Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Wacken Open Air
31.7 - 2.8.2003

Text by Arto Lehtinen and Jani Koskela
Pics by Arto Lehtinen and Ann Kermans

True Metal stage on left, Black stage on right


Thursday, July 31, 2003


On Thursday, Circle II Circle arrived at the stage to kick off the whole three day festival. Despite being the opening the band of the Wacken 2003, the band appeared damn interesting in terms of high quality musical approach as well as one certain member involved in the ranks. The member in question being former Savatage vocalist Zak Stevens! The five piece naturally focused on doing the material from their debut album Watching In Silence in front of the surprisingly huge crowd who were definitely keen on finding out Stevens current band's skills and ability to prove how they work on the stage. Of course it wasn't any unexpected surprise for old Savatage fans when two older Savatage tracks roared from the monitors like Gutter Ballet. Kinda fun that a couple of Circle II Circle guys had dressed up in huge long sleeve NHL hockey team shirts.


Canadian old thrash veterans Annihilator has always been culminated around Jeff Waters' world to carry out his own musical crusade even though guys come and go. Even now Jeff Water's Annihilator had undergone a change in the line up when Joe Comeu was dismissed from the ranks and is replaced by a new 27 year old named Dave Padden from Vancouver. The new guy's voice can't be compared by any manner to Joe's delivery as Padden's voice is raw and brutal - reminding me slightly of Randy Rampage's voice but with a better rawer approach. Of course Padden needs more the obvious training to his voice, but at Wacken his voice properly suited the older material which the Canadian thrashers hammered out. Yes the set mainly consisted of older material, skipping the newer damn good material. However "King Of The Kill", "Set The World On Fire", "Never Neverland", "Alison Hell" and finally "Phantasmagoria" were the part of the set. Beside Waters, the band handled this important festival gig with a tight grip without loosing any control as Annihilator is known for being a damn hard playing live band which their Wacken gig definitely proved.

After the gig when asking Padden about the feeling on his debut gig at Wacken, according to him it was pretty good and no need to be nervous at all. Padden also confirmed he will be singing on the forthcoming Annihilator album and he doesn't mind that he is a new Annihilator singer, besides he has always liked the band since its early days.


After the ground-shaking technical thrash metal lesson, the reunited German Victory had decided to return to the limelight after being on hiatus over ten years. The former 80's poodle hair rockers could have stayed on hiatus much longer as the time hasn't been that merciful for them as the middle aged ex-hair rockers were an entire another band. Of course expecting them to have the huge hair things like in the 80's was quite pointless, because of the years that have passed by. Somehow it felt absurd to witness them on the stage doing the old school hard hair rock as some kind of nostalgia trip to the past. Even though the former Accept/Sinner axeman Herman Frank as well as the former Sinner and the current Saxon battery man Fritz Randow were involved in the ranks....please leave Victory to continue its eternal sleep.

Even though Victory's already a shameful stigmata but instead Saxon rescued the unpleasant situation by doing a surprise gig with three tracks. Saxon showed up on stage completely out of nowhere and sounded crystal clear and heavy right from the beginning riff of "Motor Cycle Man", two more Saxon classics ("Denim And Leather" and "Princess Of The Night") reminded us how good this band is in the live situation. More Saxon at Wacken 2004!

Doug from Saxon

Biff from Saxon


The semi-legendary Running Wild was basically the headliner on Thursday and pulled a huge crowd to follow the ultimate pirate metal show. Rockin' Rolf and company did a typical, but great, Running Wild gig. Running Wild is quite an interesting band nowadays as Rockin' Rolf has loyally kept the band running through all these years. All kinds of various trends that have come and gone  but one thing is definitely sure, the pirate image and aspects will never be abandoned from the RW concept like at Wacken when the mastermind of the pirate group had dressed up in pirate clothes and occasionally changed them.

As for the show, it was quite a standard gig unfortunately without any huge pyro stuff and fighting pirates with swords. Instead the whole look of the stage was definitely aimed to be simple which makes anyone wonder why Running Wild never tour outside of Germany nowadays. Anyway, the set list was a real surprise consisting of naturally newer tracks for instance "Victory", "Welcome To Hell", "Brotherhood" and of course plenty of old classic tunes picked up from their long career. A few of them included "Genghis Khan", "Branded And Exile", "Riding The Storm", "Chains And Leather", and of course the mandatory "Under Jolly Roger" battle hymn also belonged to the set list! The band, and especially Rockin Rolf, appeared to be damn thrilled about the huge crowd. Although Running Wild would have thanked the audience for creating such a great feeling by doing a few tracks more, unfortunately the running time was limited.

After traveling several hours, lining up to get the pass, and seeing the opening day with great bands getting to the tent to have a nap after the long day started feeling like a more and more tempting choice. Sleeping bag waiting!

Friday, August 1, 2003