Like most metalheads, I’ve been to a lot of metal shows over the years. Over the hundreds of metal shows I’ve attended, never once did I think to myself “You know what would make this even better? Being trapped on a boat in the middle of the fucking ocean.” And yet, having taken some time to reflect on my experiences aboard the inaugural MegaCruise by Megadeth, I revel in the memories of experiencing choppy water while thrashing through the Pacific, convinced I’m going to die on a boat watching Dragonforce and being oddly ok with it.
A heavy metal cruise is not for everyone, but for those daring enough to give it a go, you’ll have one-of-a-kind experiences you’re guaranteed to never forget. In the case of this years MegaCruise, it wasn’t unusual to be eating breakfast alongside Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, ride the elevator with Overkill’s Bobby Blitz, or enjoy an official Megadeth “Saison 13” or “A Tout Le Monde” beer at the poolside bar with the infamous Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity. Right from the get-go, fans knew they were in for something special when cruise hosts Jose Mangin and Luc Carl of SiriusXM, DJ Will of KNAC, and Eddie Trunk, and metal comedian Don Jamison hyped up the crowd before bringing out Megadeth, sans- Dave Mustaine, who is still dealing with his battle against throat cancer. Everyone lost their shit when Dave Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro, and Dirk Verbeuren took the stage but the real shocker was the surprise visit from Dave’s’s daughter, Elektra, who gave a positive update on Dave’s condition. Once the send-off ceremony concluded, Metalatchi took the stage and we officially set sail. What followed was five days of heavy metal debauchery including performances from Lamb of God, Overkill, Anthrax, Armored Saint, Metal Church, Doro, and many more. The pool stage was the source of many of the performance highlights from Death Angel, Corrosion of Conformity, Queensryche, Testament, and an absolute rager from Suicidal Tendencies. All the bands partook in signings, photo ops, and in-depth Q & A’s throughout the trip.
For many, the highlight performance came from Suicidal Tendencies’ final set on the pool stage. Mike Muir was in true form, running around the stage hollering like a mad man desperately in need of a certain carbonated soft drink. Billy Rymer, formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan, was filling in for Dave Lombardo on drums and he certainly did not disappoint. It’s not an easy task to fill in for the legendary ex-Slayer drummer but he absolutely crushed it. Ben Weinman, also a TDEP alumni, stole the show when he scaled the back of the stage up to the balcony and played a solo while balancing on a tension wire above the audience.
One of the more unique concert experiences came in the form of a KISS tribute performance which featured members of almost every band on the boat (and surprise guest appearances from artists that were not scheduled to perform such as Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies and Kyle Sanders of Hellyeah). The ship’s first stop was in San Diego where attendees were welcome to wander around the city and even catch a performance from UFO and Armored Saint at the House of Blues. Shortly before departing San Diego, John 5 began his ill-fated pool stage set before being shut down by the San Diego police for noise violations, with police supposedly threatening to arrest the ship’s captain if the performance continued. Luckily for the fans, John 5 made it up to them by moving the show downstairs for a much more intimate, private set.
When the ship landed in Ensenada, Mexico, the metal crew took over the city in swarms. Thrash metal blasted from the speakers of every bar in the town. Local townsfolk were spotted throwing up horns while hocking their wears. Members of Metal Church and Toothgrinder could be spotted taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. I stopped at a local food cart where a small family worked in tandem to craft the tastiest tostada I’ve ever encountered (and I love a good tostada).
There were many dining options onboard, but most opted for the quick and free buffet option, which featured a giant MegaCruise themed sheet cake on the final night. The final night of the cruise was a mixed bag of emotions, as we were sad for the fun to be ending while also relieved to get back to a sense of normalcy. One can only party for so long before it begins to lose it’s appeal, even if you’re a metal god.
There were some things that could have been improved and certain scheduling snafus left a few of us wanting. While the debut MegaCruise had some issues, every music cruise or festival does, don’t go painting warheads on their foreheads just yet. Both the bands and the organizers rolled with the punches to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience that the cruisers will never forget.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT SOMMER