Wacken 2012.

6 Aug

Another year, another trip to northern Germany for the world’s biggest, loudest and most raucous metal festival. Wacken Open Air, abbreviated to WOA, is situated in the small town of Wacken, a principality near the town of Itzehoe, close to Hamburg. The fairly minuscule population of less than 1,800 increases by about 75,000 for roughly five days a year, as metalheads from the farthest corners of the globe congregate to bang their heads, drink some beers and just rock out in general.

2012 is my second year at the festival, and I must say it matched last year in terms of overall quality. Yeah, the weather was much worse this year (the rain rendered the entirety of the festival grounds into a chocolate fudge cake mix-like substance by the second morning) and yes, the lineup probably wasn’t quite as epic as last year’s. But that said, I still had such an awesome time. Met new people. caught up with friendly faces from foreign lands and, of course, saw some excellent bands.


Jim Breuer kicked Thursday evening off with a sense of comedy. Similar to Bill Bailey in that his act involves a lot of hard rock music, his impressions of legendary singers such as Rob Halford and Brian Johnson were remarkable. The Saturday Night Live cast member added a lightness of tone to proceedings, which was instantly shattered by the brutality that is Sepultura. The legendary thrash metal band have been a personal favourite of mine for years now, and seeing them for the first time at last year’s Wacken was incredible. This year they featured Les Tambours Du Bronx, a percussion ensemble, which definitely gave the Brazilian band’s sound more of a punch, not that it was needed. Taiwan’s ChthoniC absolutely blew me away. The fiercely political progressive black metal outfit pulled no punches as they annihilated the W.E.T. stage. A guest appearance from Turisas’ Olli Vänskä was interesting, though a chance for some extreme fiddle/erhu duelling was sadly missed. Saxon was the next band I caught. The British heavy metal veterans were as good as the previous three occasions in which I witnessed their show; they’re masters of their craft, and that craft is pure heavy metal thunder. We stayed for a bit of Volbeat but we weren’t too impressed, and headed back to camp for a few beers instead.

Unfortunately the bands I wanted to see on Friday started early, so little sleep was had. Endstille were a surprisingly heavy crowd from Germany, fairly listenable for a black metal band, though we were too busy fawning over the t-shirt stands to properly listen. Sanctuary‘s singer took a few tracks to get into the swing of things, but even then their music could only be described as average metal at best. Yawn. I only stayed for the first two or three Oopmh! songs but they seemed like a fun if rather unsubstantial noise. We left their set early to find Henry Rollins‘ spoken word act. An odd mixture of comedy and anecdotal motivational speaking, I came away from it with the same feeling you get after listening to an elderly, wiser person tell a tale. The wonderfully majestic Kamelot were next. New singer Tommy Karevik is an excellent replacement for Roy Khan, both men having a similarly awesome set of pipes. The heavens opened up during their set, which only added to the slightly melancholic tone of their music. Opeth‘s blend of death metal and whimsical progressive rock is a truly beautiful listen. The rain was annoying, but the Swedes’ performance and technicality was top notch. HammerFall may be my band of the festival overall. They showed up on stage with no theatrics whatsoever, kicked a fuck tonne of ass, then left. Powerful, unforgettable set of classic metal songs that don’t suffer from the clichés and irony that such music often does. Dimmu Borgir have been on my bucket list for a while now, as they’re one of the few black metal bands that I rather enjoy. Complimented by an orchestra, the symphonic melodies sound even better when played through actual instruments. To put it bluntly, Dimmu blew my mind that night. Figuring nothing could top that gig, we retired for the evening.

Saturday was a slightly later start, thank the metal gods. Gamma Ray‘s criminally short set of just 45 minutes ended far too quickly. A very enjoyable band, leader Kai Hansen just exudes this persona of being the coolest and most down to earth guy ever. I knew all the songs, and the Helloween track was a nice bonus. Napalm Death are a bloody boring band, so I left their bland grindcore for Paradise Lost‘s more sophisticated racket. The British doomsters brought the rain, which actually improved the overall experiences, just like Kamelot’s show. Slow and heavy, but very listenable, Paradise impressed me. I was really looking forward to seeing Electric Wizard, because they pulled out of the previous show I was meant to see. BUT THEY CANCELLED AGAIN. I’m getting the impression they don’t like me or something. Testament are a very respectable thrash band from the USA, but I just can’t get into them for some reason. I don’t get Cradle of Filth at all. Do they realise they’re a completely ridiculous band? Do the fans? Dani Filth’s god-awful vocals combine with a shockingly silly pomposity to genuinely make me laugh at them. But they seem to be trying to be serious? After them a rainbow cascaded through the clouds and Amon Amarth rode down on their glorious steeds from Valhalla itself. Not quite loud enough, but still bloody brutal, the Vikings’ show went down a treat, judging by the reams of crowd surfers and mud wrestlers. The Scorpians‘ final German concert drew perhaps the largest crowd of the weekend, and the reliable hard rock provided a nice break from all the death and black metal bands that had gone before. Machine Head kicked ass, Rob Flynn’s incredibly angry voice being my favourite element of the musical chaos that is their musical output. Finally, the lovable Edguy rounded off proceedings nicely. Their insanely catchy brand of gleeful power metal ended the festival with a sense of fun, just like how it started.

So yeah, Wacken ’12 was awesome. I shan’t be attending next year due to financial and logistical issues, but the plan is to return in 2014 for the 25th anniversary of the festival. Everybody go with me.



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