WACKEN OPEN AIR 2001
AUGUST 02, 03, 04 2001
BY SCOTT "BLIZZARD BEAST" CAMERON
Coined as "The Biggest Fucking Heavy Metal Festival in the World" The Wacken Open Air Festival just celebrated it's 12th year anniversary in the tiny town of Wacken, Germany (about 20 miles north of Itzenhoe), and I was fortunate enough to attend the festival in 2000 as well as this year. Not unfamiliar with the prestigious "Euro" metal fests, I have attended three Dynamo Open Air's in Holland in the late 90's. Let me just say right now that Dynamo cannot hold a candle to Wacken.
You can smell the denim and leather 20 miles away as you make your descent into the metal town known as Wacken. The flags of metal are flying high and the beers are flowing non-stop. This festival is unlike any other in the world.
Day 1- Thursday
We got into Wacken on Thursday at around 10:45am, and drove directly into the "backstage area" without incident. I thought we would be tossed out, but we were not. We had to wait until 12 noon to get our passes and just hung out and drank beer like "fish out of water". Finally we get our passes and head to the camping area to set up camp. We got the tent set up somehow (I blacked out from too much Jagermeister) and then proceeded to party very hard. Sun was setting around the Wacken site as we made our first descent onto the festival area. We got to the mainstage where they were having the "pre-party" festivities. This band from were onstage called "Impotent Sea Snakes" and they were doing a cover of the Jim Carroll classic "All The People Who Died". The band were flat out fucking freaky. The musicians were all dressed in drag and looked worse than Marilyn Manson on crack. The good point about this band was the three totally nude female dancers and a dominatrix that danced about the stage. I must give this band the "weirdest" act at Wacken 2001 title. Being drunk didn’t help matters any either. The headliners of the evening were W.A.S.P. and Crematory, but Crematory didn’t play because their equipment (as was Annihilator's) was delayed at some undisclosed location. Because of this, they had to shuffle the schedule around which caused me to miss some bands that I really wanted to see. But anyway I was thrilled to death over seeing W.A.S.P., as I have always like this band and had never seen them live. The crowd seemed fairly thick as Blackie Lawless and crew took the stage opening their show with "Inside the Electric Circus", the sound was great and their set was killer, drawing heavily from the first two albums, they even did a new song from their new album "Unholy Terror" which went over real good. Some other songs they performed were "Sleeping in the Fire", "Wild Child", "I Wanna Be Somebody" and "Animal Fuck Like A Beast". After W.A.S.P. were over, I wandered back to camp and met up with the rest of my party and drank more, and barbecued some food and then hit the sack at an ungodly time of the morning.
Day 2- Friday
The beginning of the festival, we wake up in a drunken stupor and stumble down to the festival area and to the mainstage to watch the true old school thrash attack of Deceased from Virginia. Being that I am friends with the band, I wanted to get down there in plenty of time. We got down there at around 9:45am (they went on at 10:00), and I was surprised to see King and the guys already onstage setting up. This was the first time the band had ever used a drummer and had King Fowley step up and be just a frontman/ vocalist, so anticipation was high. Things got underway pretty much on schedule and they opened up the festival promptly at 10 with the song "Night of the Deceased". The crowd was fucking great! Which was killer considering the early time slot! They played for a little over 45 minutes and played something from every corner of their long career. Mike Smith the guitarist even stole the mic away from King at one point and pointed directly to me and yelled "Blizzard Beast" (my internet user name). It was pretty fucking cool. King also thanked me personally later in their set, as I sort of had a hand in getting Deceased booked at the festival. They performed two covers in their set "Voivod" by Voivod and Kreator's "Tormentor" (the finale) and that was when a full on slam pit erupted at 10:35am at Wacken Open Air. I looked behind me and saw a "sea of headbangers" and crazed metalheads just going fucking crazy for Deceased. It was something I wont soon forget I can assure you. Next up for me was Carnal Forge from Sweden. I was able to see three songs from them and I was a bit disappointed in the sound they had during the first two songs. But after the third song the sound seemed to be improving and they were starting to warm up. Too bad I had to leave the mainstage and head to the Party stage for yet another Swedish band called Soilwork (whom I was dying to see). Arriving just minutes before they went on, the crowd started to thicken for Soilwork and I could clearly see that they were quite popular in Germany. They were totally killer live, Speed Strids vocals never sounded better and the guitars were turned up loud. So it was really good sound and they played mostly songs from their new album "A Predator's Portrait" and a few from their previous effort "The Chainheart Machine". I was disappointed that they didn’t play a song from their debut album "Steel Bath Suicide". But was happy enough just to see the band perform live. I was not let down at all. Speed did a fucking fine job on the new songs and did the clean vocal transition without flaw.
After seeing the Soiler's, I wanted to go back to the camp and get drunk and eat some more barbecue. I could hear Italy's Lacuna Coil whole set from our camp. They played songs off the last two albums and sounded great. I had seen them before and really wanted to see them again, but I guess beer and food were more important. We went back down to the festival area and I watched a song or two from Exciter. The vocalist had a very annoying voice, but the music was good. Too bad they couldn’t represent the band the way they sounded in the early 80's. I then wandered around the festival site, went backstage and then browsed the "Metal Market" Which is this huge tent filled with vendors from all over the planet, selling CDs, LPs, videos, DVDs and other metal merchandise at reasonable prices. Sometimes you really can find something rare at the Metal Market. I bought quite a bit there myself. While browsing I could hear the band Primal Fear playing the mainstage. Not too familiar with this band, they sounded pretty loud and decent. The singer was screaming his lungs out, I know that much. After checking out the Metal Market, I ventured over to the Party Stage to watch Exhumed from California. I really like Exhumed. And had only caught them briefly at a US metal fest last year. So I made sure I saw their whole set this time. They got off to a muddy start as well. The sound was not right somehow. They needed the guitars and vocals turned way up (in my opinion). But the sound improved after about 1/2 way through their set. They played songs from "Gore Metal" as well as "Slaughter Cult" and the crowd really liked them as well.
Dark clouds rolled in over Wacken and the rain began to fall as Seattle's own Nevermore went on over at the mainstage. This was very weird for me to see Nevermore in a setting like this. I am from Seattle and have met the band on numerous occasions and seen them a dozen times live. But not in front of 20,000 people! Singer Warrel Dane worked the crowd into a frenzy, instigating the "crowd surfers" to "go for it" (and they did). Warrel wore a black leather cowboy hat and black leather smoking jacket and pranced about below the stage in this little runway area so he could be closer to the crowd. The band played "Beyond Within", "Dead Heart in a Dead World", "The Sound of Silence", "Inside Four Walls", "Seven Tongues of God" and even went back to the basement and played a killer version of "White Rabbit" the Jefferson Airplane cover that Sanctuary had covered on their 1987 debut "Refuge Denied". The rain didn’t seem to phase the Wacken crowd. They went apeshit for Nevermore, and I of course thought this was really fucking great!
Next up- Overkill! I was really pumped to see Overkill as for some strange reason, I had never seen them live before. And well, they just may have been one of the best bands I saw at Wacken the entire weekend. With original bassist DD Verni back in tow, the band tore through 45 mins of "Neck-Wrecking" thrash that touched just about every area of their history in metal. Songs like "Hello From the Gutter" and "We Don’t Care About You (FUCK YOU)" were stand outs. And when the band slammed into "Elimination" a massive pit erupted and hair flew and fists pumped. The European crowd just loved Overkill, and really showed this during their set, singing and giving the "horn salute". I must say that Overkill "wrecked my neck" for sure. I couldn’t turn my neck the rest of the weekend without using my whole body to do it!
After Overkill, we decided to do some serious drinking and BBQ'ing. So we went back to camp for a while. Therion went on and I could hear their set from our campsite. They had a orchestra with them as they did when I saw them at Dynamo 1999. And the set drew heavily from the "Vovin" and "Deggial" albums. I really like Therion, but I had seen them before but I was hungry and wanted to sit down.
After our belly's were full and we were two-fisted drinking again, we headed back to the festival area to check out the black/death band Desaster from Germany! One of the main reasons I ventured to Wacken this year, I was very excited to see Desaster play live. They were great live and had perfect sound. It was dark out and when the lights shined off the stage to the crowd, you could see tons of spiked arms and fists pumping in the air, along with rows of headbangers. Desaster's music just does that to you. It has that old school Sodom/Kreator vibe going on. Desaster played two new songs from their newest album as well as a great mix of songs from their two previous albums. They ended their all too brief set with a blistering version of "Metalized Blood" which I personally felt was a killer song to end with.
I watched 3 or 4 songs from "The Haunted" whom I had seen numerous times and they were great as usual. "Bury Your Dead" had the crowd going crazy of course.
I saw 1/2 of Saxon's set, but was so tired and I had lost the others in my party, so I sat down for most of it. They were recording the show for a DVD and had brought over their classic "Eagle has Landed" set. They sounded good, but like I said, I was beat and as soon as they started doing encores, I began to slowly crawl back up to our camp with the sounds of Saxon still plugging away behind me. Day 2 comes to a end at another ungodly hour, and I am still ALIVE!
Day 3- Saturday
Up at the very un-metal hour of 10 am, we got our shit together, and cracked our beers and stumbled down to the festival area for our third day of chaos and metal!
Heading for the party stage to see Destroyer 666 from Melbourne, Australia, they were just about to take the stage as we arrived. Another band I was very excited to see. They pounded out song after song of dirty death/thrash, that thankfully had crystal clear sound. "Australian & Anti-Christ", "The Eternal Glory of War", "Phoenix Rising" were just some of the songs they did in their set. They had a pretty good crowd, but it was so early in the morning (11:00) it looked like a majority of the festival was still "sawing logs" in their tents. A shame because Destroyer 666 were a killer "alarm clock" and they got my blood pumping and energy flowing. KK Warslut (guitars/vocals) led the rest of the band into battle for 45 minutes and I was there to witness it!! Yet another high point for me.
Norway's Vintersorg were up next and were really good. The vocals sounded perfect and the rest of the sound was excellent as well. Being rather new to this band, I did happen recognize some of the songs they played from "Cosmic Genius" and "Tjill Falls". This band rules, they have this great folk/black metal sound that must be heard to be appreciated. I could easily see how the singer can handle vocals for Borknagar! (I heard the new Borknagar backstage on Thursday….AMAZING)
Sweden's Dark Tranquillity are a band that I have loved since around 1996, and I have followed their career carefully throughout the years. I have heard they are a great live band and now I can assure you that this is indeed true. They were amazing. Playing only a couple of songs from the last two albums "Haven" and "Projector" (Undo Control being one), the band drew songs from The Gallery (Punish my Heaven) and The Minds I (Zodijackyl Light). They also went way back in the vaults to play "Enter Suicidal Angels" material. Michael Stanne the vocalist was a joy to watch on stage. He runs around and interacts with the other band members jokingly and then went down to the lower ramp and interacted with the crowd as well. He drank beer between songs and was in very high spirits. He smiled the whole time. And kept thanking the crowd for the warm responses. Truly one of the best bands out of Sweden. Dark Tranquillity are one band that simply kills in a live setting. Most enjoyable indeed.
On over to the Party Stage for Brazil's Krisiun. Who were quite good but suffered from the dreaded "lousy sound syndrome". It sucked because all you could hear were drums and bass and Max's vocals were muddy and drowned out. But I stood there and watched their entire set which was taken mainly from the new album "Ageless Venomous" and their previous one "Conquerors of Armageddon".
More beer is consumed and then Annihilator hit the Party stage! Thankfully the sound had vastly improved for Annihilators set. They were real good live, but where was the "Alice in Hell" material? I guess new lead singer "Joe Comeau" (who looked like a fucking idiot) cant cut Randy Rampage's classic vocals. It was fun watching Jeff Walters and the other guitarist mosh about the stage in matching Annihilator hockey jerseys. Jeff looked like a 18 year old for fucks sake! One thing I will say about Annihilator's set was that it was not lacking energy in the slightest!
Arch Enemy sadly had to cancel their Wacken performance due to their singer has problems with her nodules in her throat. She couldn’t risk damaging her vocals and I totally understand why. Word has it that she may end up having surgery!
After a nice three hour break and more extreme partying antics, we headed back to the festival area, where In Flames were in the middle of their set on the main stage. In Flames are great live. I have seen them 4 times previously. Their set pulled from their new "Tokyo Showdown" live album. And the crowd went crazy during the song "Only for the Weak" which has this one part that everyone just pogo's (jumps) to. It looks really cool, seeing thousands of people jumping up and down at the same time. I can't imagine what I tlooked like from the stage! Lead Singer Anders Friden was wearing black dress slacks and long sleeved white dress shirt and a black tie. Why I do not know. But I guess he was daring to be different, which was cool.
Nightwish were THE band of the festival. They were in fact, voted back from last year on the offical Wacken site. I saw them here last year and was blown away at how many people gathered around to watch them. This year I prepared myself and got a spot right before the crowds started cramming their way in. As they hit the stage, one big dark cloud appeared over the crowd and lingered the whole set. Nightwish singer Tarja was in excellent form that evening. Her vocals sent shivers down my spine. As the rain and wind picked up during the opening chords of "Come Cover Me", something felt right at Wacken, with all the metalheads bundled in with our hoody's and hats on battling the weather to watch this killer act from Finland. It is clear that Nightwish have a huge female following. You can hear the girls in the crowd singing right along with Tarja and that was a sight and sound to cherish forever. They played for just about 1 hour and even did this one song that Tarja said "We have never done this song in Germany before", the song was "Elvenpath". Despite hearing from a few people who though that Tarja's vocals were off key that evening, I strongly disagree that and felt the band sounded like they were right on the money. Hail Nightwish!
What can I say about Opeth from Sweden that hasn’t already been said. The rain had ceased and I walked into the band performing their first song of the evening "White Cluster" from 1999's "Still Life" album. The wind stayed at a constant motion, which really set the mood for Opeth's gloom and doom progressive metal. Singer Mikael Akerfeldt was very quiet and barely muttered a word between songs save for "Thank You". Opeth played "Advent", "Blackwater Park", and one other song from that album, ending their too brief of a set with the staple "Demon of the Fall". The band were tight and they had great sound (which is VERY important for a band such as Opeth).
The headliners of Wacken Open Air 2001 were two classic bands indeed. Motorhead from England and Germany's own Sodom. It was no secret where everyone was during Motorhead's blazing 90 minute set at Wacken. The crowd looked on as Lemmy and Company blasted out one killer tune after another. With the classic "Bomber" stage set above them. A lighting rig set up to look like a Bomber fighter plane. It looked fucking cool when it tipped side to side and the lights came on and rotated around. Lemmy dedicated a song to Joey Ramone that surely didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. Motorhead did two encores. "Ace of Spades" and "Overkill". And seeing this band at a festival such as Wacken, will leave a lasting memory in my mind for the rest of my life.
Sodom got the last band slot of the festival and let me tell you, they sucked shit! I don’t know where their energy was, but along with horrid sound and turned down guitars, the band just plain sounded like shit! I watched a couple of songs and then went backstage and partied with the Norwegians for fucks sake! After a few beers, I walked back out and Sodom played a couple of more songs, that sadly sounded no better than the first two. In fact for all I knew, they could have been the same songs! Really a shame, because Sodom are a great band. They were killer when I saw them at Milwaukee Metalfest and Dynamo Open Air a few years back.
The festival was over, I made my final descent to our home in the campground. Partying starts to slowly come to a halt as the festival comes to it's end. A sad moment.
But as we tore our tent down and started packing up the car, I realized that this was only the beginning. What is next you might ask? Why Wacken Open Air 2002 of course. It is already in the works and Hypocrisy are one of the first confirmed acts!
Hope to see you there, keeping the metal flag flying high!
Cheers and Strong German Beers
Scott "Blizzard Beast" Cameron
Rating: 10 /10