Wacken Open Air 2009
July 30th 2009
Ah, it is time again for that teeming cesspool of metal life that gathers every year in the small town of Wacken in Northern Germany. Chains and leather, black t-shirts, long hair, drunken voices, and, naturally, the metal we all live and die for. This is where members of the tribe from all around the world come together to raise that fist of steel and shout.
And not only that; this is the twentieth gathering here in Wacken, and this should cause special celebration, wouldn’t you say? Well, there are some pretty marvellous bands on the bill as you will see below and the next couple of days as we will report daily about the events on the previous day.
Danes as we are, there isn’t really any way around it: I have to go and see D-A-D, or Disneyland After Dark as they are allowed to call themselves outside Denmark. They can’t do that in their home country, because the big, bad Disney corporation managed to get a court ruling against that.
Anyway, I’ve never been a keen fan of D-A-D, although I must admit that they have two good handfuls of cool songs. The band is forever associated with my school days. The last time I saw the band live was in…huh…1998, I think, and that was only the second time. They always were a good live band and today is no exception as they open Wacken for me. Starting out with the old tune Riskin’ it All D-A-D begin a ride through songs from almost their entire career, including No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims, Rim of Hell, Reconstrucdead (from my favourite D-A-D album ‘Helpyourselfish’ – from the period when they really dug Suicidal Tendencies and got Colin Richardson to produce), Grow or Pay, Monster Philosophy, Sleeping My Day Away and a few I don’t know the titles of, simply because I’m not that much into everything they’ve done.
Singer/guitarist Jesper Binzer is a great front man and his voice is at its best. Stig on the bass is less enthusiastic than I remember him. He seems a lot more focused on his playing, but the weird basses, most notably the one that’s wrapped in a rocket (!), are always a sight for sore eyes as is indeed his tight, black outfit.
Jacob on the guitar does his part excellently as well, even though he in my humble opinion isn’t the tightest lead guitarist you can find. Behind the drums is the boy wonder of D-A-D, Laust Sonne, beaming out presence almost on level with Jesper. The guy cannot only play, he is also a true focal point for the aging rockers and has thereby given them new life.
One big party from the four Danes on stage and thumbs up from this Dane in the audience.
The so-called ‘secret’ concert on the Party stage leads to many guesses as to who might turn up. Savatage’s last gig? OverKill? Onkel Tom? But, alas, it turns out to be German J.B.O and, honestly, I’ll have none of that, please. Been there, done that.
On the Black Stage, I see former Böhse Onkel Der W. This doesn’t really go down well with yours truly, either, so I slip over to the W.E.T Stage.
What I find here is a German band called 5TH AVENUE. They are in the middle of an arse-tight rendition of Come Together as I enter. They have a nice and heavy sound, so I stick around. The guys are clearly no spring chicks, and rightly enough, the much too talkative singer/guitarist along the way announces that they played Wacken in 1990. By the look of the very poor turnout of people here it would seem that they never got that far.
They do have a really good sound, though. What follows is a strange mixture of covers and own songs, Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of in a version that completely lacks the tension of RATM, and the White Stribes, too (sorry, can’t remember the title of the tune). Their own songs…well, they’re not bad as such, but they are so…early nineties rock. Presidents of the United States of America, Smashing Pumpkins, you catch my drift. In the end, I leave for a wee drink.
The first big thing for me today is RUNNING WILD. Rock’n’Rolf has announced the exit of his brainchild after 30 years in action. No more piracy on the seven seas. Some would say it’s high time to pull the plug on the concept, but I have had many enjoyable hours with Running Wild’s music over the years, so for me it’s a bit sad.
With a bit of theatrics at first, the scene is set for a two hour show with a long line of cool songs. Rolf and his crew takes us through Port Royal, Purgatory, Black Hand Inn, Battle of Waterloo, Branded & Exiled, Raise Your Fist and many of the other songs that has made Running Wild a relevant band although you can’t they’ve changed much over the years With the tune Raging Fire comes the rain and turns the whole thing into raging waters, but never mind, the Wacken crowd is tough and stays with Rolf.
The big, big finale comes with the two last songs, and arguably Running Wild’s finest hour: Conquestadors and Under Jolly Roger end 30 years of Kraut heavy metal the Rock’n’Rolf way, and there is only thing I can do: Raise my fist and bang my head.
This Thursday is so thoroughly wrapped up by the four oldest guys on the premises. Black S…I mean, HEAVEN & HELL came, saw and conquered Wacken.
I can see from reports in other magazines that the set list hasn’t changed one jota on the tour, but it matters not; I haven’t seen this line-up play before and it is near-divine!
Ronnie James Dio, the metal gnome with the gigantic voice, does a perfect job. Iommi is a focused stalwart of the darkest metal riffs of all time – he is just stating what we all know: from his hands came those riffs that so many of the bands we hear on this festival copy, rearrange, build on and recreate endlessly. No big arm movements from the metal pioneer, just the occasional grin, a stroll across the stage and fantastic playing.
From the new, brilliant ‘The Devil You Know’, we get the hit song Bible Black, Fear and the monstrously heavy Follow the Tears. From ‘Dehumanizer it’s I and Timemachine. From ‘Mob Rules’ the dark gentlemen have chosen to let us hear intro E5150, the title track, Falling Off the Edge of the World and a bit of Country Girl as encore. Last, but not least, ‘Heaven and Hell’, this Black Sabbath version’s first album, provides the set list Children of the Sea, Die Young, Neon Knights and of course the title track in an expanded jam and sing-along-version.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end this day. Perfect.
Jesper Binzer (D-A-D) - a fantastic
Stig from D-A-D - not as over-the-top as he can be
5th Avenue - a forgotten band?
This is the end: The final gig of
A divine voice and the darkest riffs:
Heaven & Hell
Wacken Open Air 2009
July 31st 2009
‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’, is one of my favourite movie quotes (Apocalypse Now). I’ll modify that a tad for the occasion: ‘I love the sound of NAPALM DEATH in the morning!’ The Birmingham quartet is, admittedly, a hard pill to swallow at 11 in the morning, but it’s also very metal to do.
As always, Barney and the boys deliver a massive wall of sound, the technical level high as fuck and the energy level likewise. A few pits get going among the morning crowd as among others Brink of Extinction, Lies, The Kill, When All is Said and Done, M.A.N.S World, Suffer the Children, Scum and naturally Nazi Punks Fuck Off pour out of the PA. Killer way to begin the day!
As I reach the True Metal stage, German metal veterans GAMMA RAY launch into the Helloween classic Ride the Sky. Now, this I like! As the show progresses, I get the feeling that Gamma Ray are slowly turning into the German version of Manowar, their bass player bringing on the poses of a certain Mr. DeMaio. A new song is aired today, the title being something along the lines of ‘Hail to the Metal’ and it songs like…you guessed it; Manowar!
But apart from that, a solid set from Kai Hansen and his crew, and the Save Us/Future World medley was welcome indeed.
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
A few years back, I had a bit of a fling with the first three albums of Norwegian goth/symphonic metallers TRISTANIA. I couldn’t quite keep up in the end, but now’s the time to see what they have turned into.
The gig turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax. For a band with two vocalists and a growler in the shape of guitarist Anders, the ability to actually hear the microphone input is pretty essential one would think. Well, we can’t. Three people are opening their mouths in front of us, but very, very little is heard. Only in the more quiet passages, the voices of singer Østen Bergøy and the gorgeous Mariangela Demurtas are audible.
After four songs, I head over to the Black Metal stage where WALLS OF JERICHO tear some serious shit up. Although the American outfit is also a female fronted band, this is an entirely different ballgame. Front woman Candance is completely over the top when it comes to energy, constantly inciting to chaos (‘See these guys up here? They’re security and they get paid for a reason!’).
Not that Walls of Jericho are particularly original with their metalcore come death metal, but they manage to come across refreshing and intense nevertheless.
I head back to Tristania to see if the sound situation has improved. It has, but unfortunately only slightly. This was just not Tristania’s day.
Next up are NEVERMORE. Their studio work in my opinion counts among some of the strongest in metal over the past decade, but the two times I saw them live, the sound situation has been less fortunate to say it the least. So it is with some anxiety I place myself in front of the True Metal stage.
The first surprise comes as Jeff Loomis appears to the sole guitarist. Slight worry over the lack of heaviness, eh? Second worry is a confirmation of my fears for the sound. I can’t tell you what the two first songs are. Narcosynthesis the second, I think? Warrell Dane’s vocal falls out constantly, the whole thing is chaos. It turns out that it is not just some sound engineer’s fault. Dane is constantly clearing his throat between songs.
But then, with third song Dead Heart in a Dead World, the shift comes. And it’s a joy to see and hear this turn into a true tour de force. Everything sort of falls into place, with Dane’s voice finally being warm and Loomis taking advantage of getting all the attention when he does his solos. In fact, the lack of the second guitarist is at all a bad thing. It strikes me that a major part of the reason for the uncontrolled sound of previous gigs was precisely due to that second axe throwing in the mud and taking the power out of Loomis’ solos.
Enemies of Reality, The Heart Collector, a hard as concrete version of How Did it Come to This, Inside Four Walls, I, Voyager and the brilliant Born to finish everything off is what we get in the post-shit-sound phase of the gig. Disaster turned to victory, no less.
HAMMERFALL are as usual true to style. Their set is professional, their sound excellent, their music powerful. As Let the Hammer Fall rings out, this True metal fan is a happy and slightly alcohol-driven guy.
On the WET stage, WHIPLASH bring old-school to life in a big way. This is the difference between authentic and those who just want to be like. Whiplash were in it back then and they deliver with massive intensity, creating an equally impressive pit in the tent. To top the cult experience, former Sodom/Kreator guitarist Frank Blackfire joins the band for three songs. The band will have a new album out shortly, also featuring Blackfire.
In passing, I get to see a few songs by BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE who sound convincing enough, but can’t really grab my attention to a degree where I’ll stay more than two songs.
With the a flow of the Iron Fist, MOTÖRHEAD conquers the True Metal stage. Two hours of rock’n’roll is to follow, the line of classics spiced up by the guest appearance of the FUEL GIRLS who specialise in stripping and fire sticks. Nice one for the lads.
If one among the three musicians in Motörhead should be singled out, it has to be Mikkey Dee. The Swede impresses hugely behind the kit – he IS one hell of a drummer!
With the double battery of Ace of Spades and Overkill, Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Dee can put another successful Wacken gig on their resumé.
Attenting: Thomas, Jørgen
Oh, dilemmas. I want to check out the symphonic, female fronted EPICA, but they’re scheduled to play at the same time as In Flames. Bummer. I go for EPICA to see if I’m convinced.
I’m not and head over to In Flames in fast pace.
Good move, I have to say. In Flames are in great shape backed by the strong ‘Sense of Purpose’ album.
Alive, Trigger, Cloud Connected, Disconnected, Only for the Weak, Come Clarity, Ghost with a semi-acoustic intro, Take This Life, My Sweet Shadow, the list of hits go on.
Anders is not over talkative tonight which is a good thing. In Flames in a good mood, heads down way is how I like them best - and by the look of an entire field jumping, this is also how the rest of the Wacken audience like it.
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
AMON AMARTH provides us with a nasty surprise for the 2 o’clock gig: The volume has been reduced greatly. The title track from ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ sounds as if it only goes through the stage gear and that, my friends, is a disaster. These songs from Valhalla must be heard at max volume! Things grow a bit louder after that, but the volume is still not at all at the level it ought to be at.
The gig is perfect – the Swedes deliver the goods big time, with the Viking ship on stage and the sword fights and of course a set of hammer tunes that are born into this world with the sole purpose of wrecking necks. The Pursuit of Vikings holds one of the most catchy riffs of metal today, no doubt.
Odin is indeed on our side on this night. Too bad that we could have used some of Heimdal’s powers to hear the whole thing better…
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
Rating (Amon Amarth: 90/100
Rating (Wacken PA volume: 20/100)
‘I love the sound of Napalm Death in the morning…’
Lovely new singer…wish we could’ve
heard her voice too (Tristania).
Powerhouse singer, powerful band
(Walls of Jericho)
Jeff Loomis - sole guitarist - and that's not a bad thing! (Nevermore)
Old-school cool - and Frank Blackfire lends a helping hand (Whiplash)
Dancing Lemmy...errr...no, just a
cool rock'n'roll gig
Anders makes Wacken jump again
The hammer of the gods -
Wacken Open Air 2009
August 1st 2009
So this is it; it’s the last day of Metal Party Number One on this planet. One must say the standard generally has been extremely high. If you have followed our reports over the past couple of days you will have noticed the high ratings.
Let’s see if the high ratings continue to dominate today…
The day is kicked off by RAGE. Well, actually is more precise to say ‘Rage with Friends’. The list of guest singers seem to go on and on: Hansi from Blind Guardian, Eric from Subway to Sally, Schmier from Destruction and Jen Majura who did backing vocals on the ‘Carved in Stone’ album.
Rage sadly only plays a relatively short set, however consisting of great songs like The Lord of the Flies, From The Cradle to the Grave, Soundchaser and Invisible Horizons. Everything is really tightly played and as always, Victor Smolski shreds like a maniac! Good way to kick off the day!
CATHEDRAL is, like…the band that can be out of place anywhere. They are doom. But they are also disco. They are serious, but at the same time you have the feeling they take the piss on you by being utterly silly. They are also metal, but not really in a metal way. More of a stoner way.
I always liked them for being odd. And creating some majestic tunes along the line. Not everything has been super over the years but there are also classics in the proverbial basket.
Wacken doesn’t exactly welcome Cathedral in a big way this afternoon. The sun is out, folks are getting tired, it’s the last day and some have been here since Monday. Let me put it like this: You have plenty of room to move up in front of the Black Stage as Cathedral launch into their doomy sludge. Soul Sacrifice, one of my favourite tunes of all time, got an airing as the second song, and that sort of makes my day…
The crowd begins to grow as Cathedral work their way through The Berwick Witch Trials and Cosmic Funeral. As they reach Corpsecycle from their latest opus, ‘The Garden of Unearthly Delights’, there is a decent showing of people, perhaps drawn by Lee Dorian’s stage antiques. How about putting the microphone into your mouth and walk around on stage looking like a total geek? No, he’s definitely not your ordinary front man.
The highlights of the set, apart from Soul Sacrifice, must be Ride and Hopkins (Witchfinder) – another two of those classics I talked about before. Hopkins ends with Dorian almost choking himself on the microphone cable. Talk about proving the point of the story, eh…
Despite a good choice of songs, Cathedral don’t really fill the big Wacken stage (and broad daylight doesn’t at all suit them for that matter). You sense that they aren’t entirely comfortable with being there even though most of their songs have the strength to bear it.
Now that Anthrax have sadly been forced to pull out, it is up to TESTAMENT to represent the early generations of thrash metal today.
I find it hard to believe that Chuck Billy ever had a bad day on stage. His presence is formidable as always and you sense that he wouldn’t trade being right here and right now for anything in the world.
Testament takes us through an entire career of great tunes, starting out with The Preacher and leading into New Order. Over the Wall follows suit, causing some wrecked necks. A string of great songs are tossed at the enthusiastic Wacken audience. Practice What You Preach, More Than Meets the Eye, Burnt Offerings, Into the Pit, Disciples of the Watch, DNR, Fall of Sipledome and the amazing Formation of Damnation.
Excellent concert, this one!
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
Directly over to the Black Stage where HEAVEN SHALL BURN are about to give our ears a severe punishment. And an efficient one it turns out to be. Work out it becomes too as I end up in the biggest circle pit ever seen at Wacken! As expected, HSB starts out with the intro Awoken from their latest record, ‘Iconoclast’. Endzeit follows as it is the case on the record and from there on the whole thing is just madness!
The German metalcore-come-death outfit play Forlorn Skies and Black Tears somewhere in the mess of circle pits and headbanging, but I honestly can’t tell what else was playing and where I was! All over the place! Such power! Such energy!
I have this list of bands that I want to see before I grow too old and start embarrassing my kids by going to concerts.
TROUBLE has been on that list for a long, long time now, and today I can finally make that little mark next to one more band. Not that I’m a HUGE fan of all of the bands albums, but there’s some powerful doom material among their releases.
Eric Wagner is out and his characteristic voice is a big part of Trouble’s sound. Whether new man Kory Clarke can fill Wagner’s shoes should be interesting to see.
Since I haven’t seen the band before, I can’t compare the stage acting of the two, but the voice I certainly can.
The first surprise is not a pleasant one; the WET Stage tent is in no way as packed as I would have expected. In fact, very, very few people are here. More come as we go along, but my surprise remains as I write these lines.
Initially, the sound is crap. It takes a couple of songs for the sound guy to make things better, but it never becomes perfect. I have a feeling that the slight tremolo effect that’s been put on Clarke’s voice doesn’t make things easier.
Taylor has a lot of presence, fitting in nicely with the psychedelic feel of the band. It becomes quite apparent, though, that he isn’t yet entirely on level with the Trouble back catalogue; he has to cast sidelong glances at a sheet of paper on the floor because he can’t remember all the lyrics yet.
The songs that stand out are the phenomenal Touch the Sky, oldie but goldie Assassin and End of My Daze. The new song aired today, Hunters of Doom, sounds promising and will by the sound of it fit nicely into the portfolio.
Not exactly the big experience I had hoped for, this. Much of the reason being the sound.
Always a spectacle on stage, medieval rockers IN EXTREMO have gained a massive following in Germany. The crowd is huge to say it the least. I’m not exactly familiar with their material, but never mind, I want to see this.
Spitting fire, playing dudelsack, all sorts of percussion, dressed in medieval clothing, In Extremo put on a spectacular show. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of German lyrics, but the show is so convincing that I am actually able to ignore this minor mishap…
Setting your cymbals on fire at the end of the show – that’s just too f*cking metal, isn’t it?
This is certainly a boost for our national pride. When VOLBEAT played the Wacken Party Stage last year, they had a big crowd, but this year, the show of hands in front of the True Metal stage has grown to entirely different and much impressive proportions.
During the intro, drummer Jon and Michael Poulsen, the latter dressed in white shirt and black waistcoat, turn up on stage, and the show begins with the title track from ‘Guitars Gangsters and Cadillac Blood’. Guitarist Thomas and bass player Anders emerge as well, and the rock’n’roll party is in full swing.
Volbeat is one of those bands that has tons of positive energy, and they manage to mediate the feeling. Perhaps it’s just the fact that Bredahl and Poulsen seem to be so thoroughly enjoying what they do?
The songs have they say as well, naturally. One rock’n’metal hit follows the other, as we’re bombarded with among other tunes Radio Girl, Sad Man’s Tongue, Mr. & Mrs. Ness, Pool of Booze, Rebel Monster, I Only Wanna Be With You and Garden’s Tale.
Today’s surprise is a cover of the Misfits track Into Front, a short ditty to honour one of Michael Poulsen’s inspirational sources.
The tune We concludes the set, which the teasing addition of the intro for Rain in Blood.
Cool gig – one of the very few drawbacks being Poulsen’s tendency to talk too much rather than play…
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
As the darkness has fallen upon the Wacken festival, MACHINE HEAD are about to deliver a concert that without comparison is one of the best I have seen at Wacken!
Technically and soundwise not as perfect as e.g. Heaven & Hell two nights ago, but in terms of energy and atmosphere plain amazing. You can almost sense how Robb Flynn is determined to make this unforgettable for the many thousands metal fans out there.
Emperium starts the ball in an effective manner and many hammer tunes are to follow as is incitement to create the biggest circle pit in Wacken history. (Sorry, Robb, you never manage to beat the circle pit during Heaven Shall Burn…)
The songs from ‘Burn My Eyes’ are in my opinion still the strongest on the setlist. Old, Davidian and None But My Own go down a storm with the moshing and headbanging crowd.
That said, Halo from ‘The Blacking’ is a massively impressive tune and the same can be said of Aesthetics of Hate.
‘The Burning Red’ is put in as a kind of breather somewhere midway, but the otherwise fairly emotional piece is scarred by Phil Demmel’s too loud guitar which simply drowns Robb’s voice entirely. Too bad.
But apart from that I can only agree with Flynn’s description of the whole situation: ‘Wow’!
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen
SAXON have been going on for over 30 years now, and they’ve been some of the regulars at Wacken. Let’s face it, Biff and the lads are some of the constants of heavy rock and for that they earn a lot of respect.
Respect also for this evening’s gig at Wacken. A solid and professional show with tons of classic Saxon songs like Strong Arm of the Law, Crusader and of course Denim and Leather, spiced up with some of the newer material, e.g. We Got Power from their latest offering.
Biff is certainly not a young man anymore, but by the look of it, he remembers his vitamins in the morning as he stalks the stage and bangs his head.
There are gigs where you go because you want to listen to the music and there are GWAR gigs. Truth be told, Gwar’s musical output is at best mediocre. The entertainment factor, on the other hand, is extremely high.
It must be expensive for our favourite alien crew when there’s a change in office in the White House. New victims must be produced, now in the shape of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Over the course of the next three quarters of an hour, Oderus and his Scumdogs manage to tear out the entrails of the former and sever the head of the latter, and Michael Jackson is treated likewise. A rivalling bunch of aliens also enter the scene and get the treatment as Oderus defends the Frank Sinatra Belt that gives its owner the powers of the universe (or something to that extent).
Those who know arrive in white t-shirts (or rain coats). Those who don’t get a surprise as the first head rolls and the blood spurts into the crowd. Sadly, it only reaches a few metres beyond the photo pit, but the first couple of row get the red cascades.
When Oderus finally tosses himself off and shoots of his green sperm, it reaches a little further…
You could on the one hand say that there is no point in this when the music is as poor as it is, but then again, I think heavy metal needs bands like Gwar to take the piss on everything and everyone.
Rating (music): 40/100
Rating (entertainment value): 90/100
On par with fellow Germans In Extremo, SUBWAY TO SALLY are a sight to behold when they enter the stage. They wrap up this year’s festival with the pipes and drums in suitably impressive fashion. You don’t have to know all of their material to enjoy the show (and I know very little of their material to be honest).
No matter what, Subway to Sally provides a worthy full stop to Wacken’s 20th anniversary, an anniversary that has seen a high quality range of metal bands, old as well as new.
Let’s go for 20 more years!
Doomy nutters (Cathedral)
Thrash supreme - Alex Skolnick and
Total insanity has a new name:
Heaven Shall Burn
Sound trouble (Trouble...ehm...)
In Extremo: Grandiose show
Danish dynamite: Volbeat
Amazing concert: Machine-fucking-Head!
Attending: Thomas, Jørgen