Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: Wacken Open Air 2014


Another year, another installment of the Wacken Open Air festival has come and gone. This review is all about my experience at Wacken 2014 as well as my journey to and from the UK to Wacken. I’ve posted a few photos that I took on my Instagram but I really didn’t take many photos this year. This year’s Wacken Open Air festival was probably the one festival on my calendar this year I was least excited about due to the fact I thought the line up was lacking in areas. Truth be told, if I didn’t book my flight in January of this year, I would have sold my ticket before going to the festival. However, I did have a good time so this review isn’t all going to be doom and gloom. As with any review I write, all the band ratings are my personal enjoyment of the set, not what I made of the performance itself.

The logical place to start is briefly mentioning the Tuesday before. I went for a pre-festival pub trip and didn’t fall to sleep until gone 11pm.


“It’s too fucking early!”

I woke up at 2.50am in order to get ready for the flight to Germany. I’ve been told that it is advisable to get to the airport for a flight from the UK to mainland Europe 2 hours before the flight. In order to do that this year, the taxi was booked for 3.30am (flight was 7.05am, so needed to be there at 5.05am). Managed to get very little sleep in the taxi to the airport and when I got out, I realised it was 4.30am. No traffic on the road at that time meant we got to the airport with no delays whatsoever. After a cigarette and multiple declarations that it was in fact, too fucking early, I was able to drop my suitcase and stroll around the airport. Heathrow Terminal 5 is bloody massive but there isn’t a whole lot to see before security. Passed through that without any bother (although was held up for a little while due to a person in front having a problem – could have been to do with religious dress but I wasn’t too sure) and went to get breakfast. It was too early really to be eating a big meal but I figured I may as well get something decent as the next few days, most of my meals would be likely covered in dirt (how right I turned out to be) so it would be nice to have a clean meal. After eating, I discovered just how big Terminal 5 was as I had to get what was essentially a tube train to another building where my gate was. After doing that, there really was nothing to do except walk around Building C of Terminal 5 and find my gate. I didn’t have long to wait there which was quite nice. I had hoped to sleep throughout the flight but I kept waking up. Waking up on the descent gave me the chance to take some photos out of the window of the plane which is always fun. The flight was painless and before long, we had landed in Hamburg to start the next leg of the journey, travelling to Itzehoe. Final note about this leg of the travel – everything just seems to run so perfectly at Hamburg airport when you arrive there. Customs is painless as is collecting your luggage and it is usually there waiting for you. 

After getting a subway train from the airport to the central station and buying a ticket for the train to Itzehoe, I was then met with an issue. Aside from one year where I was able to get a direct train to Itzehoe, I have had to change trains on the journey. So I’d get a train from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to Elmshorn and change there for the Itzehoe train. However, this time there appeared to be no trains running to Elmshorn from Hamburg Central. After a brief panic, I wandered over to the information desk to find out I could get a subway train to Hamburg-Altona station where I could get a direct train to Itzehoe. Annoyingly, if I had stayed on the same subway train as I was on from the airport, it would have lead to Altona station. However, I wasn’t to know that at the time. Anyway, after finding the platform and jumping on and off a train that would have taken me to Altona (I thought I was on the wrong train, I wasn’t), I eventually did get on a train that would take me to Altona and all was well. I didn’t have a long wait at Altona and I was on the train to Itzehoe. I was surprised at how quiet the train was considering it was now late morning on the day that I assume most people arrive at Wacken. However, the real surprise came when we arrived at Elmshorn, the station where on this day each year, you will find masses of people heading to Wacken. However on this day, there was hardly anyone at the station. I think one group of people got on the train I was on, which was good. Had a bit of a wait at Itzehoe to get on a bus to Wacken but luckily when I got on one, I was able to find a single seat that I was able to put my luggage on and stand in the seats legroom area. We took a slightly different route to the festival as I’ve never seen the village of Wacken before and this time we drove right through it, which was cool. The bus pulled up on the huge stones by the entrance way that I am sure have ruined a pair of shoes or two and we made our way into the campsite. Much like last year, it was a case of being let into the festival and then getting your wristband sorted. I set up in roughly the same spot as I have done for the last 4 years (close to the exit, close to the arena) and wandered off to get a wristband. It was on this walk that I saw someone wearing one of the festival shirts with the line up on the back. I noticed that Doro was on the back of the shirt. I know she was doing a meet and greet but her logo was next to the Avantasia logo (who played the longest set of the weekend on the main stages). I still don’t know why this is. If anyone has the answer, please do tell me.

Walking round the Wacken campsite, you always see some strange sights and this year was no exception. I could be here for paragraphs talking about all the things I saw but I will just mention the main one which made me turn my head. On the way to get a wristband, I walked past a cluster of cars/tents where plenty of things were set up, but there was a guy using a cross-trainer (exercise equipment normally found at gyms). On the way back past that tent, the cross-trainer was not being used but this time I noticed they also had a small trampoline and a foosball table. I struggled with my two cases this year, I don’t know how these people managed to bring all this stuff (there were other bits and pieces as well including couches) to the festival but fair play to them! Anyway, I was walking round the campsites in order to get my festival wristband. I arrived at the area where you collected them from and made two observations. Firstly, the queue was huge! (I later discovered there were actually 3 huge queues). Secondly, this area was really dusty which meant whenever anybody walked by, the end result was a face/lungful of dust. This was a recurring issue over the weekend when around the Wackinger Village or the Bullhead City Circus. The queue for wristbands was moving constantly which made the queuing bearable. I had thrown on some sun protection which had proven to be a great idea as it was baking hot. I would say it probably took about an hour queuing in total to get the wristband which was a bit annoying as the year before it took nowhere near that time. However, when getting quite close to the front, it became apparent why it took so long. The tickets were personalised and they were checking everyone’s ID to make sure they had the right ticket (and not bought one from a tout). A great idea but one that has been abandoned for the 2015 festival, which is a shame I think. After getting the wristband, I headed back to my tent. While on this walk, I could hear Mambo Kurt playing. It reinforced my opinion that he isn’t for me but whatever. I popped to the supermarket for some food and headed back to the tent. I had decided at one point to watch as much of the Metal Battle finals as I could, but at this point, I was shattered and wanted a sit down and possibly a nap. I managed to have a brief nap and headed back into the area of the Bullhead City Circus stage for the evenings fun.

I arrived as Red Helen (6) were close to finishing off their set. I didn’t get to hear much of their set but the one full song I did hear, I enjoyed. They were the last Metal Battle finalist of Wednesday and there were other things going on in the tent to close out the night. First up was Bembers. Now, I thought Bembers was Broilers, and we were going to see a punk band. As you can probably work out, I got that one wrong and Bembers was a comedian. Now here’s the thing about Bembers. He is a German comedian who speaks German. Given that I don’t speak German, his set somewhat passed me by really. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The people around me seemed to enjoy it I think. Looking back on it, I’m not sure why I stayed inside that tent for 40 minutes listening to a man talk in German, but I did. Anyway, after him was Ax N’Sex (5), a band who played the first Wacken Open Air Festival and played twice more after that before breaking up in 1996. They reformed for this show by the looks of things. They were alright but in all honesty, they bored me after a while. The final act of the day that I saw was John Diva and the Rockets Of Love (10). John Diva had a hand in writing a lot of iconic hair metal/rock songs in the 80s and his band basically covers them all. He had a 90 minute set and just played a set packed with belters and sing-along’s which was great. I left the tent after he had finished as Mambo Kurt was about to do his second set of the day which didn’t interest me. Instead, what interested me more was sleep.


Day one of the festivals main stages being open. My day would be mostly spent in front of the WET and Headbanger stages which was fine by me. I had hoped given the festival had given all festival goers a water bottle we could take into the arena that there might be a water point by all the stages and in quite a few places around the arena. This was not the case. After a couple of short showers, the sun came out and we were in for a scorcher. I saw all of the Metal Battle finalists that played on this day. The truth is I can’t remember specifics about all of them so I will list them now with the rating I’ve given them and if I remember anything specific about their set.

Dismorial (6)
Trouble Agency (7)

Convivium (7) – This band finished in the top 5 of the Metal Battle competition, which was cool.
Agni Kai (5)
Room Of The Mad Robots (4)
– I had really high hopes for this band, mostly due to their name. I don’t think they had a bad set – I just wasn’t into it.
Hellhound (5) – They were really overexcited about the concept of “metal”. I’ve not heard any band say the word “metal” as many times as they did in 20 minutes. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the lead singer’s screeching vocals either. Musically I thought the band were pretty decent mind.
Revolution Within (8) – They had a great set. They were my second favourite of the Metal Battle finalists that I saw.
Evocation (4)
Juodvarnis (3)

After this band had finished, it was time for Bullhead City Circus Wrestling. The ring announcer/timekeeper/hype man came out and plugged what was going on. I had no idea what he was saying (you’d think given this was my 6th festival in Germany I’d have tried to learn some more German than the absolute basics) but he was accompanied by 5 models who were dancing around the ring, which provided a nice distraction. They had a few short matches (I think two of the matches were shorter than the introduction). They had one decent-ish match which was billed as a revenge match. The main event was basically a 340 pound man hitting a 400 pound man. The bigger guy got pushed through a bit of wood (which wasn’t that thick) and that was that. It was all a bit silly really but hell; they put on wrestling at a festival. It was never going to be to an amazing standard and killed some time. After the wrestling finished, it was back to the Metal Battle Finals.

Cosmogon (5)
Earth Divide (4)
In Mute (9)
– This were my favourite of the Metal Battle finalists that I saw. It was cool to see that they won the competition overall.
Huldre (5) – I saw a flyer plugging their show, on which had a quote saying “you have to experience a Huldre show at least once”. Firstly, you don’t. Secondly, their stage show involved trees and costumes. I don’t see how any of these things are necessary for a 20 minute set (much like I didn’t see the point in it last year with GOD The Barbarian Horde).  Clearly I am wrong though as they finished in the top 5 in the Metal Battle Finals.

Huldre were the last Metal Battle finalist to play the festival. After them was a very odd booking. There is a band that plays Wacken fairly regularly called Van Canto (they played again this year, more on them later) who are an a cappella band who cover rock and metal songs. Regardless of your opinion towards vocal groups playing Wacken, at least they cover songs which fit in to the general theme of the festival (I’ve got to be very careful here not to go off on a tangent of how I don’t understand the point of the Wackinger village and stage). Fork (5) on the other hand, are an a cappella band who don’t cover metal songs. In fact, the rockiest they got was Muse – Madness. They are obviously very talented at what they do or else they wouldn’t have been booked, but I can’t help but feel they were booked for the wrong festival. I left Fork’s set early to head to the main stages to watch Hammerfall (8). I found one of the water points during Hammerfall and it was quite small. I think they had 24 official taps on 3 water points that was supposed to deal with potentially 75k fans who might need water and any staff who also needed access to drinking water. That isn’t enough really. Anyway, Hammerfall were really good. It was a special Glory To The Brave show where they would play that album in full which was cool. I didn’t know much off the album but I liked what I heard. They finished off with a small best-of set and a new song I think (it says it was the songs live debut on setlist fm). Closing out on Hearts on Fire, Hammerfall had a triumphant set and ended their hiatus with a bang.

Back in the Bullhead City Circus tent, a band called Beyond The Black (7) were playing. I knew nothing about them other than the fact they had one redeeming feature – they weren’t Steel Panther! (I like some Steel Panther music, but just think the whole “gimmick” that comes with it is cheesy and not that funny). Anyway, I enjoyed Beyond The Black’s set. After them was Letz-Zep (8), a Led Zeppelin tribute band. They were really enjoyable actually and provided a decent sing-along at times. I couldn’t stay for the whole set as I had to head off to the main stages again but I really enjoyed their set. Taking a look at the crowd, it was clear to see I was going to be very far back for the next band, so just decided to watch them on the movie field screen (they were playing behind me, so it still counts as seeing them live!) Anyway, I think that Saxon (9) are incapable of having a bad gig. I mean, it must happen from time to time but I’ve never seen them and thought they were bad. They appear to be worshipped at Wacken so it is always cool to see them in that sort of environment. The set contained all the songs you’d expect from a Saxon show which was cool, ending on Denim and Leather which is ace as I love that song. They had a mini orchestra with them this time and other musicians for half of their set which was cool. You’d think with the effort they had put into their show, they would be the night’s headliner. Unfortunately this was not the case. The headliner of the night was Accept (5). Due to my disappointment of this announcement not having shifted by the time they came on stage, I just couldn’t get into their set and walked off after about 4 or 5 songs into it. Had they been a middle of the day band or even late evening band, I’d have watched the whole thing and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. The idea of them headlining though seemed very odd to me (I know they headlined before in 2005 but that was a reunion show with Udo I believe). Considering they claimed to have a headliner booked back in September, I just do not believe that Accept were the band that the festival waited 9/10 months to announce. Anyway, my night ended slightly early and I headed off to call it a day at that point.


Friday, much like the two days previous, was another really hot day. Another similarity that Friday had to the other days is that I would be spending most of it inside the Bullhead City Circus tent. If you had told me back in April that I’d be missing Carcass and Slayer, I wouldn’t have believed you, but that is what happened. The opening band I saw on the Black stage. Chthonic (8) had a really cool video screen backdrop with lots of different artwork on there as well as song lyrics. They also had an orchestra on stage with them which was cool. After they had finished, I headed back over to the Bullhead City Circus tent. By the time I got there, the German death metal band Nailed To Obscurity (7) were on stage. I’ve often said I like some death metal and some I don’t. In this instance, I liked it. The next band up for For The Imperium (7) who I also thought were pretty decent. They were a real mixture of styles so it is hard to pigeonhole them but all that matters really is that I enjoyed them. Next up was Neopera (6). They can be compared to Amaranthe in that they have 3 vocalists, a female vocalist, a male clean vocalist and a screaming male vocalist. That is where the comparisons between the two bands should end though. Neopera are more operatic (wonder if the clue is in their name...) and while they were good, I did find myself bored at times during their set. A band from the UK was on stage next as Collibus (8). I had unfortunately missed them at both Download and Sonisphere but I was able to watch them here and I thought their set was great and as a result, have turned me into a fan. I actually have their debut album, The False Awakening, on as I type. Following them was another UK band called Crimes of Passion, shortened to COP UK (5). They reminded me a lot of Steel Panther to be perfectly honest in that I found some of their banter to be very cheesy. I enjoyed their music though for the most part. One thing I thought that was cool was they came off stage and handed out copies of their second album for free. This stint in the tent would end with me watching Torment (9). This was a 30th anniversary show for the thrash n’ roll (their words, not mine) band and I have to say it was really quite good. I thought at the time the lead singer looked remarkably like the wrestler Steve Austin. At one point in the set, the singer grabbed a chainsaw and sliced up a guitar, which was then thrown in bits to the crowd. I will now show my inexperience with this band but I find it hard to believe they do that at every show – unless the guitar being cut up is very cheap and so therefore it doesn’t matter what happens. Logistics aside, it was pretty cool to see. 

Out of the tent and back into the heat, I headed over to the infield this time to watch Heaven Shall Burn (9) who are just fantastic on the big festival stage (I saw them at Wacken in 2011 as well and they smashed it then as well). Heaven Shall Burn are almost unknown in the UK and I find that hard to understand, considering the two times I have seen them live they have been absolutely brilliant. After them was a band I was really looking forward to seeing (I missed them at Wacken 2011 because I think they played the late night/early morning slot) and that was Children of Bodom (8). Just before they came on stage it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually seen them since they supported Slipknot in 2008 (Slipknot, Machine Head and Children of Bodom...that really was a great gig). Anyway, they didn’t disappoint at all. I wasn’t too familiar with the stuff off the new album despite having it (awkward) but aside from that, I thought they were great, They were very well received which was deserved. Following Bodom was a set I had been looking forward to. Apocalyptica (5) are excellent musicians and they were bringing a full orchestra to play with them. I think the idea in my mind was better than the execution on the day though. That is not to say they performed badly, because they didn’t. I just found myself being very bored. I think I would have enjoyed a standard Apocalyptica set more if I’m honest. One positive that came out of this was that I was going to head back to the Bullhead City Circus towards the end of Apocalyptica’s set. I left earlier and was able to catch the last 20 or so minutes of HÓ“matom (8). They were excellent. I wish I had gone to see their whole set now but can’t do a lot about it now. At the end of each song I saw, the whole crowd was chanting their name. I wouldn’t be shocked if next time they play, they play on one of the bigger stages. I was left wondering one thing though; in 2011 they clashed with Mayhem. Why the hell did I watch Mayhem?! Bad call by me, they were awful.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this day’s review, I planned to miss Carcass & Motorhead (who clashed) and Slayer. Given my misgivings that the line up overall was weak, why would I miss some of the biggest acts that were playing? The reason for this is simple. When it became apparent that the line up for Wacken 2014 was not as good as previous ones I’d been to (despite the organisers claiming otherwise), I made the call to see as much of the stuff I wanted to see. Obviously I would have liked to see Carcass and Slayer but I had seen them a few weeks earlier and seeing them again would mean missing 4 bands, 3 of whom I really wanted to see. All of these bands were in the Bullhead City Circus tent. The first of these bands was The Vintage Caravan (10) who were just superb. I had high hopes for how this band would be live after listening to a small amount of their material and they were better than I imagined they would be. After them was Hell (10). The first thing I observed about Hell was that the lead singer has an earpiece microphone (or something that looked like one) as opposed to a standard handheld one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the singer in a rock/metal band opt for that type of microphone before (seen comedians use it and pop singers). Anyway, that is hardly worth focussing on when the show was as great as this was. The band were on their game and their show is somewhat mesmerising. The singer, not trapped behind a microphone stand, was all over the place and appeared at one point to be “healing” crowd members (I likened it to something I’ve seen from the US before where a priest “heals” a crowd member by touching them although other than The Simpsons, I cannot think of such an example now). There were other aspects of the show which were a touch satanic but overall it was an excellent set. It did inspire me to come up with the concept of a movie that would be really offensive to most people who are Christian but that is another story for another day. After them was Nightmare (8), a band who came to my attention I think because they were due to play Hellfest 2012 (which I was due to go to before injury ruled me out). They were due to play one of the main stages so I was surprised to see they were booked for the tent stages at Wacken (I’ve since learned they are a French band so it makes more sense they’d have a higher slot at a French festival). Anyway, their set for the most part was really good. I did find myself starting to tire as they were on which took away from my enjoyment slightly but that wasn’t their fault in the slightest. They played a great set. The final band of this run of 4 I was watching was A Pale Horse Named Death (7). I had been interested in them since they were announced for Wacken back in September. The first thing I latched onto was the song “Heroin Train” and after that listened to both of their albums and thought they were great. I thought they were very good at Wacken as well, however as I noted during Nightmare, I was starting to tire. A gothic/doom band probably wasn’t the best of ideas at that time. They had a really good set though and I left during the last song (or what I thought was the last song) slightly disappointed they didn’t play “Heroin Train” but that wasn’t enough to ruin the set for me. I walked back to my tent passed the infield to catch a very short amount of King Diamond before calling it a day.


After spending most of the festival inside a tent (either the one I was sleeping in or the Bullhead City Circus tent), I was looking forward to the Saturday as almost all of the bands I’d be watching were on the main stages. One thing I haven’t mentioned this year is the major change to the arena in that there were fewer search points, so when you were in the plaza, you were in (no getting searched again at entrances to the stages). By the Saturday, I think some of the security had been instructed to just get the big crowd that had formed in front of the entrance I was using into the plaza. This meant searching had been abandoned and there were significantly more people drinking from cans of beer in the arena that day (I observed that whenever I walked passed an entry later that day, people were being searched, and so I’m guessing someone made a mistake somewhere). Anyway, I’m not here to review the security policies of Wacken, I’m here to review the music. The first band I saw on the Saturday was Prong (8). The clash between them and Arch Enemy was just horrible but i figured I was seeing Arch Enemy in London later this year so it wasn’t the end of the world to miss them on this day. Prong were really good live and they played everything I wanted to hear them play live which made me happy (granted, that was only 3 songs but still). I was happy with my choice. The opening band on the True Metal stage was Sodom (5) who I had seen in 2011 and really enjoyed. On this day though, I couldn’t get passed the fact they seemed to have really bad sound. One thing which put a smile on my face was they played their cover of Surfin’ Bird. I had hoped they would do that in 2011 but they didn’t, so I was pleased to see them play it.

Next up were Behemoth (6) which was an interesting experience in the middle of the afternoon. That was a show that needed to take place when the sun wasn’t up. At one point, two upside down crosses were lit on fire. Now, this wasn’t anything shocking if you know anything about Behemoth but given most people must have had their vision impaired by the sun, it wasn’t as impressive as a visual as it perhaps should have been (it didn’t help they went out very quickly as well). In terms of the music, I actually enjoyed Behemoth live a lot more than I thought I would going into it which is always a plus. After Behemoth was an artist whose band I saw some of the set at Sonisphere this year and was really looking forward to seeing the whole thing at Wacken, and that is the Devin Townsend Project (8). The performance was just as good as Sonisphere for me if not better. The songs played at Soni were all played at Wacken including one extra when the set was coming to an end but Devin realised he still had 15mins left to fill, so we were invited to talk amongst ourselves while the band chose a song to close the set on. The way that was handled, as well as a lot of the stage banter was really funny and confirmed my opinion that the man is as mad as a box of frogs. He inspired a large group hug, which was great. After Devin was another one of the first announcement bands and one of the main draws of the day (I am sure for some people), Emperor (7). The band were for Wacken 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album In The Nightside Eclipse. Emperor were another band who should have played when it was dark (I guess it is difficult to accommodate all of the bands that want to play when it is dark, but considering Emperor were one of the major announcements, it was surprising they ended up being a middle of the day band). The fact it was so bright was even referenced by the person who introduced them on stage who said something to the effect of “this is supposed to be In The Nightside Eclipse, but i guess today it is In The Daylight Eclipse”. Considering before the festival, I had considered them in the same category as Mayhem, I enjoyed their set, significantly more than I enjoyed Mayhem’s set from 2011. I didn’t stick around for the whole thing as I wanted to head off to see the only band I’d be watching in the Bullhead City Circus tent that day.

I don’t remember who recommended The Ocean (8) to me, but I remember listening to their latest album Pelagial and thinking it was just superb. After listening to the album, they were announced for Wacken and I was told again that if I could, I had to try and see them live. Here was the opportunity and they were great. They played the whole of Pelagial in full which was ace to be perfectly honest! (I would say Wacken should have advertised that, but it seems as though The Ocean have been playing the album in full on the tour they are on). They were one of a few bands who played on one of the tent stages who had a video screen backdrop which was cool to see. I was very pleased with my decision to leave Emperor early to watch The Ocean. It did mean missing some of Amon Amarth (10) but they were on top form from the moment I arrived. They had a really cool stage show which involved a whole heap of pyro. Performance wise, Amon Amarth were absolutely spot on. I did have a chuckle at the fact that Johan Hegg smiles far too often for someone who fronts a death metal band but then, his band were playing a major slot at one of the biggest metal festivals in the world and the crowd were going nuts – what is there not to smile about? After they had finished, a curtain was put up with Avantasia’s name on it. That made me happy as I knew what was coming up. Before they came on stage though, it was the job of Megadeth (9) to keep us entertained. Consider it mission completed as Megadeth put in one of the best performances I’ve seen them do, certainly the best in a festival setting. They played a set half made up of songs from Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction which was ace because they are Megadeth’s two best albums (in my opinion). Aside from a concern about their sound at the beginning, the set was pretty damn near perfect as far as a Megadeth show goes. I would have liked to hear Sleepwalker and A Tout Le Monde but you can’t win them all. For a brief moment, I wondered if Dave Mustaine was going to walk off stage after waving and just saying thanks to the crowd, but we got the signature sign off – “you’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth, good night!”

I won’t lie, at this point of the weekend I was a bit fed up of the whole festival experience and was looking forward to it ending. Basically, I was fed up of being tired all the time and was just looking forward to getting to Hamburg Airport so I could stand in their shower for a month (or 20minutes...either way). At the end of Megadeth’s set, I took a spot towards the back of the True Metal stage so I could have a clear view of the stage and the screens. I may have been tired, but the next band was Avantasia (10) and they were one of the main reasons why back in August 2013, I bought a ticket for this festival. As soon as the curtain dropped, all of my little annoyances just went away. I was completely lost in the moment of seeing one of my favourite bands. You can probably work out that I enjoyed them immensely. The beginning of the set made me fall in love with their latest album all over again and by the time they had kicked into The Scarecrow, I knew they were going to be my favourite band of the festival. The set list was pretty much what I wanted to hear (aside from not playing The Wicked Symphony) and the performance was spectacular. One final word on the set, Tobias Sammet could be one of the best front men working at the moment. His on-stage banter (when he spoke in English) was very funny and he even ran over to the adjoining Black Stage and asked the Kreator fans how they were enjoying the “gay metal of Avantasia” which was quite entertaining. After declaring his love for Kreator and Mille Petrozza, the band launched into “Lost In Space” which was one of the best moments of the set. I walked away after they closed on the melody of Sign of the Cross/The Seven Angels with a huge grin on my face, declaring once again, there aren’t many bands who would convince me to get on a plane to go and see them, but they are one of them. It breaks my heart just a little bit that they are relatively unknown in the UK because I would hope for another UK show but I just don’t think that would happen. I do wish I had gone to see them at Bloodstock when they played their UK debut, but I was trying to find a hotel and couldn’t find one nearby (I’ve since found out today in fact that I could have stayed relatively nearby and for cheaply as well...argh!) After grabbing a really questionable burger in the campsite, it was time to sleep. When I would wake, it would be time to go home. Before falling to sleep, I could hear from the arena a bizarre mix of Kreator and Van Canto which was interesting. At one point, I heard Tarja Turunen singing a Nightwish song that she originally sang on, Wishmaster. As a fan of Nightwish who never got to see them with Tarja, that was pretty cool to hear (even if it wasn’t with a full band).


“It’s too fucking early!”

Much like last year, someone walked past my tent at 5.30 in the morning. However this time it wasn’t talking that woke me up. No, these people were playing music from a stereo as they were walking round the campsite. You know, just ouch. I did briefly try to fall back to sleep but it didn’t work out for me, so I packed my bags and left the site and headed for the airport. This journey was fairly uneventful other than the concern I have every year that I’m the only person on the bus who hasn’t showered in 4 days. Thankfully I knew that wasn’t the case this year, but you still worry. After arriving in Itzehoe, I was asked if I wanted to be a part of a group train ticket which would save everyone money in the process. Usually the train would cost just over €13 but it ended up costing me €10. The people we were travelling with both tried to offer €2  so we were all level but to be honest, I was pleased with having saved any money. We got a direct train to Hamburg Altona, where we would change to the S-Bahn train for the airport. Now, I didn’t see any ticket machines here and it didn’t seem as though anyone was stopping to buy a ticket so it was a mystery to me what was going on. I’ve never been ticket checked on the S-Bahn but I just know the one time I don’t have a ticket, I will be checked. I went down to the platform to see if there were any ticket machines there, and there wasn’t one. I jumped on the next train and figured if we do get checked, I’ll play the dumb tourist card and try to talk my way out of it. By the time I reached Hamburg Hauptbahnhof though, I was feeling fairly guilty about this and I got off there to buy a ticket (as I knew where ticket machines were there). Not long after that I was back on the train and at the airport.

Just like the year before, I was at the airport massively too early for my flight but I didn’t care. I was at the airport, and the airport had a shower. The information desk confirmed that what was on the Wacken website was accurate; that the showers were free to use and pointed me in the direction of a shower room. I joined a short queue for a shower room, during which time I encountered a member of the cleaning staff who spoke German and Spanish but not English. As you can probably imagine, I had some communication issues with her - I speak neither German nor Spanish but do speak English. When it was my turn to head into the shower room, she went in first to see if it needed cleaning (which it didn’t) and ushered me in. Quite frequently when the door was shut, she would knock on the door. Once or twice I can live with, but this was really quite frequent and very annoying. Considering Hamburg Airport had clearly entered into an agreement with Wacken Open Air regarding their facilities, they really should have let the staff know that there would be a lot of people coming from the festival who will likely be using the showers, and there is a good chance they might take slightly longer than your usual user of an airport shower having just spent over half a week standing on muddy grounds and not showering. This obviously didn’t happen and I can only assume that everyone from the festival that used the showers were annoyed much like I was during this time. That is the end of my journey really – other than rediscovering a German magazine called Beef! – very little happened at the airport of note. I boarded my flight and left Germany. I do want to say that when I arrived back in the UK, the turnaround at Heathrow was fantastic. I was off the plane, through customs and reunited with my bags really quickly. Usually, somewhere along the line you get held up at a UK airport, so it was quite nice to not be this time. That is my Wacken Open Air 2014 in a lot of words. If you have made it this far, kudos.


As I said (some time ago now, admittedly), if I knew in January what I knew in April in that the line up wasn’t great and wasn’t going to improve dramatically, I would have sold my ticket and not gone. It has to be said though; I did have a good weekend while I was there. I saw a large number of bands I’ve never seen before and a smaller number of bands that I was seeing again. One of the great things about Wacken is there is that from 11am – 12pm on the Thursday and until 3am on Friday & Saturday, there is always something on. So, taking an example from this year, if you don’t want to be in the infield when Endstille, Five Finger Death Punch and Bring Me The Horizon are all playing, you can go elsewhere and watch some music. That is what I did this year and found some bands I really enjoyed (in that particular example, Collibus is a fine example of discovering a band). Seeing Avantasia again made me happy that I didn’t sell my ticket as they were just that good live. The weather was pretty much perfect for a festival this year which always helps matters. The dusty floor around the Wackinger Village and Bullhead City Circus wasn’t too much fun to deal with, when you were getting large clouds of dust everywhere, but there was nothing that could have been done about that. I did say earlier that I think Wacken needed to install more water points, particularly have 1 or 2 close to the Bullhead City Circus stage (I guess the argument against that would be they sold still water at the bars, but given they made the drinking cups smaller this year, I didn’t particularly want to buy water unless I had to). They did a lot this year though to help people out who just drink water so I was grateful for that. The funny thing is that despite all my misgivings about Wacken 2014, and the amount of moaning I’ve done about it (including some on this very blog page), as soon as they made the first 2015 announcement, there was a small voice in my head saying “you know you want to book a ticket”. Well, I didn’t book a ticket and the festival sold out in 12 hours of it going on sale. That is some impressive stuff. I’ll likely keep an eye on who is announced for the festival but for the first time in 5 years, I will not be making the journey to the north of Germany for Wacken 2015.

Until next time Wacken, whenever that may be.