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Wacken Open Air 2014

2014-09-10
Stadt / City Wacken 
Land / Country Germany 
Web www.wacken.com
 
Veranstaltungsort:
Location
 
Datum / Date30. July - 02. August 2014 

Wacken. To some it´s a bunch of guys standing in a field for a week. For others it´s a heavy metal holy land, and temporary escape from everyday humdrum. For more than a few people, it´s a way of life. The level of dedication to this gathering is nothing short of legendary: from the battle cries taken up across the campsites to the grandiose living arrangements people set up (sprawling tent complexes and sofas are not uncommon), to a not insignificant number of Wacken tattoos, these people are serious about their week in the sun. And what a sun it is: after the mud baths of 2012, this is the second year where temperatures have hit brutal highs, at least by metal head standards.


Photo: Katharina Kernbichler


This does not deter some people; as every year past, there are individuals dressed up for the occasion, although fewer than last year. From fur-clad hunters to the ubiquitous Pikachu onesies, and of course a contingent of medieval-themed folk in the Wackinger village, they add a bit of colour to the sea of black shirts that mill around from dawn till dusk till dawn. There´s plenty to explore, as Wacken is hardly a small festival: with an overall span of 2.2 sq km to fit 75,000 attendees, things only get a bit cramped during key moments such as big name bands or the mass exodus afterwards.


Wednesday, 30th of July 2014


Awakening to a tent-sauna is never the most pleasant way to greet a festival, but one might as well get used to it. After the usual morning rituals, we trek on over to see what surprises are in store. Most of the bands on offer today are performing in the Metal Battle section, winners of their countries´ respective competitions, and so are some of the finest that a land has to offer.

Crescent - Headbangers Stage
One particular highlight of this day is Crescent, a blackened death metal band out of Cairo, Egypt. The band have a clear love of their country´s rich ancient history, so comparisons to Nile are not completely unfounded, but there is much more than simple worship of the latter band. For a start, blistering technicality is not the primary buzzword for these guys; the riffs are instead melodic and immediate, the drumming relentless but not overpowering, and the guttural vocals serve as an effective secondary percussion.
Each of the four songs they blast out have a resoundingly positive effect on the audience; horns and beer mugs are raised in appreciation. Vocalist Ismaeel Attallah is quiet but appreciative of the support, perhaps also keeping his words short to conserve time given the band only have 20 minutes. Rounding out on the 8-minute “Pyramid Slaves”, Crescent leave a very positive impression on the audience, a great start to the day. (MB)


Photo: Katharina Kernbichler


Saor Patrol – Wackinger Stage
Every year since 2010 there has been a Wackinger Stage. Far removed in music style from the rest of the festival, the stage celebrates one of Germany´s other great loves: folk and medieval-inspired music. It would be quite easy to spend the entire festival in the Wackinger Village and still feel you got your money´s worth, particularly with the quality of bands across the four days.
One of the bands that made a very strong impression were Saor Patrol (pron. “Shore Patrol”) from Scotland. Personally, bagpipes have never been my favourite instrument, but somehow within this band´s context, they just work. Saor Patrol have a slightly unorthodox line-up: a bagpiper, a guitarist and three (yes, three) percussionists. With these five gentlemen, they roll out a set of wonderful “bagpipe rock”, which gets a significant number of the audience dancing along in a very unmetal fashion. The view is remarkable, a sea of people all clapping and jigging to the infectious songs.
The bagpiper is a great frontman, with his glorious beard and anecdotes between songs. That said, all the members have their own fun throughout. The guitarist in particular enjoys rocking out with his shades on, and one of the percussionists acts as a hype man when the crowd need a little boost, bouncing around the stage clapping wildly. It is impossible to watch them without grinning, or engaging in a conga line if you´re that way inclined, and by the time the finale “Three Wee Jigs” comes around, the atmosphere is simply phenomenal. With a roar of approval from the audience, Saor Patrol take their final bow for today. (MB)


Photo: Katharina Kernbichler


Blind Channel – W.E.T. Stage
To warm up for the next few days, it´s time to head into the tent housing the W.E.T. and Headbanger Stages, where several Metal Battle winners were creating the appropriate metal atmosphere. The young lads - meant here in the truest sense of the word - in Blind Channel won their battle in Finland and so have the chance to hit the W.E.T. Stage. Having formed just 9 months ago, the band, who calls their music genre „violent pop“, has plenty of energy to spare, and the two singers set a frenetic pace. They set about bringing the half-full crowd to life, and despite the occasional and somewhat confusing rap sections, they give the impression in their 20-minute set that they play their poppy style of music with power and conviction. (KK)

Infanteria – Headbangers Stage
On we go, this time with South Africa´s winning entry Infanteria. The band, formed in 2005, play thrash metal, and are no strangers to Wacken´s shores, having won the previous year´s Metal Battle as well. They play from their début album Isolated Existence, which also came out last year. The quintet from Kapstadt succeed in thoroughly warming up the neck muscles, excellent preparation for the days to come. (KK)


Thursday, 31th of July 2014


Continuing the trend of Metal Battle bands yesterday, today brings more underground delights for the ears, as well as a couple of main stage bands to prepare people for the outdoors.


Foto: Katharina Kernbichler


Revolution Within – W.E.T. Stage
You have to give one thing to Portuguese thrashers Revolution Within – they know how put on a great show. Rui “Raça” Alves paces the stage relentlessly, letting loose his political diatribes in a hoarse yell, while the other band members are a bit more static, happy to simply headbang in time to the grooving riffs. Considering Germany´s history with thrash, it makes sense to not break this ancient thrash ritual.
Channeling elements of Dew-Scented, Sepultura and Hatesphere into their thrash/groove metal hybrid, the songs played out as expected: hefty riffs, impressive technical solos and an abused drum kit. The crowd may have heard this all before, but that doesn´t stop them from kicking up a pit or throwing their hair around to tracks like “Silence” or “Pure Hate”. Revolution Within ply their trade well, and those who enjoy thrash metal certainly got a kick out of their brief set. (MB)

[In Mute]- W.E.T. Stage
Having already made a presence for themselves handing out flyers to Wacken attendees, [In Mute] had a sizeable crowd waiting for them as they hit the stage. The Spaniards kicked up quite the racket from the start, their Gothenburg-influenced melodeath almost causing the room to shake. The quintet have their stage presence in order: everyone bar the drummer is in constant motion, either moving around the stage or head banging profusely. They clearly grew up on At The Gates and Soilwork records, although are also no strangers to the groove of Textures and The Haunted as well, and these influences meld together.
The main focus, however, is on Estefania “Steffi” Garcia, who has an intimidating glare that recalls a little of Angela Gossow, although her scream is far more primal. Clad in a twisted corset, she seems to take immense pleasure in bellowing her lungs out and whipping her long electric-red hair in equal measure. Their set flies by, as is the case with most of these Metal Battle bands, but [In Mute] definitely succeed in leaving an impression on the audience, both musically and visually. Thumbs up! (MB)


Foto: Katharina Kernbichler


Fiddler´s Green – Wackinger Stage
Whoever made the pilgrimage to the Wackinger Stage expecting "a bit of peace and quiet" with some Irish folk, had obviously never heard of Fiddler´s Green. For a start, they are far from a "coffee-break band" between acts, and secondly they are anything but mild relaxation. Their infectious music flows through your body, but the tempo the six guys from Erlangen set is no less energetic than a head banging set: tracks like "Folk´s Not Dead" prove this succinctly. The lively atmosphere permeates through the whole crowd from the first song onwards (not just the first row as it so often does), and remains unbroken until the last chords of the performance ring out. (KK)

Hammerfall – Black Stage
The Swedish power metallers are celebrating their reunion after a brief split, and as previously announced, are doing so by playing their 1997 début album "Glory To The Brave" in full, much to the delight of the fans assembled before the Black Stage. Firstly they weave their way through a couple of tracks from their new album "(r)Evolution", which is due out at the end of August: for instance, we have "Bushido", which deals with the topic of samurai warriors.
The performance is particularly special for the long-term fans who are singing along, a full-on Hammerfall-Festival if you will. When previous members such as Jesper Strömblad are invited onstage, there´s no holding back the enthusiasm of the fans, even those in the back rows. (KK)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


Steel Panther – True Metal Stage
When it comes to parody, Steel Panther have it down to a fine art. There are very few bands who could do the things they do, and say the things they say, without at least losing fans, if not being outright reprimanded. However, by some miraculous turn of fate, the band have gained further and further fame (and notoriety), almost because of their controversial albums and stage shows. At Wacken, it´s no different: the crowd are just as numerous and just as raucous in their sing-alongs, regardless of gender. Just to top it off, the band have a mirror and makeup laid out on a table onstage, for a quick touch-up mid-song.
To give Steel Panther their due, they are very talented musicians. To be able to revive such an 80s-rooted genre as glam metal and make it sound fresh takes a large amount of skill: the songs are musically very catchy and well-executed, Satchel is a skilful guitarist and Michael Starr has a great set of vocals to bring the songs to life. However, the band also have no qualms about plying their gimmick-laden sound and taking it to its logical extreme: misogyny, vulgarity and sexually objectifying women. Even so, people turn up in droves to sing along to songs like “Pussywhipped”, “Asian Hooker” and “Gold Digging Whore”.


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


Eventually we arrive at the most controversial and frankly uncomfortable part of the set: Michael Starr encouraging women to sit on shoulders and expose their breasts for the camera. Having already gathered a reputation doing this at Download Festival in the UK, it´s surprising they pull the same stunt here, but even more surprising that it is fairly well received. Starr´s comment that one girl has breasts that “look like the ones of a 14-year-old boy” is distinctly tasteless, but by this point the whole audience seem so desensitized, it doesn´t shock them at all.
The rest of the set plays out as expected: the pseudo-ballad “Community Property” gets a rousing chorus from the crowd, and the mercifully tame “Death To All But Metal” is light relief from the depravity. Rounding out on the stunning titles of “It Won´t Suck Itself” and “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)”, Steel Panther are wholly irreverent and perfectly happy to wallow in their parody. It´s best to take it or leave it, as they won´t be changing or leaving any time soon. (MB)

Saxon – Black Stage
Saxon, who are starting on their 35th anniversary tour this autumn, kick off Thursday evening with “Motorcycle Man” on the Black Stage. It´s an assault on the fans´ neck muscles, with classic after classic emerging in quick succession, such as “Solid Ball Of Rock” and “747” to name a couple. As if that weren´t enough to wow the crowd, the background morphs into a cathedral-inspired set as nightfall arrives, accompanied by a string orchestra. Those who don´t get goose bumps from this certainly got them by the end of the set, when the musicians gather around singer Biff Byford and bow in front of the crowd to loud cheers and applause. (MB)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH



Friday, 1st of August 2014

Chthonic – Black Stage
Despite performing at 11am on the Friday, the extreme metal band, Chthonic find a sizeable crowd waiting to check out the Taiwanese band and their vocalist/human rights activist Freddy Lim. They are royally rewarded; not only do the musicians nail their set to rouse the half-sleeping crowd into headbanging mode with their exotic extreme metal, but they punctuate it with an orchestra of classical instruments from their home country, the Chai Found Oriental Orchestra. Although being relatively easy on the ears, they bring a certain extra oomph to e.g. “Next Republic” or “Broken Jade” and gets the crowd moving in a way that hides the fact that they deserve a far bigger crowd. Chthonic could not have been a better wake-up alarm, and a great way to start the day. (KK)

Skid Row – True Metal Stage
Here´s a blast from the past: 80s glam/heavy metal act Skid Row. It´s been 28 years since this band first took to the streets of New Jersey with their rocking songs, and despite changes in line-up, that core value has not changed one iota. With “Blitzkrieg Bop” from The Ramones blaring from the PA, they take to the stage as the echo of the last two words of the song feeds into their own track of the same name: “Let´s Go”, leading swiftly into “Big Guns”. Vocalist Johnny Solinger parades around the stage with pride, his voice still with plenty of juice left in it as he flips between singing and heavy metal screams.


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


The rest of band are clearly loving it too; though not as energetic as Solinger, they´re still rocking out and delivering the goods like they used to. The set list, unsurprisingly for a festival, focuses heavily on the band´s eponymous début album, the one that contains heavy metal classics “I Remember You”, “18 And Life” and of course, the band´s final song of the afternoon: “Youth Gone Wild”, which gets a resounding response from the crowd. Elsewhere in the set, a heartfelt dedication to Johnny Ramone emerges in the form of a cover of “Psycho Therapy”, with bassist Rachel Bolan´s punk-inflected lead vocals replacing Solinger temporarily.
As the final crashing chords of their set echo through the crowd, Skid Row say their last thank yous to a very welcoming Wacken crowd. Old school heavy metal always goes down well in Germany, and this band is no exception: the youth may be older, but they still know how to go wild. (MB)

Neopera – Headbangers Stage
Fusing together the pomp of opera and the weighty groove of metal, Neopera have the quite the challenge on their hands of ensuring their symphonic metal sound reaches its full potential onstage. Fortunately the sound mix is in their favour, the riffs complementing the orchestral strains reminding of Epica in their earlier days. The musicians play their parts tastefully and restrained, not feeling any pressure to show off except for the odd hair flick or solo, and leave the floor to the vocalists.
In keeping with operatic tradition, we have three main “characters” on stage. Nina Jiers in a striking sunset-coloured corset is the soprano, with a soaring melodic voice to counterbalance the two males: Thorsten Schuck is the baritone, and Mirko Gluschke provides the beast-like growls. They all weave together beautifully as a cohesive vocal team, overlapping and contrasting in a way that shows evidence of a lot of practice. Gluschke is the most active of the three, prowling around the stage in his tank top in a sharp contrast to Thorsten´s statelier pose.
Neopera´s set flows consistently, with single “Marvel Of Chimera” as a strong highlight for Jiers, although Gluschke´s vocals and Jörn Schubert´s tapping techniques stand out on the equally excellent “Equilibria”. For such a newly-formed band, Neopera put on an incredible set that ranks high in performances at the festival. (MB)

Heaven Shall Burn – True Metal Stage
Almost as renowned for their spectacular live performances as their vitriol-filled melodeath/metalcore, Heaven Shall Burn are regulars for Wacken, having performed at WOA no less than 5 times. This does not diminish their fire in the slightest: the band come out guns blazing to “Counterweight”, instigating the crowd into an instant mosh pit.
Surrounded by a set inspired by trenches in a city, the musicians lay down their pummeling riffs and Gothenburg-twisted melodies. Christian Bass´ drumming is as relentless as on record, occasionally overpowering the guitars but this is soon rectified. The set list is fairly classics-heavy as one expects at a festival: “Combat”, “Endzeit” and “Trespassing The Shores Of Your World” all get an airing, as do several tracks from their latest album Veto. “Land Of The Upright Ones” gets a top-level circle pit rolling and a loud crowd shout-along (“This life, this future! We build a new foundation!”), while “Endzeit” predictably brings about a colossal wall of death.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Marcus Bischoff is quite the front man, intense in gaze and vocals. He is utterly absorbed in the band´s music and lyrical message. “Hunters Will Be Hunted” drives this point home with its strong animal rights message. He puts his all into screaming, as proven by the fact that the color of his face soon matches the fire engine red of his collared shirt. He also knows exactly how to work the crowd, with all the right hand actions, bellowing orders and questions that with other bands would sound clichéd but fit in well here.
The band of course have a couple of surprises, the first stretching back into their catalog for a rendition of “The Martyr´s Blood” from their second album, which goes down a treat for old school fans. Straight afterwards is a guest appearance from Dan Swanö (Edge Of Sanity et al.) to help out on the extremely popular “Black Tears” cover, which is dynamite to the crowd. Finally, perhaps the oddest choice of closing song, Blind Guardian´s “Valhalla” gets the Heaven Shall Burn treatment, obviously modified due to a lack of Hansi Kürsch but nonetheless a very enjoyable sing-along, rounding out a very strong set in the late afternoon. (MB)

Apocalyptica – True Metal Stage
Metal has had a long-established tradition of taking influence from classical music: from Yngwie Malmsteen playing symphonies on guitar to Metallica hiring a full orchestra for a live album, through various bands borrowing motifs for their own songs. Concerning the cello itself, it has been introduced into rock and metal since the early 70s. However, Apocalyptica can be seen as one of the first proper “cello metal” bands, and that reason alone has garnered them an immense amount of support. It also helps that they play incredibly beautiful music, and for this set it was going to be even more beautiful: they are joined by the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, who play a five-minute introduction before the main set.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Without Tipe Johnson to provide vocals for the set, it turns into a cinematic experience, albeit with metal heads chanting and clapping rather than a movie playing. First song “Čohkka” kicks in with its brooding atmosphere and hair windmills from Eicca Toppinen, and it´s only up from there. Of course, it wouldn´t be an Apocalyptica set without paying tribute to their metallic roots, so Metallica and Sepultura covers emerge in the coarse “Fight Fire With Fire”, super-hit ballad “Nothing Else Matters” and “Inquisition Symphony” from the latter band.
While it retains some element of rocking out (the solos of “Fight Fire With Fire” prove this spectacularly), it´s so much more than that. The orchestra really add something special: extra dynamics and nuances to each piece emerge, even for those who know the songs inside out. The seldom-played “Rage Of Poseidon” is a full-blown soundscape, with wailing cellos and swelling brass, and a few people in the crowd throwing horns every so often. It is admittedly a little surreal for this environment, but wonderful nonetheless.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


After the band round out on the Sepultura mentioned above, two songs remain: “Nothing Else Matters”, complete with the crowd waving their arms and singing along, and after some hilarity onstage, a grand finale of Grieg´s “Hall Of The Mountain King”, a spectacular ending to the set. Apocalyptica were undoubtable a highlight for many at this festival, and succeeded in being more metal than many of the bands without the use of guitars. Cello on, fellas. (MB)

Carcass – Party Stage
Surgical precision is delivered when Carcass hit the stage. The British stalwarts of death metal are in grand form as ever while running their way through the grooves of opener “Buried Dreams”. Jeff Walker´s growls sound as magnificently rasping as ever, Bill Steer still has the same chops, and each song unfolds magnificently. The (relatively) new faces in the band slot in perfectly: Dan Wilding has proven himself multiple times over as a top-notch drummer, and Ben Ash is adept at ripping out solos and riffs aplenty despite being 20 years younger than the two founding members.
Their set list is a festival-honed machine, with both old and new parts equally well-oiled. “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” and “Exhume To Consume” represent the old guard, throwing the faithful into a mosh madness and causing a windmill effect to the hair of others. The stunning reunion album Surgical Steel also gets a look-in, with the hyper-catchy “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills”, “Unfit For Human Consumption” and “Captive Bolt Pistol” as three choice slices from the platter.
It wouldn´t be a Carcass show without Jeff Walker´s famous sense of humor, and he´s not holding back here: “Haven´t you people got anything better to do? Motörhead are playing in the next field over...” he sarcastically calls as the latter band are playing two stages over. “Oh, I see, you think it´s your last chance to see me perform live as well!” is the wince-inducing follow-up as the intro of “Noncompliance to ASTM F899-12 Standard” flows smoothly into “This Mortal Coil”. This appears to be a favorite pastime of Carcass: medleys and “fake starts”: what starts life as “A Congealed Clot Of Blood” morphs into “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System”, for instance. It´s a testament to the songwriting that none of these transitions jar, and yet each song stands strong as its own (albeit altered) entity.
Rounding out on the juggernaut version of “Heartwork”, which is augmented with intros or outros of three other songs, Carcass complete yet another incredible performance in their jam-packed festival run (7th of 11 at last count). There are reasons this band are so revered in extreme metal circles, and they proved it in spades with this performance. (MB)


Foto: Katharina Kernbichler


Motörhead – Black Stage
Later on, as the now-legendary catchphrase “We are Mötorhead, and we play rock´n roll” echoes across the sunset, every last metal head knows that Lemmy and his colleagues are in the building. It´s not just the fans that are celebrating their appearance (as you can tell the next day by the relief and enthusiasm in Tom Angelripper´s voice when Sodom play the next day), given Lemmy plays through the complete set and looks in distinctly better shape. This relief simply adds to the joy of listening to the music, and so we all get to hear songs like “Overkill” and “Killed By Death”, the latter featuring Doro on guest vocals. Rarely has there ever been a moment like this, where everyone becomes acutely aware of the beautiful moments in life, which should be enjoyed and treasured. (KK)

Hell – W.E.T. Stage
Between the performances of the two giants, Motörhead and Slayer, there´s enough time on the Friday to sneak into the smaller confines of the W.E.T. Stage to catch a “reawakened” veteran act of heavy metal: Hell. The band reunited in 2008 to make music with a new vocalist, and are widely known for their provocative performances. Therefore, their performance this year is definitely one of the must-sees of the festival for curious metal heads. The mixture of occultism and heavy metal provides something for the eyes as well as the ears. Vocalist David Bower runs riot in front of the the mysterious red-lit gate and among the flaring pyrotechnics. The highlight is his self-flagellation, which includes fake blood dripping down his back. However, what makes the strongest impression is the fact that he constantly jumps down to the barrier and shakes the hands or hugs fans. All of these puzzle pieces come together in one spectacular performance, which more than makes up for the journey to the W.E.T. Stage. (KK)


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Slayer – True Metal Stage
When the entire field surrounding the main stages fills on Friday evening, it´s clear that Slayer´s time has come. The darkness lights up bright as day due to the lights show on the True Metal Stage, and everywhere is filled with thrash metal, where classics such as “Necrophiliac” from second album Hell Awaits sound their absolute best. About halfway through the set, the background image shifts and “Jeff Hanneman” appears in large across the screen, in memory of the guitarist and founding member who passed away last year. And with the words from Tom Araya, they launch into his song “Angel Of Death”. There are no metal heads not locked in head banging, and very few without a lump in the throat or tears in their eyes. With this musically and emotionally thrilling performance, Slayer pay tribute to Jeff in the best way possible, and also show that they still play damn well. (KK)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


King Diamond – Black Stage
As Friday draws to a close, there is still one extraordinary artist on the Black Stage to experience for those who are still awake. The word “experience” here is chosen deliberately, because to witness King Diamond perform is a complete experience and a work of art. At the beginning of the performance, the stage is completely fenced in with icicles, so that the band play literally “behind bars”.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


The atmosphere is further heightened by the fact that the music is accompanied by a bizarre play, enacting various rituals involving zombies or witch-like creatures, which singer Kim takes part in intermittently. His falsetto-styled voice, as always, makes an interesting contrast to the music. What is especially incredible, however, is his ability to switch between higher and lower registers in certain songs. All in all King Diamond succeeds in his intention to unite music and theatrical effects, which results in an impressive display, both musically and visually. (KK)


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography



Saturday, 2nd of August 2014

Arch Enemy – Black Stage
On the Black Stage, Arch Enemy with new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz have the honour of kicking off the afternoon. The fans, who despite the roasting midday sun have turned up in large numbers, are dancing in the sun to the mixture of old and new songs, some taken from the freshly-released War Eternal. Alissa, whose blue hair adds a splash of colour to the stage, is rocking hard, and shows she can deliver the throat-ripping growls of her predecessor just as well, and reaps the heaps of applause at the end of their set. (KK)


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Demonic Resurrection – W.E.T. Stage
India´s most prominent extreme metal band has come to Germany, bringing their symphonic black/death metal hybrid to the W.E.T. Stage. After a lengthy orchestral intro, the band get underway with their latest album The Demon King´s title track. Full of hair-whipping riffs and solos, pummelling drums and Sahil Makhija´s hoarse growls, the track is a bold opening statement, punctuated with brass blasts. Caught somewhere between Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth, the resulting mix throws the front row into a head banging frenzy, while further back the crowd stand motionless, but still looking impressed nonetheless.
A couple of technical hitches throw the band off-course a bit, but there´s still plenty of material to get the ears around - “Trail Of Devastation” highlights Makhija´s haunting clean vocals and drummer Virenda Kaith´s quick footwork, while the guitar melodies merge with the orchestral keyboards. The band headbang magnificently in time when the song slows down, while the crowd throw their fists in the air at Makhija´s command. As they round out on “The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance”, Demonic Resurrection revel in the crowd´s warm response and leave the stage with a feeling of adrenaline. (MB)

Sodom – True Metal Stage
Midday has an emotional start on the True Metal Stage, for singer Tom Angelripper imparts his relief about yesterday´s Motörhead performance by simply saying “Thank God Lemmy is well again”. This relief, which is felt by thrash fans as well, incites an extra-potent mosh-orgy in the midday sun and makes for an extremely successful start to the Saturday. Later, when “In War And Pieces” and “Outbreak Of Evil” emerge, there´s no holding back, and even with the festival goers who are partied out, tiredness is not going to stop them going nuts. (KK)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


Devin Townsend – True Metal Stage
There is a fine line between insanity and genius. That line is Devin Townsend. Regarded by many as one of the most prolific metal musicians year on year, the sheer diversity and depth of the man´s discography makes him pretty much a law unto himself. He also has gained a reputation for a bizarre sense of humour that is as off-the-cuff as it is off-the-wall, proven multiple times in albums, music videos and onstage.
Strolling on with his (mostly) similarly hair-challenged backing band, the band deliver a balanced variety between his Devin Townsend Project and solo material (although writing credits tend to be solely his anyway), starting off with the grooving “Seventh Wave”. The band´s musical style is tough to pigeonhole, and rightly so: drawing from progressive and extreme metal quarters, through to the industrial of “Supercrush!” or expansive post-metal in “Deadhead”, the man is a walking blender of influences. His energetic and muscular riffs are the perfect excuse for hilarious facial expressions, whether the typical “metal scream faces” or something a bit sillier.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


It wouldn´t be Devin Townsend without dropping a few jokes in the set, most of them while the songs are going on. At one point he remarks with a horrified expression “I was in the studio until 10 o´clock this morning, right now this is fucking weeeeeird!” before launching back into a pummelling metal section, aided by the spectacular Ryan van Poederooyen on drums. “By Your Command” releases another gem: “My Canadian nipples are hard with joy at your true metal fervor”. He even manages to turn surprise into humour: apparently nobody informed Devin that his set was going to be longer than he had planned (“We´re gonna play a song that´s incredibly long and we´re gonna lose most of you, so go get a beer”), so a little tweak allows the 11-minute monster “Planet Of The Apes” to sneak in. This also highlights the man´s humble nature: he seems genuinely surprised at the love for him and his music, that literally thousands of people are watching him, waving their hands at his command and showing their metal support, even when asking for an enormous group hug.
It´s not just riffs and jokes that we´re here for, though: this man´s vocals are something else entirely. From the crooning cleans through pseudo-operatic singing to full-on ripping screams in “Juular”, he covers the full spectrum with not a hint of discomfort or issue. The high notes he hits in “Kingdom” are particularly jaw-dropping, but the whole set is similarly incredible. Dave Young´s backing grunts are also very impressive, trading off gutturally to Devin´s mid-range rasp.
Not everything quite goes to plan, although better for the crowd: the band were going to round out on the spectacular and thundering “Grace”, with the epic choral parts ringing out as they leave the stage to a thundering round of applause...but they find out they´ve got time for 15 minutes. Although it does spoil the magic slightly of having ended on such a triumphant and life-affirming note, final track “Bad Devil” exposes the true Devin: a fun-loving nerdy genius with a wacky sense of humour...and we love him for it. (MB)

Emperor – Black Stage
Black metal and daylight have rarely been playmates, and this does not play into Emperor´s favour. Celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their début album by playing it in full, the guy introducing them jokes that this will be more “In The Sunshine Eclipse” than Nightside. As the crackling thunder of the intro track strikes, the wind picks up and it gets just a little bit chillier.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Not to be deterred by the sunshine, the band push on full speed ahead. Jets of flame burst out during opening song “Into The Infinity Of Thoughts”, as the famous tremolo riffs and haunting keyboard symphonies flow from the speakers. Front and center, guitar in hand, Ihsahn unleashes his trademark screech exactly the same way as he did all those years ago. Secthdamon is on hand to aid with vocals, such as in “The Burning Shadows of Silence”, where his lower growls mix in for added weight. Off to one side, Einar Solberg (Leprous) is completely absorbed in the music, throwing his head around in time to the thundering beats.
The rest of the album plays out in much a similar fashion, pummelling yet graceful, until the last notes of “I Am The Black Wizards”. Ihsahn is not a man of grand speeches onstage, just a few words of thanks or to stir the crowd up between songs. By this point it is significantly colder – or maybe it´s just us – and the set´s absolute highlight lumbers into being: “Inno A Satana”, with its famed majestic clean vocals, onstage explosions and final emotive chant of the track´s title. They could easily have rounded out on that, but there are still a couple of surprises to come.


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Travelling further back in time, Emperor decide to rip open a couple of cult classics from their demo days: “Ancient Queen” and “Wrath Of The Tyrant” to be precise, which sound just as magnificent as the album they just completed. And then, when it couldn´t get any better, they end on a stunning cover of “A Fine Day To Die” from Bathory, preceded by Ihsahn explaining it as a tribute to “where it all started for us in the first place”. Emperor take a final bow together, and the crowd can walk away sated from their black metal cravings. (MB)

Amon Amarth – True Metal Stage
Saturday evening promises to be a neck breaker, when the five men from Amon Amarth take to the True Metal Stage. Everything runs in their favour, from the stage itself, with two huge dragon heads onstage, which singer Johan Hegg climbs and uses to look out over the bubbling sea of crowdsurfers, to the excellently selected set list which causes the hearts of every fan to beat faster. There´s a good mix of songs, including classics like “Guardians Of Asgaard”, “Twilight Of The Thunder God” and “Victorious March” mixed in with new tracks such as “Deceiver Of The Gods” and “As Loke Falls”. The beaming rays of the setting sun have strong competition from the beaming faces of the crowd. (KK)


Foto: Kevin Eisenlord – Pandemic Photography


Megadeth – Black Stage
After such a successful Saturday until this point, you have to feel bad for Megadeth – regardless of whether you´re a fan or not – that their first performance at Wacken starts off with technical issues. After what feels like an eternity, a somewhat ill-tempered Dave Mustaine can get started with his colleagues. The magicians reach into their bag of tricks for the classics, enticing the crowd forward with tracks like “Symphony Of Destruction”, “Hangar 18”, and of course “Peace Sells”. Swipes against Metallica are refreshingly left to the side for once, and for Megadeth fans it is definitely a joy to finally see the band at Wacken. (KK)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


Dordeduh – Wackinger Stage
“So...I guess you guys don´t like Megadeth then?” A cheer goes up as Dordeduh´s vocalist Hupogrammos quips this with a grin, as the band just finish playing a stunning track. And he´s right, although Romanian atmospheric black metal is pretty far removed stylistically from what is bleeding through from the main stage. What is on offer here, however, is stunning.
The band take to the Wackinger Stage to a grand cheer from the crowd, and set about recreating the intense and enveloping atmosphere of their début album. They only squeeze a few songs out considering the length of them, but each one is a spiritual journey, aided by unconventional instruments such as the hammered dulcimer, toacă and a tremendously large horn called a tulnic. The tribalistic nature of the percussive instruments, the chanting, even down to the tunics they wear onstage: the experience is entrancing, and it is impossible not to get caught up in it. The black metal side is also stunning: a primordial roar atop the archetypal tremolo riffs, or slow and plodding riffs, with a rush of blast beats in the background.
By the time their set runs to a close, Dordeduh have the crowd in the palm of their hands. Everyone seems either transfixed or swaying in a private dance to the music. That is the sign of a top quality concert, and Dordeduh´s is undoubtable up there in the long weekend. Simply stunning. (MB)

Kreator – Black Stage
The fact that Kreator have been doing their thing for 30 long years is proven conclusively on Saturday evening on the Black Stage: it´s not just the thrash metal fans who get their money´s worth. Not only is the threatening and eerie red colour of the background image impressive, so is the energy that Mille Petrozza and co. exhibit from first second to last onstage. This immediately ignites the crowd into action. Next to classics such as “Pleasure To Kill” and “Flag Of Hate”, they also roll out newer numbers such as “Civilization Collapse” and “Phantom Antichrist” from their much-celebrated latest album, much to the delight of the ears and neck muscles of thrash and heavy metal fans alike. A very successful ending for all, who now must make the long trek back to the campsite for the last time this year. (KK)


Foto: ICS Festival Service GmbH


Conclusion: It´s been a long and absolutely exhausting ride through Wacken. With the full gamut of weather from blistering heat to pouring rain and most things in between, Clouds of dust swirling around people´s feet have collected on shoes and clothing, and the word “Dusche”/“shower” has been forgotten by a good proportion of the campsites. Nevertheless, the incredible music on display more than makes up for any sanitary issues: with the sheer diversity of the line-up, it is very easy to pick five people and find five very different accounts of who the best bands of the four days were. It´s fair to say that 25 years down the line, Wacken is doing very strongly indeed. And now, the long road home beckons us, but we will be sure to see you. Next year again. Viva Metal, Viva Wacken.


Foto: Katharina Kernbichler



Katharina Kernbichler (KK) | Mark Angel Brandt (MB)


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