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The Wacken 2017 review

 
Wacken 2017, August 02-05
 
Wackeeen! Can you hear me scream? Wackeeeeeeeeen!
 
It’s the first weekend of August for the 28th time 75000 metalheads from all over the started their pilgrimage to the Holy Wacken Land. 150 acts on eight stages: You’d need the nine lives of a cat to experience it all, as for sure, you’re always gonna miss something.
 
This year the festival took a bit longer to sell out (keep in mind it used to sell our overnight a few years ago), which was the result of two consecutive years of bad weather and knee deep mud rather than the festival itself. There just is no comparable event that comes up with so many new ideas, details and improvements every year.
 
infield
 
In 2017, to keep the infield ground from getting stirred up by delivery trucks, they simply installed a permanent beer pipeline underground. Yes, you read that right: A one kilometer long beer pipeline pumping beer to the metal heads without any wheel irritation! Yet it was still smart to pack the rubber boots as on Thursday a short but heavy thunderstorm brought 30 liters of rain per square meter – within just a few minutes. The holy grounds simply cannot soak up this amount and by walking them it turns into mud. So campsites and infield were again affected by the mud issues. But you could tell that the beer pipeline improved the situation by avoiding deeper “lakes” in the mud. It was still an overall slippery experience, but at least without having to wad through knee deep seas.
 
mud beergarden
 
In the past decades, Wednesday’s program used to be uneventful as it was meant for those arriving early. But as more and more people traveled early over the years, the promoters adapted their Bullhead Circus program accordingly. This year’s Wednesday featured a never before seen list of A list bands. Arizona’s Thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam and Californian Ugly Kid Joe (remember “Cats in the Cradle”?) played to a full tent.
 
uglykidjoe
 
Canadian Annihilator had already presented an impressive show on the main stage in 2013, and as they were so popular, it was about time to re-invite them – this time to the Headbangers Stage.
 
annihilator
 
A huge surprise was the Boomtown Rats show, featuring 65 year old Bob Geldorf in a leopard suite. Yes, that legendary Sir Bob who brought us the Live Aid benefit for hungry children in Africa in the mid-80s. Do you like Mondays? You betcha! Thomas Jensen, one of the Wacken founders, was spotted watching the show in the audience, so let’s thank him for the rare and unique experience celebrating oldschool British punk.
 
boomtown
 
By Thursday afternoon the infield opened with Wacken’s traditional local band Skyline. The first visible changes were the new Wacken slogan stage names, renamed Faster (former Black Stage), Harder (former True Stage) and Louder (former Party Stage). Most regulars to WOA found it more irritating than beneficial, so we will likely stick with the old names anyway.
 
Next up was Ross the Boss, founded by Manowar’s guitarist Ross Friedman. Considering that Manowar have never played Wacken, it would have been perfect to have them play their scheduled “Final Battle Worldtour 2017” alongside – for sure they would have had a huge audience on their side. But nevertheless it was fun to sign along the classic “Battle Hymn”. By moonlight we ride, ten thousands side by side….
 
Also that night, Status Quo rocked all over the world and Europe’s Joey Tempest presented himself once again in fine vocal shape. Teutonic metal band Accept was up for a two hour headline show with a special appearance by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra from Prague. Old hits, new material from their current album “The Rise of Chaos” and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann’s solo project “Headbanger’s Symphony” were combined in a three-part show. Having seen many Accept shows, I am aware that the band and singer Mark Tornillo takes great care in posing, having fun and firing up their audience. But for some reason, the sparks just did not fly this time. The Rock meets Classic concept just did not work well and long passages of guitar work with the orchestra were simply boring. Danish Volbeat and their charismatic singer Michael Poulsen ended the night with a 90 minute pyrotechnic show with a mix of Punk, Old School Rock ‘n’ Roll - and a bit of Johnny Cash.
 
Friday featured Florida’s Trivium, Norwegian Black Metal band Emperor and Apocalyptica. The Finnish cello musicians are regulars to Wacken and the classic interpretation of Metallica’s Greatest Hits entertained a huge crowd.
 
apocalyptica 
Metal legend Megadeth, part of “The Big Four”, were anticipated with mixed feelings after Dave Mustaine was having serious vocal problems during their 2014 WOA show. He must have been aware of it as he seemed highly focused not to miss the notes. But as a result, Dave was tense and squeezed out talk rather than singing. I am sorry Dave – we love you, but you really need to soothe your throat. 
 
infield2
 
Back to the huge tent for a special prog treat: Fates Warning! This isn’t just “ A pleasant shade of grey”, but Ray Alder’s vocal abilities in every possible color. It’s awesome that Wacken seems to experiment more with different styles of metal music. Though some claim WOA should not get “softer”, it is a refreshing alternative. After all, with 8 stages to choose from, no one is forced to listen to it.
 
fates
 
Marilyn Manson was new to Wacken, his headlining show highly anticipated. The infield was packed as metal heads crave big names that are new to Wacken, specially if you expect a show mixed with transvestite, horror, sex and drama elements. But unfortunately Brian Hugh Warner’s art figure Marilyn Manson did not deliver the spectacular show everyone’s expected. Not sure if he found himself mysteriously entertaining sitting on the oversized armchair (he wasn’t doing much else), but he was just – plain and simple – boring. He did neither talk nor entertain the audience. There were long quiet pauses in between the songs. Any curiosity and positive mood that might have developed during a song fell flat on its nose during the everlasting breaks. We spent the entire show waiting for “it” – that special something, but it just wasn’t there. Many thousands left the infield in masses, walking away disappointed by a “world star” who ended up being nothing more than an overacting man with too much make up, so full of himself not seeing what was happening with his audience.
 
marilyn
 
Time to once again start the exhausting walk through the mud over to the Bullhead Circus – but well worth it as Devon Graves was spooking the crowd with a special Psychotic Waltz performance. Or was it Buddy Lackey?
 
psychotic
 
The next day at the press conference, when asked how the festival was going, the promoter’s acknowledged that they had not been happy with all performances and would have to talk to certain managements. Though they did not mention any names, it was quite obvious who they were referring to. MMhhhh…
 
Speaking of press conferences – Alice Cooper showed up! Now look at this 69 year old gentlemen (that makes him 21 years older than Marilyn Manson) – with the charisma and energy of a 20 year old. He joked at the press conference, donated 10.000 Euros to the Wacken Foundation Charity - and was just so…damn likeable!
 
alice
 
The following concert presenting his new album “Paranormal” was also highly entertaining. I hope MM stayed around to learn from the real master of shock and horror.
 
alice2
 
Saturday…final sprint already *sigh*. Max and Igor Cavalera, formerly of Sepultura and Soulfly, brought their “Roots” project to the Holy Land. Brazilian tribal drums, native folk grooves and aggressive metal roared over the Faster Stage. Maybe there is room for a Sepultura reunion after all?
 
Powerwolf is a quite successful German Power Metal band from Saarbruecken with Romanian Transylvanian roots – at least according to their self described biography that must not be taken seriously. Over the past decade they’ve managed to attract and maintain a faithful fan base, visible from afar in white vampire style make-up. Their success story continued in Wacken with party songs like “We drink your blood”.
 
powerwolf
 
Swedish Death Metal export Amon Amarth are no newcomers to Wacken, party of their latest concept album Jomsviking were presented on the Black (Faster) stage at sunset.
 
amon
 
Avantasia, an all star rock opera project founded by German Edguy singer Tobias Sammet, held the headlining spot for the third time. As with his prior concept albums, for the current album “Ghostlights” Tobi invited several guest singers who would accompany him on the Wacken stage: The always present Magnum shouter Bob Catley, Mr. Big singer Eric Martin, Norway’s Jorn Lande – and the mighty Geoff Tate of Queensryche / Operation Mindcrime. Tobi, widely known for talking too much and for having to put one's foot in one's mouth, was his usual self, very humbled to sing alongside his childhood heroes (“Ladies and Gentlemen: Geoff Tate! I can’t believe Geoff Tate is singing my songs!”). The two hour show featured old and new songs from their past six studio albums.
 
avantasia
 
Another peaceful festival ended, amidst new security regulations (only small hip packs or the 2017 edition of the -smaller than usual- Full Metal Bag were allowed). To end this article with a quite from promoter Tomas Jansen:
 
“We are very happy that fans from over 80 nations partied together peacefully. Wacken feels like the United Nations of Metal.”
 
fans
 
After Wacken is before Wacken: The 29th Wacken Open Air edition takes place on August 2nd to August 4th, 2018.
 
doro
 
Bands confirmed are DORO, Nightwish, Running Wild, Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Epica, Watain, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and Bannkreis.
 
Make sure to pack your rubber boots and you’ll be fine!
 
mud
 
Get more info and your tickets at the official Wacken ticket shop HERE!
Review and photos: Äfa Angelhardt

Pit photos main stages courtesy of Chris Buech @ dark.side.pix

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