Here in Great Britain, we do like to take pride in thinking we are the greatest nation in the world. However, sometimes we must put our patriotism to one side and marvel at how our European cousins show us how it's really done.
Download Festival is by far the biggest rock festival in the UK, but one does have to question the ticket prices compared to the European festivals. A ticket for Download costs £165 plus a whole lot extra if you wanted to camp at the festival, plus more for parking the car bringing the total cost with booking fees way past the £200 mark, all this for a festival which has minimal sound levels and the last band finishes before 11.00pm. One mustn't upset the locals.
Sold out eleven months in advance, Metal fans from all over the planet made their pilgrimage to the loudest and heaviest Metal festival in the world at the village of Wacken, an hour's drive from Hamburg. Wacken is the mother of all Metal festivals.
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A ticket costs 140 Euros and that includes camping, parking, the lot. My flight from Heathrow to Hamburg cost me £120 and for 20 Euros a coach will take you from the airport directly to the festival site, making the total cost approximately the same as it would be if I were to travel up to Download for the weekend, but unlike Download, Wacken offers hot showers, flushing toilets regularly cleaned and booming music with live music on the main stage going on until three o'clock in the morning.
The locals of Wacken embrace the festival with many turning their homes into beer gardens and cafes so Metalheads can take a breather form the festival and plough some money into the local and friendly community.
Arriving on the Wednesday, the plan was to check out some of the bands taking part in the Metal Battle competitions, but it's easy to get distracted by other merry going ons here in the festival ground.
Once we pitched our tents and got our festival wristbands on, we made a trip back into the village supermarket to stock up on booze for camping shenanigans. Returning with two new deck chairs and a sackful of booze, my Metal travelling companion John Oakley and I soon made friends with some Aussie guys and a lad from the Faroe Islands where the conversation went on long into the night.
We hadn't planned on downing two bottles of Jack Daniels and two bottles of wine in one night, but it was enough for us to scream "Wackkkkeeennnn!!!" at the top of our voices which seems to be the obligatory thing to do here.
Unlike the previous year, the sun was out but yet again Wacken proved to be a real scorcher. The real action started on Thursday with speed Metal thrashers Annihilator with serious shredding from Jeff Waters.
British rockers Thunder played against the blazing sunshine and duly delivered with a hearty solid set although Danny Bowes' attempts to get the Germans singing was falling on deaf eyes.
I was on a mission for Deep Purple as they were the first headline band I ever saw at a festival back in 1985 at Knebworth as I was determined to get right down the front barrier in which I succeeded. Deep Purple provided the classics, sensibly restoring the racy 'Highway Star' as the opener, new material such as the spooky 'Vincent Price' proved the band are still relevant and Uli Jon Roth joined Purple to add licks for a storming 'Smoke On The Water'.
The main arena was packed to capacity for industrial Metallers Rammstein who on home turf, lit up the night sky with their flaming honeycomb stage and were later joined by controversial folk legend Heino. An explosive set which covered the crowd in a white fog.
Friday was so hot that many fans sensibly retreated to the beer garden to watch the music from afar whilst quenching their thirst with a few cool beers in the shade. Luckily Wacken's sound system is more than loud enough.
Tristania, Gojira, Powerwolf and Pretty Maids all did the EU states proud. The heavily tattooed Agnostic Front were real hardcore throwing in a cover of the Ramones chestnut 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. Swedes Sabaton fired a few blanks but then destroyed with 'Cliffs Of Gallipoli' and 'Primo Victoria'.
After cancelling all other dates Motorhead surprisingly still played Wacken, but an under the weather Lemmy could sadly only last six numbers leaving many fans worried for his health.
As soon as Lemmy walked on stage he mentioned about how glad he was that the air had cooled down a little, but it was obvious something was up when Phil Campbell played a solo early into the set and when he finished Lemmy was nowhere to be seen. Casually walking back onto the stage, Motorhead only lasted another two numbers before making an early exit.
Doro Pesch played a 30th anniversary show full of Warlock greats and invited along many guests including Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl on 'East Meets West', Saxon's Biff Byford for some 'Denim 'n Leather', 'Fur Immer' featured a subtle solo from Uli Jon Roth and Motorhead's Phil Campell for 'Breaking The Law'.
The sight of Campbell back on stage eased the fears of Motorhead fans worried about Lemmy. The Warlock Queen ruled the ruins. The night carried on long into the morning with Uli Jon Roth making his third appearance of the weekend dipping into his Scorpions past, pleasing the older brigade in the W.E.T tent and Gravedigger played a mighty show on the main stage in front of thousands complete with a chorus of friends.
Wandering around the smaller stages early on the Saturday saw English 80's Metallers Chrome Molly thanking us for the Angst who were clearly overjoyed to be here. A lot of medieval fun was going on in the Wackinger village with bands such as Pampatut playing traditional music from a bygone age.
It was also in this field where you could buy some tasty treats such as wild boar burgers and pork carved straight from the pig freshly roasted on the spit. You could also take part in many traditional fun and games.
The main stages were a whole heavier as the music got brutal with Fear Factory and Lamb Of God for whom a brief heavy downpour drenched those watching and meant that many were caught in a slosh for Anthrax.
Danzig re-uinted with his former Misfits Doyle. Alice Cooper is still the master of all rock theatrics with a compelling show with mesmerizing guitar work from the stunning Orianthi.
Nightwish played the show of their lives with operatic vocals from Floor Jansen all captured on film for a future release. Rage made a cacophony of sound with the Linuga Mortis orchestra and I have to admit in liking the orchestral parts but not the deafening Metal parts. Maybe I'm getting too old for this?
Subway To Sally ended the festival for those who could still stand and party.
Wacken is not for the faint hearted. It rocked very hard.