This may or may not be the actual boat used for this, but either way, it does resemble the ship from Love Boat...
There are a great number of metal festivals all over the world. The most prevalent of which being the big open-air festivals in Europe such as Wacken, Summer Breeze, Metal Camp, and many others. However, the idea of a heavy metal cruise has always seemed like a pipe dream. Sure, there’s been the Sweden Rock cruise – but we’re talking about a full on, nothing but metal cruise with an entire ship full of fans and bands. Well, the much-wished-for festival on a boat came with the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise.
Here’s the lowdown – four days, 40 bands – although we got two extra, so 42 – and a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, to boot. A boat filled with nothing but metal fans, hailing from a whopping 48 different countries. The best description that can be mustered is that this is Wacken on a boat. And having now done both, that description holds up rather decently.
Following are the details of this epic journey on the high seas aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Majesty of the Seas. It was a trip of which was one of a kind, and hopefully this recollection of my experience will benefit those who take the time to check this out. Bon voyage!
A good portion of the first day consisted of getting from the hotel to the port. Luckily, we stayed at a very nice Holiday Inn that was within a mile from the Port of Miami, so our destination was within close vicinity. My group and I hopped onto a shuttle and made our way over to the port in plenty of time to board and settle into our cabin. Waiting in line to get onto the ship, we saw all of Rage, as well as members of Death Angel. The feeling to being in such close quarters with such legends of heavy metal was surreal, to say the least. Once aboard, we hopped into an elevator to get to our cabin, and who gets on with us? None other than Tom Angelripper of Sodom, who ironically, I had just interviewed a week prior. It was nice to chat with him for a brief moment before having to hop off of the elevator to get to our room and drop off our stuff. Great start so far! We finally reached our room, and the size was adequate enough, considering most of our time spent there would be catching as much sleep as this trip would allow. Needless to say, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of time for shuteye with all of the performances going on.
The music wasn’t due to begin on this day until 7pm. The boat began moving a little past 6pm, with the first bands due on stage being Exodus and Arsis (both starting at the same time).
Now, to get an idea of how this worked logistically, here’s the rundown. Every band played two sets, with the idea being that you would have the ability to catch each band at least once. Day one was set to have music going from 7pm until 4am, with the next day slated to be 10am to 4am. Day three was the day at Cozumel, so the schedule was set the same as the first day, with bands performing from 7pm to 4am. The last day was the same as day two, going from 10am to 4am.
The ship contained three separate places where the shows would take place. The Chorus Line Theater was the large indoor venue, hosting many of the bigger bands and easily holding 1,000 plus people. The other indoor venue was the Spectrum Lounge, which was located directly above the Chorus Line Theater. This venue was more like a small club, and was much smaller than the Chorus Line Theater. The third venue – and the most intriguing – was the pool deck. Yes, a large stage was set up on the pool deck of the ship, thus being converted into an outdoor venue. This was certainly a sight to see and was the most unique place to ever see a show that this writer has ever witnessed.
With the venue setup out of the way, let’s get to the shows. The original plan was to kick this thing off with Exodus, however, their set got significantly delayed, and with Arsis playing right upstairs from where Exodus were due to play, we decided to go and catch James Malone and co. instead. The decision ended up being a wise one, with Arsis playing a very tight and brisk set containing a favorable mix of their material. With all of the personal issues that Malone has been going through, it was great just to see him on stage again, and he looked to be really enjoying himself, which was certainly fantastic. Also very nice to see bassist Noah Martin again, being out of the band for two years until his return in 2010. He always brought a level of energy to their show that was very hard to replace in his absence. Arsis’ put on a fine show, and with a damn solid release in Starve for the Devil to support, the band seems to be on the right track again. Great to see, as well as being a perfect way to begin this most metal of journeys.
With the time delay in Exodus’ set – which ended up being around 45 minutes or so – a good chunk of their show was caught. Thank goodness for that, as the thrashers put on an energetic set of which is the norm for the veterans. You know what you’re getting when you see an Exodus show – a fast, heavy show full of insanity. This was delivered in a way only Exodus can, with their trademark razor-sharp riffs courtesy of Gary Holt and Lee Atlus. Frontman Rob Dukes lead the charge, and put on his usual in your face attack. I for one will never understand the excuses some lay down on not giving this band the time of day due to Dukes singing. He fits in with Exodus like a glove, and the bashing that some lay towards him is utterly ridiculous. Oh well – more room for the rest of us! It was a great concert from a classic band that is showing no sign of ever degenerating.
Next up was a big personal highlight – German thrash legends Destruction. Being able to catch them on their last North American tour, with that show being my first, these guys certainly delivered. The experience was no different this go around, with the Teutonic three-piece blasting through an all too brief 45-minute set that seemed to go by all too quickly. These guys are one of a kind, and they put on a show of which many could not touch. Great to see that they’re still at the top of the heap when it comes to their chosen style of ridiculously heavy thrash metal. It would be quite welcome for Destruction to grace our shores more often, as more people seriously need to investigate them further. Thankfully, this will be happening in May along with Heathen now – with Destroyer 666 dropping off due to their singer messing up his ACL (get well) – so anybody who likes killer thrash should attempt to catch that jaunt.
After Destruction, a bit of a break was in order, as it had been a long day, and we wanted to be able to grab some much-required merchandise. At this point, the conference room that contained the items for both the festival itself and the individual bands had yet to open, so we chilled out for a bit and waited to see if it would open. We got to meet a few very friendly and fun fellow cruisers while we waited. Unfortunately, this all took way too long, and the mighty Blind Guardian were coming up very soon, so we further delayed this quest to make sure to catch the originators of power metal.
Blind Guardian has always been famous for their atmosphere-laden and powerful live performances. The last and only time seeing them had been a little over four years prior, so seeing them again was obviously long overdue. And they didn’t disappoint. The only drawback was that they only played for an hour instead of their slated 1-1/2 hour slot, due to trying to make up time from the earlier delays. However, that hour was fantastic, with the band playing a good smattering of material. Singer Hansi Kürsch has one of the best voices in all of music, and it’s amazing how his trademark tone comes off flawlessly live. Surely one of the most professional bands on the circuit today, and the delivery of their complex tunes were as sharp as could be imagined. Shame it was all too brief, but that would be made up for later in the cruise with their second set.
By the time of the end of this set, tiredness was unfortunately taking over. True that there were some more performances that I wouldn’t have minded catching – especially Witchburner, Finntroll and Malevolent Creation – but the next day was an almost non-stop 18-hour marathon of music with many performances not to be missed. This was also the beauty of both bands playing two sets a piece – missing one set didn’t necessarily mean not catching a band altogether. So after the Guardians blew everybody away, it was time to turn in and try to get some rest before day two took us to task.
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