70,000 Tons Of Metal: Day One

Who doesn’t love a music festival? Beer, parties, new friends, more beer, more parties, losing your friends… it’s the highlight of the summer. But when the festival market is becoming increasingly saturated and we start to see the same headliners revolving around various fields over the years like a musical fallow system, how do you stay fresh? By sacking the field off altogether!

On paper 70,000 Tons Of Metal sounds like the greatest idea ever – 3000 metalheads onboard a luxury cruise liner to Jamaica, getting heavily inebriated to 60 killer bands and working on their tan. And after 70,000 hours of queuing Metal Hammer makes it onboard and finds the nearest bar (of which there are many).

Strolling around the 340m long ship, we meet hundreds of black t-shirted metallers from around the world – USA, Canada, Germany, Australia – who, like us, are loving the delicious irony of what feels like the inmates running the asylum. Metal has never been about luxury, fine dining or cleanliness, but who can turn it down when offered? There’s something amusing and warming about seeing the goth brigade choosing expensive perfumes from the onboard fragrance shop or a man in a Gorgoroth t-shirt eating a delicious-looking pink cupcake.

Of course, the metallic nature of our throng is sure to come out at some point. When out on deck for the safety drill, the thousands onboard start chanting “Your boat sucks!” at any craft that happens to sail by this massive vessel. There’s also a very metal wedding taking place by the pool with the priest imitating Papa Emeritus and everyone involved wearing the blackest blacks – even the bouquet is black. With hundreds of onlookers cheering you on, where else would you spend the happiest day of your life if it’s not in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by your friends and bands?

Speaking of bands…

In the impressively plush Platinum Theater, symphonic metal mainstays Therion are blasting out 60 minutes of operatic heaviness. Despite forming way back in ‘87, they’ve never become the household names of Nightwish or Within Temptation, but the beautiful, powerful, encapsulating vocal display grabs you and drags you in like the kraken.

Over in Studio B (the venue that’s doubling up as an ice rink on Saturday for the 70,000 Tons Of Metal Ice Hockey Championships) Annihilator are delivering a solid slab of thrasharound heavy metal to the slightly sozzled masses, but back in the Platinum Theater Arch Enemy are gearing up and the place is packed from front to rear.

Annihilator: thrashing for the sozzled.

Opening on a blistering War Eternal, the stage is set for the following hour of melodic death metal from one of the biggest bands on the cruise. Throwing herself round the stage with electric blue hair whipping back and forth, Alissa White-Gluz leads the charge of the Arch Enemy fans who are slowly warming to the idea of actually moving. Although, it’s hard to mosh properly when every now and then the waves throw you off balance…

Powering through the big guns of Ravenous, My Apocalypse and As The Pages Burn, you begin to realise just how empowering Michael Amott’s brainchild really are. A full-force display of fist pumping and general fuck-the-world attitude takes hold of the theatre for No Gods, No Masters and continues through ‘til set closer and fan favourite Nemesis. They’ll be back again on Saturday (‘cause every band plays twice) and we bet everyone else in the room will be too.

_Alissa White-Gluz: fuck-the-world attitude _

Following Arch Enemy are Apocalyptica, who suffer severe technical difficulties, which pushes the set back by half an hour — to the dismay of the drunken masses. Bodies are dozing in the seated area and restlessness takes over until the lights suddenly drop. Their cello-based rendition of Sepultura megahit Refuse/Resist tries to lift the spirits of those who’ve waited, but the set falls a little flat.

One band who this cruise is basically designed for, though, is Alestorm. Where else would you find the originators of True Scottish Pirate Metal? And even though it’s 3am and the rest of the ship is reminiscent of a ghost town, the Platinum Theater is full of filthy landlubbers lapping up the shanties from arguably the most fun band on the bill this weekend. Say what you want about ‘gimmick bands’, but if you can’t have a good time watching pirates tell tales of finding magnetic north or travelling through time to start fights with Vikings on a giant fuck-off boat then you should probably take a trip to the joy doctor. Alestorm acknowledge the inherent silliness in what they do, especially after singing a song that boils down to shouting “I’ve got a wooden leg!”, but with room-filling singalongs in the guise of Nancy The Tavern Wench and Keelhauled, it’s pure fun. Now pass the rum…

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.