Wacken Open Air 2004
Wacken, Germany

Attending Wacken Open Air 2004: Thomas, Jørgen & Kenn

Thursday, August 5th

“A Night to Remember” as the Wacken team has decided to call the opening evening of the festival was not really worth remembering this year in my humble opinion. Zodiac Mindwarp the Powermetal.dk team decided to miss all together. Motörhead was given a fair chance, but when you’ve seen Motörhead twice before, even classics such as the "Ace of Spades" don’t really arouse much enthusiasm. Lemmy does what he has done for the past 30 years, and he does it well, admittedly, but not really with the rock’n’roll fury one could wish. The band’s stab at a cover of “God Save the Queen” didn’t help much, on the contrary. Mikkey Dee is in good shape and played the gig with much vigour...too bad Lemmy and sidekick Phil Campbell couldn’t live up to it.
Motörhead: 55

Curiously, Die Böhsen Onkelz had landed themselves a gig at Wacken. Curious, because the festival claims to be the biggest international metal festival in the world, and Die Onkelz sing in German only, and, unlike Rammstein, aren’t noticed much outside Germany. Throughout the first three songs, Die Onkelz sounded like a Motörhead cover band, only with German vocals and a singer who can’t sing at all. The fourth song incorporated electronic sounds which were sort of cool, but then they had a Motörhead relapse. At this point I wasn't amused anymore and headed back for the camp area.
Böhse Onkelz: 50

Friday, August 6th

The Wacken ball only really opened when Mnemic took to the Party Stage Friday morning at 11. The Danish five-piece took the crowd through a good half hour of songs from the debut “Mechanical Spin Phenomena” and one new, promising song from the forthcoming album (set for release in September). According to himself, front man Michael Bøgballe was hung-over from the night before, and sadly, you could hear this. I’ve seen Mnemic a couple of times before, and this was far from the best performance I’ve heard from Bøgballe. You would assume that Wacken is the place where you want your performance to be optimal because of the exposure to potential new fans, but this was not the way it turned out. That said, the strength of songs like “The Naked and the Dead”, “Blood Stained” and “Ghost” as well as the overall very professional attitude of the Danes added so many plusses that even a not so perfect performance by Mnemic is better than a lot of other bands.
Mnemic: 89

Lee Dorian’s vocal performance has always been an acquired taste. And along with his mates in Cathedral he has made a lot of weird music since the beginning of the nineties when he decided to skip Napalm Death and venture into the halls of doom. In the scorching sun of the early afternoon, Cathedral managed to turn the mood in front of the Black Stage into something that was as dark as the darkest pits of Mordor when the four Brits started spreading their rock-laden doom. The return to grim doom on the two last CD’s was evident, although the more funky doom rock hits “Ride” and “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)” were also aired. Only tune missed was “Soul Sacrifice”!
Cathedral: 90

Former Zed Yago singer Jutta Weinhold has managed to pull together a new band. I didn’t like it.
Weinhold: 19

Arch Enemy front siren Angela Gossow is hard as f*ck. She has a voice that compliments the death metal influenced power-thrash of her Swedish backing band very well, and the dynamics of the bands are impressive. I’m not at all familiar with the band’s material, but I have to say the impression they left me with was that their songs at times are unstructured and not overly original. I smell hype, but then again, perhaps it’s just me being cynical. It should also be said here that the sound engineer got something completely wrong during this gig: when the double bass drums are at work, you should still be able to hear guitars and bass…
Arch Enemy: 69

Instead of watching Mayhem beat up and burn some poor pigs’ heads and the singer eventually cutting his own hand on the Black Stage, we followed Jørgen’s hunch and saw British veterans Satan on the Party Stage. Not a bad idea, I might add! Graeme English and Steve Ramsey, now both in Skyclad, were part of this band back in 1983. And with the original line up from the “Court In The Act” era, Satan started up with “Trial By Fire”, “No Turning Back” & “Broken Treaties”. I could not believe that this was the first Satan Gig in 15 years - it was like metal heaven for N.W.O.B.H.M. freaks, killer show. (Jørgen)
Satan: 90

Astral Doors from Sweden hit the stage in the tent known as W.E.T. Stage in the middle of the afternoon with temperartures close to 30 degrees and it was a nice breather to watch them “in the shade”. The band put on a very solid performance and it was almost a home-gig for them, since most of the small audience seemed to be from Sweden. Throughout the whole gig they had to struggle with a very poor sound, but it surely didn’t slow them down and they gave us a good show. Nils Patrick showed that he has a huge potential and could emerge as one of Europe’s leading vocalists. Their set was all from their debut album “Of The Father And The Son”, and they all worked well live. (Kenn)
Astral Doors: 65

By chance, I passed the Biergarten tent as Mambo Kurt took to the stage. Now, for someone who doesn’t understand German, this may not be very interesting, but I had a fantastic time. Kurt plays the organ. Crap sound, crap clothes, crap everything. BUT the songs he covers vary from Stevie Wonder to Slayer (!). At one point, Kurt announces that “I would like to play a song by Germany’s best bossanova band” and then plays a bib-bob electronic version of Rammstein’s “Engel” from “Sehnsucht”. And after an equally mad version of “Enter Sandman”, Kurt treats us with an instrumental, two-minute version of “Raining Blood”. Marvellous example of German folklore!
Mambo Kurt: 90

Right after Mambo Kurt it was time for this year’s most professional performance at Wacken: Although I’ve never been a big fan of Dio, I could only stand there and enjoy the voice and the superb sound. Classics like “Holy Diver”, “Rock’n’Roll Children” and “We Rock” caressed the ears and I shouted along to tunes I half know and desperately wanted to know that night. Great concert from the tiny man with the big voice!
Dio: 99

To finish off Friday evening (for me, at least), Doro Pesch took to the stage, with an orchestra, Roman columns and Blaze Bayley. This mishmash of sentimental tunes and Iron Maiden and Judas Priest covers was a tad odd but it seemed to go down well with the Germans in the crowd. I couldn’t be bothered to see the end of it and left for the vodka festivities in the camp…
Doro w/ Blaze: 65

Saturday, 7th August

Saturday was the big day at Wacken 2004. The triple whammy consisting of Death Angel, Anthrax and Nevermore should make this the absolute hammer. However, first off was British Bal-Sagoth who opened the day with their pompous Dungeons and Dragons black metal. I was a bit disappointed that the band didn’t show up with swords and helmets, but the music was as cool as it is on CD.
Bal-Sagoth: 80

I have waited a long, long time to see Death Angel and to finally hear the sound of the instrumental intro to “The Ultra-Violence” over Wacken gave me goose bumps despite of the midday heat. The DA gig was a veritable string of hits from all the albums: “Seemingly Endless Time”, “Thrown to the Wolves”, a cool mid-tempo version of “Voracious Souls”, “Thicker Than Blood”, “The Devil Incarnate”, “Bored”, “Famine” and finally Death Angel’s anthem “Kill As One” where Mark Osegueda gave so much that I thought his tonsils would come out… Killer gig where you could only wish for MORE!
Death Angel: 95

Next up were Anthrax. I never saw a bad Anthrax gig, but this one beats them all! Recently enforced with powerhouse bass player Joey Vera (Armored Saint/Fates Warning, etc.), Anthrax seemed unstoppable on this Saturday afternoon. Anthrax has a fantastic catalogue of sing-along tunes and a choice selection was aired, e.g. “Indians”, “State of Euphoria”, “Caught in a Mosh”, “Room for One More”, “Only”, “Antisocial”, “Safe Home” and, somewhat surprisingly, “Deathrider” from “Fistful of Metal”. The concert was played with a conviction and energy I haven’t seen Anthrax play with since 1988 – it was fantastic!
Anthrax: 98

Nevermore never lacked the energy, but on this Saturday in Wacken they lacked a sound engineer. It was virtually impossible to hear Warrel Dane’s voice, and what a pity that was! The band seemed fuelled and ready, but without Dane’s vocal participation Nevermore looses a great asset. I failed to recognise the two first songs altogether because of the sound, but the band managed to get across classics such as “Beyond Within”, “Inside Four Walls”, their remake of “The Sound of Silence” and a chillingly beautiful version of “The Heart Collector”. Too bad about the sound throughout the major part of the gig.
Nevermore: 70

A couple of hours earlier, I had seen Peter Tägtgren and the other three members of Hypocrisy plant their autographs on the quite adorable breasts of a young German woman in the Meet’n’Greet tent. A true rock’n’roll moment, you might say. Too bad that Wacken’s sound again bereaved a band of what should’ve been the real rock’n’roll moment later on. I’ve listened to bits and pieces of Hypocrisy and really wanted to hear it, but I had to give up on the Swedes after two or three songs, simply because their sound was all over the place.
Hypocrisy: 55

Helloween was the biggest German band on the bill this year, and when they hit the stage they were greeted with a big cheer. Andi Deris showed once more that he is no good live, and the whole set suffered from his bad stage-presence, but the big German crowd didn’t seem to mind. Playing a cool “best of” set with highlights from their impressive back-catalogue, they owned the crowd, and when they introduced Kai Hansen as their special guest the crowd never stopped cheering. “How Many Tears” and “Future World” with Kai handling some of the vocals were clearly the highlights of the set, and Helloween left the stage with honours, mainly because of Kai! (Kenn)
Helloween: 70  

Written by Thomas, if not noted otherwise.