Wacken Open Air 2015 – Day 4Monday, 28th December 2015
With no clouds in sight and the sun shining bright, the final day of Wacken got off to a great start. As I was catching up with Simone over breakfast, she asked if I had been to the VIP Artist area yet. Thinking I had, I told her I had passed through but hadn’t really stuck around to check it out. She soon corrected me that the area I was speaking of was for media, not artists, and that I should really check out the VIP Artist area. After realizing I would be booked with bands all day, the only time to check it out without missing any of them would be to go right away before the bands started.
VIP Artist Area
Simone was kind enough to show me the way and give me a brief tour of the VIP Artist area, which is where the bands go to hang out and relax before or after their gigs. Simone told me everyone that has access there is there for a reason, so the artists don’t have to worry about eager fans trying to flag them down for photos and autographs every 10 seconds. The vibe was a very relaxed one as we walked around and stopped to have a snack. The dining area has everything from bags of peanuts and free ice cream to full on buffets (with the right wrist band). As we ate, I noticed Joakim Brodén of Sabaton walking around and getting some breakfast, no doubt fueling up for the explosive performance later that evening.
As it was early, there weren’t too many artists up and about yet, but I enjoyed getting to see how they spend their downtime. Before we left, Simone told me I had to check out the bathrooms – a far cry from the porta-johns throughout the infield and camp ground. Upon entering, the doors fly open automatically, as if aboard a Star Destroyer, and once inside there are automatic sinks as well as multiple video screens to ensure you don’t miss any of the action on stage.
Before leaving, Simone snapped a photo of me by the giant fire pit, telling me if I got the chance I should really come back at night when all the Tiki torches and fires are lit. We then made our way to the back stage area, as Powerwolf were getting ready to decimate the True Stage. Thanks again to Simone, I was able to watch Powerwolf’s set from the side of the stage, which offered an excellent view of the crowd and the countless surfers that glided overhead.
Adorned in their signature corpse paint, the wolves stormed the stage and opened with “Sanctified with Dynamite.” Although it was 1:15 p.m., a large crowd gathered in front of the True Stage that stretched back throughout the infield for Powerwolf’s performance, which was a definite highlight this year. I had only recently become familiar with the band, but they soon became a favorite with their unique brand of power metal paired with gothic overtones, dark themes, and the operatically trained pipes of Attila Dorn, who was all over the stage.
The setlist focused on the band’s later albums with three songs each from Blessed and Possessed, including the ultra-catchy “Army of the Night” and “Armata Strigoi,” and Preachers of the Night, with “Amen & Attack” and “In the Name of God (Deus Vult).” As the set continued, older songs such as “Resurrection by Erection,” “Werewolves of Armenia” and “We Drink Your Blood” got their turn. Although a set time after dark would have made for a more dramatic performance, there was no shortage of energy as the crowd gave back as good as it got, sending scores of crowd surfers over the barrier, many of them “repeat offenders” as I saw the same faces again and again throughout the set from my spot on the side of the stage. Those that weren’t surfing banged their heads, raised their fists, sang along and clapped at the appropriate times (especially during “Armata Strigoi”) throughout the power-packed set that closed with “Lupus Dei” and was over all too quickly. Here’s hoping Powerwolf’s next Wacken outing will take place under the cover of darkness.
After Powerwolf, I made my way to the Beer Garden stage to catch the W:O:A Firefighters band, which is made up of local villagers. Although the band is closer to an orchestra rather than a rock band, with an assortment of instruments, they mostly play rock and metal covers and of course some drinking songs. The band has become a mainstay at Wacken over the years and in my five trips to the festival, I had never gotten to experience a W:O:A Firefighters performance. By the time I arrived, they were already halfway through the set, but I stayed long enough to hear a few Deep Purple and AC/DC covers. A sizable crowd had gathered to take in the relaxed atmosphere and knock back some cold ones under the bright sun.
Although checking out the W:O:A Firefighters meant I would miss out on Amorphis performing the “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” album in its entirety, I was able to take in a song or two from the back of the infield while scarfing down some pizza for lunch. The band sounded great, Tomi’s vocals carrying across the fields. They looked to be putting on a crushing performance, and although I would miss out on it, tough choices and sacrifices must be made at Wacken. One of the other reasons I was skipping Amorphis (who I had seen nearly steal the festival in 2010) was because I wanted to check out Kommando on the Headbanger Stage in the Bull Head City tent.
By the time I got to the tent, I had arrived a bit early for Kommando and was able to catch the last couple of songs of Godsized over on the W.E.T. Stage. The band features a down ‘n’ dirty classic rock sound and plenty of groove with a bit of an overall southern feel. The audience looked to be having just as much fun as the band on stage.
Kommando’s self-described “blackened crust: machinegvn pvnk” was delivered in rapid-fire blitzkrieg fashion. With Endstille guitarist B. Killed and bassist Cruor, who also plays in Tauthr, featured among the band’s ranks, Kommando is no stranger to aggressive black metal, utilizing such elements as machinegun double bass drumming, frenzied buzz-saw guitar riffs and raw, raspy vocals in songs like “Vntitled” or “Alle Gegen Alle.”
Many of the songs are no more than two or three minutes in length, making for an unrelenting 35-minute performance as the Germans hammered the audience with a blistering speed burst attack. This is uncompromising, no frills black metal executed in a nasty crust/punk manner with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Mission accomplished.
Beyond the Black
To say that symphonic power metal outfit Beyond the Black is a young band would be an understatement, with their debut performance as a band having come at Wacken in 2014, but you wouldn’t know it, as they exhibit a prowess and energy well beyond their years and have an ability to instantly connect with the audience, which packed tightly inside the Bull Head City tent as hundreds were eager to check out this fresh German upstart. Over the next 45 minutes, we were treated to symphonic power metal of the highest order.
The nine-song set was comprised solely of selections from the band’s debut album, Songs of Love and Death, including a beautiful rendition of the Motorhead ballad “Love Me Forever,” with the exception of the Wacken 2015 hymn “Rage Before the Storm,” which vocalist Jennifer Haben also later performed with Rock Meets Classic on the Black Stage. Immediately noticeable were the thick, meaty riffs unleashed by guitarists Christopher Hummels and Nils Lesser, which were only bolstered further by Erwin Schmidt’s thundering bass lines and Tobias Derer’s pummeling drumming. Dancing underneath were the melodic tones of keyboardist Michael Hauser, whose rich key placements brought a warm energy to the songs and ensured they would not soon be forgotten. Beyond the Black possesses the chops to stand with the heavyweights of the genre, such as Nightwish and Within Temptation, which was especially the case with Haben, whose powerfully melodic register is reminiscent of Sharon Den Adel, especially during opener “In the Shadows.” Beyond the Black delivered one of the stronger performances from inside the Bull Head City tent, possibly rivaled only by Uli Jon Roth.
As I made my way back to the infield to get ready for Rock Meets Classic, I stopped by the Wackinger Stage to catch a bit of Argentine folk metallers Skiltron. I was only able to hear the last couple songs of their set, but both they and the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. The foundation of the band’s sound is closer to power metal, but it’s highlighted by the use of bag pipes, which were perfectly suited for their cover of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).”
Rock Meets Classic
Rock Meets Classic provided a unique opportunity to hear a number of hard rock and heavy metal favorites sung by a number of special guest vocalists, including Joe Lynn Turner, Michael Kiske and Dee Snider, with the Mat Sinner Band serving as the backing band along with the Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague to add extra flare to the proceedings.
Following an instrumental medley, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the set kicked off with “Thunderstruck” sung by Sascha Krebs. Next up was Jennifer Haben of Beyond the Black to sing “In the Shadows” followed by “Rage Before the Storm” with Herbie Langhans. Then it was time for Joe Lynn Turner to sing some Rainbow classics, including “I Surrender,” “Stargazer,” which was dedicated to the late, great Ronnie James Dio, and “Spotlight Kid.” After Turner left the stage, it was time for Michael Kiske and some Helloween gems, which featured “A Little Time,” “Kids of the Century” and, of course, “I Want Out.” It was a pleasure to hear Kiske once again singing those Helloween songs of old.
The singers took a break while the orchestra performed a “Pirates of the Caribbean” Suite before Dee Snider took the stage and stole the show. Ever the consummate front man, Dee knows how to whip a crowd into a frenzy and he did just that with his energy, humor, and between song banter, especially his public service announcement regarding “Stop Taking Selfies!” With Dee on the mic, we got several Twisted Sister classics in “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (complete with crowd sing-along), “The Price” (dedicated to the late AJ Pero) and “I Wanna Rock” before the encore of the evening’s set with what Dee called “the heavy metal national anthem,” “Highway to Hell.”
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