Published Feb 02, 2011It was a concept so bizarre that you had to go: a floating heavy metal festival of 42 (mostly) extreme metal bands sailing around the Caribbean for the better part of a week. Other groups like the Flaming Lips and Barenaked Ladies have had success doing musical cruises, so why not try a Wacken on waves for the tattooed and leather set?
Sailing from Miami, FL, to Cozumel, Mexico, and back over five days, the music started within hours of departure time when Exodus unleashed their high-octane thrash to kick things off. Most of the names on the boat were well known in the metal world, but not all are regular North American touring acts. Euro festival faves like Sabaton, Rage and Sodom were on the bill next to U.S. legends like Death Angel, Obituary and Agent Steel.
With each band scheduled to play two sets over the journey, many played special cruise-only performances. NWOBHM legends Saxon played their 1980 albums Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law in their entirety; Testament did the same with their first two records The Legacy and The New Order. Canada was represented musically by Voivod and Blackguard, both of whom put on solid performances.
There were three different stages on the ship: an outdoor poolside stage, a mid-sized club stage and a full indoor theatre that could (uncomfortably) hold almost all 2,000 fans onboard, most of whom sardined their way in for the two Saxon shows, as well as Blind Guardian and Iced Earth's performances. However, it was Swedish Viking metallers Amon Amarth who seemed to be the most popular band onboard. Their performances were absolutely rammed, with fans lapping up their synchronized headbanging and furious riffing with wild abandon.
Of course, being at sea made for some funny moments. At one point during Epica's set, their drum riser suddenly started sliding across the stage, while Saxon had trouble giving a group bow at the end of their second set, stumbling around due to rough waves. Most of the fans were stumbling around in the evenings, as well, but you couldn't really tell if it was the rocky seas or too much alcohol intake. It was probably a bit of both, as the cruise set a record for most alcohol ever purchased on a Royal Caribbean cruise -- and that goal was reached even before the boat left the docks in Miami.