Wacken being sold out is a kind of mystery, for sure. The event is somehow sold out every year, but this year’s sell out wasn’t a surprise as Savatage with Trans Siberian Orchestra and Judas Priest were headliners. Thousands and thousands of metal fans from every corner of the world arrived at Wacken to have fun and enjoy metal. Instead the weather gods didn’t show much support towards the festival and all its visitors. The hard rains literally ruined the ground and soil of the festival area. The whole Wacken village and large area of fields became the ultimate mud war field. The weekend at Wacken was one hell of a surviving camp.
Despite the tremendous problems and brutal field of mud, the people still gathered to witness the return and resurrection of Savatage and the massive show from Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Article and pics by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Because of the muddy circumstances, it took a long time to arrive on the festival area and then try to push closer to the main stage. After passing of tons of mud and other wonderful surprises, I finally made it close to the stage. “Sick Bubble Gum” was already on and sounded great. It was followed by other Zombie favorites like “Pussy Liquor”, “Meet the Creeper” and “Never Gonna Stop”. The set was a great combination of Zombie’s best known solo material, White Zombie classics, and a few covers including “Blitzkrieg Bob” by Ramones. To be honest it was really hard to truly focus on this show because of the conditions but here are few things I noticed: First of all, Rob Zombie should never play in daylight. This way the show lost all its effects and it just doesn’t work the way it’s meant to be. The band’s playing is tight and Zombie is a great vocalist but without the special effects this performance felt a bit “stripped” to be honest. It also seemed that the crowd wasn’t too familiar with Zombie’s material. It was funny that the band got its biggest applause when they played a half of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. Hopefully we’ll see Zombie next in better a place and time.
Savatage kicked their 45-minute set off by doing a number of their most classic songs for an audience that’s waited for them for nearly two decades. “Gutter Ballet” began the massive and triumphant show and the whole Savatage set was pure fireworks and an utter mind-blowing experience: “Jesus Saves”, “Hall of the Mountain King”, “24 Hours Ago”, and of course, Circle II Circle front man Zak Stevens visited the stage by singing “Edge Of Thorns”. Jon Oliva turned out to be a hell of a great shape, as he jumped and kept raging and moving throughout the whole show. Oliva had gone thru brutal exercise to get into better shape.
The lights went off for a moment, coming back on to reveal a gigantic second stage. The whole Trans-Siberian Orchestra show was amazing and unbelievable to describe with just a few words. The whole show had been planned extremely carefully and every detail was carried out with well-organized playing over two major stages. Both stages had several musicians and literally shone due to the amazing visual shows. Each musician from both Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Savatage had a role of her/his own, bringing the musical as well as visual feeling and atmosphere to life. Seeing the huge legion of musicians on two stages without seeing each other was unbelievable. Obviously none of the bands and other musical projects was carried out in such a unique way. Will this kind of spectacle be seen again ? You never know as John O’Neill revealed there might be something coming up. In that case all the Savatage fans should (and must) arrive to witness this miraculous spectacle live.
Stratovarius celebrated the legendary VISIONS album by playing it entirely at Tuska. That definitely pleased several old Stratovarius fans. As for Wacken, it would have been wishful thinking that the same trick would have been repeated in the home base of the power metal kingdom. But no. Instead the set was a kind of best of everything such as “Black Diamond”, “Eagleheart”, “Against the Wind”, with “Hunting High and Low” concluding the set. Obviously power metal fans were pleased with the gig.
Queensryche has made a tremendously huge return back to their musical heyday of the 80’s. The five piece Seattle progressive metallers have mostly focused on the material from their early output such as the first EP, WARNING, RAGE FOR ORDER, and OPERATION: MINDCRIME, skipping the multi-millions selling albums like EMPIRE or later works such as PROMISED LAND. With Geoff Tate, the band kept skipping the older obscure stuff and instead concentrated on playing their newer material. When Todd LaTorre was recruited as a replacement, set lists underwent drastic changes. And yes, Queensryche with once again proved to be in tremendous form. LaTorre’s voice fits perfectly with the older material. Lets see how the ‘Ryche will sound on the new album.
I witnessed BioHazard at Summer Breeze for the first time ever, and the gig turned out to be extremely hardcore-ish and entertaining. Above all, the audience went totally ape shit. Well, for the Wacken show, due to the muddy circumstances, the audience simply watched the band playing rather than starting out some massive circle pit or wall-of-death. Obviously the band wasn’t that excited about the passive response of the audience as the band played a solid “another work day in an office” type of gig. The four-piece NY hardcore legends should have played in the indoor tent venue as that would have created a more chaotic type of atmosphere.
Sadly we missed the early part of Armored Saint’s show because our Savatage interview took much longer than expected, but maybe that’s acceptable reason. When we finally got into the venue, the band was already halfway through its set but damn, they sounded good. “An Exercise of Debauchery” from the band’s latest album WIN HANDS DOWN was up and running and it was followed by “Last Train Home” from the classic SYMBOL OF SALVATION. Vocalist John Bush’s voice is still as powerful and razor sharp as it was back in his Anthrax days more than ten years ago. The man not only has a GREAT voice but he’s also a great showman and strong character on stage. Bassist Joey Vera is the second guiding star on the stage and his aggressive performance left no one cold, for sure. The whole band performed with great energy and the set list was carefully chosen to include the band’s best known songs, starting from the MARCH OF THE SAINT album through to the latest opus WIN HANDS DOWN. It was a great but short set with no weak links. In my opinion it’s almost criminal how underrated this band is in the metal world. I don’t know if it’s because of bad business decisions made in the past or the death of original guitarist Dave Prichard (R.I.P., 1990), or something else, but this band has never reached the level of success that they deserve. For example, here in Wacken they performed on the fourth stage although they were easily one of the best bands of the whole festival. The songs, playing, performing, everything was close to perfect, so hopefully their hard work will be rewarded better in the future.
Win Hands Down
March of the Saint
An Exercise in Debauchery
Last Train Home
Left Hook From Right Field
Reign of Fire
Can U Deliver
The Masmiheim-less Samael hit the indoor tent stage to deliver their industrialized black metal. The long time Swiss-men focused on performing the entire CEREMONY OF OPPOSITES album. That is definitely one hell of a great album indeed, but the continual industrial or whatever black-ish metal bit is played out during the last few decades has been utterly dull for sure. The group could finally agree on returning to the old format once in lifetime. However, Samael sounded tight and brutal. Front man Vorph’s voice still sounds brutal and vicious. Obvious the die hard Samael fans were totally spellbound.
I had low expectations for seeing Nuclear Assault in Wacken after hearing all the crushing reviews after the band’s weak performance at Swedenrock in early June. But because I didn’t see them there myself, I decided that I want to witness this “spectacle” and make my final opinion after that. And…to my surprise they were good, not great, but definitely good. The distances are long in Wacken, especially when you have to slosh around the mud, and for that reason I missed the few first songs. I was in just in time when they started my all-time favorite Nuclear Assault song “Critical Mass”. The song sounded as effective as it was back in 1989 on the classic HANDLE WITH CARE album. Another classic, “Game Over” followed and then band played a couple of new tracks which weren’t bad either. In particular, “Analogue Man in a Digital World” worked out great in spite of its horrible name. Bassist Dan Lilker was still looking pretty much the same as he was back in the day and his bass playing was still as brutal as ever. Drummer Glenn Evans is graying in style but his drum fills are still sharp and in time, but then we have John Connolly who doesn’t look “metal” anymore. There’s nothing wrong with his playing or vocals but he unintentionally looks very funny with his current outlook on stage; but who cares about secondary things. Nuclear Assault delivered great old school thrash at its best and that’s what matters.
The Savatage/TSO show was surely the most awaited performance at Wacken this year, but another really interesting name was German legend Running Wild. The band, or just Rolf “Rock’n Rolf” Kasparek and his backing band nowadays, haven’t played any public shows in years, so it was going to be interesting to see how the band sounds and looks after all these years. Rolf and the boys haven’t played any shows since 2009 but they have released two studio albums, SHADOWMAKER (2012) and RESILIENT (2013) which are both quite decent releases. Running Wild was a kind of headliner on Friday evening, so the field was completely packed when they opened with their classic “Under Jolly Roger” followed by “Jenning’s Revenge” and “Genghis Khan”, which is definitely one the best songs from the band’s entire catalog. But…it was clear right from the beginning that there was something missing from this show. I felt that there was no true rock ’n roll spirit on stage. Rolf sang and played fine but it seemed like he wanted to be anywhere but on stage most of the time. The band’s playing was OK but the sound was really weak overall, it just didn’t kick at all and because of that many old classics sounded really loose and uninspired. Ironically, the songs from the latest two albums sounded the best although those songs have never been played live before. If the field was completely packed when the band stared, it wasn’t by the midpoint of show. If the band doesn’t sound that good and they’re uninspired then it’s hard to cheat 80,000 people. Many made their own conclusions and left the area disappointed and so did we. Running Wild in its current state are a very average band. If they have plans to do some more shows in the future then they should take it more seriously and respect their fans and legacy while they still have some left.
Under Jolly Roger
Riding the Storm
Into the West
Riding on the Tide
Diamonds of the Black Chest
Soldiers of Fortune
Bad to the Bone
Little Big Horn
ROCK MEETS CLASSIC
Rock Meets Classic sounds like a great concept on paper. You put together some well-known guest vocalists, a symphonic orchestra, and a good backing band and then you perform a bunch of metal classics that everybody knows. Sounds easy isn’t it? The first guest vocalist today was a young German singer/actor Sascha Krebs and he sang a powerful version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”. The man was totally new for me and so was the next guest, a young lady called Jennifer Haben. The band performed a couple of songs which I did not know but things got fixed when former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner took over the microphone and performed “I Surrender”, “Stargazer” and “Spotlight Kid” in a row. Some would say that these songs are too “safe” and are obvious choices but they still sounded great and Turner was in fine form. Next it was Michael Kiske’s turn take over the stage and sing his old band’s material. Kiske’s brief set started with “A Little Time” followed by the less-played “Kids of the Century” and “I Want Out” which got a really good and noisy reception from the crowd. Kiske might not be world’s greatest performer on stage but he still has the voice and pipes and can still reach all the high notes with no trouble. It was also great to hear a pair of obscure tracks instead of foregone conclusions. The last, but definitely not least, guest vocalist was Dee Snider. The legendary Twisted Sister vocalist was clearly the main act of the show and he surely was the best performer of them all tonight. Snider opened with “You Can’t Stop Rock’n Roll” followed by crowd favorite “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “The Price” which was dedicated to late Twisted Sister drummer A.J Pero. It’s just amazing how Snider still does has such a lot of energy and passion in his performance although he’s already in his early 60’s. His voice is still as sharp as ever and the classic songs speak for themselves. “I Wanna Rock” made the whole Wacken sing along with Snider. The Rock Meets Classic show was closed with a thunderous version of another AC/DC classic “Highway to Hell” and it featured all the vocalists on stage. All in all this show was really entertaining and easy to listen to. The symphony orchestra’s massive sound mixed with traditional band instruments was really powerful and there were some nice little detailed arrangements added every now and then. The set list was built with good taste but there is one question still… Where was Marc Storace (Krokus) who was supposed to perform tonight as well?
Orchestral Rock Medley
In the Shadows
Rage Before a Storm
A Little Time
Kids of the Century
I Want Out
“Pirates of the Caribbean” Suite
You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
We’re Not Gonna Take It
I Wanna Rock
Highway to Hell
Morgoth was considered as a Death/Obituary rip-off back in the day and definitely got some shit about that, but the long-time German death metallers managed to create a deadly comeback album a while ago, but without the original growler March Grewe who was replaced by Disbelief growler Karsten Jäger. Morgoth offered pure death metal in the old school way and it sounded brutal. For some eccentric reason, the response from the audience wasn’t as wild as it could have been. As for the new frontman, he knows how to treat the old Morgoth songs and sounded great. It has to be admitted that gems such as “Isolate” sounded murderous.
Well Cannibal Corpse is always Cannibal Corpse, just as it should be. It doesn’t matter if they play in a club or in an huge open air festival as the playing and the performance by the five piece is exactly the same. It can be pointed out that the guys are getting old as the break between every song has gotten longer during the last few years.
Bloodbath has been criss-crossing Europe by visiting every goddamn major metal festival in every corner of Europe. Obviously the band must have found good management to get them booked on these summer festivals. Well, Bloodbath fronted by the Paradise Lost growler Nick Holmes delivered a brutal set of the old school death metal. To be honest what makes things so special and different for Bloodbath as compared to Morgoth or Obituary, which both played on the smaller tent stage, whereas Bloodbath was on the main stage, was one single word: “hype”. Can Bloodbath maintain the success on the same level? Time will tell. So far though, let the rotting death metal smell and swell.
Exumer presents old school German thrash metal, going back to the mid-80’s. The current line-up of Exumer doesn’t have any other original member left from those years, only front man Mem Von Stein. Exumer’s old school thrash appealed to the crowd well as raging pits were burning the ground. The rest of the Exumer line-up got overshadowed by Von Stein’s commanding performance as he encouraged the audience to go wild and utterly berserk. The set was pure triumphant thrash metal, blasting from beginning to the end. The set was based on both the newer material and the older material and especially the concluding “Possessed by Fire” caused a chaotic pit.
Obituary usually dominates on smaller stages than huge gigantic stages. Obituary’s gig at Wacken was pretty successful as the atmosphere, and above all the audience’s authentic raging in the pit, lifted the feeling up into the air. John Tardy’s voice is still a rotting guttural growl, even though he’s been growling for about 30 years. The set at Wacken was built to cover a wide range of songs from their long career. As usual the classic “Slowly we Rot” concluded the gig.
Judas Priest had been touring through Europe during the whole summer, supporting the latest effort REDEEMER OF SOULS. The mighty Priests proved to be in an extreme pain killing mode, therefore their Wacken gig wasn’t any exception. Guitarist Richie Faulkner’s role in Judas Priest has tremendously increased in the band whereas Glen Tipton seems to have withdrawn more and more into the shadow of the darkest corner of the stage. Even Ian Hill turned out to be more visible on the stage. Both Faulkner and Halford were the leading members on the stage through the whole show. The set has remained the same without any unexpected changes. The material of the most recent album fit in the set along with the classic songs surprisingly perfectly. To be honest, the time is running out quite ruthlessly for Judas Priest and seeing Tipton’s less active role on the stage tells us that the age thing has become the merciless factor in these legendary old heavy metal bands. However, the five piece still breathes metal and waves the flag for real British heavy metal. At least the tremendously huge crowd couldn’t see anything wrong about that. Before they pull the plug permanently they should put out another album to put the exclamation point to their long career.
Cradle Of Filth, led by Dani, is either worshiped or totally loathed among the metal crowd for one reason or another. Playing after Judas Priest isn’t an idealistic place for any band though. Even though Mr. Filth tried to encourage the audience, the response turned out to be somewhat less than appreciative. Besides, this sort of horror / eerie gothic-inspired black-ish metal or whatever doesn’t lure the audience to run in the circles in the first place. As for COF’s gig in general, it was well played and Dani’s high octave voice range still sounds powerful as well as a tormenting pleasure. The speeches between songs were a bit funny. Despite COFs’ controversial reputation, Dani with the backup forces pulled together a good set of songs picked up from several albums. COF still has it for sure.
Wacken has become tremendously huge, an uncontrolled festival with uneducated security staff with the lousy communication skills. When the power of nature brings its own hellish forces with the rain and hard-blowing wind, the conditions definitely turned the biggest metal festival of the world to the ultimate survival camp. Does it make any sense to travel all the way to some mud-hole hell where the staff, and above all security staff, are totally out of what they are supposed to do? Will I make a return to Wacken? Hardly, unless they book something extra ordinary ala Helloween with Kiske, a Mercyful Fate reunion, Led Zeppelin, or the farewell gig of Iron Maiden. When looking at the line-up at the moment for next year, Blind Guardian etc. Nein Danke !