“Heavy metal isn’t for everyone. So if you don’t like it, that boat is the last place you wanted to be,” recalls photographer Hollis Bennett.
For four days, he was surrounded by more than 2,000 raging metalheads on a luxury cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
The trip set a record as the world’s largest heavy metal cruise and, according to its organizers, broke Royal Caribbean’s record for weeklong alcohol sales before it even left port.
Bennett felt right at home.
“I’m a heavy metal fan myself,” he says. “There were no challenges (taking pictures) because I’m in this community.”
Metal music emerged in the 1960s and has developed a multitude of styles and subgenres since then. Acts such as AC/DC, Judas Priest, Motley Crue and Van Halen helped guide the genre through the decades.
Bennett was searching for heavy metal concerts to attend when he noticed a number of artists’ websites listing appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal.
After connecting with an old friend to get a press pass, he joined passengers from 49 countries to capture the essence of the vacation.
“My only challenge was finding unique and fresh places to shoot, because we were on a boat and there are only so many places you can go,” he says.
Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas first transformed into the floating four-day concert in January 2011, traveling from Miami to Cozumel, Mexico. It has become an annual event since then, with a new lineup and a different destination each year.
Dozens of metal bands perform on multiple stages from 2 in the afternoon till 4 in the morning. The festival features additional activities such as karaoke – heavy on metal song selections, of course – a belly-flop contest and shore excursions.
“Bringing a bunch of heavy metal cruisers together, something is bound to happen,” he says. “It’s mayhem.”
- Lauriel Cleveland, CNN