ENRAPTURED, WE ARE REBORN (Part 2)
By Michael De Los Muertos
Additional Commentary and Pictures by Ice Maiden
Things looked up the next morning.’ In our little group, everyone was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to conquer the next day of metal.’ ‘I bet today will be a lot less grueling,’ I said.’ Nevertheless, we had plans to leave early ‘ again, we had no choice.’ We had a lengthy drive on Sunday which would begin at six AM.’ If we valued our survival, it was crucial to get a good night’s sleep that night.
This time we parked the car in the VIP/backstage parking lot.’ Good idea, but it was a little hairy ‘ Witch Hunter, our driver, was the only one in our party without a purple wristband.’ Convincing efficient, security-minded German guards to let him in was no small feat.’ But somehow, we made it.’
It was a while before we made it to any of the stages.’ Five minutes after we came in through the backstage entrance, we started to see people worth talking to.’ Ice Maiden, the camera jockey ‘ more pictures!’ Me with the Gamma Ray bassist!’ Me and Ice Maiden with Peter Tagtgren! Cid and Ice Maiden with Matt Barlow!’ The metal personalities were like flies on a windshield out there.’ Somehow a bunch of them had decided to wander out to meet n’ greet at precisely that moment.’ And speaking of meet and greet, Morbid Angel was up on the autograph table at 2:00 ‘ had to go to that.’ I had a friend back in Portland who eats, lives, and breathes Morbid Angel.’ If I got him an autograph, I wouldn’t have to buy beer for a month after I got home ‘ he’d buy me round after round in thanks!
[Ice Maiden's Commentary:' I caught part of Ancient on my own.' I don't remember what they sounded like, because I was visually riveted by the vocalist in his little crown and the nearly naked chick headbanging in an outfit that rivaled Umbra and Imago's as "Most Lame."]
It was by complete happenstance, once we finally got down to business at the stage, that I was in a perfect position to see SENTENCED.’ The set was a surprising one.’ I hadn’t had a lot of experience listening to this band, and own none of their albums, but I was won over immediately by their stunning set.’ The hands-down winner for Most Surprisingly Good Set, Sentenced roared forth with catchy, hook-laden riffs, unique vocals, and above-average guitar and drum work.’ I know only one Sentenced song, and it’s the one on the Century Media Declaration of Independence video ‘ ‘Noose,’ I think it’s called ‘ and they played it much better than the recorded version.’ The frontman was energetic and vibrant, and the music very catchy and very metal.’ Yet another highlight of Wacken ‘ along with October 31, a band who by the sheer power of their set shot themselves to the very top of my ‘Buy All Their Albums When You Get Back’ list!
My friends from Rome were front-and-center for LIZZY BORDEN, and I had the courage to join them for a few minutes ‘ but only a few.’ They were going nuts, but the sight of a fat, frizzy-haired, spandex-clad frontman screeching in stone-age early-80s glam metal fashion left me, frankly, unimpressed.’ Am I missing something?‘ The beer and chairs backstage called me more compellingly than Lizzy Borden did, though I heard that they did play the one Borden song I like ‘ ‘American Metal’ ‘ as their final number.’ Somehow I can’t be too disappointed at missing that. ‘[Ice Maiden's Commentary:' These guys are pure old school, in the more decrepit sense of those words.' When I saw them at the backstage area, they were busy oggling Chantal, the sex show stripper, who was kind enough to give them (and all of us in the backstage area) a free preview of her'emm'show.' Can you say "seedy" boys and girls?]
We missed most of ENTOMBED in favor of the Morbid Angel meet and greet (we did get an autograph, but only thanks to the charm and perseverance of Ice Maiden), but we did make it out for the end of their set.’ I approached this band with caution.’ I was burned severely on their Same Difference album, which was so dreadfully awful that I couldn’t stand to have it in my house, and sold it to a used CD store one day after buying it.’ Thankfully, Entombed were tasteful enough to avoid their ‘new direction’ and concentrated on what they used to do best: old style Swedish death metal.’ Unfortunately Entombed was plagued with one of the few technical troubles I observed at Wacken.’ While the guitars weren’t tuned loud enough, the vocals were tuned too loud ‘ L.G.’s wild shrieks made my ears hurt even through earplugs, and the accompaniment sounded very muddy.’ But, Entombed kept the energy high and at least went some of the way toward mending fences with me.’ The real test will be their next album ‘ but their Wacken performance was worthy of me giving them the benefit of the doubt until then.
NIGHTWISH was next.’ I’d heard some odds and ends of albums from this band and found them a little weak for my taste ‘ despite the stunning operatic female vocals ‘ but I was immediately set to rights from the first second they appeared on-stage.’ Perhaps they’d been in the audience during the Stratovarius set the day before, because they faithfully observed the cardinal rule of symphonic/progressive power metal bands: be symphonic and progressive, but don’t forget to keep it heavy!‘ They kept it heavy.’ Taria’s vocals were incredible.‘ So powerful that they sent chills up your spine, so powerful they could crack the sky ‘ and the music behind them was of the same quality.’ One of the most amazing sights of the entire weekend was to look out over the crowd assembled in front of the True Metal Stage during the Nightwish set, and see a forest of heads banging and devil-symbols bouncing in mid-air to this very melodic, indeed mellow band ‘ but everybody was loving it.’ To come to a crowd of 60,000 metalheads satiated by Hypocrisy, Immortal and other heavy shit, and to present them an hour of soaring vocals and crystal-clear symphonic backing and ask them to assimilate it in the same way, is a tall order ‘ but Nightwish did it.’ Best set of the festival after Gamma Ray?’ Very possibly.’ [Ice Maiden's Commentary:' Wacken has the press backstage, and then the true backstage, where only the bands are allowed to go.' Thanks to some friends, I made my way back to this true backstage.' Egads! Over there was Morbid Angel, over here was Sentenced.' And I got to meet and chat with Tarja!' She is one of those truly beautiful and sweet people, so all you lads keep on having crushes on her'I wholly approve.]
Hmm, want to know about DORO?’ See my Lizzy Borden review, above.’ Lots of hype and excitement ‘ particularly from my Italian friends ‘ and again I was left cold.’ She’s old, she’s paunchy, and she just can’t cut it anymore.’ I’m sorry ‘ I have to be honest!’ [Ice Maiden's Commentary:' Paunchy?' I think not.' But I can't say she was my favorite act.]
The last full set for which we were all together was the mighty MORBID ANGEL.’ Again, like Iced Earth, waiting for them to come on stage was like waiting for a volcano to explode.’ Roadies twanged guitars severely down-tuned into the sludgey range ‘ drum sets were readied for merciless blast-beats ‘ and finally, it was reality.’ A rail-thin Trey Azagthoth spouted noxious, oil-thick layers of caustic death metal onto the grateful crowd.’ Warbling, tortured vocals ‘ punishing drums ‘ what more could you ask for?’ Morbid Angel began slowly and without a whole lot of energy, but within 15 minutes they were at fever pitch and turned in one of the finest performances of the festival.’ The true genius of Morbid Angel is the ultimate beauty of their music buried under the layers upon layers of aural ugliness that shroud it ‘ and being there in front of a crowd that understood that was as magic as their amazing performance.’ Debuting several tracks from their new album, Gateways to Annihilation, the band also played a fair sampling from all of their eras.’ Unfortunately, ‘Where The Slime Live’ was not among them ‘ but I really can’t complain.’ With a dying sun bleeding reddish-gold across the chrome on their guitars, tens of thousands of weary metalheads cheering them on, and the August sky arching above us, for us Wacken was coming to a thunderous close.’ In the last few minutes of their set I found myself reflecting upon the amazing experience of the past few days.’ Perhaps it was fitting that Morbid Angel’s last song was called ‘Enraptured, I Am Reborn’ ‘ because Wacken was like that.
There were more bands there, of course; Venom, Zakk Wylde, Tom Angelripper; some others I wanted to see, like Raise Hell; and naturally with four stages there were many bands I would have liked to have seen, but did not, like Liege Lord, Agathodaimon, Steel Attack, etc.’ Some of my friends who did see them can tell you about them.’ That was the interesting thing about Wacken ‘ each person who goes sees a different show, with different bands, and different experiences.’ But it’s all part of the same glorious whole.’ I don’t think a single person at that show ‘ certainly nobody in our party ‘ was sorry they had come or went away feeling unfulfilled or as if their expectations had not been met.’ For everyone ‘ everyone ‘ Wacken was a transcendental experience, from the moment our troubles began in the Hamburg airport to the lazy dusk during which we drove back to Hamburg that last time.’
Getting back home was indeed an adventure.’ Many more chapters could be written about long trips, wrong turns, delayed trains, lying street signs, traffic jams, delayed planes, unexpected stays in strange cities ‘ but you have to expect that when you travel halfway across the globe and back.’ Slowly the metalheads streamed out of Wacken, and the little town in northern Germany returned to its former sleepy peacefulness, slumbering amidst dairy cows and fields of gentle green grass.’ The long-haired folk in their leather pants, their death metal T-shirts, muddy shoes and multicolored wristbands, their cars loaded with dirty camping equipment, rare CDs and dog-eared Wacken programs, went back to their homes and shops and little metal clubs in Germany, in France, in England, in America, all over the world.’ But they’ll be back.’ A surprising number of them will be back, because now they know what glory awaits them at Wacken, and what (as Kai Hansen would put it) a heavy metal universe they inhabit.’ It is true: enraptured, we are reborn.’ If life ended at the end of Wacken 2000, it will begin again at Wacken 2001.’ And hopefully, I will see you there.