70000 TONS OF METAL Cruise Recap Part 3

Day three – our big daytrip to Cozumel awaits!

Day three of our trip started out with the arrival at our boat’s destination: Cozumel, Mexico. It was a day off from music and a chance to go onshore in Mexico to check out the local surroundings and shops. We woke up a little too late to be able to go and check out any of the trips to the Mayan ruins, so instead we just decided to go and check out the waterfront shopping district. After a quick stop at the breakfast buffet, the four of us left the ship for the mainland to go and take a look.

We started out walking towards the downtown, but Albert was smart enough (and tired enough) to suggest we take a cab into the shopping district. Good call, as it would have taken us at least an hour to do the walk, while the ten minute crab ride was only $2 each. Money well spent. Upon our arrival first stop was a camera shop so that Albert could buy himself a few more SD cards for his pro camera. While we have decided to only put up one photo per band, I think Albert must have taken at least 5000 photos on the trip. (Sean)

Cozumel, well the little bit we experienced of it, is nice but an odd place. When you get off the boat, you’re immediately hit with just about everything this part of the island has to offer: bars, souvenir shops, liquor stores and places that sell “jewelry” at dirt cheap prices. The area in the vicinity of the boat, downtown and the strip leading to downtown pretty much featured establishments of these limited natures and a bunch of natives who hang out front of their businesses trying to draw your attention with what I guess would be considered a hard sell, from the countless other places offering exactly the same thing. Walking down the street kind of got irritating after a while, but we did hear a couple of gems along the way: Outside some bar, a guy said to us, in a Spanish accent not unlike Eli Wallach’s Paco from ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,’ “Come on in guys, all your friends are already drinking inside.” And we were offered the “black metal discount” at another souvenir shop/café. Awesome! (Kevin)

It was really nice to have a full afternoon to recharge after three grueling days. Making the trip to Tulum to see Mayan ruins would have been neat, but after staying up til 4:30 in the morning watching Raven, getting up three hours later to catch the ferry from San Miguel de Cozumel to the mainland was pretty much out of the question! And many thanks to the kindly host at the Cuban bar who let us leech off their office internet for a couple hours in the shade on the balcony. Twitter and two dollar cervezas, a nice combination. (Adrien)

After locating a bar that was offering what amounted to an all-day happy hour and free wi-fi, Sean and Adrien got down to the business of making their friends and family jealous via Twitter and Facebook updates while Albert and I continued to shun the digital revolution. We were starting to feel the impact of late nights, too much food, too much sun and walking around all day and decided to head back to the ship, but first stop at some restaurant Adrien found online that was supposed to kick ass. This is how nerdy we are: while walking back along the main downtown drag, we saw a local walking the other way with his wife and kid. This wasn’t just any local; he was wearing a Napalm Death hat and a shirt featuring the unrecognizable logo of some black metal band. We immediately inquired as to where the nearest record store was and soon any thoughts of being tired or hungry were replaced by the fleeting opportunity that we might soon be rummaging through the bins of a dusty metal shop! Turns out the place he directed us to was more of a flea market than anything and if you wanted music, you’d better not be biased against owning bootlegs. One vendor had a bunch of bootleg underground metal and punk band shirts he was selling for $5 a piece. Suffice to say, dude closed early with a big ass smile on his face that day! (Kevin)

The array of power/symphonic metal t-shirts you find at a Mexican flea market is fascinating. I have never seen more Tristania and Edguy shirts in one place in my life. (Adrien)

There was nothing funnier than seeing people docking the 70,000 Tons of Metal ship and the Carnival cruise on the same pier at the same time. On one side, mild-mannered, ordinary families, young and elderly couples boarding their ship calmly. On the other a bunch of drunken lunatics wearing souvenir lucha libre masks, trying to smuggle in their “iced tea”, letting loose massive cheers every time the line moved ten feet. There was such a racket people kept peering out of their cabins, wondering why this particular group of twits had to dock next to them. (Adrien)

And then, after some grub, it was back to the music once again…

EPICA, Mainstage indoors, 7:00 pm
I mentioned on the Day Two recap at how frustratingly inconsistent Epica can be. Well, at their second show we saw the good Epica. I don’t know if it was because the band is far more comfortable in more controlled conditions like a theatre, but they were more focused, were enjoying themselves a lot more, and Simone Simons was far less distracted than the previous night. It didn’t hurt that this night’s setlist was a lot more compelling, featuring such standouts as the soaring “Unleashed”, “Cry For the Moon”, and fan favourite “Consign to Oblivion”. I would have liked to have heard “The Last Crusade” or “Never Enough”, but this set was satisfying enough. It was interesting to see just how much Simons has grown as a frontwoman over the years; seven years ago she seemed so tentative, even on record, but today she’s very outgoing, engaging the crowd, her non-operatic “rock” vocals a lot more confident. (Adrien)

I’m not what you would consider a fan of female-fronted prom dress metal. Moreso because it’s prom dress metal than because it’s female-fronted, but geez do you think this band could have provided any less energy? Could their singer look more uncomfortable and stand-offish? Did the fans, well-wishers and horny dudes love it? Definitely. Could I be more bored? I don’t want to know. (Kevin)

I decided to give Epica a chance during their mainstage set, but only stayed long enough to hear one song and decide that it really wasn’t for me. The band is a little too perfect and Simone Simons’ vocals are just too operatic for my liking. I can see why so many people adored them though and those are probably the same reason I don’t. I understand that a particularly rocky set of waves moved their drum riser about three or four feet mid-song, but I had already left by then. (Sean)

Indeed, at one point the ship suddenly started pitching to the left and right, and poor Ariën Van Weesenbeek found himself helplessly sliding a good three feet toward stage left, only to be saved from careening offstage by an alert stagehand. Disaster barely averted! The rest of the band didn’t notice, but those of us in the crowd were doubled over with laughter. (Adrien)

CRIPPER, Club stage indoors, 7:00 PM
After hearing the buzz about their first set earlier in the week I decided to opt out of Epica and go upstairs to see these young German upstarts. The female fronted band did a good job of playing German style thrash. Having never heard their songs before, there was nothing of note that stuck with me but I would definitely be willing to check them out on CD should the offer come. Kevin said he thought they were better than the somewhat similar Witchburner we saw earlier this week and I’d have to agree. (Sean)

GAMMA RAY, Pool stage, 8:00 PM
I heard Gamma Ray tackily dragged out Helloween tunes “I Want Out” and “Ride the Sky” during their poolside set. First of all, Kai, when those are the songs your fans get most excited about, that says something about the strength (or lack thereof) of Gamma Ray’s 20-year body of work. Secondly, if Michael Kiske isn’t singing it, I don’t want to hear it. (Adrien)

FEAR FACTORY, Mainstage indoors, 9:00 PM
I’m not a fan of Fear Factory at all, and going into the trip I thought they seemed the oddest fit of the entire bill, more suited to the Korn crowd than fans of Euro-metal. After hearing Sean and Kevin rave about their pool deck show, I thought I’d head to the theatre to see what all the fuss was about, and indeed, the four dudes delivered a throttling set. Guitarist Dino Cazares provided his usual atonal riffs, but it was drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Byron Stroud who were the true driving force, their chemistry from the Strapping Young Lad days still apparent as they literally propelled every song, their rhythm section robust and extremely taut. Burton C. Bell remains the weak link in the band (his singing on “Powershifter” was woeful), but he was in good spirits (“I just got an important message, shuffleboard has been moved from 9 am to 10 am”), and when he and his mates pulled out the old stuff, such as the classic “Martyr”, the band was positively explosive. (Adrien)

Once again, they proved they can still deliver, even making some of that stuff from Obsolete and beyond sound palatable. Don’t know if Burton Bell was nursing a cold or sore throat or whatever, but he sounded horrible and couldn’t carry his own tunes with a forklift. But that their set was still a highlight goes to show how formidable the rest of their performance was. (Kevin)

It was right around this time of the night where I started to notice we were hitting some serious waves as we made the trip back to Miami. During Fear Factory’s set, sitting in the comfy seats of the theatre at the stern of the ship, it was like a rollercoaster; you could literally feel yourself being pushed way up, and then plummeting way down, over and over again. It felt like going up and down about 20 feet, and if you sat back and watched the entire theatre, you’d swear you could see it moving up and down. (Adrien)

EXODUS, Pool stage, 10:00 PM
I really wanted to see Rage again, but having missed the last part of Exodus’s first show, I was determined to stay to hear the classics, and the band did just that to the elation of the pool deck crowd. Of all the bands on the cruise, nobody seemed to be having as much fun onstage and off as the guys in Exodus, and they were practically beaming as they tore into a terrific finale of “Piranha”, “Fabulous Disaster”, “Toxic Waltz”, amd “Strike of the Beast”. Another memorable moment happened when screamer Rob Dukes pulled a small kid of seven or eight years old out of the pit, had Lee Altus give him his guitar, and show him how to play the final climactic note of the last song. The little guy was utterly gobsmacked, the band was all smiles, and the rest of us were flabbergasted at the sight of the cutest thing ever. If there’s one incident that encapsulated the friendliness of this event, it was that. (Adrien)

Is it even possible for Exodus to play a subpar set? (Sean)

RAGE, Club stage indoors, 10:00 PM
It was a tough decision choosing who to go see at 10PM, either Exodus or Rage. In the end I split it down the middle, spending the first half of the hour with the former and then heading over to the club to catch the rest of Rage’s set. It was a pretty full house for the trio, who played a number of older songs I wasn’t familiar with but thoroughly enjoyed just as much as their first set. Near the end of their set, they invited Forbidden’s Steve Smyth up onstage for a rousing edition of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” that I am hoping someone will upload onto youtube sooner than later, because it was outta this world. (Sean)

SAXON, Mainstage indoors, 11:00 PM
My plan was to watch some of Saxon doing Strong Arm of the Law and go back to the room, watch some of the Australian Open and nap before getting up to see Tyr and Destruction at 2:30AM and 3:15AM, respectively. Saxon was cool, but I was wiped; got back, fell asleep and woke up after 3AM and scurried down to groggily sit through a Destruction set I can’t report on because I hardly remember. I think someone was speaking German and there were drunks involved, but what the fuck do I know? (Kevin)

Although I slightly prefer Wheels of Steel, Saxon’s Strong Arm of the Law set was a touch superior to the previous night, and arguably the best live performance of the entire cruise. We all knew we’d get such nuggets as “Sixth Form Girls”, “Heavy Metal Thunder”, “20,000 Feet” and the superb “Dallas 1 PM”, but the show reached an incredible climax during its last third with not only the two aforementioned songs but an impassioned reading of “Denim and Leather” that had everyone shouting along, and the incomparable “Princess of the Night” that had many on the audience ecstatic. I was hoping Saxon would be good, but I had no idea they’d be as great as they were on these two consecutive nights. These old guys can still deliver, 30 years later. (Adrien)

Ever since we found out we were going on the cruise, I had my hopes high that Saxon would wheel out “Dallas 1PM” at some point. I mentioned that to my friend Danko Jones, who has toured a number of times with Saxon and he pretty much told me to forget about it, that the band never plays it live. This was before I found out they would do Strong Arm of the Law in its entirety. If Saxon was good the previous night, then they were absolutely fucking incredible this time around. The set of the festival for me, hands down, and they even ended the set with my favourite Saxon song of my youth, “Princess of the Night”. In a word, awesome. (Sean)

ICED EARTH, Pool stage, 12:30 AM
The “dick move” of the entire festival happened when Iced Earth walked off the stage after putting in a very good 45 minute set, clearly with the idea of forcing the fans to call for an encore. Instead, half the crowd left to catch Ensiferum, and the other half just stood there looking back at the pool deck clocks, going, “Dudes, you have 15 minutes left.” So after literally no requests for the band to do an encore, Schaffer and co. sheepishly strode back onstage and dutifully hammered out “Watching Over Me” and “Iced Earth”, giving the fans what they wanted. Let that be a lesson, no band is above another at 70,000 Tons of Metal. (Adrien)

I don’t think Matt Barlow was ever as good of a singer back his first time around in Iced Earth as he is now. He owned the stage when the band did Horror Show’s “Dracula” and “Prophecy“ off Something Wicked This Way Comes. Too bad they totally had egg on their face when they decided to walk off stage to try and get an encore after only 45 minutes of their set. When they left the stage no one cared and they ended up losing nearly half their audience before coming back out with their tails between their legs. (Sean)

ENSIFERUM, Mainstage indoors, 1:30 AM
Again, I like Ensiferum a helluva lot, but this band just isn’t made for long sets. This time they decided to pull out “Stone Cold Metal”, the absolute worst song off their worst album, 2009’s From Afar. Mercifully, they did “One More Magic Potion”, so all was not lost. Interestingly, this was the first time in eight shows I’ve seen Ensiferum do where I could actually hear keyboardist Emmi’s voice during the clean vocal sections. Not too shabby! (Adrien)

MARDUK, Pool stage, 2:15 AM
The idea of a band showing up in full corpsepaint for a live set on a pool deck is in itself comical, but it was so dark out there in the cloudy night that it suited Marduk just fine. They sounded ferocious, and frontman Mortuus was a commanding presence out there, howling into the chilly ocean wind. I only stuck around for 20 minutes or so, but “Into Utter Madness” from 2009’s devastating Wormwood was an immediate highlight. (Adrien)

What kind of band doesn’t bring any merch to sell, yet arrogantly walk around wearing their own t-shirts? Did Marduk hope fans would buy the shirts off their backs? Were they afraid the people wouldn’t know who they were? One fun thing about the cruise was how fans and musicians looked so alike that you’d barely be aware a member of a well-known band would be behind you in the buffet line. At one point I didn’t know the guy behind me was from Blackguard, and he didn’t know the guy behind him was from Blind Guardian! Marduk, in comparison, came off as a little insecure. (Adrien)

Even crossing the ship from the 12th deck pool stage at the bow to the 5th deck theatre at the stern was entertaining, especially late at night. The best route was to dash across the seventh deck, through the Boleros Lounge, where the karaoke bar was going full force through the night, and walking by you’d see the most bizarre sights, like Exodus’s Tom Hunting crooning a disco tune, Death Angel’s Mark Osgueda delivering a straight-faced performance of “You’ll Never Find a Love Like Mine”, or various band members belting the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes”. See, all these big metal dudes are a bunch of softies at heart. (Adrien)

TYR, Club stage indoors, 2:30 AM
It’s depressing when you start to nod off during a set by one of your favourite bands, but like Kevin said, it’s better than nodding off to a band that totally sucks. But before I decided to call it a night during “The Wild Rover” (admittedly not one of Tyr’s best songs), it was another excellent half hour of tunes by the Faroese foursome. A lot of the same stuff as before, but thankfully “Wings of Time” and “Dreams” brought a little variety to the proceedings. (Adrien)

Yep, we all either missed Destruction or were too tired to remember anything to write about them. I am sure they were awesome as always though! (Sean)

That’s it for Day 3. We will be back on Monday for Day 4 and a wrap up of the cruise.

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.