70,000 Tons Of Metal: the final fury

All good things must come to an end, and today is sadly the final day of the biggest heavy metal cruise on the planet. Over the past three days we’ve seen 60 bands play across four decks on a mammoth cruise ship that took a detour to Jamaica, and now we’re heading back to Florida to resume our normal lives. But just like any horrific eventuality, if you ignore it it might not happen. So at 10am, when Anvil take to the stage, the alcohol is already flowing and the pool is full of people who need more metal before going back to the day job.

And thanks in part to the now infamous movie, rocking out to hundreds of metal fans is now Anvil’s day job. Starting ten minutes early to the annoyance and confusion of those still scoffing breakfast and lining their stomachs, the Canadian heavy metal heroes blast through the fist-raising School Love, Winged Assassins and Swing Thing. Frontman Lips might well be the happiest man in metal and appears genuinely humbled at the crowd before him on the Pool Deck. It might not be the biggest or loudest gathering of the trek, but it doesn’t matter. Those present are here to rock out with the almost-forgotten metal trio who are clearly loving every minute of it. And while Robbo’s drum solo might not be what everyone wants early in the morning on a hangover, this is counterbalanced by Lips’ ability to play guitar with a bright blue vibrator. Who needs plectrums, eh?

Over in the Solarium, it’s the annual 70,000 Tons Of Metal international belly flop contest. As the announcer declares, the perfect flop isn’t just about the motion but we need to hear a snap on the water and see physical anguish – “We want to see blood!” he declares. And he’s not the only one: as each challenger from around the world lines up, chants of “What are we looking for?” “Pain!” echo around the deck. From men in mankinis to Batman dresses, the look is very important, and the art of the flop is hard to perfect – but Radioactive Man has it covered as does Bruno from France who backflips into the pool (the snazzy bastard). However, it’s all about Jake from Boston who delivers the winning belly flop according the judges and in turn goes down in history as a 70,000 Tons legend.

Back on the Pool Deck stage the folk metal titans Korpiklaani are preparing the sun-soaked lager lovers for a solid bout of drinking music. Even though the majority of those down front are the wrong side of sunburnt, once the violin and accordion combo kicks in the jigging begins. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to your Sunday binge then look no further as the Finnish pagan metallers light the fire underneath the dancing feet of the Liberty Of The Seas.

Korpiklaani: folk metal drinking tunes

Inside the Platinum Theatre, though, is the definite highlight of the cruise – Jamming With Waters In International Waters. What originally came from the mind of Annihilator’s Jeff Waters a few cruises back, the idea has morphed into a 90-minute extravaganza of the biggest names in metal jamming out iconic tracks from the genre. Members of Venom, Primal Fear, Behemoth, Therion, Napalm Death, Blind Guardian, 1349 and more descend on the auditorium for a truly memorable afternoon. Opening proceedings are Behemoth and Venom frontmen Nergal and Cronos thrashing through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades and inciting tinnitus in the process. It’s inspiring that one of the pioneers of black metal is standing side-by-side with the frontman of the most vital band in extreme metal and nailing one of the bona fide anthems of the genre.

Following on in this showcase of everything heavy, Destruction’s Schmier punches through “one of the best tracks in metal” – Metallica’s Seek & Destroy — and Venom’s Cronos nailing Sabbath’s Paranoid make you wonder why this doesn’t happen more often.

This thought is instantly solidified by Max Cavalera’ rendition of Pantera’s Walk, dedicated to his “good friend” Dimebag Darrell. And even though Max doesn’t quite know all the words, the crowd’s chorus is deafening. If that volume wasn’t enough, Barney from Napalm Death kicks seven shades of the brown stuff out of Black Sabbath despite declaring himself “doubly fucking nervous” beforehand as he’s representing Birmingham pride. The session climaxes on AC/DC’s Shot Down In Flames featuring Micheal Schenker, Tomasz from Behemoth, Jeff Waters himself and more. Why this doesn’t happen at every festival, we don’t know.

_Behemoth’s Nergal and Venom’s Cronos: side-by-side in metal _

Up at the top of the ship the media are gathering for the final press conference of the weekend, and joining the meeting is the ship’s captain Kjetil Gjerstad. He informs us that despite his smart dress he has his heavy metal shirt in his cabin, and that the crew are more relaxed than ever due to the metalheads being really friendly to all crew members. He’s joined by 70,000 Tons organiser, The Skipper, who gives the lowdown on everything 70,000 Tons has accomplished in 2015, including having the fifth sold-out year in a row and a high female attendance. Of course, not everything has gone smoothly – primarily the Pool Deck stage — but Skipper informs us “Next year won’t be such a Spinal Tap.”

We also discover that next year’s 70,000 Tons will take place “most likely the first week of February”. This hopefully won’t affect tickets sales, but there are 200 people on board who have been to every 70,000 Tons Of Metal and the festival has 60% repeat customers. “This is a family and people look forward all year to meeting their family,” he says. But metal isn’t just any family, heavy metal has the world’s biggest camaraderie, and as The Skipper addresses the Pool Deck crowd it’s revealed that metal fans from 70 nations are represented on 70,000 Tons Of Metal. “You are the United Nations of heavy metal – thank you!” No… thank you!

For news about 2016’s cruise, keep an eye on the 70,000 Tons Of Metal website.

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.