Day 1. Monday Jan. 27th 2014: From my house in Orlando to Miami is basically a straight shot down I-95. It takes several hours, but it’s an easy drive. Once I navigated through the labyrinth that is downtown Miami and the Port of Miami I located my boat (Majesty Of The Seas) and was able to park and board with no hassle and no lines. When I got to my room and got squared away (peed) I spent the next couple of hours exploring the boat and talking to some of the people on board. There were people from many countries and every continent (except Antarctica, too bad GWAR wasn’t playing) but mostly Canadians and different kinds of Europeans. At one point another cruise ship came into port. As they passed we chanted “your boat sucks” at them. As the sun went down we started to pull away from the port of Miami. I’m pretty sure we sailed right over the spot where Dexter dumped his bodies.
So the way this cruise works is every band plays two sets during the voyage so that you can catch every band you want without worrying about overlapping sets. As we boarded we were handed the running order for the first night. I looked over the list and decided I’d catch Overkill, Obituary, Cynic and Finntroll.
Probably more than any other band on the cruise I was super stoked to catch Overkill. In my opinion The Years of Decay and Horrorscope are two of the finest albums to be released during the original thrash metal era. They started their set with some newer material off The Electric Age and Ironbound. It was obvious from watching them that they are well rehearsed and professional. They tore through their set with an energy that disguised the fact that they’ve been playing some of these songs for almost 30 years. Towards the end of their set they hit Hello From the Gutter, In Union We Stand, Coma, Elimination, and finished with Fuck You. I’ll definitely catch their second set.
Obituary’s set consisted mostly of songs off Slowly We Rot, The End Complete, and Cause Of Death. They did throw in some new material from an album they are currently working on. It was pretty awesome to catch one of the pioneers of true Florida death metal still getting after it. In true “Hey we’re from Florida” fashion they were selling camouflage hats with the Obituary logo (one of the best logos of all time by the way) in hunters orange. Also John Tardy was wearing a NASCAR shirt.
Uh…lots of slow songs and clean vocals. Look, I get it. These guys are all accomplished musicians, and the things they’re doing with their guitars and drums are impressive from that perspective I guess, but boring is boring. Also the guitarist, vocalist Max Phelps picks weird. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an incredible guitarist, he just has a weird picking style. Remember the scene in Revenge Of The Nerds where Wormser designed a special javelin to go with Lamar’s limp wristed throwing style? Well, it’s the guitar equivalent of that. It probably shouldn’t have bothered me but it did. Hopefully their set will be more engaging when they swap bass players and return as Death.
A friend of mine once told me that he didn’t like Finntroll because they sing about trolls. His contention was that if people who weren’t into metal heard about this they would think that all metal, and by extension people who listen to it, were stupid. Of course we all know that most metal lyrics are doctorate level dissertations on classic literature, fine art, ground breaking science, and profound ruminations regarding man’s place in the universe. In addition, when people see a huge group of us lined up outside a concert venue (or in this case a cruise ship) they automatically assume that there is a lecture by Stephen Hawking or Noam Chomsky going on inside. So, his argument has merit. Anyway, Finntroll was awesome, and not only do they sing about trolls, but they wear prosthetic troll ears while they do it.
Day 2. Tuesday Jan.28th 2014: I woke up without an alarm for the first time in a long time. It was awesome. Once I got myself out of bed and got some food I looked over the day’s running order. I decided today would be Terrorizer, D.R.I., Death Angel, Satyricon, Carcass, and Death. Since every band is playing twice I wasn’t worried about keeping a schedule.
There are three different stages on board. The first is a theatre with a nice big stage and great sound, about the size of a standard House of Blues, perhaps slightly larger. The second is a stage that has been erected on the pool deck. Great view, great sound, you can even stand on a deck behind the drummer, which is awesome. This provides a whole new perspective on the show, also it’s interesting to watch drummers who play to a click. For those of you not in the know this usually occurs when bands have pre-recorded keyboard parts (but no keyboard player) or some other sounds that have to play at a specific point in the song so everything has to be synched up, hence the click track. I spent all of Fear Factory’s first set just watching the drummer fidget with his laptop between songs. The third stage is in a small lounge area. This stage is sorta like a local club. It has a decent (but not great) PA, and the ceiling is real low so you can’t see anything unless you’re right up front. This is where I caught Terrorizer.
(forgot my camera)
Luckily my press pass allows me down into the photo pit (the little area between the railing and the stage). Usually show organizers want you in and out of there as quickly as possible. I’ve been to other events where they limit photos to the first three songs. At the big stages here they limit the number of people in the photo pit to 10, so it’s necessary to keep it moving once you get your shots so that others can get in and get theirs. But at the small stage there usually aren’t that many people lined up to take pictures, so you can sorta sit there for a while. The guard railings even have little benches built into them. It’s a great place to catch a show. Oh and Terrorizer was pretty good. Kinda weird seeing Pete Sandoval playing something other than Morbid Angel though (and also kinda weird after I saw his wiener in the SMN Death Metal forum. As I was posting this i toyed with the notion of linking to it. I decided against it. If you’re that curious I’m sure you can find it).
Again in the lounge area. Like Overkill I was really excited about seeing D.R.I. The first car I ever owned was a used, maroon 1986 Honda Civic hatchback. The first day that I owned it I stuck a tape (yeah a cassette tape, that’s what we had back then, fuck you) in the tape deck, and it became irretrievably stuck for months. It just wouldn’t eject. I tried knives, I tried screwdrivers, nothing worked. If I wanted to listen to something other than the crap ass radio I had to listen to this tape. It was D.R.I.’s Thrash Zone. Their set was awesome and I felt like I was 17 again when they played Beneath The Wheel. Again I watched this set from the photo pit. Best seat in the house if you can get it.
Watching Death Angel puts into sharp perspective the idea that there are two types of bands in this world. Ones who engage with the audience and ones who stand there between songs like they just pooped their pants. Death Angel definitely engages and it makes a world of difference in crowd response and overall show enjoyment. I was never a huge Death Angel fan back in the day, but when they went to record with my buddy Jason Suecof at Audiohammer it kinda renewed my interest in them. They played a good mix of older and newer material and their energy made me glad that I caught their set (from the photo pit again, yay!!!)
Satyricon was another band that I was really excited to see. Never saw them before, but have been a fan for years. As soon as they took the stage and launched into Now, Diabolical I knew I was in for a good set. I did notice that the drummer looked kinda weird and unfamiliar. Apparently Frost was denied entrance into the U.S. so the guy from Soilwork filled in. He did an incredible job with only two rehearsals. Satyricon is one of those bands that comes across way better live than they do on their recordings, especially their new stuff. Although I do have to say that about halfway through the set Satyr said “If any song reflects the direction of the new Satyricon, this is it.” Then they proceeded to play the slowest and most boring song they possibly could. They made up for it by finishing the set strong and ending with K.I.N.G. Unfortunately the photo pit was busy so I had to get my shots and get out, then watch the show like everyone else.
Carcass is different from many of the bands on this cruise in that they have a current album out and this is part of the touring cycle for that album. Carcass is also different from other bands who get back together after a long hiatus in that they didn’t reform and get everybody’s hopes up only to put out a craptacular butthole of an album (I’m looking at you Morbid Angel). In fact, their new album Surgical Steel is quite good, and the songs they played off of it fit in very nicely with the rest of their set. Although their new stuff was impressive it was cool to hear songs off Necroticism and Heartwork, which they ended their set with. More music from my youth.
OK I’m glad that everyone is playing two sets because I’d hate to judge them by their first. Yeah it was cool hearing all those old Death songs, but there were a couple of things that just weren’t right. First, either my ears have been hearing at the wrong speed for my whole life up until the beginning of their set or they were playing some things slow. Like really noticeably slow. Also, and I know this isn’t their fault, but the FOH sound engineer had the two guitars panned hard left and hard right. I fucking HATE it when sound guys do that shit live. You’re not mixing an album fuckface. Stage left guitar should not completely drop out when stage right guitar plays a solo. Just because you’re standing in the exact center of the room doesn’t mean everybody is. I’ll catch their second set the day after tomorrow and see what’s what.
Day 3. Wednesday Jan 29th, 2014
Today we were docked in Costa Maya, Mexico for most of the day. I went to see the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben, which was cool, but they don’t let you climb on them like I imagined. In fact, our tour guide Elizabeth, told us that anyone who tried to climb the ruins would be sacrificed. Clearly she knew her audience. As we were getting off our boat people on a different cruise were getting back aboard theirs. They all looked pretty horrified as we came streaming off our boat, one black shirt after another. It was about an hour bus ride from the port to the site of the ruins. Most of the way there was through rural farmland. I saw the skinniest cows I’ve ever seen. These were not beef cows. These were like baseball glove and leather jacket cows. As I was getting back on the boat I talked to a couple from Atlanta who spent their day drinking and riding ATVs, which sounded fucking awesome. Maybe I’ll do that if I ever get a chance to come back. The bands didn’t start until 5:30 today so there aren’t many sets that look like must see’s, except for Massacre. I’ll probably catch Obituary, Satyricon and Carcass again though.
Massacre fucking killed! Most of the stuff they played was off their legendary album From Beyond. Their live set sounded just like the fuckin album and their new vocalist Ed Webb nailed every bit of it. I was super impressed. Growing up in Orlando Massacre and Death were literally local bands at one time, and they became my introduction to death metal. I clearly remember albums like From Beyond and Spiritual Healing bridging the gap for me between thrash metal and bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse. They have a new album coming out soon called Back From Beyond. Can’t wait to hear it.
I caught Satyricon’s second set (I gotta admit it is kinda strange and funny to watch black metal being performed on a pool deck of a cruise ship) and after hearing it a second time that one song isn’t so terrible ON IT’S OWN MERITS. It is, however, a momentum killer and shouldn’t be in the middle of a live set, imo. Also, something needs to be said about this E-cigarette bullshit. This is some hard core douche baggery and it needs to be addressed. During Satyricon’s set (after I got some more pictures) I was standing behind some asshat sucking away on his E-cig. I don’t know what flavor he had but it smelled like he was smoking a cheap cigar filled with human hair while he was shitting his pants. If you’re going to smoke just smoke and quit being such a pussy about it. And stop pretending like it’s ok to do it wherever you want just because it isn’t a real cigarette. It still smells like donkey ass and it still bothers the shit out of everyone around you. And it makes you look gay, like jizz all over your face gay.
Let me also take a second here to talk about the food on this cruise. Every time anyone has ever told me about a cruise they went on the first thing they mention is how good the food is. This is for good reason. Not only is the food good, but it’s always available. And if you’re the kind of person who counts calories (which I am not) it doesn’t really matter how much you eat because you’re going to walk a mile a day just getting around on this ship. I’ve eaten better AND HEALTHIER on this cruise than I do in my regular life. I need to figure out a way to become a squillionaire so I can hire a private chef and eat like this all the time. Lottery seems like a sound investment.
Day 4. Thursday Jan. 30th, 2014: Today is the last day. We get to port early tomorrow morning. I’ve seen all the bands I wanted to see so today will be catching second sets of a few bands. I’ll definitely catch Death again to see whether or not their first set was a fluke. I’ll also catch Finntroll and Overkill again.
I’ve noticed that all the bigger, more well-known bands (Overkill, Obituary, Carcass, Satyricon, Death, etc…) play on either of the two big stages during the early evening and on into the night when it’s convenient to catch them. If you want to catch one of the smaller or more obscure bands you may have to venture into the lounge or stay up late (3 or 4 AM) or get up early. Speaking of early, every day on this cruise I’ve been woken up around 7 AM by a group of loud Germans talking, laughing, and running up and down the hallway. It’s the running that wakes me up. Are Germans just a naturally heavy footed people? Also, what are they doing up? If they’re just coming back to their rooms from a long night I suppose that’s understandable and forgivable. But if they just got up to start the day that is unacceptable because who the fuck gets up that early while on vacation?
Ok it’s raining and kinda gross outside, so all shows on the pool deck have been moved inside until further notice. I wish I had known this before I slathered all this sunblock on. The weather is causing the ocean to be a little more rough and wavy, so the boat is moving around quite a bit. If this had happened on the first day I might have been in trouble, but by now I have my sea legs.
DEATH (second set) This set was WAY better than the first. The issue with the speed was no longer present. Everything was being played at album speed. The guitars were still panned hard left and right, which is gay and stupid, but I’ve already covered that. I got around this by catching the whole set from the photo pit. Down there you get the stage sound, a little bit of FOH sound, and some monitor sound. So I was able to hear everything fine. First let me say how impressive it was just to watch Steve DiGiorgio play his 6 string fretless bass. I mean, how do you even know where the notes are? Incredible. Also, they played Lack Of Comprehension during this set, which they didn’t in their last set. It was fucking awesome and in my estimation they totally redeemed themselves from their first set, which wasn’t totally their fault anyway. Both sets had an intermission where they showed a cool video montage of Chuck Schuldiner over the years, from the very first Death demos all the way through Sound Of Perseverance. It was moving without being too sad, and it reminded everyone where these songs came from in the first place.
They weren’t on my ‘to do’ list for the day, but I found myself with a few minutes to spare so I caught a little of their set. The only thing that really stood out to me was their intro music. They use the same music that the Chicago Bulls used back in the day when they were introducing their line-up. At any second I expected a smooth baritone voice come over the PA and yell “And at the other guard, from North Carolina, number 23, Michaeeeeeeeeelllllll Jooooooorrrdddaaaaaaaaaannnnnn!!!!!!”
As the evening wears on and the last few sets are about to be played I would like to point out that I haven’t seen even one altercation nor heard a cross word spoken the entire time I was here. Even the security guys are cool. This event really fosters a sense of community. So, as a community I think there are a few things we should address. First is the “rapist beards”. Guys, come on. They’re horrendous looking, and I think deep down you know it. And when I say rapist beard I mean that in a “Deliverance” way, not in a “I swear it was consensual” way. Second is wearing corpse paint at shows. Unless you are in a black metal band that is PERFORMING THAT NIGHT and corpse paint is part of your gimmick, AND you intend to wash it off IMMEDIATELY after your performance, don’t do it. You don’t look cool at all. In fact you look like someone that a drunk with a rapist beard might try to take advantage of in the bathroom. Third is men wearing kilts, with or without the Hammer of Thor and/or a drinking horn hanging from your belt. This looks even less cool than a guy with a rapist beard wearing corpse paint AND there’s the added possibility that we might see your gross balls.
As the final night of this cruise winds down let me just say that I had an amazing and incredibly fun time. 70,000 Tons Of Metal is my first cruise experience, and after this I can’t imagine going on any other cruise. It was everything I hoped it would be and then some. Everything on this cruise was absolutely first class and the 70,000 Tons organizers did an incredible job putting this all together. I honestly can’t say enough good things about my time on board. If you’ve ever thought about spending your vacation aboard 70,000 Tons I wholeheartedly urge you to do so next year. If you’ve never considered it you should start now because it’s a hell of a fun time. Many of the people that I met on this cruise were here for their second, third, or even fourth year in a row. I understand why. Once you experience an event like this, you’ll want to come back again and again. I know I do. This was my account of 12 out of the 41 bands that were on this cruise. There was certainly enough variety in the bands to appeal to a wide range of metal fans.
Just caught Overkill’s second set. Remember what I said about certain bands being more engaging than others, well Overkill are in en elite category. Bobby Blitz is downright eloquent up there. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my night and my time here. It’s just after 3 AM. I have to be up in a few hours to get off the boat. Hopefully I can get a few winks in before the Germans come.
By Alonzo Mosely aka Slippery Jim, the other half of the legendary Crotchduster. Alonzo also plays guitar for the undeniably badass DESTRUCTONOMICON