Wacken 2011 - 3rd-6th - Wacken, Germany -
Ski King, Seven Stiches, Achren, Exquisite Pus,Golem, Frei.Wild, Helloween, Blind Guardian, Ozzy Osbourne, Ensiferum, Van Canto, Sodom, Rhapsody On Fire, Judas Priest, Tryptikon, Apocalyptica, Dir en Grey, Mayhem, Iced Earth, Sepultura, Avantasia, Kreator, Motörhead, Children Of Bodom, Subway To Sally
Wednesday 3rd August
Apart from a few lesser-known and underground artists, this was mostly a day of debauchery. In the Wackinger Village, there were Vikings and Knights, a role-play and Highland games, some rowdy Bruchenball players and a fire show in the evening. Elsewhere in the festival site, there was music over in the beergarden, films being shown on the big screens around the site and wrestling and such in Bullhead City. The W.E.T stage had bands from the Metal Battle.
Upon entering Bullhead City, one would expect to see a band on stage. No - this was a man, just a man by himself. He was singing along to pre-recorded songs and country and Western style covers of rock and metal songs. As boring and perhaps talentless as that sounds, Ski King was in fact a fantastic singer. The crowd was considerably large, and the singer was well-received with a lot of applause. He finished his set with a song he had written himself which went down brilliantly. Overall, Ski King's set was definitely better than expected.
Thursday 4th August
Today, the bigger and more well-known bands started playing. There were still bands from the Metal Battle playing on the W.E.T stage, and other things going on here and there. More and more people were entering the festival site, and the atmosphere was certainly changing. The bigger bands didn't play until the evening, but it was quite clear that a lot of people had been waiting for practically the whole day for them to play.
This Portuguese band put an awful lot of effort into the short time they had on stage. In their 25 minute set, they sold themselves well, impressing the audience and doubtless accumulating a fair number of fans as they went. The members seemed to be really enjoying themselves, which always makes a show more enjoyable to watch for the audience too. For such a small band, Seven Stitches truly were a brilliant band at a festival with such a brilliant reputation.
Hailing from Glasgow, this band were a fantastic example of up-and-coming British metal to keep an eye out for. The guitar playing in particular was excellently sharp, even if the sound on the W.E.T stage in general wasn't particularly enviable in comparison to the main stages at the festival (obviously). The band members seemed fun enough, and they seemed to have a couple of fans and/or friends at the front.
Spanish band Exquisite Pus were absolutely fantastic live. Juan Antonio's harsh vocals were certainly top-notch for the entirety of the performance, and the rest of the band played their instruments just fine. However, Exquisite Pus seemed slightly louder than the last two bands, and considering that the sound on the W.E.T stage wasn't all that good in the first place, it didn't really help matters. In spite of this, it was still an enjoyable and good performance.
Playing an exquisite brand of melodic death metal, Italian band Golem delivered a simply astounding performance at Wacken. With their awesome mascot gracing the audience with its presence before and during Golem's set, they certainly put on a jolly good show for a fairly small band. The songs were catchy and the band were lively, and Golem certainly deserved the decent-sized audience that they had.
This show was somewhat disappointing when one takes into consideration Frei.Wild's decent reputation, especially nationally in Germany. Although a good chunk of the audience seemed to enjoy the band's performance, they just seemed so mediocre, even in comparison to the smaller bands at the festival. Despite their repetitive nature, it was perhaps the band's good audience interaction that kept the audience interested. Although not the best musicians ever, the band certainly seem like a nice bunch of guys.
Technical difficulties, power cuts - not the best way to open a set at probably one of the biggest metal festivals in the world. However, it is not exactly fair to take this out on Helloween - it was not their choice to have the problems after all. After all of the commotion, they played Eagle Fly Free, and immediately it became obvious that this was going to be a fantastic performance. After Eagle Fly Free, they played March Of Time and Where The Sinners Go, and then Dani Löble had a drum solo. It was near perfection and a true display of his abilities. Afterwards the band played I'm Alive, followed by the wonderful Keeper Of The Seven Keys, perhaps one of Helloween's finest pieces, which they unarguably did justice. Following Keeper Of The Seven Keys was Future World and Dr. Stein, before Helloween went off stage. However, the audience weren't prepared to leave without a 'Zugabe' (encore). The Zugabe was a brilliant rendition of I Want Out, which they milked for as long as they could without it getting ridiculous. The crowd joined in, and it wouldn't be surprising if it was one of the best performances of I Want Out that Helloween have ever done. This was an absolutely marvellous set from Helloween, and was definitely worth watching.
This was possibly one of the most stunning performances by any band, ever. As soon as the beginning of Sacred Worlds started playing, it was obvious that Blind Guardian would put on an unforgettable show. Their entire setlist was made up of probably their most loved songs, with Welcome To Dying, Nightfall and Time Stands Still following Sacred Worlds, made all the more spectacular by a brilliant display of pyrotechnics. Traveller In Time and Fly were up next, followed by Tanelorn and Imaginations From The Other Side, showing how, even through slight changes in sound throughout the band's history, Blind Guardian have never faltered in quality. Next up, a slightly gentler and more relaxing song as they beautifully played Lord Of The Rings. Afterwards, they played Wheel Of Time, and the whole eight or so minutes of the song were played to perfection. Valhalla was turned into an extended sing-along before the band went back to where it all began for a performance of Majesty. To no surprise, André whipped out his acoustic guitar, and in the blink of an eye, tens of thousands of people were singing The Bard's Song (In The Forest), perhaps one of the most beautiful sights to behold in the world, before the band finished with a firework-laden Mirror Mirror. This show was absolutely faultless, and one of the best at Wacken 2011 by far.
Foam and fun were what Ozzy and his cronies had to offer. I Don't Know was the opening song with an immediately good audience reaction. The next songs were Suicide Solution and a hauntingly honourable Mr. Crowley. Ozzy delved into his Black Sabbath era works with War Pigs before playing Bark At The Moon, Road To Nowhere and Shot In The Dark. The crowd was rowdy for some more Sabbath, so the musicians played Rat Salad and Iron Man, and the audience seemed pleased enough. I Don't Want To Change The World and Crazy Train were played, and Ozzy really didn't want to leave - he got the audience to cheer as much as possible for an encore, and an encore is what they all got! Mama, I'm Coming Home was played before everybody had their faces blown off by a wonderful performance of Paranoid. Ozzy Osbourne can still rock out after four decades or so, and his set was a brilliant way to top the Thursday night bands.
Friday 5th August
More bands today, bigger and better, and quite a good mixture and selection too. With all sorts of metal, from a cappella to thrash, Friday certainly promised to be an exciting day, not to mention the fact that the almighty Judas Priest were playing a show on their Epitaph tour. Bands were also playing from midday until 03:00 the next day, so there were hours and hours of musical mischief and mayhem to be had.
This was an amazing way to start the Wacken day. They opened with From Afar and Twilight Tavern from the From Afar album, before going back to their first album for Battle Song. Tale Of Revenge was the next song, followed by a hard-hitting Blood Is The Price Of Glory. Treacherous Gods and Victory Song were blasted out with the consistent Ensiferum enthusiasm, and they played Stone Cold Metal and Iron to finish up.
After watching live videos of Van Canto, they would not appear to be the best of groups live, but this Wacken show was fabulous! They opened with Lost Forever, and the audience were already energised and hyped up, and a fantastic version of Wishmaster didn't exactly do much to calm them down. One To Ten was the next song, followed by some Grave Digger and Sabaton. Of course, Van Canto did balance out the covers with To Sing A Metal Song, and as if Blind Guardian weren't enough the night before, Van Canto also decided to sing The Bard's Song (In The Forest), before singing Water. Fire. Heaven. Earth. and a fantastic cover of Metallica's Master Of Puppets. No show would be complete with a bit of Manowar, so they sang Kings Of Metal next, and finished their set with Fear Of The Dark. Van Canto were certainly more well-received than expected and were a wonderful sight to behold live. A cappella is the new metal.
Starting out, this was actually quite disappointing. Sure, Sodom are getting on a bit, but that should not really be much of an excuse - just look at Ozzy Osbourne! Overall, their set was not too bad, and the majority of the audience seemed to enjoy their set a lot. Their first song was In War And Pieces, followed by The Vice Of Killing, Outbreak Of Evil and The Saw Is The Law. Then they played I Am The War, M-16, Feigned Death Throes, The Art Of Killing Poetry and, actually performed quite well, Agent Orange! In fact, towards the end of their set, things picked up slightly in general. Blasphemer and City Of God were both played quite well, as was Remember The Fallen, doing brilliant songs the justice they deserved. They finished off with Bombenhagel, and, despite not being up to the standards that Sodom should perhaps have, the show was certainly still worth the wait.
Rhapsody Of Fire
For a band that have had a slightly tumultuous history and a discography with extremely varying receptions, Rhapsody Of Fire and their audience were totally full of life and their performance was breathtakingly superb. They opened with the beginning of their Triumph Or Agony album, which, despite the album having received some harsh criticism, went down extraordinarily well. Next they played Holy Thunderforce, which sounded as magnificent live as it did recorded. Staying with Dawn Of Victory, they played The Village Of Dwarves before moving onto The Frozen Tears Of Angels to play On The Way To Ainor. After their brief look at one of their more recent albums, they went back to playing their older songs, Dawn Of Victory, Lamento Eroico, Unholy Warcry and The March Of The Swordmaster, and because of Rhapsody's shaky history, especially with regard to tours, this was an absolute treat for all fans of the band. Such an energetic and masterful band was truly deserving of an encore, and the audience's enthusiasm was rewarded with the glorious Reign Of Terror and an unbelievably powerful performance of the classic Rhapsody Of Fire. For a relatively small set that had hardly been publicised, Rhapsody put on a stunning performance.
What an awesome appearance! Starting off with two tracks from the popular British Steel album, Rapid Fire and Metal Gods, Judas Priest immediately drew the crowd in. They played a good selection of songs from their backlog, Heading Out To The Highway, Judas Rising, Starbreaker, Victim Of Changes, Never Satisfied then Joan Baez's Diamonds And Rust. The entire set was crammed with more mainstream favourites and songs for the Priest fanatics, and instrumental solos and of course Rob Halford's spectacularly dazzling voice just totally made this a show to remember. They had two encores, and both were played to what were probably Priest's highest standards possible. The audience remained enthusiastic and interactive for the entirety of Priest's time on stage, and this now god-like band, which has fans from doubtless many countries all around the world, was given a 'send-off' that they truly earned.
After the energy and liveliness of Judas Priest, Triptykon's spectacle was certainly a contrast. An hour of slow, atmospheric doom metal was not for everyone, but the crowd present certainly seemed to appreciate the moody, and dare I say 'grim', ambience of the show. They neither interacted with the audience very much nor played many songs, but the majority of their time on stage appeared to be mostly moping, for lack of a better word. As depressing and dull as this may sound, it was actually incredibly enjoyable, and the band played certainly much better than expected.
This band has certainly come a long way from being those musicians who play Metallica on cellos. Opening with their own wonderful On The Rooftop With Quasimodo and 2010, the group got off to a terrific start, and the crowd seemed to wake up a even more when they got on to Master Of Puppets, which is probably what Apocalyptica are most famous for. They continued to show off their musical abilities even more with Grace, Bring Them To Light and Last Hope, adding beautiful vocals to the mix. Nothing Else Matters, Inquisition Symphony and Seek & Destroy were next on the covers list, and just before their epic finale, they played I Don't Care. For their epic, stunning finale? Hall Of The Mountain King, of course, and what a show! The stage was a platform for cello abuse as they played the classic Grieg song in their own distorted, twisted fashion. Indeed, Apocalyptica were perhaps the icing on Friday's cake.
Saturday 6th August
Being the final day of Wacken, it was buzzing with excitement and high expectations, and oh yes, were those expectations met. With all sorts of fantastic and legendary bands taking the stage and giving it their all, the people of the Wacken Open Air were delivered one hearty slice of awesome cake. With only infuriatingly torrential rain to ruin the later hours of the day/Sunday morning, almost nothing could spoil this blindingly mesmerising conclusion of an experience never to be forgotten.
Dir En Grey
This band were fantastic live, wowing their modestly-sized audience with their fantastic eccentricity from the East. Obviously being a Japanese band, they didn't really interact with the audience at all, perhaps because they don't speak fantastic English, perhaps because they felt it would have been rude not to have spoken to (primarily) Germans in German. Whatever the reason, it didn't matter - all that mattered was that the vocalist was insanely good and that the rest of the band made something of their hour on stage.
Now here was a show that just seemed to drag on forever... The band seemed miserable and tired, as though they didn't particularly want to be there at all. However, each song should be assessed individually! They opened with Pagan Fears, which admittedly they played quite well, and after that was Ancient Skin, which even though not as good as Pagan Fears was still all right. It was by their third song, My Death, that they seemed to just lose it. No amusing get up or an inverted cross on a microphone could get away from the shoddy performance. Cursed In Eternity, View From Nihil, Illuminate Eliminate and Silvester Anfang just seemed to be an indistinguishable wall of noise. By Deathcrush, things started to look up again, and at least one could tell that Anti, Freezing Moon and A Time To Die were different songs. The last two songs were Chainsaw Gutsfuck and Pure Fucking Armageddon, which were played to a better standard than a lot of Mayhem's set.
The last Iced Earth show with Matt Barlow. Probably ever. No review could ever do the wonders of this presentation justice. The band started their set with the fantastic Burning Times and Declaration Day, both played with energy and intensity. For the next two songs they ventured back to The Dark Saga and played Vengeance Is Mine and Violate, and it was probably from that point onwards that the crowd surfers came, and came in droves they did. Last December was next on the list, and after that an emotional I Died For You. The last five songs, Jack, The Hunter, Prophecy, Birth Of The Wicked and The Coming Curse, were all proof of Iced Earth and Matt Barlow's amazing, undeniable talent. When they got their much deserved encore, Iced Earth was Matt's farewell song to his fans and his band, and what a farewell it was. Witnessing this show, right there, as it happened was truly an honor.
This band have certainly been through some changes, although they are still a pretty good band, as they evidently showed everybody with this performance at Wacken, which was certainly enjoyable for the most part. They played a good selection of songs, all the way through from Morbid Visions to Kairos, and Derrick Green did a brilliant job of fronting the band. The audience was quite small but certainly good, and overall the band was worth seeing and still full of life after almost three decades.
With Tobias Sammet looking to focus on Edguy from now on, this concert felt somewhat more special than perhaps any other Avantasia show. The stage show and everything else was sheer perfection! Plus, as promised, there was a good selection of guess vocalists... The set opened with Twisted Mind, and there was an immediate wave of cheering and singing from the audience. When Jørn Lande joined the stage to sing The Scarecrow and Promised Land, the atmosphere was simply through the roof (or would have been if there was a roof), and Bob Catley joining the stage for The Story Ain't Over was magnificent. Next up was the amazing Michael Kiske, singing Reach Out For The Light and Dying For An Angel, and Avantasia had become so mind-blowingly awesome by this point that the crowd were going wild. The beautiful Death Is Just A Feeling was made even more beautiful by the presence of Kai Hansen, before the band pressed on to Lost In Space. Standing in the crowd, trying to imagine something more admirable and wonderful, Farewell probably helped somewhat. Amanda Somerville graced the song with her voice, and it sounded as though almost everybody joined in for the chorus. The Wicked Symphony with Jørn Lande was absolutely brilliant, and the encore, consisting of Shelter From The Rain', Avantasia, Sign Of The Cross and The Seven Angels, was simply marvellous. Avantasia was most definitely a highlight of this year's Wacken Open Air, and the audience and the musicians were all fantastic - what a way to end an era!
This was actually an amazing thrash show, proving to all that there is more to thrash than angst and genericness. Kreator began their Wacken set with Choir Of The Damned, followed by Hordes Of Chaos, Warcurse and Endless Pain. The crowd had gathered almost to the back of the main festival area, even people right near the back headbanging and throwing the horns. Pleasure To Kill, Destroy What Destroys You, Voices Of The Dead, Enemy Of God and Phobia were the next few songs, and the band's stage show, although not too showy, certainly surpassed average. The band thrashed through Reconquering The Throne and The Patriarch, hitting every note just right, concentration written over their faces. Violent Revolution, Betrayer and Flag Of Hate were played incredibly well, and Tormentor as the final song was just perfect. The audience was certainly diverse, and understandably so - Kreator are certainly more than just one's average thrash metal band.
For the following and reputation that the band has, Motörhead seemed to be quite monotonous and repetitive. Opening with Iron Fist, they rocked their way through the likes of Stay Clean, Get Back In Line, Metropolis, Over The Top and the hilarious Rock Out. Although the music itself and stage show varied little, Lemmy's (most likely drunken) attitude and behaviour on stage towards the audience was definitely amusing for all, and with attacks on politicians which the primarily German audience probably didn't get, it got the Brits involved. They played several songs and were visited by an aeroplane of lighting before disappearing for a while, but not for long, of course. They had an encore of Ace Of Spades and Overkill, which 70,000 people sang along to. Spectacular. Despite how long and monotonous it seemed, the show was still rather pleasing, and a lot of people certainly seemed to have had a good time.
Children Of Bodom
Considering they didn't start off the pace too well, and they did mess up a couple of times along the way, Children Of Bodom's performance was actually quite impressive overall. Not My Funeral was the first song to be played, followed by Bodom Beach Terror. Shovel Knockout and Roundtrip To Hell And Back were all right, although the rain distracted from the performance slightly with how irritating it was. In Your Face, Living Dead Beat, Children Of Bodom, Hate Me! and Blooddrunk, however, were played so fantastically well that they totally took one's mind off the weather! Angels Don't Kill was brilliant, and Alexi Laiho and Janne Warman used the time before Follow The Reaper and Downfall to chill out and talk to the audience some more. The ever-popular Are You Dead Yet? and the anthemic Hate Crew Deathroll finished off Children Of Bodom's set. The show was principally wonderful, and definitely a good way to close off the Black Stage.
Subway To Sally
The final band on the True Metal Stage, Subway To Sally certainly had to put on a good show. What a show! The fireworks, lighting and pyrotechnics, all brilliant, and the music certainly matched up to them. The lights were dazzling and the fog was thick, and from the blur of light covering the stage, Henkersbraut could be heard. Feuerland, Judaskuss and Kleine Schwester were played appropriately well, the rain pouring down, adding to the mood (although yes, it was infuriating). The rest of the setlist was amazing and including a song from their upcoming album Schwarz In Schwarz, which had been advertised on the screens around the site. The encore was Julia Und Die Räuber, and the band was so positively astounding that the majority of the audience, obvious fans and probable casual onlookers, stuck around until the very end, even through the monsoon and developing lake of mud. Subway To Sally turned out to be the perfect end to a perfect festival.
On a personal note, this was my first time at the Wacken Open Air, and after hearing its good reputation, I had understandably high standards. For the most part, I was not disappointed. The bands may make up a large portion of the festival, and they all performed fantastically of their own accord, but a festival really does need to have a good atmosphere to make the experience worthwhile, and the WOA's atmosphere was almost unbeatable. The people were generally friendly, and for a festival with such a high volume of attendees it felt incredibly comfortable and spacious. Like every music festival, it had its ups and downs and there were a few quirky characters, but one can hardly help such things. Wacken is definitely a festival to consider attending regularly and even if you cannot afford to be a regular, at least attempt to make the pilgrimage at some point in your life - you shan't regret it.