In Wacken, a small village ca 75 km away from Hamburg (Germany), it takes place the biggest metal festival in Europe since 27 years: Wacken Open Air (W:O:A in the short form). It has the slogan “Faster, Harder Louder”, and the motto “Rain or Shine”, due to the frequently rains. Year by year WOA has established as a place where people from every culture, race, religion and country shake their hands, to enjoy four days full of music and camaraderie.
That camaraderie is also shown in the music bands contest, known as Metal Battle. Year by year it brings bands from different and far away countries such as Canada, Chine or South Africa. We start this Wacken Open Air 2016 review with this Metal Battle, because the most part of the opening day (Wednesday), is dedicated to them, the new metal talents of the world.
Despite the Wacken rains and the resultant dirt and mud, we had the luck, because infield (The place where are located the stages True Black and Party Stage was closed until Wednesday. So, we had “just” four stages, two of them covered, in the Bullhead City Circus: W:E:T and Headbangers Stage. Without any doubt, there were the most interesting stages, because there, between Wednesday and Thursday, it took place the decision of the W:O:A Metal Battle winner.
That Wednesday the Spanish band Legacy of Brutality, from Asturias played, and of course we had to give them all of our support.
Doing a break to replace energy, and meet Wackinger and Wasteland Stage, the two outsiders and smaller stages, (Without the Biergarten Stage, where I have to say, I wasn,t so much in the festival). In the Wackinger stage were playing once more Red Hot Chilli Pipers, a typical Scottish band, who play covers like the mythical Thunderstuck. I must say that the first time that I saw them I was hoocked with them, but after seeing them several times (Two times in Asturias and two more in Wacken), they seem to be predictable, knowing which song comes after the last one… After it, it was time to take a walk to the Circus to see the band Panzerballet, a too much risky bet, which had not so much success between the public.
Despite we knew that the nesxt one to play were Hämatom, we went to our camping place to change our shoes and come back to enjoy Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band or as the in the placard was shown Phil Cambpell’s Bastard Sons. Despite of we don´t need to say anything about Motörhead, the public wasn´t so much happy with them, although I think they did it well in spite of the bad critics that I heard about the show.
Finishing the day Mambo Kurt, a band which we couldn´t see because the tiredness took deep place in our bodies, time to go to bed… Wacken Open Air is a four days festival, and it was just the beginning..
A night to remember. This is the ritual: Well known bands take position in the opened infield: True Stage and Black Stage working fully and the first headliner on stage.
This year the honor were for Iron Maiden, the British band took a flight from Spain after several shows there, and taking up the True Metal Stage, keeping the Black Stage just as a remind from other editions.
On it, and as tradition were Skyline, as opening of the main stages, with guests like Dave Ellefson
(Will we have Megadeth for 2017?). After the usual stuff changes, the British band Saxon jumped into the stage, giving us a memorable show. They also launched a Zeppelin with a video camera included, which I think, now is on the space (Or that´s what the trailer for next year shows…)
As I said, the first festival day, “A Night To Remember” it´s dedicated on the main stages to the classical metal bands. The American band Foreigner was the next one, with the singer Kelly Hansen leading the stage with the manners that a AOR singer could have with a scarf on his throat… Und it´s a lot… Again a really great show (Like it´s usual on Wacken), and again I had the feeling it was too short, because the afternoon shows have just 1:15 of duration.
It still remains Whitesnake, with a ridiculous restriction for photographers, just for a few media members. As I could know, the management must check every shoot… They offer us a correct show, although we could realize that Coverdale is getting old, but he is a professional and offered us all his classical songs.
But the best of the night was coming: Iron Maiden opening the True Stage with the same scenery as on the last tour.
Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson leading had a bath´s crowd. Of course they didn´t disappoint us., because the public who saw before any show from The Book of Souls knew perfectly what was going on. But we had the lack of a full rain, making 70000 people wet, and letting the scene like a swamp. Nothing to do with 2015, even so it was expected a hard day for the public next day…
The night closed for myself, on the W:E:T Stage, Blue Öyster Cult, a mytic band that I have to say I didn´t listen too much… A big mistake, because their sound was really great although a bit monotone.
Second day of music on Wacken, second festival day and… we have two more of them!
Third day of Wacken Open Air, and fatigue is beginning to take its toll, especially on the feet, but good morning, we had no idea what to expect. With rain pounding wildly at the roof of our motorhome, the truth is it was scary to leave the warm comfort that our house on wheels gave us.
A quick glance confirmed what was already intuited: at night it had rained, so the festival areas, especially the roads between scenarios, would be packed with mud. He played again put on galoshes -If the Dr. Scholl’s German, or at least sounds like a German, why couldn’t we find templates for boots? – and die in this penultimate day of the festival.
Between one thing and another, especially coffee mud and so necessary, made even Loudness we could not begin our «workday». The Japanese took the stage to take on the world, especially their singer Minoru Nihara, that it seemed to have «eaten» a rare substance before going on stage, which seized without stopping a single second. More was Akira Takasaki, who showed his mastery to the six strings in the few that lasted fifty minutes his performance.
Then, on stage next door was his turn to Entombed A.D., with its strong death metal, and put the dye «donkey» in the morning. Axel Rudy Pell, next on the list, was quite motionless upstage, leaving the spotlight to Gioelli, that without stop moving, took it willingly, playing with all the musicians on stage, including the Axel itself. Honestly, concert seemed a little decaffeinated, having seen another time on the same stage, and his voice sounding infinitely better.
As the concert Mr. Pell did not quite convince me, and will be for many options in the seven scenarios kingdoms, a career-as if it were the day- mud, got get to see Girlschool, after long trying, and always failing for various reasons.
The pupils of the late Lemmy not disappoint, with its hard rock full English claw, but like all good things, in forty minutes, it makes you poor. New race to the main stages for folk metal of Eluveitie Swiss, and without Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi in their ranks.
The truth is that Eluveitie for me are a sure bet: there is always some topic you happy face, or you get get away with. Even for a short time, as it touches run again for Bullet For My Valentine. I will not comment on this concert, because it is a band I do not understand what they do there, although I have to say they have their -mainly public, teenagers-. New fast race as Orphaned Land were starting at the other end of the festival, at the Headbangers Stage, and if Eluveitie is a safe bet, the oriental folk metal Israelis in addition to being well, is a must.
Kobi Fahri came this time with jeans and sport -very away from traditional dress and barefoot to which we are acostumbrados-, making a short, intense and absolutely essential concert.
Running-a return worth no data, I’m sure it had evolved several eggs Pokèmon with all races- the main stage, was beginning the show Tarja, the former Nightwish, who dressed in white made the stalwarts symphonic metal to surrender at his feet. Soon we could enjoy the concert since the appointment for us was in the Party Stage, with the XXX project (Kai Hansen & Friends). But finally, thanks to mud, mud, frogs and snakes, we could not get to take pictures, yes we could enjoy a foretaste of what we later would expect, in that same scenario: Kai Hansen with Michael Kiske doing versions ( original?) Helloween. Or what is the same, Unisonic, with another name and other topics.
He played some rest so much race, but of course, without losing our favorite German: Blind Guardian, at the time, headlining the day, with its two-hour concert intact. Two hours that Hansi showed that still, despite his age (he turned 50 years on 10, ie, less than a week later), still has the same stream of voice he had when he started although I must say that less hair.
Time for a quick snack, since at quarter past twelve two rather interesting concerts begin a priori: Ministry and Unisonic. As we do not have the gift of ubiquity, but everything will come, and walk in Wacken, do not stay, we decided to take pictures to Ministry on our way back to the Party Stage, where again Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and company followed with the three-hour concert before, but it showed that sounded different … perhaps had changed bassist ?. Time to go to bed, as the hours not accompanied, and the sky sounded again to rain.
A third day full of mud, without templates by Dr. Scholl (I promise to buy them for next year), and with feet, returned without further mishaps our motorhome to fall into a peaceful sleep interrupted only by the smell of coffee the next day.
All good things come to an end, and in this case, our stay in the Holy Land, in this twenty-seventh edition of the Wacken Open Air, was giving the last gasps. Just a day ahead, fatigue taking its toll on our bodies, and mud doing the same on our feet.
It is true that the day dawned cloudy, with little chance of rain, so we decided to park for today galoshes, and get in a more comfortable but still footwear resistant, the classic military boots, and try to give everything at concerts we were to come.
First of all, for us, it was Symphony X, the band Michael Romeo, with Russell Allen masked the purest ghost opera style, and, despite the technique on guitar Romeo and quality voice of Mr. Allen, I personally turned a little boring. With just an hour and a quarter show, the next on the list were Borknagar.
The blackmetaleros made an intense and nuanced show, but unfortunately, we had to lose to continue to the next stage, the Party Stage, where Devildriver made their own. The Americans got dazzled the audience with their music, but to us than the guitars, we were roaring guts, so we opted to give us a taste Wacken Nacken, fillet of grilled chicken with vegetables typical festival.
With satiated stomach, it was his turn to Metal Church, with Mike Howe back into the ranks of American education. Pure heavy metal with a concert for my taste a little insistent. Perhaps it was fatigue, maybe hours, maybe that still lay ahead bands like Twisted Sister or Arch Enemy. But before the headliners, it was the turn of Therion.
The Swedes started strong, with a level maintained throughout the concert, especially the two female voices, Linnea Vikström and Chiara Malvestiti, each in its style, in addition to Thomas Vikström on the role of male voice.
The next on the list were US Steel Panther. A band you love or hate, but that does not leave you indifferent. Musically normal shooting are good, but what makes you decant for one or another option are the letters: parody of glam with women as sexual objects, in blatant plan. So much so that on this occasion, and after asking «pussies» that go up on stage, there appeared a girl, as she herself, sixteen years, to which the Steel Panther dedicated a theme sound, the contents prefer not play, but was riddled with fellatio and the like. He also got onto the stage another spontaneous, that prior Crowdsurfing topless, he managed to be raised with Panther on stage.
Time for dinner and regain strength towards the next big concert night: Twisted Sister‘s farewell scenario. Dee Snider those are clear, even making references to other large with the issue of retirement, and say their solution is real, and not return. Time to time, but what is clear is that the concert was worth a grand farewell in style with an unleashed Snider.
Turn to Arch Enemy, penultimate concert on big stages we would see, and, after being last year, repeated for the recording of their live DVD, which made it very clear Alissa White-Gluz very beginning of the show, to the delight of the remaining fans in the infield. A powerful, with all the enthusiasm and show, as befits a festival in this category.
We housekeeper just over half an hour after starting the concert, as the road is long, and the night houses horrors (as mud) to enjoy again Serious Black, band that accompanied Gamma Ray live in our lands, and soon will draw new album, Mirrorworld. An entertaining live but was somewhat short. Forty minutes do not go far, and more, at one-thirty in the morning.
Running back, arrived at the True Metal Stage, where the show was announced Dio Disciples, and, according to all advertising, would have a very special guest. Until almost the last issue we did not know who it was, as musicians who once played with Dio had accompanied the voice of Tim «Ripper» Owens, had absolutely no confirmed anything. The surprise came when Ronnie James himself appeared on the scene, recreated through a hologram to interpret We Rock, one of the metal anthems of all time. The silence was sepulchral, and to me, personally, I found some pretty bad taste, but certainly there were people who were happy.
He played back to our movilhome to rest in what would be our last night in the Holy Land, with the promise of returning next, always yelling Wacken, and waiting for the «Rain or shine» more shine than rain year.
Text: Andrès Abella. Foto: Cayza Del Carmen