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04/08/2011 - 06/08/2011, Wacken Open Air 2011, Part 22 – Wacken – Germany

Wacken Open Air 2011 was already the 22nd edition of the world’s biggest metal open air festival, 70 kilometers north of Hamburg, Germany. With 75,000 paying visitors, the W:O:A 2011was sold out like in the last couple of years. In addition to the visitors, there are artists (more than 100, about 1000 persons), guests, inhabitants  of the surrounding villages who have free entry to the festival, crew, emergency- and security services. The number of all participants was about 82,500, and that for three days in a row.


When we arrived at Wacken, early on the Thursday morning, we found an already completely packed backstage camping area, no sign of the credit-crunch here! Even in this area it was hard to find a free space. The 22st edition of the Wacken Open Air festival was bursting at the scene with around 80.000 visiting metalheads.
The first official festival day. Though there wasn’t much going on yet besides at the WET stage in the afternoon; thousands of metalheads gathered around the festival area to enjoy a beer in the always fun biergarten, or shop around at the huge metalmarket or watch some of the other activities that Wacken provides every year, like bull-riding, or pole sitting, which was new this year! Furthermore one of the things you can do is participate to some sport activities that take place in the a true medieval village, called Wackinger Village. Nevertheless, on the medieval grounds and in Bullhead City the party had already been started and it was time to watch some bands!!

It has become a true tradition for Mambo Kurt to perform at Wacken and this year he has played several sets even before the official opening on Thursday. So when Mambo plays his tunes at two in the afternoon, the Beergarten is filled with metalheads. The atmosphere is friendly and full of anticipation, and when Mambo plays songs such as “Engel” (Rammstein), “Back for Good” (Take That), “Chop Suey!”(System of a Down), “Angels” (Robbie Williams) the crowd goes nuts and singing and shouting along. Personally, I cannot appreciate Mambo’s music for too long, but it looks like the crowd is loving it and it doesn’t take long before they start dancing through the Beergarten. The clownesque Mambo Kurt knows how to rape classic songs in his own terrible way with a little help from his old organ. Especially when Mambo starts playing the Slayer cover “South Of Heaven” a couple of hundred metalheads go crazy.

Earlier this year, Kvelertak made for a big surprise at the Dutch Fortarock festival. The band released a great debut record last year and so I was not surprised at the vast number of fans that showed up at the Bullhead City Wrestling stage (a large tent which is often used for wrestling during the festival). It is also no surprise that this blend of black metal, mixed with a large amount of punk and rock ’n roll works out really well. During the first songs of their show the sound wasn’t to good, though it soon became better. The setlist was taken from the band’s debut album and so we heard songs such as “Fossegrim“, “Sjøhyenar (Havets Herrer)”, Mjød and “Blodtørst”. In a live setting, this band knows how to please the audience, especially vocalist Hjelvik who really goes nuts on stage. The wall of sound produced by the three guitar players was so heavy and solid that rock ‘n roll was dripping from the audio system. As far as I could see, the audience was very pleased with the show, despite the Nordic vocals. The tent suited the band just fine and I can only advise you to go see this band in a venue near you, if you get the chance. When the show had come to an end, we decide to move to the main festival area to go watch the first band on the main stage.

Since a couple of years Skyline is the opening-band on the mainstage at the first official festival day. The German band Skyline has the privilege of opening the 20th edition of Wacken. They were also present at the very first edition of Wacken Open Air in 1990, hardly a surprise as Skyline is Wacken initiator Thomas Jensen’s band. Like previous years Skyline have invited special guests on stage, they are joined by beauty Doro who warms up the crowd with the special Wacken Hymne “We Are the Metalheads”. After this first highlight of the day, the crowd is treated to a number of good old covers such as “All We Are”. Doro’s guest appearance was followed up by Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger singing “Wacken Will Never Die”, and Tom Angelripper from Sodom singing “Auf Nacomh Wacken”. Then Udo Dirkschneider (UDO, Accept) steps up for a number of songs and the band closed their set with Accept’s “I’m A Rebel” and “Princess of the Dawn” much to the pleasure of the crowd. All together this was a cool kick off of the festival.

After watching Skyline, we decided to go back to the Bullhead City Wrestling stage to see another German cult act, Onkel Tom. This party thrash band is Sodom mainman Tom Angelripper’s solo project. The shows by Tom and his band are always a good party with lots of beer involved. The main themes of the songs are about beer, booze and alcohol, with titles like “Trink Brüderlein Trink”, “Caramba, Caracho, Ein Whiskey” and “Schnaps Das War Sein Letztes Wort”. When a number nice looking ladies started giving out loads of free beers, the madness started. When the band played their classic “Es Gibt Kein Bier Auf Hawaii” tune, the temperature in the large tent rose to tropical figures. After this show we rushed to the mainstage, where Helloween was about to take the stage and please the massive crowd.

Helloween gets off on a false start. After the power has been cut off twice, they decide to skip the song "Are You Metal?" As the metal gods do not seem to approve of this track. All this may be considered an omen as the rest of the set is a soulless repetition of what the band has done many times before. Singer Andi Deris is not having a good day and we hear many a false note. The other band members are just kind of standing there, doing their thing. Bass player Markus is the only one that actually looks like he is enjoying himself. Andi Deris announces that, unfortunately, they do not have much time and so they will not be able to play the complete trilogy ("Halloween/Keeper Of The Seven Keys/King For A Thousand Years") so they will play parts of it. At first, we totally understood. But when Helloween played a ridiculously long drum solo during which they could easily have played another song (or two), we were slightly annoyed. This was one of the less interesting performances of this year´s edition of Wacken.

It was now time for one of Germany’s greatest powermetal bands to entertain us: I am referring, of course, to Blind Guardian. This band has released a number of classic albums such as the 1998 record "Nightfall In Middle Earth." Blind Guardian was founded at the end of the eighties by Hansi Kürsch (leadvocals), guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen and Thomen Stauch (drums). The band has an immense fanbase and so the field in front of the stage becomes so overcrowded it is impossible to move an inch. They immediately launch into a fine rendition of the new song "Sacred Worlds" followed by the songs "Welcome to Dying", "Nightfall" and " Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)". The mass goes absolutely nuts. As it is still early in the evening, the light show is not too impressive but no one seems to give a damn. The bombastic music carries us away as we hear "Traveller in Time”, followed by “Fly”. Of course we also get to hear a couple of new songs from the band’s latest effort ‘At The Edge Of Time’, like “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” and “Wheel of Time”, but we are also pleased to hear oldies such as "Valhalla”, “Lord of the Rings” and the Blind Guardian classic "Imaginations From The Other Side". Although the band seems to be a little introvert and they appear to be showing a lack of enthusiasm from time to time, singer Hansi Kürsch has all those present wrapped around his finger and has no problem addressing the outrageous crowd. The show comes to an end with "Majesty” Hansi says goodbye with the song "The Bard's Song - In the Forest” after which the band returns to the stage one more time for the encore "Mirror Mirror". With this show Blind Guardian prove once again that they belong to the absolute top ranks of heavy Metal, hail!

Will he make it this year? Or will he cancel at the last moment? He recently missed a show in Germany, and he didn´t show up at Graspop Metal Meeting either. You never know with an Ozzy Osbourne show, these days. But today the show is on and although his voice doesn’t sound too great, we are all happy that the man is here. And he´s still having fun by the looks of it. Today his designated toy is a hose which emits foam and the security guys get the full load. Being a good sport, Ozzie covers his own head in the substance, too. He somewhat resembles the Phantom! This thing is not so much about his voice as it is about the spectacle of it all. Musically it all sounds perfect, due to the sound band which surrounds him. Whichever way you look at it, he still has his charm and this man still belongs on a stage. The setlist contains songs from the Blizzard period and we also hear "Shot In The Dark", "Bark At The Moon" and a number of Sabbath classics. We hear nothing off his recent album ´Scream´, which is strange as the tour is dedicated to this album. Nothing new but still a fun-packed hour and a half with loads of classics.

In our book, the first day of the festival knew only a few real highlights. Of course the crowd went wild over bands like Blind Guardian, Ozzy and Helloween but apart from them we had to make do with mainly mediocre acts which we had witnessed on a number of occasions at previous Wacken editions. Due to the lack of time and some overlapping schedules we were forced to skip the shows on a number of stages. Unfortunately this meant that we had to miss the bands at the WET Stage and the Wackinger stage. But all together this was a great day, the bands rocked and the people were fun. Metalheads are somewhat crazy but good people. We haven’t seen any fighting or other weird stuff. On to the second day.

Friday 05/08/2011
Saturday 06/08/2011