Live Reviews
How to survive two days on nothing but alcoholic beverages

8/2: T-2

I escape an annoying family get-together by about five minutes because I have to leave at 7 pm. The plan is to take the night train to Hamburg, get some sleep on the way there and arrive in Wacken around noon in a halfway conscious state.

Unfortunately (well, not really), there's a bar on this train, which is also the only place where you're allowed to smoke, and there's two guys from Luzern there who are headed the same way as us, and we stay up drinking until 4 am. The good thing about this is, I can sleep afterwards, which is no small feat considering the beds look like this train was originally built in Africa for the transportation of Pygmies.
The downside is, well, you can probably imagine.

8/3: T-1

Breakfast at the Hamburg train station. I don't feel as hung over as I rightly should. The woman serving us looks like the love child of Kathie Lee Gifford and a mule and judging from the mood she's in, her daddy raped her last night.
Important fact learned from this day: The only thing worse than German beer is German coffee.

Surprisingly enough, getting tickets from Hamburg to Itzehoe ("It's a hoe", huh, huh) presents no problem whatsoever, when we arrive in Itzehoe, the bus to Wacken is already waiting, NOT filled with twice as many people as it's built for, and it drops us off right next to the camp site. Nice.

Since it's Thursday and the festival doesn't really begin before Friday, there's not that many people on the camp site yet and we get to choose a good place to set up shop - y'know, far enough from the toilets so you won't have a zillion people walking by your tent increasing the chances of someone passing out and falling on it, not too close to the middle but also not too close to the fence because that's where people go to pee, but still close enough to the festival site so you don't have to walk back 30 minutes when you're drunk at 3 am.

Someone has erected a rebel flag ten feet from where my tent is. It'll make it easier to find my tent, but, well... sigh.

I fall asleep around noon and stay down until 4 pm. This afternoon, a bunch of Rock Hard writers are playing their annual Wacken Soccer Match against a team of musicians. I'm not particularly interested in soccer, but there's nothing else going on, so I figure what the hell. Some of the Germans present appear to have been drinking.

Krokus, Molly Hatchet and The Company of Snakes are playing later on, but I really, REALLY want to miss Krokus, and while I'm mildly interested in Molly Hatchet, I quickly decide against going to see them when I hear the singer rambling in an overdone southern accent about how there's only two kinds of heroes left in this world, and one's cowboys and one's bikers. I mean, christ, you know?

Anyway, since there's nothing better going on, I go over to the camp that the Parazide posse from Switzerland has set up. They've got a chouch, so we put it next to where everyone walks through, open up a couple cans of beer and scream random foolishness at the people walking by. Every now and then, a complete stranger sits down to hang out. Someone stumbles over our buddy Vince who's lying on the ground and falls flat on his face. When he turns to his back, Andy hands him a beer. He says nothing, takes a sip and throws up. His friends stand around him and laugh.

Later, some dude wants to buy my Bolt Thrower shirt off my back. I tell him no fucking way in hell cuz I bought it in England.

There's a big party going on at night in the Headbangers' Ballroom tent. We get drunk, stand on the tables and sing along to old Metallica songs. At midnight, they play a song from the upcoming Halford album and give away some shirts. The Halford track sounds pretty good - basically like something off "Painkiller", only with even higher-pitched vocals. Should be a good album.

8/4: Day One

I crawl out of my tent around 10 am, head throbbing. One of the more annoying things about these festivals is how there's always someone making a ruckus on the camp site, so once you wake up, you can't go back to sleep again. I've had about five hours of sleep and I feel like killing little puppies with blunt objects. Someone has set up a tent with a Marduk logo on it next to mine, and there's a German near by the Rebel flag who laughs like a chicken out of a Looney Tunes cartoon.


Vader have the misfortune to be one of the bands who have to open up the festival. They have to play at 1 pm, which is not exactly a good time to invoke the Silent Empire, but apparently, they don't give a shit and deliver their usual tight, aggressive performance. "Blood of Kingu", always a winner, opens up the set, "Carnal" is the best song of the entire show, and they don't play "Reborn In Flames". The usual, you know. Excellent band. I've probably seen them more than any other band because they've been more or less constantly touring since "De Profundis" came out, and I still enjoy their shows. The same cannot be said about other bands that I've seen more than once.


Samson instantly took the prize for Ugliest Singer Of The Whole Fucking Festival.
And that's about the least blasphemous thing to say that I could think of. The singer looks like my gran'ma's ugly little sister (if his name wasn't in the festival booklet, I seriously would've thought he's a woman), the guitar and bass players are fat rock stars with unbuttoned shirts and the drummer is, uh, wearing a shiny S&M mask and has his kit set up in, uh, a cage.

I realize this is the original Samson lineup, and this band is a cult classic (especially the "drummer in a cage" thing), but the music is suck-ass standard Hard Rock, and the performance is a pain on the eyes. Bleh. What pisses me off even more is I missed Deranged to see these fat has-beens, and there were only three DM bands on the festival, so that's PRETTY FUCKING ANNOYING.

I gladly miss Dark Funeral and Royal Hunt and move over to the WET Stage to see Savage. On the way there, I catch the last few songs of the Gaskin set. Another 80's cult band, apparently. What I see is pretty cool and certainly better than Samson, but I've never heard of them, to be perfectly honest.


It's kinda sad to see all these 80's legends crawling back out of their holes with beer guts and their hair gone because 80's Metal happens to be trendy again. Fortunately, Savage still deliver a tight performance, and their heavy, Sabbath-oriented Metal Rock actually still sounds pretty fresh and is blissfully free of falsettos. The songs from the new album sound a little slower, darker and heavier than the old material. Most of their songs, and particularly the vocals, strangely remind me of newer Metallica material. Obviously, "Let it Loose" gets the best crowd reaction. Good band.

On my way over to the True Metal stage, I walk by the Black Stage where the gothfags from Umbra et Imago are prancing around on stage in their gay leather outfits with chicks wagging their tits at the audience and they're playing "Amadeus" by Falco. I pinch myself and it doesn't go away.


I'm beginning to overdose on 80's legends already, but thankfully, Angelwitch are a damn sight faster and heavier than the three old fart bands before them, still have all their hair and generally don't look or sound like they're 200 years old, even though their melodic old-school Thrash is probably the most retro style so far. Probably has something to do with current trends, I guess. Anyway, they're playing the True Metal Stage, which is the biggest of the festival, and there's a huge crowd cheering them on and singing along to all their old stuff. The Angelwitch guys are completely blown away by the good response they're getting (unlike some of the other older bands who just stood there with sunglasses on and a look on their faces that said "worship me, you worms"). The whole set has the feel to it of a young band just having fun. I have to get some of their stuff soon.
Oh yeah, and there's a new album coming out.

Up next is the Muppet Show ripoff known as Marduk, so it's time to go grab a beer.


For those not in the know, this is the Grindcore "supergroup" started by Peter Tägtgren from the aptly-named Hypocrisy, Uncle Fester from Dimmu Borgir (previously Cradle of Fag), and Jesse and Shane from Napalm Death. The current lineup has the virtue of not featuring Tägtgren, but - get this - Tomas from At. The. Fucking. Gates. Yeah, baby, YEAH! The whole band, particularly Tomas, appears to be drunk as fuck and having a, uh, blast ("Hi Wacken, we're Lock Up from Birmingham, Sweden"), hammering out their old school Grindcore material like it's going out of style tomorrow. They also throw in not one, not two, but three Terrorizer cover songs - "Storm of Stress", "Dead Shall Rise" (sung by none other than Barney Greenway) and my personal favorite, "Corporation Pull-In". Of course Tägtgren gets on stage for a song as well, but he does a good job and appears to be in a partying mood, so I guess I can live with it.

Immortal and the Desperados (Tom Angelripper's latest excuse to get drunk and play stupid music) are up next, so more beer for me. Someone wants to buy my "Pierced From Within" shirt. I am now convinced I'm wearing the coolest shirts at the festival.

At 8 pm, Grim Reaper and Stratovarius are playing, but I don't like Stratovarius, and I've just about had it with 80's reunions, so I sit down between the True Metal and the Black stage with my back to the barricade and wait for Armored Saint. Stratovarius, near as I can tell, are an excellent live act, so if you like their music, definitely go see them. The trouble is, the stuff they play is exactly the kind of keyboard-infested "Not too heavy, please" Metal that you could chase me around the block with all day long.


Then, finally, came the return of the Saint. Overkill were supposed to be playing after Stratovarius, but they couldn't make it, and the canceled AS performance was suddenly on again because as we all know, Anthrax got kicked off the Motley Crue tour. Well, thank god. This was the best show of the whole damn festival, quite simply.

The instant Armored Saint's high octane performance begins, I realize what's been missing from the sets of the other old Metal bands at the Festival (except Angelwitch, of course) - ENERGY. AGGRESSION. The things that make Metal what it is. John Bush is having so much fun, it's scary. He barely ever stands still for a second, jumps, runs, twitches and dances like a man possessed and still sings like a god. The band conjures a groove that's enough to take your head off, and I hope I don't have to tell you how good their songs are.

Not for one fucking second did this look like a reunion show. Not for one fucking second did this come across as dated or old-fashioned. Armored Saint are fresh, hungry and ready to take on the world. Awesome.

And besides, what other Power Metal singer says stuff like "I wanna see you muthafuckas move"? Hargh, hargh.


Up next on the big stage is Iced Earth, who I'm really looking forward to, but John Schaffer had an accident last week and is wearing a neck brace (bonus points for dedication because he didn't cancel the show, though), and well, Armored Saint are a tough act to follow. The performance was tight, but somewhat slow, and it lacked energy. The singer needs to work on his crowd communication skills. Certainly not a bad show, but somewhat anticlimactic after the rampant tour de force Armored Saint delivered.

Hypocrisy are up next, so I decide to go to my tent and give my aching back a rest because I'm waiting for...


Another pleasant surprise. For some reason, I'm motivated enough to crawl out of my tent again to see Liege Lord at 1 am even though I have no intention to go partying again afterwards cuz most of the interesting bands play the next day and I want to be at least in a state resembling consciousness. It's definitely worth it. Tight, fast, heavy performance surprisingly devoid of Metal chliche. The singer looks so HC that it's more funny than anything else when he brings out a sword for the last song and says something about carving apples with it.

Despite the undeniable quality of their performance, I begin to realize what's wrong with all these reunion shows at this year's Wacken, though - much as I appreciate getting to see all these legendary bands who were big long before my time, you can tell why they never quite made it. Liege Lord is the best example - they're good, no doubt about it, but at the end of the day, they're no match for Overkill, who were basically the other big Power/Thrash Metal band from NY. And it's like that with most of these bands that are crawling out of their holes again now - they're all well and good but nothing special and original, really, and you get the feeling the reason they went under was because, well, the bands that made it were better. It's hard for me to tell who had the good ideas first, of course, and obviously Overkill had more time to refine their style (their old stuff sounded a whole lot like Metallica, after all), but that's how these bands come across today.

But the bottom line is, I really enjoyed the Liege Lord show.
Beddy time.

Important fact learned from this day: Even women can pee without sitting down.

8/5: Day Two

Immolation were supposed to be playing at 11.15 am on Saturday, but thankfully they couldn't make it. I would've had to go see them, but I really didn't want to attend a Death Metal show before noon, state I was in and all.

Sometime far too long before noon when I'm again being deprived of my well-deserved rest by the general commotion around my tent, I hear a guy walking over to the chicken dude next to my tent and yelling at him in English with a funny accent. Something about stop laughing like that, it's driving me insane and I'm gonna fucking kill you. Chicken dude, needless to say, is not particularly touched by this outburst and soon resumes his maddening cackle.

Nothing really interesting up the first few hours. Pain are even more boring than I expected them to be. Steel Attack are playing the WET stage, and they're alright for a German-style "True Metal" band. Probably because they're not German, har-de-har. They really seem to enjoy themselves, but I can't shake the feeling that they're little more than the 305345346th band trying to cash in on the True Metal hype. Ancient are up on the Black Stage. *yawn*. Then Blaze entered the True Metal stage. Surprisingly good performance. The songs sound a lot like Maiden, obviously, but more geared towards Blaze's vocal range. Pretty cool. You can tell this guy grew a lot during his stint with Iron Maiden. But I wanna see Sentenced, so I have to leave early.


Up next on the Black Stage is the first band of the day that I'm really interested in, kicking off a deluge of good shows. Sentenced have the potential to hit it big. And I mean really big as in Top 10 big. This band called HIM from Finland is huge in Europe right now, and they sound basically like Sentenced, only a little more wave-oriented and with keyboards, but the riffs are very similar. And the Sentenced singer is a purty boy too, so that shouldn't be a problem. Then again, maybe he drinks too much to be a teen star. Har-de-har.

Anyway, Sentenced play tight, with the usual irony very much necessary considering their songs are mostly about suicide. I'm tempted to condemn Sentenced for moving away from Death Metal to the type of dark Heavy Rock they play now, but somehow, with them, it was a smooth transition, and on stage, you can tell they're really into it. Plus the singer's drinking beer, not water like most others, so bonus points for that. Good show.


Biggest surprise of the whole festival. The only reason I walked over to the big stage to see Lizzy Borden is because Colin said he wanted to see them. I've seen the pics, so I'm expecting crap, and at first, I think that's exactly what I'm getting cuz the band is wearing pretty much a full-on Glam Rock getup. But then I realize the music I'm hearing is damn good and this combination of Speed/Thrash riffs and Glam elements is actually pretty original. Then comes the great moment of the show - after the bass solo (ugh), a stereotypical rocker slut jumps around on stage with the band playing. The crowd cheers. Out comes the singer dressed as the grim reaper, holding up an axe. The crowd cheers louder. He grabs the chick and rips her shirt off. The crowd goes apeshit. He takes off the mask and bites her neck, blood gushing everywhere. Hilarious. The best part is, when the band plays the next song the woman's still lying there, so I'm wondering how she's gonna get out of there (she can't just get up and walk away, obviously, that would be stupid). Then two roadies come in and carry her away. At this point, I'm in hysterical convulsions. Great band, that.


FINALLY! I've been a fan of Entombed ever since I picked up "Clandestine" back in, oh, '92, and I've never seen them live. I saw half of their performance when they were opening up for Slayer, but let's face it, that doesn't count. Needless to say, I'm itching to see them, and they don't disappoint. Yeah, they're all drunk, especially LG, and the sound's a mess, but this is Entombed and it wouldn't be right if it wasn't drunken, loud and noisy. They play "Evilyn" from "Clandestine", one of my favorites on that album and a song they haven't played in years. At only 45 minutes, the set is obviously filled with more or less nothing but classics. Except for the new songs of course, but stuff like "Say It In Slugs" will very soon be classic.

Up next is Nightwish *shudder*, so I decide to go for a much-needed shower. Unfortunately, I also miss Hades, but their set won't be over when Morbid Angel are starting, and I really, really need that shower.


Trey and the boys are up at the same time as the Spiritual Beggars. I really wanted to see the Beggars, but this is Morbid Angel we're talking about here. Unfortunately, it's not worth it. Their roadcrew fiddles around with the sound system for half an eternity until they finally get their asses on stage, and then the sound still fucking sucks. Guitars are an indecipherable mess, the drums completely drowned, and everything is (as usual, I'm sad to say), way, way, way too loud. The performance is good, Steve has really grown into his role as Morbid's frontman - just a year ago, he was this DM kid standing up there thinking "Shit, I'm in Morbid Angel!". But the show's too short, the sound sucks and they actually have the nerve to throw in one of their electro tracks and leave the stage, which is ridiculous considering how little time they have in the first place. Maybe Morbid Angel just aren't meant for open air festivals, I dunno.

I catch a bit of Jacobs Dream walking over to grab a beer and something to eat. Fat guys playing Speed Metal. Bleh. Then Bruno's 18 year-old girlfriend wants to see Doro really bad cuz she has to see every band that has chicks in it (she also likes Kittie, for no other reason that I could think of cuz she's actually into Goth and Black Metal). Not to blaspheme against another Metal legend, but I can't stand Doro, and frankly, her vocal performance sucks ass and the band sounds lame.


A considerable number of people probably nearly pissed themselves when Rose Tattoo got on stage. Apparently, they haven't played in Germany since the late 19th century. Har-de-har.

Anyway, I can't say I was blown away by their performance. Pretty standard blues rock with a slide guitar that adds some original flavor to it, but in the end only makes it sound weirdly southern, and the vocals turn the whole thing into a poor man's AC/DC, basically. Mind you, I love AC/DC. Not that they were bad or anything - if they weren't a bunch of old farts just standing there trying not to pass out, I might've enjoyed their performance. But as it stands, the show was disappointing, and I just don't know what all the fuss is about.


Then came another huge surprise, perhaps even bigger than Lizzy Borden's performance. Thin Lizzy were supposed to be up after Rose Tattoo, but apparently screwed the Wacken people over and canceled, so they got Dee Snider, who was supposed to play last year, but had to cancel. I'm not exactly a big fan of hair bands, so I'm basically going over to the True Metal stage so I can say I've seen Dee Snider. Skew Siskin are up on the other stage, and if I'm gonna watch cock rock, I might as well make it something I can brag about. (Needless to say, Bruno and his little girl are watching Skew Siskin. Sigh.)

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. What I'm seeing here, full spandex getup or no, is a high octane performance by a band who knows exactly how to make it hurt and a singer who's quite simply born for the stage. The old Twisted Sister songs, of course, are so good, even I like them. Bonus points for running around crazy and headbanging. Oh yes, headbanging. Extra bonus points for dedicating "Tear it Loose" to Entombed because they covered it. More bonus points for lines like "hey you motherfucker there at the back, yeah you with that Wiener Schnitzel in your mouth!" Jackpot for running back on the stage ten seconds after the last song before anyone's really screamed for an encore saying "I can't wait, I can't wait."

All my DM friends missed this show and I got right in their faces telling them they'd missed one of the best bands of the whole festival afterwards. Awesome.


I have to leave during the first encore of Dee Snider's set cuz Venom are up next and if there's one band I don't want to miss it's Venom. More precisely, if I'm gonna miss Venom again, I'm gonna kill myself.

Of course they were too loud and the guitar sound sucked and they played too damn many new songs (by which I mean anything after "Black Metal", of course), and the only guy in the band that can play is their new drummer, but you don't go to see Venom to see a delicate performance by musicians of refined skills. You go to see a bunch of assholes who actually have the nerve to flex their muscles in front of the audience. A singer who wears read spiked leather bands on his legs and says "Hell fuckin' yeah" every ten seconds. You go to see Venom. And I saw Venom. And I have seen Venom now. And I can die a happy man now.

And that's it, pretty much. There were still some other bands up, most notably Zakk Wylde, but I had completely and utterly overdosed on Metal by now, and Venom was pretty much the headlining act as far as I was concerned, so I left the festival area, went over to the Headbangers' Ballroom tent and partied until dawn.

And I mean until dawn.


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