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The opening words

Wacken. The festival every metal fan in the world wants to travel to once in a lifetime. I, myself, have been there many times starting ten years ago. I have seen the festival grow from close to 30000 people to, what the organizers now say, 75000. The festival area is crowded from noon until dawn, so there really is no place where you just can relax for awhile, making this experience into a couple of hectic days.


Reviews and photos by Tobbe

Thursday August 04

Band: Helloween
True Metal Stage 19:00-20:15

The first band I paid full attention to this year was Helloween. Five minutes into the first song, Are You Metal, the power broke down and the band left the stage for about ten minutes. I was thinking meantime, how the band is thinking when they start their shows with a song from the new album that should in fact not be even close to make the set for their performances.

The band enters the stage again and play a pair of classics before they go down the drain. Helloween's problem nowadays is that they want to play their new songs that actually nobody at a festival really cares for. When the classics are played the crowd is cheering and singing. This show was no exception and therefore we get a lot of ups and downs. The set obviously got abbreviated due to the breakdown of power and what do they do? They still choose to include a drum solo and two long and boring singalongs in Future World and in I Want Out. For what reason one can wonder?

There were magnificent parts on this show though, like the Keeper Of The Seven Keys medley and Dr Stein. The musicians are doing good jobs on stage as well. No surprises though. Sascha has grown into the band now, Marcus runs around and interacts with the crowd and Michael is just standing there playing like he always have.

Performance: 5 chalices of 10
Best: The Keeper-trilogy
Worst: Future World singalong

Are You Metal?
(10 Minute Power Cut)
Eagle Fly Free
March Of Time
Where The Sinners Go
Drum Solo
I'm Alive
Medley (Keeper Of The Seven Keys/King For A 1000 Years/Halloween)
Future World
Dr. Stein
I Want Out

Band: Blind Guardian
Black Stage 20:30-22:00

After a quick break, the intro to Blind Guardian's Sacred Worlds is blasting out of the speakers. A couple of moments later, the band enters the stage with their bombastic power metal. Still there are only three members of this band that gets to face the crowd up front, since bass player Oliver is locked up in the back. It feels ridiculous after being part of this band for such a long time. By giving him more space, Hansi could still stand still most of the time and it wouldn't be so evident that he, as a frontman, is not running around.

As always you have no idea which songs this band is going to play, since they day to day almost changes the whole set. Tonight we get a set full of hits and old stuff. We also get three songs from their latest release. Even though those three songs are good, they feel a bit misplaced tonight, much due to their lenghts. Hansi just couldn't keep the audience in his hands for those long songs.

This set is closed with four songs to please the people and for once a singalong was good. The one in Valhalla of course. When the fireworks cracked at the end of Mirror Mirror, I just wished they had continued a bit longer when they eventually got the ball rolling. They always do great jobs up on stage whenever they want.

Performance: 5,5 chalices of 10
Best: Guitarist Magnus' never ending will to give the crowd what they came for.
Worst: Bass player Oliver not being a part of the band on stage yet.

Sacred Worlds
Welcome To Dying
Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)
Traveler In Time
Tanelorn (Into The Void)
Imaginations From The Other Side
Lord Of The Rings
Wheel Of Time
The Bard's Song - In The Forest
Mirror Mirror

Band: Ozzy Osbourne
True Metal Stage 22:30-00:00

What can I say about Ozzy that hasn't been said? I guess nothing. Even though Ozzy's voice is just a shadow of what it once was, he still is a true and great frontman from top to toe. His voice was working fine though tonight and was better than the two last times I've seen him. Also his musicians are first class and they play the songs almost just as they were made. When having such great songs to pick a set from, almost nothing can go wrong. However Ozzy needs some rest and during those fifteen minutes it is kind of boring. We get a stale guitar solo, a jam and a drum solo, which luckily quicked turned into Iron Man.

When classic tunes like Bark At The Moon, Crazy Train and the long forgotten Shot In The Dark are played, I'm just standing in front of the stage never wanting it to end. The crowd is following Ozzy's moves throughout the performance and no complaints were heard after the show, except from those who don't know how a heavy metal show should be played. There are records for those people to listen to if they want perfection. A show is a show and that was just what Ozzy and his band gave us tonight. He also knows which songs to play at festivals. The songs people want to hear. The newest songs played are on the album, No More Tears, released twenty years ago.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Best: Crazy Train
Worst: The Guitar Solo

I Don't Know
Suicide Solution
Mr. Crowley
War Pigs
Bark At The Moon
Road To Nowhere
Shot In The Dark
Guitar Solo
Guitar / Drum / Bass Jam (Including Rat Salad)
Drum Solo
Iron Man
I Don't Want To Change The World
Crazy Train
Mama, I'm Coming Home
Outro (I Love You All)

Friday August 05

Band: Primal Fear
Party Stage 12:00-13:00

For me Friday's opener was heavy / power metallers Primal Fear. A band that has been around for thirteen years now. To play a show this early is tough. Not so much for the actual playing, but more for that the bands have a hard time to wake the audience. Some being hung over and some are just tired from last night's experiences.

Primal Fear have always been one of my favorite bands around., so I was hoping to see a show that was going to be killer. I soon found out though that I was wrong. Same old songs were played and there was not one single song that haven't been played hundreds of times before. A band can of course not please a whole audience, but a little diversity would be awesome. Songs like Church Of Blood and Eye Of An Eagle wouldn't have hurt.

Lead singer Ralph is doing a good job and so are the guys with the strings, but when it becomes too predictable you just lose focus on the show. All songs are however great songs, but unfortunately not today at Wacken Open Air. One other annoying thing is that Ralph said that they only could do a short set and that they only had sixty minutes of playing time, and then they play for just over fifty.

Performance: 4 chalices of 10
Best: German lead singer Ralph speaks english on this international festival.
Worst: Same old songs

Sign Of Fear
Battalions Of Hate
Nuclear Fire
Running In The Dust
Angel In Black
Six Times Dead (16.6)
Seven Seals
Final Embrace
Metal Is Forever

Band: Suicidal Tendencies
True Metal Stage 13:15-14:15

Another old favorite band was up next, Suicidal Tendencies. This punk / skate / metal constellation has been around with different linups for thirty years and they are well known for their aggressive and great shows. The intro is fading out and lead singer Mike Muir enters the stage with the words "I just got one thing to say Wacken! What the fuck is going on around here?" From that second all the guys are rocking hard. Muir's consistent running and jumping has been the same since I first saw them and hasn't changed since that.

I knew for fact that the performance from the bandmembers was going to be great even before the show started. This afternoon however, they had decided to do funk versions of a couple of songs, ruining them totally and therefore the show became not what I had expected, even though the band's efforts were fantastic. Suicidal don't play the music they did 20-25 years ago, but please leave the old songs be and play them as they are supposed to be played. Kudos, to the shortest drum solo I have seen in a long time.

Performance: 5 chalices of 10
Best: Lead singer Cyco Mike Muir + the shorter than one minute drum solo
Worst: The new version of Join The Army

You Can't Bring Me Down
Join The ST Army
War Inside My Head
Come Alive
Possessed To Skate
Drum Solo
We Are Family
How Will I Laugh Tomorrow
Pledge Your Allegiance

Band: Trivium
True Metal Stage 18:15-19:15

This thrash metal quartet from Florida is growing a more and more soild fan base for every record done, so tonight they got to play at the spot before Judas Priest at the True Metal Stage. On this show they did what was expected. Four brand new songs from their fifth and latest release, In Waves, and just as many from their second album, Ascendancy and two from Shogun.

The performance is good, but the guitarists are standing way too frozen to the stage floor. More movement is needed when those two are not singing, just to make this into a show. The audience seem quite satisfied with show, so maybe it's just me thinking differently? This band will probably get even bigger with a bright future as time passes by and the dinosaurs fade away.

Performance: 5 chalices of 10
Best: In Waves
Worst: The songs sound a bit too alike

Intro (Capsizing The Sea)
In Waves
A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation
Dusk Dismantled
The Deceived
Like Light To The Flies
Built To Fall
Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr
Down From The Sky
Throes Of Perdition

Band: Judas Priest
True Metal Stage 20:45-23:00

Judas Priest's last world tour? Are they breaking up? Any more albums? Who knows and who has time to care when it's time for their performance this evening at Wacken Open Air?

Rob had problems with his voice before. Tonight it was like those problems almost never existed. He was singing better than for a long time and he was back to the old Rob, not standing still and staring at the ground. It feels strange to write it, but he almost nailed Painkiller, which he hasn't done since the early nineties. Glenn on the other hand felt a bit old tonight though and if you have a look at Ian, you can't tell the difference, since he has been standing in that same position ever since the dawn of man.

Just as promised, they played songs from every album, minus the ones that Tim Owens handles the mic on. We got a lot of highlights tonight, probably peaking with Breaking The Law, which Rob didn't sing one single word on. He just had the crowd doing the job and they were successful. Things like this is important for a band when they have played so many years. Those are the things you will remember when talking about a gig ten years later.

Most of the songs are killer and the musicians are fantastic, so to make this a night to remember should be an easy task, but unfortunately this show contains worse parts too, like the version of You've Got Another Thing Comin, with both a singalong and an extended guitar solo. They should also had picked a better song from the Nostradamus album, since Prophecy gets boring even before it has started.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Best: Breaking The Law+ Night Crawler
Worst: You've Got Another Thing Comin'

Intro (Battle Hymn)
Rapid Fire
Metal Gods
Heading Out To The Highway
Judas Rising
Victim Of Changes
Never Satisfied
Diamonds And Rust
Dawn Of Creation (Recorded)
Night Crawler
Turbo Lover
Beyond The Realms Of Death
The Sentinel
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)
Breaking The Law
Drum Solo
The Hellion (Recorded)
Electric Eye
Hell Bent For Leather
You've Got Another Thing Comin'
Living After Midnight

Saturday August 06

Band: Iced Earth
True Metal Stage 17:30-18:30

This show was lead singer Matt Barlow's last one with Iced Earth. Have you heard the story before? Maybe we will get to see another comeback in a couple of years?

A recorded version of the instrumental song 1776 opens this show and when the band enters the stage with Burning Times, they look focused to make Matt's last Iced Earth show something to remember. Main man John is impressive with his guitar playing style and he is making it look so easy when playing that six string. The hired guns, who has now been in the band for a long time knows their position, but are truly making a good job. Matt has unfortunately not that strong voice he used to have. He screams a bit too much, but still it's good though.

Fifty minutes into the set when they leave for an encore, I'm thinking that only two songs are not following the same track, Declaration Day and I Died For You. All other songs sounds almost the same, so a little more diversity should have been great.

Yes, of course it gets a little sentimental at the end. Some guys didn't seem too happy with Matt leaving the band again, but fortunately I couldn't see any tears down in the crowd.

Performance: 5 chalices of 10
Best: Declaration Day
Worst: Too many similar songs in the set

Intro (1776)
Burning Times
Declaration Day
Vengeance Is Mine
Last December
I Died For You
The Hunter
Birth Of The Wicked
The Coming Curse
Iced Earth

Band: Sepultura
Black Stage 18:45-19:45

Once a great band with the future at their feet, but sadly in people's eyes they are just shadows of past times. A lot of people showed up however and people seemed satisfied during the performance. They were working hard up on stage, but from where I stood, the sound quality was poor and therefore and due to that the songs are not as good anymore, I left before the show was over.

I think however think that this version of Sepultura should keep on playing, no matter what people say. A reunion with the Cavalera brothers seems far away and with this situation, people who like these bands get more.

Performance: 3 chalices of 10
Best: Refuse/Resist
Worst: The sound quality

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Tobias Sammet's Avantasia
True Metal Stage 20:00-21:30

Avantasia, Tobias Sammet's solo project have been playing live a pair of dozens of times now, so the exclusivity is not there anymore. I however did want to see this, because you never know if there will be more chances to see these constellations, with many guest appearances from well known lead singers like Jørn Lande, Bob Catley, Michael Kiske and Amanda Somerville.

The show starts with Twisted Mind, which Tobias sings on his own and you could see that people where waiting for the guests, because let's face it, that's why most of us came. Tobias did a great job tonight though, so his efforts were welcome. I hadn't expected him to sing as good as he did. Jørn Lande enters and one of the best songs tonight, The Scarecrow, is played. Suddenly the crowd goes nuts and the show has started for real. One who didn't sing as great as we are used to was Michael Kiske. I got a little surprised when I heard him sing Reach Out For The Light, because I saw him last year and then his voice worked better.

Tonight's highlight was, without any doubts, Death Is Just A Feeling. Kai Hansen did a good job and so did the rest of the band. Speaking about the rest of the band. They are great musicians, but even Tony Iommi takes more steps during a show than all these guys with the strings. Bob Catley had the toughest job tonight, having to sing the worst song of the set. Even though he pulled it off, the song should never have been played.

We get a couple of bombastic encores like Avantasia and almost a full version of Sign Of The Cross. However we only get one minute of The Seven Angels, which is a shame. Kai Hansen is playing guitar at the end and with one more guitar it got even more powerful of course.

Performance: 6 chalices of 10
Best: Death Is Just A Feeling
Worst: The Story Ain't Over

Twisted Mind
The Scarecrow
Promised Land
The Story Ain't Over
Reach Out For The Light
Dying For An Angel
Death Is Just A Feeling
Lost In Space
The Wicked Symphony
Shelter From The Rain
Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels

Band: Kreator
Black Stage 21:45-22:45

I am one of those persons who have liked Kreator almost from the start. Nowadays I however think that their latest albums are the best and the first ones have highlights, but with way too many fillers. Having that said, I was hoping for a lot of new stuff tonight.

…and I got it. If you count Phobia as a new song, we got eight full songs out of thirteen. It was however a little surprising for me that a lot of people in the crowd was rocking just as hard to the new stuff as to the old. Kreator will never be what they were, they will probably just get better and better.

Main man Mille is just as evil and angry as he has been ever since I first saw him and Ventor is banging his drums even with more power than before, as they rush though their set at full speed. The sound quality on this gig could definitely have been better. Songs like Endless Pain and Pleasure To Kill needs a good sound, otherwise they can't make themselves justice on a live show.

They finish the set with Flag Of Hate and Tormentor, which makes me feel pretty fed up, because that was so predictable. For how many years more will Mille keep on wanting the crowd to shout Hate right after he said Flag Of...?

Performance: 6,5 chalices of 10
Best: Violent Revolution
Worst: Endless Pain + Destroy What Destroys You

Intro (Choir Of The Damned)
Hordes Of Chaos (A Necrologue For The Elite)
War Curse
Endless Pain
Pleasure To Kill
Destroy What Destroys You
Voices Of The Dead
Enemy Of God
Reconquering The Throne
The Patriarch (Recorded)
Violent Revolution
Flag Of Hate

Band: Motörhead
True Metal Stage 23:00-00:15

Motörhead seems to play at every festival all over Europe every year. I have seen them at least fifteen times at festivals, so I was going to the show in good hope that they would perform a great gig once again.

The show started excellent with songs like Iron Fist and Metropolis, but then suddenly something happened. The songs and the performance felt too rehearsed, so all the moves felt like they had been done before. Probably this actually means that these guys have been playing together for so long that they know exactly where they got each other.

I saw about fifty minutes of the show before leaving, because I was quite sure that Going To Brazil, Ace Of Spades, Overkill and Killed By Death were going to be played the last twenty minutes or so, which would have made it even more to just a day at work tonight.

Performance: 4 chalices of 10
Best: Iron Fist
Worst: Probably the rain after I had left.

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Venomin James
W.E.T. Stage/Headbanger's Ballroom 00:15-00:45

I had only heard one song from Ohio's quintet Venomin James before, but I decided to go check them out. Going there is not something I regret. They played five songs of what they said was doom metal, but I would call it a hybrid of Life Of Agony and Swedish band Mustasch, with a touch of doom.

The singer was wild right from the start. He was spending half of the show in the foto ditch and popping up here and there to hang on the people at the front row. The guys with the strings were rocking as hell too, making this one hell of a show. I must say that the performance was even actually better than the songs, even though the songs were ok. The song I had heard before, Make No Mistake, was one of the highlights on this gig.

What happened afterwards was even more fun. They were throwing out T-shirts and CDs for a couple of minutes and then suddenly one guitarist starts to bang his guitar to the stage floor and then hands out the debris to the crowd. The other guitarist sees this and decides to do exactly the same. We got a good laugh and most people will probably never forget this Venomin James show.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Best: The smashing of two guitars
Worst: More people should have turned up to see this gig

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Children Of Bodom
Black Stage 00:30-01:45

I missed the first songs due to the conflict with Venomin James. As I stepped down to Black Stage to see Children Of Bodom, In Your Face was up. I soon realized that this was going to be just another gig for the Finnish melodic death metallers. Sometimes I feel like lead singer and guitarist Alexi is taking way too much space on stage. He is a great performer and frontman, but it would be good if he let go a bit.

Apparently they started the show with a couple of songs from their latest album, Relentless Reckless Forever and then turned this show into a hit oriented one. The crowd down on the ground did a good job to support the band, even though the hour was getting late and rain was coming.

As stated above they played many hits, but something was clearly missing tonight. The band are well known for their great live performances, but tonight things really didn't work out.

Performance: 4,5 chalices of 10
Best: Hate Crew Deathroll
Worst: Not playing Needled 24/7 and Was It Worth It?

Setlist: (might be slightly incorrect)
Not My Funeral
Bodom Beach Terror
Shovel Knockout
Roundtrip To Hell And Back
In Your Face
Living Dead Beat
Children Of Bodom
Hate Me!
Angels Don't Kill
Follow The Reaper
Are You Dead Yet?
Hate Crew Deathroll

To the top

The closing words

When I was reading the weather forecasts a couple of days before this year's festival, they were nothing but bad. Heavy rain for at least two days, which would have meant that Wacken once again would be the home of mud. Suddenly the forecasts changed at Wednesday afternoon. Now they said temperatures in the low twenties Celsius (low seventies Fahrenheit) and just a couple of showers. This time, they were fortunately right, so the weather turned out good, but a couple of degrees warmer wouldn't have hurt.

Wacken Open Air 2011 will for me be remembered as a year with good shows, but with almost none who were great. The festival had all the usual bands and all the usual signs everywhere about metal. Metal breakfast, Metal markt, etc. It feels like I could continue forever. When thinking about it, it is close to ridiculous, but they do it in a good way, making it cool instead. The huge gap between the bigger stages and the crowd is something they will have to work on. I think this is one major reason that many bands did not perform as good as we are used to.

~ Tobbe

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