Goodmorning Wacken! Waking up with the smell of stale beer and sweat… Ah another festival day! Rise and shine, time to go see some metal! Additional reviews from Grimm Gent.
Proud of myself that I am already up and going at the hour of 11:30 I stumble into the Bullhead Circus to watch NAILED TO OBSCURITY. This German death metal band was one of my discoveries while doing research on bands playing the festival this year. They do not disappoint live and play a tight set. Raimond Ennenga’s powerful voice wakes me from my slumber. Simple, plain good, straightforward death metal is just what I needed to wake up.
FOR THE IMPERIUM was another of those pre-festival discoveries. The Finns played their somewhat experimental and groovy metal for a small audience. They prove they possess quality musicianship, but fill the show with a little too much random blabber. The singer’s look remind me a little of Soilwork’s ‘Speed’ Strid, but the vocal style feels more similar to Devin Townsend in the Strapping Young Lad era tuned down a few notches.
(Grimm Gent) Time for a breakfast with SKID ROW & beer. These guys love a beer themselves and praise everyone who joins them. Surely we are the Youth Gone Wild, but if we look around this youth is not so young anymore! Young and old go wild this ‘early’ morning and are visibly having fun, because if there’s one place where you can get a breakfast like this it’s Wacken. Like this everyone can still feel young.
ENDSTILLE – Another German band (and there are plenty!) that is leaving his marks on the metalscene for years. They describe themselves as “the ugliest aggressive black metal with the fire-speed of an MG42 and the power of heavy ship-artillery” and they’re not too far off. The anticipated songs were played and the audience just stood there and watched. Not really danceable and messy at times, but hey this is black metal, it’s supposed to be like that! A shame this is not being played in a tent or the darkness of night.
No lack of German bands on Wacken and who else than KNORKATOR to start a party. This cult/parody/comedy band who calls itself the “most band in the world” guarantees awkward situations, weird sounds and at times pieces of amazing industrial metal. It needs to be said, though, that if you do not comprehend the German language, this band won’t touch you much. All lyrics are in German and all jokes will stay under the radar and this is what makes this band so funny. My favorite song “Arschgesicht” (sung by the singer’s son) was a brilliant party and the succession seems garantueed.
(Phoenix) Beer o’clock! Off to the Beergarden it is. It is a warm and sunny Wacken edition so that means tons of dust (when it’s a rainy edition it’s automatically muddy – Wacken doesn’t seem to have something in between dust or mud). The dust forces us to keep our throats dry, but also hinders some vocalists on the smaller stages. During our first Franziskaner wheat beer of the day another pirate folk rock band is playing on the Beergarden Stage. ELMSFEUER’s vocalist sometimes coughs in between the cloud of dust and apologizes for not being a land rat. Good job for staying in character! Pirate folk and 500 drunk dudes, this is bound to be a party. Soon a long conga line is dancing through all the picknick tables led by a big pirate flag. A few meters behind the line the band’s bassist is trying to join in and catch up while keeping up the playing. Hilarious!
It’s time to switch to the bigger bands of the day and head over to the main festival area. FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH manages to incite an instant mosh pit and huge dust cloud that withdraws the band from sight. The drum is too loud in the beginning but this is fixed after 2 or 3 songs. This happens more often over the weekend that the sound guys need a few minutes to get everything up to par. 5FDP provides an entertaining show and their songs are sung along out loud by many. The award for coolest beard of the festival does not go to Slayer’s Kerry King for once (playing later today), but to bassist Chris Kael. He would make Davy Jones jealous!
HEAVEN SHALL BURN is a guaranty for some brutal mosh pit action. Their triple circle pit around the light and PA tower at Wacken 2009 still holds my record for biggest mosh pit I’ve ever been in. Their stage set up this year was pretty amazing. It shows a city deserted by war with sandbags in front of the drums. Real size soldier figures decorate the sides and as soon as the drum kicks in it feels like the machine gun fire and the war picture is complete (the sound live was better than the video below). Soon Marcus Bischoff asks for a pit that darkens the sun. However, we have to wait to the classics like “Voice of the Voiceless” until we can really stretch our legs again. “Endzeit” introduced by the soft piano and violin tunes of “Awoken” remains an epic live moment. When the crowd takes over to shout the first words it’s pure goosebumps. However, the highlight of the show was the sudden appearance of mister DAN SWANO himself to sing along on the classic EDGE OF SANITY track “Black Tears”. It is funny that with “Valhalla” HEAVEN SHALL BURN already includes two covers in their live shows. I was hoping for an appearance of HANSI KURSCH, but his lines were replaced by a voice track and the crowd that kept shouting “Valhalla. Deliverance. Why have you forgotten me?” long after the band had stopped playing.
I have seen CHILDREN OF BODOM play one hour and a half headlining shows at Wacken Open Air with amazing stage set ups. However, this time they have reduced all of that and it is just the 5 band members on stage in front of their Halo of Blood banner without much further decoration. Also the crowd attendance is a lot smaller at this early evening hour. Simultaneously SANTIANO is playing at the Party Stage and these German bands always attract huge crowds at Wacken. Still, I wonder if the fame of CHILDREN OF BODOM is not fading after several more disappointing albums. Anyhow, as a huge fan of the older work I could not be more happy with this setlist. They played only two songs from the latest album Halo of Blood and completely neglected the two predecessors Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever. We got a very old school set with even a song from the debut album Something Wild. Whoever wants to get drunk at a CHILDREN OF BODOM concert should just play the drinking game “drink whenever Alexi Laiho says fuck on stage” and you will be wasted in no time. The band kept the chattering to a minimum, though, and just played. Awesome show of one of the first metal bands I ever listened to.
APOCALYPTICA promised to be something special. They are currently touring Europe with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and I was quite curious about the extra addition of violins, brass, flutes and 2 percussionists. While the chamber orchestra did not have the size of a full scale symphonic orchestra like Dimmu Borgir brought in 2012 they managed to add some interesting layers to their music. It was just that little extra towards the classical side. So some haters around me were suggesting the show was not metal enough. Apocalyptica will never please everyone as a lot of people still only know them as ‘those guys covering Metallica on cellos’. It is true they choose to play their Metallica covers live on festivals as crowd pleasers, but their original songs like Quutamo in this special orchestral version were the real treats for me. Overall, the songs during this show felt like super-charged James Bond soundtracks. The Hall of the Mountain King never sounded so majestic and grand.
After this the most difficult choices of the whole festival had to be made. No less than four bands I wanted to see were playing simultaneously. CARCASS kicked off at the Party Stage and they played with the same ‘no bullshit’-attitude as they did at Graspop. Bill Steer talks the songs together with his dry humor, but most of all the band just throws out one classic after another.
It was with slight reluctance I pulled away from the show to check out 15 minutes of OMNIA. A medieval pagan folk band you will not see playing live in many other places. With all traditional instruments played live this bands offers quite a spectacle and if you’re open to folk music with many different roots and interesting history this band is worth checking out. But I know most of you are here to read about metal so I also checked out the final songs of MOTORHEAD’s set. Maybe it is out fear that Lemmy will retire in the near future or that he will just drop dead on stage that I really wanted to see them again (or maybe a last time?). MOTORHEAD cancelled all festival shows last year because of mister Kilmister’s bad health, but he’s up on stage rocking again now. I arrived just in time to hear “Killed by Death” with a guest appearance of metal queen DORO PESCH. Lemmy however made a tired impression and when he spoke to the crowd he sounded weary. They still played louder than everything else, but the struggle for his health has seemed to taken its toll. Pray to the metal gods we can enjoy this legend a little longer! Looking from the higher grounds over the thousands of metalheads in the crowd under the sight of the burning bullhead, I was not alone with this feeling.
The fourth band I would have liked to watch were the young guys of THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, who impressed me a lot with their latest album. Luckily Grimm Gent was present at their show.
(Grimm Gent) Had I been expected to hand out awards to bands playing this year’s W:O:A: the Icelandic youngsters of THE VINTAGE CARAVAN would’ve certainly received several. Beginning with ‘most fun had on stage’. These fellows from the greater Reykjavík area proved once more that next to technically strong musicianship groove and emotion are probably the most important things to really make female genitals tickle and get even the fattest lads in the audience jump around as if they were ponies in a field of buttercups. I’m not going to lie to you; I’m a fan of the atmospheric groovy psychedelic rock of these northerners. Am I exaggerating in my enthusiasm? Perhaps, but either way you should go see for yourself on what remains of their ongoing tour in support of their splendid debut album ‘Voyage’ across Europe.
HELL was scheduled a bit unfairly on the WET Stage according to us because this was a great show! Really an impressive performance. Not many people showed up at the WET Stage but it’s the absentees’ loss. David Bower knows how to conjure the crowd and a combination of amazing light and sound made this one of our personal highlights at Wacken. Strong heavy metal with a demonic side and whip lashes on top. Their song structures are neat and the riffs relentless, throw a crystal clear voice on top of it and you know what happens: a party!
(Phoenix) SLAYER’s show at Graspop was difficult to watch because of a sudden downpour, but here at Wacken we were enjoying the coolness of night after the soaring heat of the day. The setlist was a bit longer with the addition of “Hate Worldwide”, “Postmortem”, and “Born of Fire”. The amps in the form of inverted crosses and the impressive fire show were an imposing sight and musically Slayer’s songs just bulldoze right over you. However, it all feels like too much of a routine to me. At no point I felt they were trying to make a genuine connection to their fans. Araya introduced the songs in the same way as ever and made polite “thank you”s. They played and they left.
(Grimm Gent) KING DIAMOND laid down an amazing show again with an impressive decor, as always. The KING played Wacken for the first time this year and we didn’t notice a thing of his vocal problems. Earlier this week the show in the Netherlands was cancelled on doctor’s orders with the prescription of no singing for 3 days. Luckily the Wacken show did take place and he clearly feels better because what.a.show was that! All hail the KING!
As the final act W.A.S.P. played a longer set than on Graspop and again with a more than decent set. With the same one-liners but oh well, we forgive Blackie. He hopped across the stage energetically. Hits as “Wild Child” and “I Wanna be Somebody” were shouted along enthusiastically from the crowd and the final of today was another nice old school party.
(Phoenix) I return to the festival area at 1:30 at night to watch a late show of Sognametal. This might well have been my most anticipated show of the whole weekend. VREID playing a set full of WINDIR, ULCUS, and own songs promised to be a real treat. For those of you unfamiliar with WINDIR, here’s the long story short. WINDIR was an influential black metal band from Sogndal in Norway with its own unique sound. The band’s founder Valfar tragically died in 2004 due to hypothermia in a snow storm. Later that year the band performed one last show as a tribute to the fallen warrior. Several band projects sprouted from the ashes of WINDIR, of which VREID is the most successful. These bands support a similar sound to WINDIR’s and are mostly organized around the Sogndal region, therefore the name Sognametal. 20 years after WINDIR’s first demo and 10 years after the tribute show original band members get together to play a night of Sognametal. Before they announced this tour I had not even dared to hope hearing some of WINDIR’s groundbreaking songs live. And I can say it was my highlight of this year’s Wacken Open Air. To hear “On a Mountain of Goats” or “Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet” live leaves me both speechless and saddened by the early loss of a musical genius as Valfar. WINDIR’s lyrics were performed by Valfar’s brother, who is obviously not the same person but because of the blood bound you feel the strong connection with his brother’s work. VREID and ULCUS’ vocals were peformed by Dolk, the vocalist of KAMPFAR. Sture was unable to attend the show because he was ‘reproducing’ (? – I might have missed the correct explanation here due to the sheer awesomeness of the event). Dolk did an amazing job with only one rehearsal before the live show!
With this highlight my night’s sleep could not have been better. Stay tuned for the report of the last day!