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The Opening Words - Final Jolly Roger

There was only one thing that made me do my late premiere at Wacken Open Air this year. Rolf Kasparek was about to put the final nail in the coffin where Running Wild has been laying the last few years and this was to be my final chance to see them live. Not much to discuss, I could not live with the regrets for the rest of my life, so fortunately a Swedish bus company had some tickets to the long time sold out event.

The plan was to see Running Wild and get onboard the first bus and train away from there. I thought I had had enough of the festival experience for this year and the rest of the lineup consisted of bands which I had seen four to ten times already, most of them at this years Sweden Rock Festival, or didn't care to see at all. But once I was there I kind of got caught in the atmosphere at this sacred heavy metal ground. Well, I would not die of a couple of extra days in the dirt. So I ended up seeing 13 bands (of which I will review ten for you here) and left Saturday afternoon, with only Saxon left in the missed band column.

~ David, August 2009

|Thursday| - |Friday| - |Saturday|

Reviews and photos by David

Thursday July 30

Band: D.A.D
Party Stage 17:00-18:00

Party Stage has probably never had a more fitting name than when D.A.D. entered it. The funny thing about the old Danes is that it must be the only band I can recall where the frontman, Jesper Binzer, is the least of a character on stage and the bassist steals most of the attention. Stig Pedersen did it as usual by changing basses every now and then, to one that is shaped as a missile and another as an inverted guitar, for example. But he was also displaying an excellent example of energy on stage, while he moveed around the whole scene and climbed up the bass drum. The band as a whole does not take the question of action on stage lightly. A legend like Tony Iommi still has a lot to learn. It looked kind of dangerous though to use quite a lot of fire, in the hard winds that was blowing from the side of the stage.

8 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Running Wild
Zeppelin Stage 20:15-22:15

Running Wild is Rolf Kasparek - the songwriter, the singer, the guitarist and the only consistent member. In other words the heart and soul of the band since its first incarnation in 1976. Besides Rock 'n' Rolf the band has had more than 20 members through the years. Even one who's existence as a real person is widely disputed (Angelo Sasso). Some of them have played longer and bigger parts than others, but none of them really matters compared to the captain. He is more Running Wild than Lemmy is Motörhead. It would have been a curiosity to see for example Majk Moti do a guest appearance on guitar, but to be honest I should probably not even have recognised him these days.

For some reason, of which we all only can speculate, the Captain just don't want to do it anymore. Why he rather plays glam rock as his new red haired alter ego T.T. Poison in Toxic Taste beats any logic. If this really was the end of Running Wild, it is just a sad day on planet earth, but stranger things have happened, haven't they? The fans sure did their part in convincing Herr Kasparek to think again, this evening at Wacken.

It was just about ten years ago that I discovered Running Wild through the songs Under Jolly Roger and Black Hand Inn on some compilation album. I soon bought the album Victory (2000), that perhaps is not the highest in light among old fans, but which got me all hooked up with the unmistakable riffs of the pirate captain himself. It didn't take long before I discovered the whole treasure of great speed metal. Well, actually it took its time, and I'm still getting new favourite songs now and then when I go through the discography. The next record I bought was The Rivalry (1998), and I was totally lost in the riffs of the title track, The Ballad Of William Kid and Fire & Thunder. Still we are not talking about any of the true Running Wild classics.

Sure, even my fire got a bit water on it with The Brotherhood (2002) and Rouges On Vogue (2005). Those were static albums out of inspiration and ideas. But I still remained very much hopeful to see the band live some day sooner or later. It was therefore with both a bit of a shock and some kind of joyful resolution that I realised that I had got this one last chance. It was Wacken or nothing. The decision was not hard to make. But I also feared for the almost inevitable disappointment that must follow such expectations on one single occasion. It simply had to be magic.

The German pirate theatre in the beginning was somewhat unworthy, but as soon as the intro Chamber Of Lies tuned in, all that was forgotten. Finally I got to see Rock 'n' Rolf alive and kicking. If he really have lost all will for this, he was able to hide it more than well. It was amazingly tight and energising, to be a band that actually has not existed for a few years already.

I was missing songs like Chains & Leather, Treasure Island, White Masque, The Hussar, Fight The Fire Of Hate… and… should I go on? But some of them I never actually expected and of those played I only want to trade The Brotherhood, Draw The Line and perhaps a couple of others at most.

Apparently the band wanted a scene of a pirate ship and other features of a sparkling show, but the organisers did not want to give them the time nor the money to put it up. Heavy rain, even heavier German crowd surfers, the mentioned lack of pyrotechnics, special lights, backdrop and other features of a decent stage show are factors that could have ruined the magic for most bands. But the magic in Running Wild lies in the riffs and those were delivered as always, by the master. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah!

8 chalices of 10

Chamber Of Lies (intro)
Port Royal
Bad To The Bone
Riding The Storm
Prisoners Of Our Time
Black Hand Inn
Battle Of Waterloo
(drum solo)
Raging Fire
The Brotherhood
Draw The Line
Tortuga Bay
Branded And Exiled
Raise Your Fist
Under Jolly Roger

Band: Heaven & Hell
True Metal Stage 22:45-00:00

The closing gig at Sweden Rock Festival was perhaps the fiasco of the year, so it was not with any expectations of something fantastic that I chose to give Heaven & Hell another shot. Tony Iommi might be the most boring rock star who has ever entered the bigger stages. As usual he just stood there, at the same spot through the whole concert, looking at his feet. Never a smile, never a glimpse of gratitude for being where he is, among all the fans.

Ronnie James Dio might have the voice intact, which is impressive, but he has never been a huge scene personality either. His most dramatic move is to bend his thin knees (will they break this time?). His speeches are utterly boring and uninspired. The only person who shone of some force and attitude was Vinny Appice, behind (and under) his giant drum kit.

Add to this that the new record The Devil You Know is one of the biggest disappointments in the rock world this year, and the songs from it - with the brilliant exception of Bible Black - rather sink the set than lift it up. On top of that the constellation's absolute best composition, Sign of the Southern Cross, was left out again.

4 chalices of 10

E5150 (Intro)
Mob Rules
Children Of The Sea
Bible Black
Time Machine
(drum solo)
Falling Off The Edge Of The World
Follow The Tears
Die Young
Heaven And Hell
Country Girl/Neon Knights

To the top

Friday July 31

Band: UFO
True Metal Stage 11:45-12:45

I said it on Sweden Rock, UFO without Pete Way is just not the same. Then they had the somewhat acceptable stand in Barry Sparks, now with a new and unnamed character. Neither the band nor the public seemed to be fully awake at this early hour, which Phil Mogg pointed out as well in his half-hearted speech. Ironically, the normally dull character Paul Raymond seemed to be the one in the best mood this time. With a rather short set it was no time in the end for Doctor Doctor. Normally I don't care that much for the inevitable hits in the end of shows, but this time I had really looked forward to hear Doctor Doctor in the end for some reason.

5 chalices of 10

Saving Me
When Daylight Goes To Town
This Kids
I'm A Loser
Lights Out
Love To Love
Too Hot To Handle
Rock Bottom

Band: Gamma Ray
True Metal Stage 14:15-15:15

Few bands have had wider gaps between their best and their not so good shows I have witnessed as Gamma Ray. Yet it is hard to put your finger on what it is that differs. It could be as simple as a mere feeling of a day at the job versus some of that extra spark of fire. This performance placed itself in the lower middle however. There was something missing. Kai's voice was not as strong as the few latest times. There were a few solos and passages that were not as tight as usual. The medley with Future World and I Want Out was a bit too cheap to really buy me. The setlist at large was extremely predictable and built on routine. Songs like Man On A Mission, Into The Storm and Heaven Can Wait have never really become any personal favourites. And the new song, apparently titled To The Metal, is plain awful. At its best it sounds like a bad cover of Judas Priest's Metal Gods.

5 chalices of 10

Heavy Metal Universe
Ride The Sky
New World Order
Rebellion In Dreamland
Man On A Mission
Into The Storm
Heaven Can Wait
To The Metal (new song)
In The Hall Of The Mountain King (Gorgar)/Future World/I Want Out
Somewhere Out In Space
Send Me A Sign

Band: Hammerfall
True Metal Stage 19:15-20:15

This was the eleventh time I saw Hammerfall live, but the first time outside of Sweden. Quite fun to see how Germans really like Hammerfall - like, for real… That almost doesn't exist in Sweden. Although they always draw a big crowd, most of the people seem to stand with their arms crossed and looking sceptical, because it is not really okay to like a Swedish band that catchy and successful if you are either 'mature' or very 'true metal'. The guys seemed a bit more relaxed in this surrounding as well. A few songs could have been left out, like the new, almost childish Life Is Now and of course the horrible 'hit' Hearts On Fire, but I welcomed the return of Glory To The Brave.

6 chalices of 10

Blood Bound
Hallowed Be My Name
Last Man Standing
Heeding The Call
Glory To The Brave
Life Is Now
Riders Of The Storm
Any Means Necessary
Let The Hammer Fall
Hearts On Fire

Band: Motörhead
True Metal Stage 21:45-23:00

After the ten-concert anniversary at Sweden Rock I thought I needed a break from Motörhead. Just for a year or so, but still. But in the end the cravings for Lemmy & Co. was a prime motivator for me to stick around for another day at Wacken. I got paid for that. The gig was much better than the before mentioned. I cannot put my finger on exactly the reason for this, but it can be as simple as the volume. With the bureaucratic restrictions in Sweden against playing loud, Motörhead did not come to their true right. The setlist still could have been a lot more fun, but the suite with Just 'Cos You Got The Power, Going To Brazil and Killed By Death was swinging as phenomenal as ever.

7 chalices of 10

Iron Fist
Stay Clean
Be My Baby
Rock Out
Over The Top
One Night Stand
(guitar solo)
Another Perfect Day
In The Name Of Tragedy
(drum solo)
Just 'Cos You Got The Power
Going To Brazil
Killed By Death
Ace Of Spades

Band: Doro
True Metal Stage 00:45-01:45

Doro stood for the biggest surprise of the festival, as far as the bands I saw. Frau Pesch and the boys have done well in my presence the two times before on Sweden Rock, but with very limited resources. On her own German soil, and subsequently surrounded by true fans and able to build up a full stage show, it became a whole different experience. Doro spread her light in the dark night, with a never ending smile and a voice as strong as ever. But I still don't understand the necessity of the Breaking The Law cover. Doro should have more than enough material from Warlock and Doro to cover an hour's set. Even more peculiar is the soft intro to the same song, where half of it is played extremely slow, before they start it all over in normal pace.

8 chalices of 10

Für Immer
I Rule The Ruins
Burning The Witches
True As Steel
Night Of The Warlock
Above The Ashes
Burn It Up
Breaking The Law
All We Are

Band: Amon Amarth
Black Stage 02:00-03:00

As with Hammerfall, it was fun to see Amon Amarth abroad, for the first time (of six) with a full stage show, including Viking ship and extras dressed as warriors. In the late (or early?) hour the band gave it all like I have only seen them a few years ago, back in Sweden at Gates of Metal. There was a whole new spark there, compared to the routine gig at Sweden Rock earlier in the summer. It's amazing how many hits Amon Amarth has produced by now. A one-hour set is almost full with must-play songs, where new tunes like Twilight Of The Thunder God, Free Will Sacrifice, Guardians Of Asgaard and Live For The Kill all stand up well against the oldies. The volume was remarkably low - I couldn't even wear my earplugs, which I always do at concerts - but otherwise the sound was totally clean and sharp.

9 chalices of 10

Twilight Of The Thunder God
Free Will Sacrifice
Varyags Of Miklaagard
Runes To My Memory
Guardians Of Asgaard
Live For The Kill
Victorious March
Pursuit Of Vikings
Cry Of The Blackbirds
Death In Fire

To the top

Saturday August 01

Band: Rage
True Metal Stage 13:00-14:00

Rage was to be the closing gig for me for this festival. They did a great piece of work at Sweden Rock, so I wanted to lend them my ear yet another time. I will not regret that. 'Peavy' Wagner sadly did not have one of his best voice days, but he had been foreseeable enough to bring in a row of guest singers, with Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Schmier (Destruction) as highlights. To that we got a whole new setlist with the amazing Lord Of The Flies, from the latest album Carved In Stone, on top.

7 chalices of 10

Carved In Stone
Higher Than The Sky
Set This World On Fire
All I Want
Invisible Horizons
Lord Of The Flies
From The Cradle To The Grave
Prayers Of Steel
Gib Dich Nie Auf

To the top

The Closing Words

Just to see Wacken - the village, the festival ground, the medieval market, the famous skull logo and all the people - was an experience I will not have undone. In a way I owe a thank you to Rock 'n' Rolf for finally getting my ass away there. It was not as 'bad' as I expected either. Sure a lot of people in front of the stages, many totally mad German crowd surfers, mud everywhere and hilarious prices for non-alcoholic drinks. But also a relaxed mood, service-minded workers and great sound and impressive large-screen services from the stages. It might happen that I would return some day, if the lineup and the mood is right, now that I know what to expect. I still prefer smaller festivals though.

~ David

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