|» Wacken Open Air 2012||
The opening words
Me and company decided to skip the festival's warm-up day and used Wednesday August 1st for a nine hour drive down from Stockholm, Sweden to mainland Denmark to stay one night at a hotel somewhere in the vicinity of Fredericia, before heading down the last two hours to the small village of Wacken, Germany around Thursday noon. The weather had been pretty shitty, with heavy showers in the days prior to the festival, but when we arrived at our camp site, everything looked just fine and we thought that this ain't so bad and the forecasts didn't look so unpromising either. Being my seventh visit to thee one metal festival, I've seen all kinds of weather; rain, windy, hot as hell, cold as ice, and you name it.
Anyway, after setting up our camp, we started our
walk down to the actual festival area and found out that the ground consisted
of dried out and hard mud and soil. We all know what happens when it rains
on dry ground. Yes, the water doesn't drain and stays as puddles or in
worst case, small lakes. We decided to have a couple of beers and just
hang out until 7 pm when U.D.O. featuring some special guests was starting
Reviews and photos by Tobbe
Band: U.D.O. & Special Guests
With so many hours of spare time, it's a great achievement for me and my buddies to actually miss the first song of the set and just hear it from a distance. Having that said, let's focus on a band that in recent years have felt uninspired and weary on stage.
Contrary to what I just wrote, I must say that tonight's gig was nothing but good. The guest appearances heated this performance up and especially on the part in the middle of the set, when they played four straight songs from the three first U.D.O. records with four to five guests on stage, including former bandmembers Thomas 'Bodo' Smuszynski, Mathias Dieth and Andy Susemihl as well as Udo's son Sven and also none other than Mr. Lordi. German metal queen Doro joined the band for a duet on Dancing With An Angel and I can't say that I was too surprised with that move. She pops up everywhere, I guess.
On this special set, not so many old Accept songs as usual were played
and the band felt fresh again. I hope they can remain in this shape on
stage, because they have so many great songs and it's a total waste not
to perform them with this new found spark. During the last song, surprise
surprise, Balls To The Wall, all performers joined on stage of course
and afterwards I left satisfied.
Performance: 7 chalices
What can be written about a Saxon show that hasn't been written before? This band is well known for always performing well and this show was no exception. All from the blasting opener Heavy Metal Thunder to the last tones of Princess Of The Night, it was a massive headbanging race. Being with my two German friends Thomas and Toff and a friend from Norway, who from this day goes under the name Boddvar, as well as with my two pals and co-workers from home, Mike and Peter, certainly helped my neck going sore. An important statement: The beer had of course absolutely no influence on our behavior whatsoever. Also I wonder about our other Norwegian friend, Knut's, whereabouts during this fantastic show.
With a setlist spread through their whole career they played a set where almost all songs could, in our rather small and snowed in metal community, be called hits. Front man Biff ruled the stage as always and bassplayer Nibbs Carter's headbanging is out of this world. That man's head will probably one day be separated from his neck. The two guitarists were cool as always and drummer Nigel was near flawless, even if he just recovered from a Curry he ate the night before.
I wonder for how long these guys will be able to perform these extraordinary
gigs at this level? There seem to be no way to stop these gentlemen's
quest and I don't mind them staying on the scene for yet another decade
or so. They have always stayed true to their game without any breaks or
lead singer changes, as with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest for instance,
and that's probably the main reason that they still are so popular at
festival shows, but there's a certain lack of interest when they are coming
to your hometown.
Performance: 9 chalices
Before this night was over I catched parts of Circle II Circle's and Volbeat's sets, but due to conflicts in the running order, I only got to see a couple of songs from each band and thereby I choose not to review those gigs.
Somewhere around 11 p.m., one weird experience started to occur. All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, the lower left side of my back started to hurt like hell and I had to hold my hand firmly on that spot just to be able to move at all. I was leaning to the left when I walked and it must have been a funny sight.
Since I used to play icehockey when I was younger, I learned to continue until the end, but at 4 a.m. even I had had enough of pain, so I left the bar and headed for our tent. On my way up to the camping grounds, I had to stop several times and eventually I started to laugh, because it hurt so much. I grabbed a fence so I could rest for a while and then I decided to lay down on the asphalt just to stretch. Big mistake.
Within one minute an ambulance turns the sirens on and out jump four or five medics and asks me what's wrong. I tell them what's up and then a woman tells me that they will have to take me to the hospital in Hamburg, because cardiac arrests starts with back pains. I tell them "No way, I'm going to my tent." As I start walking, they grab me and thirty seconds later a squad car shows up and two officers storm out with their K-9s. Me being stiff, as I see the drooling beasts with their sharpened fangs approach, ready to taste my flesh. Okay, the latter may be a bit exaggerated.
The officers were cool though and asked me what was going on and if I was drunk. I told them that I wasn't sober and that my back hurt. Cool as they were, they asked me where my tent was located and then they drove me the three hundred meters, so I didn't have to walk. One of my friends woke up upon my arrival and was wondering what the hell was going on, and then he see me walking there with the canine patrol. All however went smooth, so eventually I was able to get some sleep.
When I woke up at 9 Friday morning, all the pain was gone, as if it had never existed. Later, the three of us, had our own counsel of what had caused this pain. Our best guesses were: a small kidney stone passing through, lumbago, perhaps something else muscular or just a pinched nerve. No matter what it was, it didn't return, so now I was set for another day on German soil.
A festival gig at noon seldom leaves opportunities to be memorable. Half of the crowd is still hung over or tired from yesterday's experiences and the bands have a hard time just to stay alert. I have seen Warbringer live once before. It's solid thrash, but nothing that sticks, so I headed to this gig without any expectations.
This performance was actually pretty decent, but still kind of monotonous,
I must say. Sure, there a some diversity, but to the untrained ear, it's
all melts down to one big dough. No matter what, the guys on stage were
trying hard and were all in for it, so no one can hold anything against
them and their will to perform.
Performance: 5 chalices
When Sanctuary reunited about one and a half years ago, I never thought they were going to continue and that they would rather do this as a one-off thing. Now they have announced the coming of a new album anytime soon, two decades after their second release, so I guess they have chosen their path. Even if lead singer Warrel Dane has a wide range and the other guys rock hard, there's one major thing missing; great songs. When comparing to what Dane and bassplayer Jim Sheppard have accomplished with Nevermore, Sanctuary isn't even comparable, even if there are good songs.
Two songs from the forthcoming album were presented and they both sounded
decent. Naturally it's hard to make a final decision of the songs' greatness
when hearing them for the first time. Also keep in mind that the sound
quality wasn't the best from my position. Only playing just over fifty
minutes on a one hour slot isn't too well planned either. Perhaps I'm
a dick, but I demand more from a band with members this caliber.
Performance: 5 chalices
With new singer Tommy Karevik in the ranks, I was very interested to see what the new version of Kamelot could achieve. I can tell you right away that he did a good job, but his voice isn't as strong as Roy Khan's. On the other hand, he's a better stage performer than Khan, so half is won though.
With a poor and barely hearable guitar sound, they opened up with one hell of a boring song in Rule The World and from that moment the performance never highlighted. With them playing all these newer songs, it feels like they are trapped in a labyrinth, not able to find a way out. Let's face it, their albums after The Black Halo aren't good enough for Kamelot. It becomes too pompous and too polished.
Forty-five minutes or so into the gig when playing Forever, a light rain
started and within five minutes, somewhere halfway through Karma, the
skies opened, a thunderstorm was approaching and the ground literally
became a muddy lake real quick. Two minutes later, my shoes were soaking
wet and I headed for shelter. March Of Mephisto was, as always I might
say, the last song. Please, someone tell them to reconsider their decision
to close their set with that song.
Performance: 4 chalices
For the last couple of years, HammerFall have had their share of not so flattering reviews. They have felt a bit weary on stage and their now approaching year-long break will probably do them real good.
With only a few gigs announced this summer, the band felt heavier and more focused than in perhaps five years or so. This was one of the better gigs I've seen with them in a long time. The whole band were all in for it and they had the crowd in a firm grip from the very first chords until the last tones of fan favorite, Hearts On Fire.
Now almost considered veterans on the scene, they have plenty of material
to pick their setlist from. Tonight I believe that they could have chosen
to play just any song in their catalogue and it still would have turned
out well. A one hour lesson in metal was presented to us and I hope they
still have this hunger left when they regroup later on.
Performance: 9 chalices
Band: In Flames
This band's fan base grows for every year. When leaving their traditional death metal sound more than a decade ago, they made a greater career move than they could have ever imagined. Nowadays all kinds of metal fans show up at their gigs and their songs are broadcasted on various radio stations, so who can blame them? Playing a rather secluded role in metal's backyard or playing on a headliner spot at Wacken Open Air? You do the math.
Not one single song was played from the nineties and I guess some fans were upset, but the other over ninety-five percent were cool with it. I only wished The Chosen Pessimist would have been dead and buried as well. It was cool when it was released, but now it's just painful.
Sobriety has never been lead singer Anders Fridén's first priority, but he handles his duties well up there, even if his talk between the songs on some occasions were rather strange. In my opinion it's okay to be a bit drunk when performing a festival gig, unless it ruins the gig. It's a party and I'm sure that like the crowd, many artists want to have a good time as well.
With this many great songs played, it's tough to not get your ass kicked.
If you're wearing hearing protection and look the other way, you might
have a chance for that to come true though. In Flames prove one time after
another that they are here to stay on top.
Performance: 8 chalices
It's getting late and tonight's last main stage band is entering the stage. Most people have already fled the muddy grounds, leaving plenty of space for us survivors. After a few songs I found myself a good spot up against the fence, a little to the left and I can't complain about the view I had from there.
D:A:D doesn't stand for metal, like most performers at Wacken Open Air do. Instead we get a mix of all kinds of hard rock. All from Isn't It Wild to Reconstrucdead. They are first class on stage and even if there is a small lack of interest from the audience in this late hour, they still do their thing up there.
In pop-rock song, I Want What She's Got, a drum solo was presented. I usually loathe all solos, but this one was actually not that bad. With his tilting kit and his jazz inspired drumming, it's pretty good, even I had preferred one more song instead. When speaking about drums. The sound of the bass drum was terrible in the two first songs. It drowned most of the other instruments, but eventually the sound technician sorted things out.
Lead singer and guitarist, Jesper Binzer, knows how to make the crowd
pay attention. His bother, Jacob, is just cool with his guitar and Stiggy
Nasty is as always hilarious with his frolics on stage and with all his
weird looking basses. All in all a good show, but I've seen them better
on many occasions.
Performance: 6 chalices
Until 3.30 p.m., the German weather was all right, but then the sky decided we had enough of sun and unleashed wet mayhem upon us and I ran up to our camp to put my rubber boots on. One size too small, because no way will my boots be standing left in the mud while I'm walking away in my socks.
I also donned a thin rain poncho, which filled its function to a certain point. I had my camera in my right side pocket of my shorts and the water dripped from the poncho right down on that one, so my camera fucked up and I left it in the car when I fetched my rubber boots. The camera has now recovered, so probably just a humidity thing. I had a totally awesome raincoat in our car, just long enough to not touch the ground, but I decided not to use it, because most of the time I would have carried it around in my hands in the changing weather and therefore a poncho, not larger than it fits in my back pocket when folded, felt like the better choice.
3 a.m. and time for bed? It would probably have been the wisest decision, but I just had to visit the bar first, to see if there was any beer left. I hung around until 5, when we were thrown out, because of their one hour cleaning spot. I set course on my wonderful sleeping bag and thought that tomorrow, or actually later this morning, is the last day of the festival and time is moving fast. I woke up close to 11 Saturday, did some stuff you do in the morning and then headed down to the festival area once again.
Band: Gamma Ray
On this early afternoon, Gamma Ray did exactly what they always do. They play a whole bunch of awesome songs and put on a good show. They always seem to have a good time on stage and no one can walk away from one of their sets and not being satisfied with what they just witnessed.
On the negative side though. They play almost the same songs every time I see them, just lifting a couple of songs in and a couple ones out. The Helloween songs are I Want Out and Ride The Sky and sometimes March Of Time. It would be cool if they alternated with other songs as well. I fully understand that the bands have to play songs for the people who are not regular visitors, because the hardcore fans will return, no matter what songs they choose to play.
I don't know if drummer, Dan Zimmermann is out of the band or if he has taken a lifelong vacation, because Michael Ehré was once again behind the kit, but not a word from main man Mr. Hansen on that matter. Ehré is however a great drummer, so it really doesn't matter to me.
With limited playing time, these forty-five minutes quickly passed by.
The crowd was just starting to rock when it was time for goodbye. I also
wonder how Gamma Ray have managed to lose their status and play on the
opening spot. Maybe the last couple of albums haven't been to everyone's
satisfaction, so now they need to release a killer album to climb back
closer to the top where they belong.
Performance: 6 chalices
Band: Paradise Lost
Forty-five minutes of real gothic metal. With Adrian Erlandsson out on other duties, former drummer Jeff Singer performs with Paradise Lost this summer on a number of festivals.
Paradise Lost, or at least lead singer Nick Holmes, always play the depressive and melancholic style. They do it near flawless and with so many great songs to pick from, most of their gigs is like a walk through the park. This afternoon gig was no exception and even if playing only one song off their magnum opus, Draconian Times, they come out as winners.
The Party Stage however isn't the best place to perform on. I bet this gig would have been even one step better if they have played on any of the main stages, and c'mon, isn't this band a bigger act than an afternoon spot on the third stage?
Greg Mackintosh's brilliant guitar play and touch is a huge part of what
made this band what they are today and ever since their reinvention a
couple of years ago, they have continued to play songs people want to
hear. Gone are the attempts to do something different. This is what they
do best and what they do is magnificent.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Axel Rudi Pell
Earlier this summer I saw this band perform at Sweden Rock and I wasn't too happy with the outcome. In the light rain, the band felt tired and the main man stood cemented to the stage floor.
This afternoon show on one of the main stages was way better, as the band was focused and on fire. Almost the same setlist, but what do I care when a completely different band was present. Axel moved in a way more suitable for a heavy metal guitarist and it's always cool to see Terrana behind the drums.
The only negative part is the long medley. Good songs, but on a festival
with a beer in my hand, I prefer songs with more speed and action.
Performance: 6 chalices
With a brand new album out, I questioned myself if they were going to play more than just a teaser from it, considering they might tour for that album later. Halfway through the gig, four songs from Dark Roots Of Earth were already played, so I got a quick answer.
With a furious opening in Rise Up, they controlled the crowd all through the show. Unlike most veteran bands out there, they played a total of seven newer songs and only five classics. I wish more bands would consider to skip the main part of their older stuff and concentrate more on the latest albums instead.
Lead singer, Chuck Billy, hadn't learned the new lyrics yet, as it was obvious that he read the words from a teleprompter during a couple of songs, but his constant air guitar playing on his mic makes me disregard such mishaps. I've got to mention the song Native Blood too. What a killer. In my opinion probably their best song ever. With Hoglan's blast beats, the crowd, or at least me and my company, went nuts.
The sound quality wasn't the best from where I was placed and for instance
I couldn't hear one single tone from the fantastic, but short, solo in
Over The Wall. Well, sometimes shit happens. Anyway, a great gig and I
hope to see them on tour soon.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Amon Amarth
Sweden's death metallers Amon Amarth is gaining more and more popularity for every album released. Tonight they played the True Metal Stage on one of the main spots and by the look of lead vocalist, Johan Hegg's facial expression, you could quite easily see that they have a great time up there.
I've seen this band so many times on the last two tours and have written many reviews about them, so now I'm starting to run out of words to write. However, it's always a joy seeing all those crushing songs played live and the band play every single gig as if it was their last.
I also got to mention the vocalist's flattering words. Something like
"If you know the words, sing along. If you don't, just sing anyway.
This is death metal, you know. No one will be able to hear the difference."
If you haven't seen this band live before, I highly recommend a visit
to one of their shows.
Performance: 8 chalices
With a last week change of spots with Amon Amarth, Scorpions pulled the shortest straw, as the weather gods decided to unleash their fury during the German veteran's set. I've seen Scorpions a couple of times the last decade and every time they have played long sets that was not up to their standards and actually quite boring.
With limited playing time, they felt nothing but fresh and focused. In my opinion one of the better gigs I've seen them perform. Perhaps they go all in for it now when they have announced their retirement after forty years or so.
Hit after hit were played and I'm so glad I didn't have to witness Send
Me An Angel or Winds Of Change. Instead we got a cavalcade of their heavier
hits mixed with newer material. Kottak's drum solo and him running around
the stage for ten minutes wasn't something I hoped for, but I guess the
old gentlemen have to rest for a while.
Performance: 7 chalices
Band: Machine Head
Night was approaching and Bay area quartet Machine Head was back again to conquer the grounds of Wacken. With opener I Am Hell, I knew that this was going to be one hell of a gig. Just like with Amon Amarth, I've seen Machine Head loads of times in recent years, so I will keep this short.
One of my favorite songs, A Thousand Lies, was played again after a long absence from their live sets. A total surprise for me and if I was to pick one song for their setlist, I would have chosen that one song. The newer songs work extremely well live and I can understand why they play so many of them.
A totally awesome gig and no matter how many times I see this band perform,
I never seem to grow tired of them, and if I would, I would then just
raise my head a bit and check out Dave McClain's drumming and I'll be
back on track again.
Performance: 9 chalices
A strange silence was evident shortly before 2 a.m.. Many of the festival goers had left the festival grounds after days of party and a constant two day fight with the mud. Germany's quintet Edguy were given the pleasure or rather the tough job to close Wacken 2012. Initially announced as a surprise act, but revealed just days prior to the festival.
I am one of those who like their old power metal songs better than their later more rock 'n' roll influenced metal. During this one hour show, we got a little of both and even if people have fled the area, the band rocked hard with both new and old stuff.
Lead singer, Tobias Sammet, unfortunately for me chose to speak German
during the show and I guess I can't blame him for that, but when he talks
for so long, it gets boring to just stand there and listen to words I
don't understand. This was however a good show and one of the better ones
I've seen Edguy perform in the last five years. I believe most of the
crowd left satisfied in this late hour.
Performance: 6 chalices
After three days of partying and with a long drive home starting Sunday morning with me in the passenger seat, I went almost straight up to our camp when the last tones of Edguy were fading out. No mishaps or anything else to tell, except that the rubber boots chafed against my bare legs, since I was dressed in shorts, so two pretty rings round my calves are still visual. A beautiful sight, I must say.
The closing words
Last year I wrote that the festival had a lack of great gigs. The 2012 edition of Wacken Open Air was the direct opposite. Still though, the safety zone between the stages and the crowd is a huge gap and it takes some of the intensity away. The sound quality was good on most shows, even if the rain ruined it from time to time though.
Many years ago I liked it when the bands had long playing times, but the more festivals I visit, the more I tend to like these shorter gigs. The bands know that there's limited time and give everything they've got. Efficient and explosive. In the mud there almost was a total lack of mosh pits, at least when comparing to other editions of the festival of festivals. Most bands didn't even try to get the crowd going into massive circle pits or heavy moshing.
With a couple of stages placed outside the actual festival area, I missed a couple of bands I wanted to see, like Moonspell and Dio Disciples for instance. There simply wasn't enough time for a fifteen minute walk there and another fifteen minute walk back again when the bands were conflicting. In that case I would have been forced to miss some bands on the main stages, so I chose to stay put.
The tickets for 2013 have already been released and I wouldn't be surprised if Wacken is sold out before we hit December. I know for sure I'll be there next August, if nothing serious happens. A great year and a big thank you to the Wacken crew for making this event possible.