DECEMBER 3rd-7th 2012

Cruise Review By: Metal Mom
Live/Event Photography By: Char Tupper

Where do I even begin to relate this journey to everyone. Well I will do my very best to describe it to you. Give you an idea of what this was like. Believe me though, if you have not done one of these Metal cruises, its time you did one. This was a first for me, one I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to go on.

The journey started with a 3 hour drive down to Seattle to catch a direct flight over to Miami, terrified of flying so no stops for me. Landed and got to our hotel, which happened to be one that many other Metalheads were staying at, and one I would definitely stay at again, real close to the port, about $20 cab fare to/from the airport, and so much fun at night at the Bayside. Next morning gathered all our luggage and headed down to the port to board ‘BARGE TO HELL’, was amazed really to find that band members were standing in the very line up as their fans were standing. ENSLAVED was just ahead of us, so got to chat with them for a few moments, and then NECRONOMICON (Canadian) joined us in line, so I think I have to say this was a great start to the voyage, being able to stand in line with your favourite bands and talk as you waited. Before long, the doors opened and we slowly but orderly entered the security area. I was impressed, this process was fast, faster than the airport, or even any regular local show, everything opened on time,none of this “20minutes after 7pm” nonsense. We just had a few moments before our room was ready, so we explored this impressive ship. Then we went to our room and settled in, but not for long, there was just so much to see, plus Char(photographer) had to learn where the stages were, there were 3 of them after all, and had to learn which floor/set of elevators to take,to get to each. Also need to know where the belly flop contest would happen, where most of the karaoke would take place, the basketball court, the buffet, restaurant, bars of course, and just where to sit and relax. This ship is massive, just think of a 14 story high rise, and being 880 feet long, and you have one massive party venue. No matter where you were, there was always a place to enjoy a drink or two, want to gamble, well there was a casino onboard, there’s even a day spa, fitness room, rock climbing wall, basketball court, pool, hot tubs, you name it, this is virtually a mini city for us metal heads.

Now for food choices, you had the choice of several places, ranging from an endless buffet, which I found most peoples choice to eat, a dining room, 24 hour pizza, which came in handy when you are running all over the ship trying to catch all the bands play, and you cant quite fit in a meal. But never fear, if pizza isn’t your appetite, there was room service in your cabin. Did I enjoy the food, well I was kind of expecting more, as I was told to take a bigger pair of shorts because you would be eating all the time with great food. I actually was sick twice, and no it wasn’t from the drinking. LOL.

Day 1, partly cloudy, 78F (25C), Humidity 60% with Wind 15mph, good way to start the cruise off. Now there was lots to do , meetings, tours and such before the first band started it all off. 5:30pm and Exodus has the honour of playing first in the “Chorus Line Theatre“, this is the largest lounge on board with the main indoor stage. Good showing of fans turned out to watch, and they had great sound, performed for about an hour, but next on stage at 7:15 was SOILWORK, another hour set, I missed them this time around, but knew there was another set I could catch them. But no way was I going to miss ENSLAVED, I knew they were playing two very different sets, and I wanted to be there for both. The floor and seats were crammed with fans, they played for an hour and their set was fantastic, sound was good, they executed their Norwegian storm of extreme metal to the max, and the crowd as far as I could tell was enthralled. “I am the pure flame that burns - I am (ever shining) Sirius son - I am the infinite space - I am the most conquering One” , that’s right, Im talking about the almighty BEHEMOTH taking to the stage and crushing the weak. Truthfully I have never seen a set from them that I haven’t enjoyed, they are always at their best, their sound was good, their performance was exemplary. I thought the floor was full from Enslaved, but somehow the fans came forth to witness the Polish masters at their best. Last on this stage for tonight is LOCK UP, which again I didn’t see.
Why you ask, well at times with all 3 stages playing, there are other bands I also wanted to see, and I preferred to move to different stages throughout the night. But then again, all bands play twice anyway, so don’t need to worry if you miss them the first time.

Now, on the “Spectrum” stage tonight is HOLY MOSES, which I went to see as I hadn’t seen them before, pretty small stage, and the lighting can be a hit or miss thing with this stage. I found the sound was great here, but a little overbearing volume for being such a  small room. If the boat is swaying, you notice it here. HM was great though, thoroughly enjoyed their music. I wont bother to tell you who I missed on this stage, just mention the bands I have seen. KAMPFAR was the next band to perform on the Spectrum stage. This band is a Norwegian band, full of dark atmosphere. They played a powerful set, packed with energy and enthusiasm. The crowd was really enjoying their sound, and getting into Kampfar. I enjoyed them myself, and got a chance to catch them at 4am on the Pool deck on Day 3, another amazing set, packed with people, surprisingly at 4am, but was great to see their fans supporting at such early hours.

“Poolside” was very late in getting started as it seemed to take some time to set the whole thing up. “SODOM” is the first ply they skills on this huge outdoor stage. This is my favourite stage, its outdoors, and so nice compared to the indoor ones. Just for the fresh air, because everyone was smoking and inside it would fill your lungs just walking in. But the sound, the air, the performances on this one stage alone had my attention for the entire cruise. There was a total of 16 bands that played the first night. Fantastic start. Last band ended at 5:15am, only to start all over again at 10 in the morning, no rest for the weary.

DAY 2, few showers/cloudy, 78F (25C), Humidity 65% and wind 10mph, and off on another round of watching bands. But have learned to pace and figure out what bands to catch today, knowing I can always catch some of them later. But today there are “Meet and Greets” so have to remember to get over there and maybe have a thing or two signed. I did bring a couple of things, after all I still wanted to enjoy and have some good old fashioned fun. For the signings, you stood in line, had things signed, then stood in another line for photos.  First M&G was ENSLAVED/SOILWORK at 12:30, so that means some of the bands I am not going to be seeing their sets, these guys were more than happy to be there and sign and chat with their fans. I mainly went to see Enslaved, and they even signed a wedding card  (for my son, as they are playing one of their songs as they walk down the isle), and there was plenty of waiting.  2:30 was Behemoth, there was a long line up for them as well. Yes, I was in this lineup, I wouldn’t miss this for anything. I always have something for Behemoth to sign when they do M&G’s.  I did feel bad though, because as it got later in the day, more popular bands played meaning it took away from the M&G’s.  What a shame. But even I had to leave so that I could see bands. I went to watch SANCTUARY play in the Chorus Line, I haven’t seen them play in so long, I had forgotten how good they were. So I am going to definitely watch their 2nd set too. All 3 stages had great sound, so the sound crew was obviously well chosen to make a great experience for all. Much appreciated. Next on Chorus Line was POSSESSED, and them I needed to see, I had heard many great things, but never have I had the chance to see them play live. Boy, where have I been, these guys were absolutely amazing, very talented musicians, vocals fit so well. Before long it was over, what, where did the time go. I decided then I had to see them again. Later that day, got to watch our friends in NECRONOMICON(Canada) perform in the Spectrum lounge. I have seen them before, and am proud to say they are Canadian, and they always sound amazing, they played a 45 minute set, but it wasn’t long enough for me, I managed to stand up front and really enjoy their sound. They had a different bass player on this cruise because Armaros couldn’t make the trip. But they still kicked major ass. This is not a band to be missed!  There were many great bands that played today.

Day 3, its 78F (25C), personally think it was hotter than that, but I will “suffer” if I have to. We are in the Bahamas, the ship has made port, and I am off to enjoy some sun and take a walk around the town to experience the flare of the Bahamas, known for its tumultuous past, a haven sheltered religious dissenters, spanish invaders, freed slaves, rum smugglers, even infamous pirates of the 17th century. I enjoyed the scene there, but would have been even nicer to have another day to fully enjoy many of the activities that were available. After returning to the ship there was another set of bands to play until the wee morning hours, and Moonspell was one of them, another band that I enjoyed but haven’t seen recently, fully enjoyed their set, I don’t care the genre when they have such style that you can headbang, or just move, always a pleasure. And off again to see Canada’s Necronomicon, who never disappoint, another great execution of their set, even if it was 3am, kudos to the guys for putting their full hearts into it to the fans that stayed awake for that long, I know my eyes were heavy, but, always a blast to support friends and a great band at that.

Oh, and before I forget, the merch, there were 2 fantastic ladies doing this job, covering all 42 bands worth of merch, and let me tell you, Robin and Vikki did a mighty fine job of it all, they handled the first opening rush with such professionalism, a top notch job. Thank you ladies for making that experience a fine one.

Day 4, and being day 4, we are now back out at sea. Temperature is a cool 68F (21C). Brrrrr!! Today at 2pm is the Belly Flop contest, what a riot. Judges were Ivar Bjørnson/Grutle Kjellson(Enslaved), Ola Lindgren(Grave), Rob Dukes(Exodus), Larry Roberts(Novembers Doom) and Fernando Ribeiro(Moonspell). There were some mighty big splashes to witness, the winner was a fellow from Alabama. Also today is a drum clinic with Krisiun’s very own Max Kolesne. Time once again now to go check out the pool deck, as Rotting Christ is going to hit the stage. I had forgotten how good these guys are, they are so fine tuned, their performance was outstanding, and you could see the crowd was enjoying every minute, again the sound is exemplary, they put on an amazing set. Krisiun of course did an incredible set to a packed room. Back to the pool deck to witness our Norwegian friends, Enslaved take to the stage, but this time there is a little added bonus, some flashes of lightening in the distance, which made for a spectacular show. And again they never let you down in their set. And for me I can never miss a set by Behemoth, and wasn’t going to start now, this was their last set, and they too had the display of lightening, so I have been told, never saw it, had my eyes focused on the show. They had changed their set up a bit from the first one, and did I enjoy, oh geez, did I ever, make no mistake they know how to please the crowd, the sound was good, and I love the fog, it gives it that epic look when they come through as silhouettes, the crowd loved their choices of songs for their last performance, and have to say the girls loved the last song, as all cameras were brought out to see Orion, (let‘s just say, buff shirtless man onstage, oh yeah, the ladies were happy), you were almost blinded by the flashes. What an absolutely amazing finish, and the last song, well its what they use to close with a few tours back, the cover “I got erection” by Turbonegro, the whole crowd was singing along, and yes, even me. What an exceptional set.

There were 46 bands on this cruise, and some I missed as I had priorities, but not many, I just don’t think you want to read all about each and every band, this would make this review one long read. I did catch about 92% though. I can say there were some surprises for me, one being HEADCRUSHER(South America), the energy level was high and their music was well put together and executed well, one great headbanging experience, love it when there’s the steady beat to bang to. The other is Iceland’s own, SOLSTAFIR, an extremely unique style of metal. Nothing better than finding a couple of new bands to add to your easy listening. There were also a couple of bands that disappointed, just for the fact that their set was sloppy due to being either drunk/stoned. Lots of fans were ticked off due to paying good money to come on the cruise, only to have not such great performances by a few bands that may have been on their “top bands to see” list.

Comments from:
Rob “The Witch”  (NECRONOMICON)
“I personally think that these kind of events are really something that profit to everyone there. For the bands its a way to do something totally different and also a way to be really close to the fans .Well for the bands that are down to earth and like to share with everyone I mean. For the fans it’s a blast I think, you can be just there sitting at one of the bars and enjoy a beer with your favorite band member and meet other fans that have the same interest etc. Everyone wins there and besides the fact that playing on a rollin sea is really strange on stage I think and hope these events will stay for a really long time. The people from the ship (staff) are amazing, smiley and care about what needs to be done, of course its easy to say that they are paid for that, but that doesn’t matter sometimes people are paid to do something and they aren’t professional, its really not their case. The technical staff (soundmen etc.) for most of them were people that I have been working with during these last 20 years, nothing to say about them besides the fact that their pros among pros and that I enjoyed every minute working with them. Meeting some friends from other bands on that cruise context is a total pleasure, its really different than been on a tour bus, it gave us all more time in a way to enjoy some nice talk and other activities. I really won’t forget a lot of good things that happened. Over all its a different experience, one that I wish to all my fellow friends playing in a band , I think its an experience of a life time . The kind of things that you don’t know when or if it will happen again. I enjoyed every moment and hope one day to do it again.”

The social experience is beyond words, this alone was a memorable experience. There were many I have only talked to on facebook, but had the distinct honour of finally getting to meet in person, and I was not disappointed. I also made some new wonderful friends on board, Metalheads are truly a great fun group of people to be around. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would go on any other type of cruise other than the Metal ones. Fantastic experience for me. I highly recommend going on one if you have never been before. Plus an interesting little fact, the time it took to get home from Miami back to Seattle, was 400minutes, which converts to 6 hours and 66 minutes, (666) still in Hell zone perhaps?

Yes, I have my favourites, Behemoth, Enslaved, Necronomicon(CDN), Possessed, Rotting Christ, Mayhem and plenty more. But congrats to the cruise for hiring such efficient sound crew, each stage had great sound, which always adds to the pleasure of watching your favourite bands. Staff on board were pleasant and very helpful, if you needed anything, there was always someone close by, you wanted a drink, you just turn your head and there was someone there to take your order. Would I do this again……oh yeah, in a heartbeat, this was a first cruise for me, and I am truly lucky to have had the opportunity to be on the inaugural BARGE TO HELL. What a fantastic experience, so if you get the chance to go on one, you have to, its really a fantastic experience, one you wont soon forget. I know I wont, so thank you to all the bands that came out, to UMC for putting this all together, and the cruise line, you gave all of us a true METAL adventure.