celebrated! Especially Atlanta Is Burning was a real highlight and sung by many.
While we were listening to Amorphis, the wind increased extremely at deck. These winds made it feel like the Theatre was swaying even stronger, but once we arrived at deck, the wind reached frightening scales so that Venom had to abort their second gig for safety reasons. The roof of the stage tended to become a victim of the intensifying storm, so the stage crew decided to remove the roof at once. But the beginning of the show was absolutely promising Don't Burn The Witch; In Nomine Satanas and Bloodlust / Black Flame / Bloodlust.
The last band on our long trip was the reunited Groove Thrash formation from Belgium, Channel Zero. After their return in 2009, one of the most successful Belgian bands tried to prove, once again, that they are older and better nowadays. A task, which the guys fulfilled completely. They still kick ass, especially vocalist Franky de Smet van Damme sounds like he did in the mid-90s. He was in an extremely cool mood on this last evening and gave the crowd in the Spectrum Lounge what it deserved. The audience was also still in a party mood, so this gig became a really great end to a long Cruise.
After Channel Zero finished, we decided go back on deck, where a sizable crowd waited for Edguy. The Germans were able to play their entire set in a rough and gusty wind after the roof was removed by the very good stage crew.
After four days fully loaded with Heavy Metal and a lot of party, we called it a day and watched these cool German guys from the Viking Lounge, while having a Jackie Coke. From the Lounge, you have a perfect view over the complete Upper Deck of the “Majesty of the Seas”, the Heavy Metal love boat…
We had to disembark at nine o'clock sharp on Friday morning, because the “Majesty Of The Seas” had to set out in the evening again, this time with “normal” passengers. We highly doubt that the ship and its crew will have as much fun with them as they did with the 2051 mostly long-haired Heavy Metal fans. The organizers promised that there will be a new cruise with a new destination in 2013! We are looking forward to that, as the second edition surely was an expensive journey, but first and foremost a simply indescribable experience again, also we are looking forward to the Barge To Hell, a more extreme cruise in December 2012.
Text by Marc Hansen
Photos by Marc Hansen & Katja Borns