Monday, 1 August 2011

Wacken Open Air 2011 - A Preview

In less than 48 hours, I, along with Mr. Dave Moore will be heading out of the UK to visit the fine land known as Germany for the third time. This visit, we have the same intent as we did last time we visited in 2008 – to go to Wacken and have a fucking great time. We knew very little last time, so it will be nice to go back this time with some knowledge under my belt of what to expect etc. On reflection, the biggest mistake we have made this time is flying out Wednesday morning, to then get to Wacken. On reflection, I would have preferred to fly tomorrow and camp at their little site for people who have arrived too early (or stayed in Hamburg again). No matter though, I can’t imagine it’ll be a major problem.

The line-up for this festival has just got better and better with almost every announcement. The first announcement contained, amongst others, Avantasia and Blind Guardian, which is a stunning first announcement for Wacken. There are quite a few of the bands that played in 08 playing this year which helps. 2008 was a stunning line-up as well. There were a few from 08 which aren’t on the bill this year, which is fair enough. Bands like Iron Maiden, Nightwish, At The Gates, Carcass, Sonata Arctica and Soilwork (as well as many others) are not playing this time around. That is alright though. I think the one I am most upset about not seeing this summer is At The Gates. I hope they get bored and decide to do another “final” tour. Anyway, after much discussion with Dave about clashes – we have come up with a running order for the festival. Of course, this is always subject to change, but it is nice to know where to be, where not to be, and how to make sure we avoid seeing Dir En Grey at any cost.

There are three bands that were announced that have since pulled out. Now, I am only really bothered about these two:

Both of these bands were big draws for me, so to see them pull out hurt. Devildriver said they never booked a Euro Festival Summer Tour (?!?!?!) and would tour Europe again in “fall”. True to their word, they are - as 3rd on the bill of a Machine Head tour.... (I am not impressed about this. I haven’t seen them since 2007 and want them to tour the UK without it being a co-headliner or a package tour. I want to see them do a headline slot. They would have had an hour at Wacken). Exodus is a different matter. They agreed to Wacken, then realised they’d still be touring the US and cancelled. Curiously, they are playing Germany the next weekend. Wonder if that had anything to do with it? Probably not, more than likely just an incompetent tour manager. Shame that I won’t be seeing these two bands again but no point dwelling on what I won’t be seeing this weekend, let’s talk about what I will be seeing. That’ll be better (possibly).

WEDNESDAY - I’m hoping to get to Wacken about 4pm. That might be a bit hopeful, but that’s the aim. After getting in, and getting set up – I imagine the first thing to go and see will be the finale of the football tournament. Last time around, we sat and watched this, drinking from orange juice cartons, doing commentary in the most ridiculous accents. It’s one of those “it’s only funny if you were there” moments I’m sure, but I do look back on that fondly as being hilarious. Anyway, there is quite a lot to do to keep busy on the arrival day of Wacken that doesn’t involve music. This includes watching wrestling and a Miss Wet T-shirt contest. After that, we will be heading to the Beergarden stage to do something which we completely failed to do in 2008, and that is see Mambo Kurt. Depending on the level of tiredness, might go and watch Lemmy at the movie truck after that (although truth be told, the more I think of it, the more I’m tempted to just put it on before we go). The Wednesday is a fairly light-hearted fun way to start a festival. The music kicks off on the Thursday.

THURSDAY – Thursday is the main event at Wacken, with the Night to Remember act playing on Thursday. When we went in 2008, it was Iron Maiden. Thursday is the only night with a bona fide headliner usually (it appears to be slightly different this year but I’ll get on to that later). A fair amount of the bands that we are planning to see this day will be seen to kill time basically. So without further adieu:

Ski’s Country Trash – They are a country band (I really bet you’d have had a hard time guessing that). They’re on and no-one else is, so they may as well be watched. Furthermore, they seem quite good. I don’t know if it is the same guy that is Ski-King (who I definitely won’t be able to see on the Wednesday, alas) but it would be cool if it is. They sound like, well any country icon you could name really. Country music doesn’t tend to steer too far away from the norm.

Sacramental – The Metal Battle (MB) winners from Latvia are the second band on the Headbangers Ballroom stage, and they seem alright base on the music on their MySpace.

Seven Stitches – They are the MB winners from Portugal. Similar deal to Sacramental really.

Achren – These guys are the MB winners from the UK. In the original plan we drew up, they were the only MB winners we were going to see. However, with time to kill – why not see more. They’re from Scotland, which is quite cool for me (being Scottish).

Exquisite Pus – MB winners from Spain with arguably the most disgusting name of all bands over the weekend. I was unaware any pus was exquisite truth be told but there we are. They fill the final “time-killing” slot so to speak.

Kvelertak – They are probably in the top 3 bands I have to see on the Thursday. I had planned to see them at Sonisphere in 2010 and missed them (helpfully, I can’t remember why I missed them. Hey, it was over a year ago!) It does make me smile that when I checked them out on Spotify in prep for Sonisphere, their most popular song had 2 bars of popularity. The bar is now over half full. Not bad for a band that doesn’t sing in English and barely anyone had heard of last year. I am really looking forward to them.

I can’t decide at this stage if it will be worth catching the end of Skyline or not. Fun fact – Skyline played the first two Wacken festivals in 1990 and 1991. At this stage, I imagine I won’t bother, but it’s one of those decisions which will be made as Kvelertak finish I guess.

Severenth – These guys seem alright. The bands they clash with are X-Tinxion (MB winners from Netherlands – no idea) and Bulent Ceylan (if I were to guess, I’d wager they are a comedy act. However as I don’t speak German it might be lost on me). So, by default, Severenth win.

Onkel Tom – These guys seem like a really fun thrash band. The festival website posted this as a news story:

Onkel Tom will tap a beer barrel during their appearance at the Bullhead City Tent on Thursday. Therefore they searched for metal girls who will tap the beer and serve the guests in original dirndls.
The choice is made and the two following girls will appear with Onkel Tom on stage:
Lessy und Myra Snöflinga


Myra Snöflinga

Now, how can that NOT be fun?!

Hayseed Dixie – I was gutted to have hurt my foot during Metallica this year at Sonisphere and miss them. However, I did and that’s just the way life goes sometimes. They clash with Helloween this year, so I can’t imagine many people will be watching Hayseed, but that is ok. They are playing 3 times over the weekend and this is the only time where the clash doesn’t go against them (Friday is Judas Priest, and Saturday is Sepultura). I am really looking forward to seeing them though. First time since 2008 when they played Portsmouth to a nearly empty South Parade Pier (amazing what happens when you don’t plug a gig isn’t it Pier managers!) They have released 2 new albums since that gig and I am hoping to hear some stuff from the, Bohemian Rhapsody mainly.

Blind Guardian – One of the bands announced initially which helped convince me to buy a ticket. I’d always thought if they were playing a festival, I’d want to see them (and that would be my only chance as they just don’t come to the UK very often). I really enjoy listening to them (in the same way I listen to Iced Earth and Sonata Arctica – it’s nice on the ears). They have a 1hr 30min set as well which is the same length as the Night To Remember act. That is pretty cool. I am looking forward to seeing them, despite the fact they won’t play In the Gadda Da Vida (Garden of Eden).

Ozzy Osbourne – Do I need to go into much detail about why I’m looking forward to seeing Ozzy? No? I will anyway! He hasn’t toured a great deal since I’ve been going to gigs but whenever he has, it has either been a case that I can’t afford it, or I can’t make the gig. I have always said that at a festival, he alone won’t sell me a ticket but him in a strong supporting line-up would. That is exactly what Wacken is. I am looking forward to hearing some classic Black Sabbath songs along with some of the iconic solo stuff he has done. Crazy Train and Bark At The Moon mostly – this will be awesome. Well, assuming he is on form. He had to cancel his set at Graspop due to illness, and has a reputation for doing some shows amazingly while doing some poorly. I see he hasn’t done a gig in over a month so I hope he has had plenty of time to rest up so he rips Wacken a new arsehole. One can hope.

Ozzy Osbourne ends proceedings on a very good first day of Wacken. Not many of the main stage bands being seen, but when they two that are being seen is Ozzy and Blind Guardian (with maybe a bit of Skyline for good measure), it is a good day. The next two days are all about the bands on the main four stages. Once Thursday is done and dusted, it is followed somewhat appropriately by Friday.

FRIDAY – Plenty of time to get rested up for this day as there is no really late band that I have to watch on the Thursday and the start isn’t that early. If this isn’t good times, I don’t know what is.

Primal Fear – METAL IS FOREVER! A nice bit of power/thrash to start the day off. They clash with Ensiferum, which was a bugger of a clash but after much discussion, Primal Fear won out.

Suicidal Tendencies – I’ve not seen this band before but it feels like they have been a part of my life for a long time. That’s because they have. They had a song on Guitar Hero, Institutionalized, which is a good song. I’m looking forward to seeing the band which introduced Robert Trujillo to the world.

Now there is a clash which is causing me great problems. Even as I type this sentence, I have a song by one of the bands on, and it isn’t helping sway me either way. The bands couldn’t be more different (actually that isn’t true. It isn’t like one is a death metal band and one is Savage Garden. I dunno why I thought of Savage Garden as an example of a shit band, I actually don’t mind them. Well, assuming I am thinking of the right band. Anyway!) The clash is Morbid Angel and Van Canto.

Morbid Angel – A death metal band, credited with helping to create and revolutionise the death metal sound. A band that truth be told, bore me at times. At other times, I think they are phenomenal. I think that is just my relationship with death metal summed up nicely. They are a huge death metal band though and I do want to see them.

Van Canto – They are an a cappella metal band. In some respects, they are similar to Apocalyptica. By this I mean they do some well known covers. The major difference between them and any other band playing this festival though is they will have a drummer and 5 singers on stage. I love their covers of Wishmaster (Nightwish), Fear of the Dark (Iron Maiden) and Master of Puppets (Metallica). But I love them in a sort of “holy shit I can’t believe they are singing this song!” rather than genuine love for them. This is a tough call this clash. We have resolved to seeing half of each but that barely ever works at a festival!

Sodom – A thrash band who never got big enough to form a part of the Big Four, but are still a damn good thrash band. Their cover of Surfing’ Bird is something out of this world! They won’t play it, but you know its damn good! As is most of the material I know of theirs to be fair. These guys are another band who don’t, or rarely come to the shores of the UK but I do want to see them.

As I Lay Dying – They were so good in 2008! So good, I don’t remember seeing them. Hey, I gave them an 8 in my review of the 2008 festival. This will be like seeing a band I’ve not seen before as I have no memory of them playing. If it’s them I am thinking of, I remember them getting a huge crowd. They played the UK in 2010 and played small venues, so I see why they don’t come to the UK much. Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to seeing them for the first time! (JOKES!)

Trivium – I am quite surprised that as they booked for such an exclusive slot that they can’t play any other festivals in Europe why they haven’t been given a headline slot. Other than that, I am excited to see them. When I saw them headline Pyramids (most recently) they were stonking! Their new song In Waves is bloody good and I am looking forward to their set.

Heaven Shall Burn – One of the bands that sold me a ticket. I knew very little about them before Wacken 2008 (which to my knowledge they didn’t play) but since then I’ve seen their name crop up a number of times and when they got announced for this Wacken, I checked them out. They are a genius band. I was about to put on one of their songs on Spotify, but I’ve just discovered my favourite song of theirs, Black Tears, is no longer on Spotify. Well, fuck you very much!

Judas Priest – This band is the exception to the Wacken rule that I mentioned earlier. They have the longest set of the weekend (2hrs 15mins) and are the true headliners of the weekend, despite not being the Night To Remember band. I’ve seen them before and they are genius live. Apparently they weren’t very good at all sub-headlining at Download 2008, but I wasn’t there so I cannot judge. They are doing a set which I am ok with, but it has a lot of songs I don’t know. Now, usually I would have done my research, however this year, I have a plan.

Sirenia – Their 30min set falls right in the middle of Judas Priest and as soon as I heard their stuff on Spotify I said “I AM NOT MISSING THIS BAND!” If that means missing a bit of Judas Priest, so be it. I do like my symphonic metal with female vocalists. Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Leaves Eyes, Evanescence (to a degree), Visions of Atlantis are all examples of bands I like. Sirenia joined that list pretty sharpish when I heard them for the first time.

Judas Priest – and we’re back! By this time, we should be back in time to hear the remaining 1hr 20mins of their set, so all will be well. I am looking forward to hearing some classics again and in particular as they didn’t play this song when I saw them in London, Living After Midnight. Come on Priest – do it!

Kyuss Lives! – When they got announced, I was a happy little boy. I never thought I’d see them. I liked pretty much everything I’d heard of theirs and also heard their reunion tour which started in 2010 I believe was genius. So, the chance to see a band who despite not having Josh Homme (hey, he’s pretty busy), well I wasn’t going to miss it. Then, something bad happened. I can’t see their whole set as the end of their set clashes with a band who I’ve seen four times and will quite happily go see again for a 5th time. And a 6th, 7th etc...You get the picture.

Skindred – HOLY SHIT THEY ARE IN THE TENT! This is going to be crazy. They are seriously one of the best live bands I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few good ones). It isn’t just the performance (which is generally amazing anyway); it’s the fact that every time I’ve seen then, Benji and the rest of the guys just know how to work a crowd. It is perfection. Why they are in the tent? Beyond me. They are worth missing some of Kyuss for.

Airbourne – Another hour of Airbourne at Wacken? You won’t hear me complaining. I love this band live and every time I have seen them, they have been solid. I fully expect Joel to do something nuts like climb the side of the stage again. Their latest album is pretty damn good so it will be nice to hear another hour of them playing a bit of both.

Apocalyptica – I don’t know if I will watch these truth be told. They are on 2am-3am and I will be pretty tired from moving between stages all day. Still, I could always sit down and watch them. Anyway, I’ve been listening to their cover of In The Hall Of The Mountain King which is stunning. If they played that, life would be good. Transpires they played it when I saw them in Portsmouth. I don’t remember that at all; awkward.

SATURDAY – This day starts off with something which makes me want to just say this. OH FUCK OFF WITH THE CLASHES ALREADY!!! Wacken is so good with clashes usually, but this day starts off horrible!

Visions of Atlantis – By horrible, I don’t mean Visions of Atlantis are horrible. They are a very good band, probably made up of very nice people (I don’t know them, but I like to think they are nice). Anyway. They clash with Moonsorrow, The Murder of my Sweet AND Girlschool. That is not friendly! Visions won out though as I love their song At The Back of Beyond. Shame to miss the others though, but I’d be pissed if I missed Visions.

Triosphere – I’m not fond of Crashdiet who are the next band on one of the main stages and I want to listen to music (shocking that really for a festival) so I’m off to the tent. These guys seem alright so hopefully they will be live as well. I will be seeing a lot of the tent today.

Ok so I will probably go and see the end of Crashdiet. I guess. Or, or, or! I could get a good spot for the next band on the Party Stage. I really thought at this time I would be writing about how I will finally see Kataklysm. A band that I heard years ago and loved. Whenever they have come here, which isn’t often, I’ve missed them. They, I’m sure, pulled out of Wacken 2008. Anyway, I’m unfortunately not able to say that Kataklysm is the next band I will see. But for good reason I feel.

The Haunted –The Haunted Made Me Do It! They made me miss Kataklysm. Should I just get my coat? Actually, I won’t its humid. Anyway, The Haunted was the real surprise package of Wacken 2008 for me, as I had heard one song which I thought was “alright” which I now love. How can anyone not love a band that’s made up of former At The Gates members? (That question isn’t open to you, if you don’t like rock or metal. Even then, don’t answer if you have a reason. NOT INTERESTED!) Moving on, they will be genius! The only thing which I don’t get it why they have a 45min set on the Party stage and are the 2nd band on, when they were the closing band on that same stage in 2008 and must have had at least an hour. They blocked out the hideous noise coming from Corvus Corax, they’re heroes.

Torture Squad – What happens when you don’t overly want to watch Dir En Grey? The chance to hide in the Headbangers Ballroom and get your ears a cleansing. Well, something like that. Torture Squad are heavy as shit, and should be good on that stage.

Stormzone – See Torture Squad. Although I can’t actually remember if Stormzone are heavy as shit. I don’t remember them at all. Wait there. In the mean time, have a picture of a sad mascot

Who doesn’t love making fun of Arsenal? Anyway, I have listened and they are similar to Iced Earth, which is handy. They are heavy, but in a different sense.

Mayhem – This is a late change in the plan actually. I was just listening to some Mayhem while typing this blog and realised “I’m not seeing them at Wacken. Boo!” Then it occurred to me I’m not actually seeing any Black Metal over the course of the weekend. Well, that just wouldn’t do at all. I need some form of an excuse to burn down a church on the way home! (Oh wait, that’s not me, that’s Dave. In his defence, he said he got Dimmu inside of him. I’ll leave that there without making a joke, but I’m sure y’all know how easy it would be to suggest Dimmu is a replacement word for semen. Oh wait damnit!)

Iced Earth – One of their last shows with the vocalist Matt Barlow. I just learned he wasn’t the original vocalist, nor is his name Matt Bellamy. I was sure he had the same name as the Muse front man. Anyway, I managed to miss them when Ripper was the vocalist supporting Heaven and Hell (I still harbour a touch of bitterness towards Southern Rail for that one). So my one and probably only time of seeing them will be with their best vocalist. Can’t complain!

Sepultura – Dave, for reasons best known to him, is convinced I’ve seen Sepultura. I’ve seen Soulfly and now Cavalera Conspiracy – both of whom did Sepultura songs live. However, I’ve never seen Sepultura. It is interesting that I have wanted to for a while, but haven’t. Yet I’ve seen almost everything former vocalist Max Cavalera has done. I always wondered how Derrick Green was a vocalist and when I saw they were playing Wacken, which gave me a perfect excuse to have a look. The song Convicted in Life is phenomenal. I am wondering how he’ll do with the material sung by Max, but he has been the vocalist for 14 years now – and that material is still in the set. I’m guessing he is alright at it at the very least.

Avantasia – It is to my eternal shame that I missed these in 2008. Fuck you Corvus! Anyway, I love their music and when they got announced for Wacken again, it was when I seriously considered going. I will not miss them this time around and I am sure they will be superb. Now, here’s a thing – apparently this could be the very last Avantasia show. I am hoping for something quite special if this is the case. However, as long as Lost In Space, The Story Ain’t Over and Twisted Mind is played, I’m sure I will walk away raving about how good they were. I cannot fucking wait for Avantasia. Putting them on the last day is smart, Wacken. Well played.

Now, one band who I listened to quite a bit when they got announced was Blowsight. Their song I Wish You 666 is stunning for the genre it is in. They also0 did a pretty mean cover of Poker Face. They were a must see for me. Well, unless something drastic happened. Well, their set clashes with the end of Avantasia, and the beginning of the next band. When you see who that is, you’ll understand why I’m not seeing Blowsight.

Kreator – They were the last band I saw in 2008, and they are once again one of the last bands I’ll be seeing this time. Only this time there is something different. They released an album in 2009 called Hordes of Chaos which is amazing. So not only will they have their entire back catalogue to choose from (ideally leaving out the 90s songs), but they’ll also have this grand new album to play from as well. I saw on their last festival set, they opened with Hordes of Chaos (the title track). If they do that again, well huzzah!

Motorhead – How does this day keep getting better? I was disappointed with them at Sonisphere I won’t lie. However I feel this is because one of Lemmy’s former band mates and a close friend, Wurzel, had passed away the day before the set. I feel that while this will be on his mind at Wacken, it will definitely not be as fresh. It might hold them back, but I don’t suspect it will. They are a favourite at Wacken so I’m sure they’ll play great and be very well received.

Children of Bodom – Considering the amount of times I was supposed to be seeing this band, this is actually only the 3rd. I’ve sold headline show tickets twice now of theirs. I just don’t get why I buy them and then can always never make it. Anyway, they were good, technical issues aside, in 2008 and I expect them to be even better, I’m undecided on their 2010 offering but I’m sure I’ll grow to like it assuming they play some of it live. All I need to hear is Hate Me (although Oops I Did It Again wouldn’t go amiss. No? Never mind then).

That is my Wacken preview in what can only be described as an aircraft carrier sized warehouse hanger rather than a nutshell. There was no way I could have made this short though, I am THAT excited to be going back to Germany. I will of course post a review with photos and band ratings. But for now, that is all. I will see you all after I’ve been to Germany!

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