70000 Tons Of Metal Day 1 - Bacchanalia On The High Seas!

January 31, 2015, 9 years ago

Mark Gromen

feature 70000 tons of metal

70000 Tons Of Metal Day 1 - Bacchanalia On The High Seas!

Or so 70000 Tons promoter/skipper Andy P would have you believe; drinking, gambling and heavy metal, a salt water Sodom & Gomorrah (neither of whom were amongst the attendees), with 60 bands and 3,000 fans, for four days between Ft. Lauderdale Florida and Jamaica (the only port of call). As one who never had any intentions of hopping aboard a cruise, this was solely about the music. Many people waited for eight glass elevators, either end of the ship, to traverse between the dozen decks (and you'll want to go from sunny, outdoor stage, topside to the three story theater down the basement). However, like the Europeans, we hiked the seemingly endless stairwells. Regardless, bring a comfortable pair of shoes, as even repeatedly strolling the storefront promenade becomes a good way to work off all those beverages and the barrage of edible calories.

Feels somewhat strange, walking down this "mall," stepping into the pizza shop to grab a couple of free slices (anytime of the day or night), without even swiping your personalized, omnipresent (credit card backed) ID. After four days, the paper receipts (15% gratuity automatically added to ALL purchases) could shower a small ticker tape parade. At any port of call, cruisers can't walk more than a few feet without being pestered by "some" sort of offer. Onboard, that's the ubiquitous beer stalls and roving vendors, who definitely know their clientele on THIS ship! Really, there's no need to hawk their wares, as after the initial evening I'm pretty sure most had visited all four stage and were well aware of the locations of the nearest watering hole. Unofficially, seems a 25oz Fosters "oilcan" was the preferred choice, at around $8 (omnipresent gratuity included), it was like two beers for the price of one. When most were opting for quantity over quality (there's an English pub, offering non-mass produced options, like a 750ml Chimay Blue for $20), the Aussie brew won out.

After almost two hours after setting foot in line, clearing Homeland Security and securing your room key/ID/onboard credit card, we were on the Liberty Of The Seas. Typically, staterooms are only ready after a few hours, forcing people to hang in the bars or explore the ship. Your baggage will be delivered to your room later (so keep $, credit, phone and other valuables on your person).

Three of the venues were almost linked to one another, via a quick flight of stairs or a trip through the ship's casino. One of the designated smoking areas, complete with a bar, it became the de facto gathering point for artists and fans. The Egyptian themed Sphynix Room (with plush lounge seats and pit couches) was like a small club stage, the band basically playing on the floor, behind a barricade that allowed photographers to snap a few close-ups without having to battle the fans pressed up against the chest-high steel fence. A floor below was the massive Platinum, a three-tiered. seated theater destined to house some of the bigger names. Separated by the gambling hall, Studio B was adjacent to a TV monitor-filled sports bar. Perhaps it's the passengers (or possibly the reliance on X-Games,  Jamaican cricket matches or college basketball), but that area was pretty empty. A mere gateway to the rectangular Studio B, whose floor was an ice rink (although due to adversity, it remained covered for the duration of the cruise), an intermittent sized option: several hundred, whereas Platinum could handle most of the 3000 aboard, if needed.

Topside, on decks 11 & 12, a stage was eventually erected, although not until late on Day 2, which created some 11th hour line-up juggling (and the cancellation of the international ice hockey tournament (fans & bands) scheduled for Studio B. They had to customize cut-outs/boarding over "baby pools" and assuring a safe, level walkway. There were a couple of hot tubs (including one behind plexi-glass, just off stage left) inwhich fans could relax, imbibe and watch the show. In addition to standing room (some doused by overzealous hot tubbers) near the stage, overhead fans ringed the opening staring down at the crazies, onstage and (mostly) off.



Soon after our ship parted the docks, Helstar took to the Sphinx stage, diminutive frontman James "The Mexican Dio" Rivera was barely visible over the outstretched arms of the standing room crowd. Long a friend, Rivera previously confided in me that he's ultimately love to pass his senior days, "Singing Engelbert Humperdinck on a cruise ship." Almost there James! Rushed on and off, due to delays, they were only able to play about half of their planned 10 song set. "Pandemonium" met with a sea of flailing fists. "Good Day To Die" off Multiples Of Black, saw Rivera explain, "People say, 'You don't play anything off that one anymore.' It's sort of the black sheep among the albums." Feeling the love, later he added, "70,000 Tons, we're metalheads from all over the world. Shame there's not an island like that. I'd move there and become governor." There was nothing off Burning Star planned, as a few nights later they'd be airing the debut in its entirety, the jovial singer deadpanning, "It's the 30th anniversary, Glad I was five years old when I made it." As always, he was aided by founder/guitarist Larry Barragan. The whoa'whoa chorus of "Evil Reign" was easily handled by audience voices not yet hoarsed by the excesses of the weekend, before ending way too soon with "Baptized In Blood".



The early exit afforded me enough time to check out a few songs from God Dethroned, including the deep red and purple lit "Art Of Immolation". Soon after, headed to Studio B to reacquaint myself with Pretty Maids. When purchasing the initial (Shelly The Maid) Ep, back in '83, never would have imagined one day I'd see the band (or at least current incarnation with original singer Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer) six times in two years (Wacken, Bang Your Head, ProgPower USA, Knockout & two shows here)! Giant porthole/windows (later covered) showed the speed at which we were travelling. It was quite impressive (and later reported to be 19 knots, or almost 22mph, on land). The Danes went on a little late and at low volume. The Bill Clinton (Lewinski) denial soundbite kicked off the opening "Mother Of All Lies". Hammer switched guitars for "Rodeo", while Atkins, a classic frontman, in the old school tradition (should be giving lessons to the kids) got everyone to sing/clap along. The lights went purple and pink for "Pandemonium" (not the Helstar tune heard earlier). Speaking of Pink, there was a snippet of Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall pt 2" (aka "We Don't Need No Education"), the crowd vocals segueing into "I.N.V.U.". Seemed like a portion were awaiting the sophomore effort, Future World, in its entirety (which would be played on Saturday. As if sensing such, "Yellow Rain' (with color coordinated lighting) came on cue, although, at least early on, the bands tried not to duplicate their sets. Atkins belittled the crowd's effort, demanding, "Fuck off. That sounded real shitty. Put some balls into it!" As usual, they ended with the killer pairing of "Back To Back" and "Red, Hot & Heavy".





Things were heating up, people milling about the floating concert hall and libations flowing freely. A fitting setting for the freeform Therion, and top hat/tuxedo/sunglasses wearing mastermind/guitarist Christofer Johnsson (main picture above), Few bands have morphed as much over their lifetime, from simplistic gruff death metal to multi-voice, multi-sex operatic chorus extravaganza. With a pair of female vocalists (including the debut of Isa García Navas) and plenty of bodies all around. After the prophetic weekend anthem "The Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah" the always enigmatic Johnsson opted for a career retrospective (as far back as '96 Theli), including "Wine Of Aluqah", "Lumaria", a pair off Secret Of The Runes ("Ginnungagap" & "Muspelheim") and the concluding "To Mega Therion".  



Missed the first few songs of Annihilator, but made it in time for "Set The World On Fire", with Jeff Waters (red V guitar in hand) adding vocals to Dave Padden's lead throat. Afterwards, mainman Waters announced, "Gonna get this one over with. My favorite song (he motions thumbs down). Sort of started our career." The curt comments were, of course, directed at "Alison Hell". Regardless of his feelings the fans went batty. Obligations out of the way, he skanked around in circles during "Ultraparanoia", his Mohawk like a shark's dorsal fin cutting through the water. He sang lead on the song, he and Padden trading licks center stage. In unison, a circle pit broke out on the floor. Next was bit of a surprise, a trio of tunes off Never, Neverland (which Waters claimed to be his favorite album), with Ron Jon surfer cap and leather jacket attired guest vocalist Coburn Pharr, who sang on the original versions of "Reduced To Ash", "The Fun Palace" and "I Am In Command". Nice touch.





Needed a couple of shots of Apocalyptica, Metal Tim's buddies from Wacken (where he moderated their press conference). They started significantly late (some technical issues) and when they did come on, the sound was muddy. Didn't prevent the classically trained Finns to thrash and headbang while playing their cellos. While waiting for Chi-town doomsters Trouble, killed some time by checking out a few minutes of Heathen, upstairs in the Sphinx room. The Frisco thrahsers were winding towards the end of their set, apparently the earlier portion was dominated by newer material, before offering up a pair from their Breaking The Silence debut: "Open The Grave" and audience shouted "Death By Hanging". Unbeknownst to either one of us, Metal Tim and I would share beers and stories with singer David Godfrey (aka David White) on the beach, in Jamaica. Small world!



Trouble opened with "Assassin", from the classic Psalm 9 album, guitar tandem Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin laying down megaton slab of heavy (with plenty of speed, despite the doom stereotype) and ex-Exhorder frontman Kyle Thomas did his best air guitar. After "End Of My Daze", where Thomas had the audience help out, he prefaced the jangly, Beatlesque "Memory's Garden" with, "Sing along, if you know the fricken words. Might be helping me out." No worries, he acquitted himself well, in fact he gets better every time I see him, in terms of timbre and performance delivery (much for animated than Eric Wagner, who I love/loved). He also cracked, "Guess it would be inappropriate to play 'Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald'," referring to Gordon Lightfoot's epic about a doomed ship. "When The Sky Comes Down" was one of the newbies aired, off the Thoms era Distortion Field. Regardless, there was Wartell, blond hair draped over his eyes, churning out licks on his cream colored Flying V, while the opposite side say the headband wearing Franklin contorting his face and body, seemingly bending the notes from within. "RIP" was another oldie, before heading downstairs to catch Primal Fear, my final show of the night.





Mat Sinner would later joke that it was like going on at 7AM, German time, what with other bands' delays pushing the set back. That's why singer Ralf Scheepers greeted the crowd with "Good morning," upon completion of the lead-off "Final Embrace". Just the second live date with new drummer Aquiles Priester (after witnessing the technical difficulty-filled Karlsruhe show, in December), the set was identical. Black, curly haired guitar god Alex Beyrodt seemed shot from a cannon, bounding about the stage: jumping, playing the axe vertically, dropping to his knees, with an endless display of histrionics and overhand techniques. "Nuclear Fire" was the first of many piston-pumpers (especially the last three), chosen to showcase the talents of the Brazilian skinsman. Even though he denied it (in our discussion, the next day) Scheepers' seemed to have worked on his skills as a frontman, chiding the crowd to chant more, playing off Alex, bending down towards the fans, center stage, etc. Later, he'd inquire, "Are you seasick yet? Maybe hung over," leading into the purple/blue hues of "When Death Comes Knocking", where guitarist Tom Nauman (he of the spiked white Mohawk), facing the drums, jumped around like a sparring shadow boxer. Eventually, the two guitars finally came together, center stage. As wafts of smoke filled the stage, gold was paradoxically the lighting of choice for "Angel In Black". The proper set was capped with a speedy "Chainbreaker" and the power scream of "Metal Is Forever". Including the pending show Sunday, this would mark the fifth time seeing meine Deutschen freunde since April.



Not wishing to exhaust myself on the first night, head swimming from a day of activities, sun and a few beers, it was off to bed, knowing there was still three FULL days of entertainment ahead.

Check out more photos of Day 1 here.


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