2018 saw the first ever Wacken that we can think of which didn’t see a single drop of rain. The sun was turned up to eleven the whole weekend.
Words: Nikki Rohlfing
Pictures: Wacken.TV, with thanks to Liz Medhurst and Kahmel Farahani
This wasn’t going to stop Heavy Metal though, and the sea of black t-shirts happily swept off the shuttle buses and onto the famous holy ground, eager to get the party started. In fact, walking down the main street of Wacken on Wednesday, it was clear that people had already been partying hard; beer gardens and Metal being blasted left, right and centre, with a few people staggering so heavily, it made you wonder if they would last the full weekend.
With the infield closed on Wednesday, it was the perfect opportunity to witness the spirit of the festival in full – Wacken has always been known for the awesomeness of partying on the camp site, with regular guests building their own fortresses on site and providing no end of entertainment. In fact, there’s quite a few people who have an epic time without even stepping foot inside the infield area.
Also open on the Wednesday are the traditionally smaller stages dotted around such as Beer Garden, Wasteland and Wackinger, which are increasingly not small at all and are essentially their own mini-festival.
It was at the Beer Garden stage that some live music was finally soaked up, Jesper Binzer with his self-named outfit ripping it up. People will no doubt recognise the name from the many years with D:A:D, but this is a breath of fresh air for the frontman with his first solo album, ‘Dying Is Easy’. It was non-stop high energy as the band ploughed through rock’n’roll riffs, bluesy licks and that sprinkling of country so typical of the Danish rocker. A thoroughly enjoyable set showing off his range of song-writing, linked with his traditional broken German/English commentary and jokes.
Another massive highlight of Wednesday was Doro playing the Metal Church, although the attendance would most certainly have been increased if the venue had not been so difficult to find and had been included on the many maps and signposts dotted around the site. Doro was to play the Main Stage on Friday night so this was an ‘intimate’ gig, made even more special by the unique setting, as you can see right here:
Much more on Doro later on in this highlights article, but in the meantime, special mention to Stiff Little Fingers, this year’s token punk band, who really roused the Wacken masses and put on an exhilarating show on the Headbangers Stage.Nazareth also excelled on Wednesday and you can see the full Wednesday recap right under the photo of SLF’s Jake Burns, still giving it large more than forty years after the Belfast band’s formation.
Thursday saw the infield open and a flood of black filled the sun-parched field, an enveloping hug of Metal for full full days of Faster, Harder, Louder!
First up for us were Tremonti: despite the early start, these guys were finishing their summer tour and had reached that level of tightness and togetherness which makes those crunchy riffs hit you that bit better. A fantastic set, sound and energy.
Later in the day, Behemoth played in the last of the light which gave the image of the band battling the blistering sun. The sun was melting the body paint of singer Nergal, but Metal fought back, with the crowd getting more energised as the sun went down and the air cooled. An excellent performance and set, including the live debut of the single ‘God=Dog’ from their upcoming album, ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’.
In the evening, Danzig and Hatebreed played simultaneously, making a tough choice for guests. Danzig had a slick collective look, the whole band in total black, with those heavy, at times bluesy, riffs hitting straight to the heart. Glenn was audibly breathing between songs, showing the commitment given to put in a classic set. Hatebreed, on the other hand, were full of colour and full of energy which got the crowd going seriously wild.
The constant energy throughout the songs, which were ad hoc as the don’t follow a set-list (!), was a fantastic headline act on the Louder stage. Then finally, Judas Priest. They are the kind of band this festival is built for, the stage giving off all the old-school vibes with the layout, but with modern technology creating a thundering show of NWBHM at its finest.
The sound, skill and overall execution of the show was just wonderful, and thoroughly enjoyed by all present.
In the evening, Danzig and Hatebreed played simultaneously, making it a tough choice for guests. Danzig had a slick collective look, the whole band in total black, with those heavy, at times bluesy, riffs hitting straight to the heart. Glenn was audibly breathing between songs, showing the commitment given to put in a classic set.
The band played Glasgow a few days after Wacken and you can read our full review of what was, to day the least, an interesting night right here.
Hatebreed, on the other hand, were full of colour and full of energy which got the crowd going seriously wild. The constant energy throughout the songs, which were ad hoc as they don’t follow a setlist (!), was a fantastic headline act on the Louder stage.
Then finally, Judas Priest. They are the kind of band this festival is built for, the stage giving off all the old-school vibes with the layout, but with modern technology creating a thundering show of British Heavy Metal at its absolute finest.
The sound, skill and overall execution of the show was just wonderful, and thoroughly enjoyed by all present, Richie Faulkner absolutely owning the stage and Metal God Rob Halford showing without question that he still reigns supreme at the absolute top of his profession.
Here’s a great interview with Priest bassist Ian Hill by TotalRock which took place just before Priest were inducted into The Hall Of Heavy Metal History. You can see the full ceremony here.
Priest’s performance, which included an appearance by Glenn Tipton for the last three numbers, goes down as one of the great Wacken performances and one of the great Priest gigs.
Here’s the official Thursday recap, including several more acts that we haven’t managed to include in this highlights round-up.
Friday. For all those thinking that Heavy Metal is male dominated, Friday saw nearly half of all the Main Stage bands include at least one female band member. To kick it all off at 11.00am, the 100% female Thundermother took to the Faster Stage and played an absolute belter.
Ferocious rock’n’roll riffs with thunderous rock/soul vocals made the whole music package an absolute delight and the Wacken tattoo on the right arm of singer Guernica Mancini revealed their love of this festival, in case it wasn’t already blindingly obvious from their high octane set.
Not too long later, Mr Big took to the stage, and although some of the songs are perhaps not quite what you’d expect at a Heavy Metal fest, they went down really well and there’s no denying that Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan are magicians of their respective instruments, conjuring up licks and runs that many couldn’t even dream of, let alone play.
At 9:00pm Clawfinger took to the Louder stage, on the 25th anniversary of their first album, ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’. To celebrate this quarter of a century, they played that entire album from start to finish.No doubt idle passers-by might have been startled by the chorus of the first song, “nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger”, but this reflects their well-known bold approach to writing political and anti-racist messages.
The energy was electric, with the visually eclectic band members testing the limits of stage space all within the first song.Despite the seemingly anarchic approach to performance, every key moment of tightness was played to perfection; a phenomenal show and a real treat of a celebration in their 25th year as a band.
Epica’s Simone Simons emulated DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara by creating one of the weekend’s most impressive circle pits in the middle of an inspired set from the Dutch symphonic maestros. Our image team captured the event nicely.
Elsewhere on Friday, things were busy, especially around Doro’s backstage area where the media were generally assembled in their masses, ready for what promised to be a very special Doro performance.
And so it proved, with guest appearances from The Sweet’s Andy Scott and Pete Lincoln plus a Viking invasion from Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg, all topped off by the Queen of Metal being officially inducted into The Hall Of Heavy Metal History.
Here’s a couple of select Doro and Nightwish shots from Friday, followed by the official video recap.
Saturday, and the final day of Wacken came round far too quickly but it was certainly one that closed the festival in style.
There were two huge, befitting and emotional tributes shown on the big screen today, the first being with regards to the tragic loss of Thomas Hess. Thomas had worked at Wacken since 1996, where he has been the production manager and boss of the Metal Guards on site. He unexpectedly passed away in April this year, and the video showed some highlights of his time at Wacken.
It’s hard to quantify just how much he has done for this festival, for fans, bands, everyone, over the many years. He was essentially a family member of the team that run this fantastic event and will be sorely missed. The festival showed that they continue to room a safe and exciting environment, but a big character and personality is now missing, RIP Thomas Hess.
As is said though, the show must go on, and Helloween’s show is doing precisely that and that brings us to the second big screen tribute, this time for former Helloween drummer, the late Ingo Schwichtenberg.
Current drummer Dani Löble duelled with Ingo in an unprecedented scene that mixed raw footage and live performance in easily the most emotionally stirring part of Helloween’s mammoth headlining set.
On the strength of this showing, and the reaction to it, the show will go on for some time yet with talk of a new album from the seven-piece doing the rounds. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Whilst the masses were lapping up the very serious entertainment provided by Korpiklaani, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, Skindred, Ensiferum and many, many more quality acts, things were getting even more serious in the backstage areas as Alestorm’s special guest, Captain Yarrface of Rumahoy accosted Lexi of Steel Panther and started bending ear the glammed-up one in his very special Piratey way.
Yarrface was next seen being sent into the crowd by Steel Panther to “get some girls”, a feat he failed miserably at, probably because he scared them all away.
Both Alestorm and Steel Panther triumphed this Saturday and there was more to come from the inimitable Yarrface….
After the Steel Panther show, one of the most eclectic gatherings of the whole weekend occurred when Yarrface was introduced to Skindred frontman Benji Webbe, Amon Amarth’s Big J and various members of Ensiferum. We can confirm that a gathering of pirates, Vikings, Rastas and heathens makes for a really good party, especially when it is sponsored by Jägermeister. Video exists of this merry gathering but it is probably best not to publish it on a family site.
Arch Enemy provided one of the musical highlights of the evening, despite their show clashing with the mighty Ensiferum, but this provided a chance for some experimentation as one show were on the Faster Stage and one on the Louder, making it possible to alternate between the two and actually watch both bands at the same time. A highly enjoyable experience.
Next year’s edition of Wacken is the 30th anniversary and it already looks it will be a corker. We’re expecting at least one massive headline act, and for Metal’s biggest and best to keep to the spirit of Wacken by having literally loads of quality smaller bands.
See you next year, rain or shine!