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70000 Tons Of Metal 2018: Day One

Photo of Destruction

Band Photo: Destruction (?)

Back when the first 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise set sail in 2011, metal fans around the globe looked on with enormous envy at the lucky few who were able to board the ship and witness a festival unlike any other. Seven years later, my own wish was granted as I arrived in Florida, ready to take to the seas with 61 bands, 3000 other metalheads (including Metal Underground founder, Deathbringer) and the crew on this magnificent vessel. This is the story of Metal Underground at 70000 Tons Of Metal 2018.

Boarding the ship was a relatively simple affair, impressive considering the magnitude of the journey, where travellers queued up to have their bags scanned, passports checked and sort out their currency for the trip, which is done on a special card. After this, punters are invited to have their photo taken in front of the 70000 Tons Of Metal backdrop, then take a seat and wait for their area to be called. As soon as one walks on to the ship, they're greeted enthusiastically by the pool girls, who welcome them with a copy of the official programme, which must be said, is wonderfully put together with information about everything from the bands to the ship's captain.

Making our way to our cabins, it immediately resonates what an inclusive trip this will be, as fans and band members walk together to their rooms, wherein I was able to speak briefly with Derrick Green, frontman of one of my all time favourite bands, Sepultura. After settling in, it's over to the decks for safety drills, which are conducted in English and German and where more metal royalty can be spotted (Corpsegrinder of Cannibal Corpse was in the line next to mine, laughing, joking and taking pictures with fans.) Finally, at 17:15, the first bands take to the stage and metal fans begin the holiday of a lifetime.

Start as you mean to go on, as the saying goes, which is why the first port of call for Metal Underground was the Pyramid Lounge on deck five to check out one of America's most gruesome death metal bands, Exhumed. Unfortunately, the theme of the day was technical issues, which caused the band to go on later than expected, though they made up for the wait with their unapologetically grizzly sound that got the small but packed room fired up. The only problem with the Pyramid Lounge is that the stage is barely raised, if at all, which means the band is pretty much at eye level with the audience and unless one is at the front, it's very difficult to actually see the band, a shame as Exhumed's chainsaw antics could hardly be seen for those of us a little further back. Nevertheless, Exhumed displayed an energy which delighted the baying metal hordes and kicked off the festivities in a thrilling manner. Besides, where else could you catch an Exhumed performance while sitting on a comfortable sofa?

Up next, it was the first of many trips to Studio B, also called The Ice Rink, which can best be desribed as a high school gymnasium, only with a stage instead of basketball hoops and ropes, along with some soft seats for those who like their metal observed in luxury. Not that I expectedmany to be seated for this performance as the stage was taken over by one of the biggest names in German thrash metal, Destruction. As mentioned earlier, there were a number of technical difficulties on the first day, which also resulted in the band taking to the stage later than expected, but once they started, the teutonic trio performed with the intensity, ferocity and skill that has made them so revered. Frontman Schmier was in fine form, bellowing classics like "The Mad Butcher," "Curse The Gods" and my personal favourite, "Nailed To The Cross" from the very depths of his lungs. A problem with guitarist Mike Silfringer's amp caused another delay, which brought back memories of their Wacken 2002 performance where a similar problem occured, but just like then, the grouo handled themselves with good nature and humour and were able to continue their sonic assault, concluding with "Bestial Invasion."

Now is as good a time as any to mention that I wasn't able to see every set in full and so it was with Finnish death metal veterans Insomnium. What I did see however, was a band in superb form and an audience who couldn't get enough of what was on offer, moving and moshing from the firat song onwards. Circumstances dictated that I left a while into the performance but with a reaction like this, it's little wonder all Insomnium shirts sold out on the first day.

Heading back to the Ice Rink a short time later, if was the turn of Norway's Enslaved to take to the stage. Despite having been very impressed by them when I first saw them in 2012 on the Destroyers Of The Faith tour, there was something off about this performance. Sound problems blighted the first song, but these were fixed by the second and yet the band were unable to put on the captivating performance they're capable of. A good number of attendees left the area complaining, many instead making their way to the Alhambra Theater, where another of Germany's great names of thrash, Kreator, were about to perform.

Kreator are probably the most commercially successful and maybe most popular of the German thrash scene, imoressive considering the talen of the aforementioned Destruction, as well as Sodom, Holy Moses, Assassin and Tankard. A large portion of their continued popularity can be credited to their blistering live performances, where they have always been able to create a dark atmosphere and showcase their awesome musicianship, with today being no exception. Songs from their new album, "Gods Of Violence " went down a treat, in particular the haunting but catchy, "Satan Is Real," as did some of the more recent favourites such as "Phobia" and what could be their signature anthem, "Violent Revolution," all before the show was capped off by old favourites, "Flag Of Hate" and of course, "Pleasure To Kill." Once more, Kreator proved their metal with a performance to rival any other heavy group in history.

Losing track of time, I ventured into the Labyrinth club where the famous karaoke was being held, to "treat" patrons to my rendition of the Isaac Hayes classic, "Chocolate Salty Balls," though this foolishly meant I was only able to catch the last two songs from Swedish blackened thrashers, Witchery. What I saw was impressive but not enough to really give a good report.

Finally for me, if was another trip to the Ice Rink, this time to see Austrian blackened death metal act, Belphegor. I noticed an odd smell as their intro was playing, one which I have only sensed before in church, which could be anything from a successful atmosphere, incense brought by the band, trick of the mind or maybe the devil himself had bought a ticket. Nevertheless, Belphegor's reputation for unrelenting extreme metal doesn't disappoint, with those who stayed up for the 02:15 show having their ears pummelled by their brand of evil. Speaking of evil, the band had two upside down crosses behind them throughout the performance and it gave me no small amount of humour to notice one of them was crooked, before it fell down repeatedly during the set. This can't be blamed on anyone and it doesn't even really count as a negative, but the last thing I expected during a Belphegor set was to laugh. Despite this, they carried themselves professionally throughout the show and marked a very good end to my night as I happily made my way back to the cabin, excited for what was to come tomorrow.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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