25 Years of Wacken: Snapshots, Scraps, Thoughts & Sounds (UDR)

Tuesday, 17th March 2015
Rating: 9.5/10

Drawing hundreds of bands and thousands of fans from all over the world each year, the legendary Wacken Open Air has become known as the biggest heavy metal festival in the world. While the festival has produced live DVD releases since 2003, some years also including a live CD, for the first time ever this latest set comes with a 200-page photo scrapbook detailing the history of the festival from its humble beginnings back in 1990 through to the present day juggernaut it has become. In addition to the scrapbook, 25 Years of Wacken: Snapshots, Scraps, Thoughts & Sounds also features three DVDs (or Blu-Rays) filled with more than six hours of live content from last year’s celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary, boasting a stellar lineup of Wacken veterans and newcomers.

The live set features 78 songs from 58 bands performing across six different stages. DVD 1 concentrates on many of the bigger name acts that played the two main stages, including Accept, Saxon, Motorhead, Emperor and Kreator. Highlights include Avantasia’s spine-tingling performance of “Invoke the Machine” featuring Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids, HammerFall’s return to the stage following a year-long hiatus, who were clearly playing with hearts on fire and debuted “Bushido” off their latest album (r)Evolution, and a nice contrast between back-to-back performances of the goofy Canadian humor of Devin Townsend Project, complete with Devin’s in-song banter, saying, “from Canada to you with what we like to call love” or, “I don’t know, boobies,” before closing out “Grace,” and the brutality of Heaven Shall Burn, who are often capable of inciting some of the largest circle pits, as evidenced during “Trespassing the Shores of Your World.”

Much of DVD 2 focuses on the party and folk-oriented bands, such as Schandmaul, Saltatio Mortis, J.B.O., Van Canto, and Santiano, with the remainder giving the spotlight to Wacken Metal Battle participants Convivium, Evocation, Huldre, Dirty Shirt, and In Mute. Many of the bands featured on the first two DVDs are allotted two songs a piece, while bands featured on DVD 3, such as Decapitated, Neopera, The Ocean, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Koldbrann, only get one song, allowing for a wider variety of performances to occupy the disc. DVD 3 highlights include Black Star Riders with their Celtic-tinged “Kingdom of the Lost,” Hell and their infectious performance of “Land of the Living Dead,” and “Crimson Rider” by Masterplan, who appears to have had the largest crowd inside the Bull Head City Circus tent, which houses the Headbanger and Wet stages, where all performances from DVD 3 are taken.

Containing more than 300 photos in both color and black and white, featuring everything from live performance shots, programs, and posters, to running orders, campground maps, and merchandise, the scrapbook goes beyond just telling the visual history of Wacken. It also includes a brief summary of how the festival got started, the trials and tribulations endured by founders Thomas Jensen and Holger Hubner, as well as a number of wild stories and amusing anecdotes from throughout the festival’s rich history. Each year from 1990 through 2014 is covered, told through the words of Wacken chronicler Tim Eckhorst in both English and German.

The DVDs, each contained in an individual digipack with a detailed content booklet, are housed with the scrapbook in a sturdy slipcase, providing easy access and protection from damage. Live sets of this caliber are sure to offer veterans hours of reminiscing enjoyment, while providing Wacken virgins an idea of what the festival is all about. This one is not to be missed.

UDR Music official website