Considered the most important heavy metal celebration in the world, the 2013 edition of Wacken promised to be something truly majestic. Still exhausted from the time spent there, I can assure you, it was worth it.
Unlike what happened in previous years, and which motivated me to bring with me a lot of waterproof clothing, Wacken 2013 was all about heat. Lots and lots of it. And although there was the occasional rain (ask Lamb of God if you don’t believe me) my fears of finding myself trapped in a German swampland were, thankfully, unjustified.
If you’ve never been there, let me give you a little rundown of what we had available. The core of the festival takes place on 3 stages, named Black, True and Party stages, respectively. Additionally, 4 more stages are scattered in the gigantic area occupied by the festival. Speaking of this gigantic space, you would not believe the kind of things you can find here, from religious services to Viking stores. Really, it’s the kind of thing you need to see to believe.
The Canadian thrashers of Annihilator were my first band in this edition of Wacken. Althoughtheir sound was not the best (there were some obvious technical issues), these guys went above and beyond the call of duty demonstrating why they are considered as an essential part of modern thrash.
I continued my day with Deep Purple, a band that I simply owed it to myself to see live. DP are, without a doubt, such an essential part of rock history that missing an opportunity to see them live is like studying English and never reading Shakespeare. Although I was afraid that I’d encounter a tired band with nothing left of their spirit of old, they proved me wrong immediately. Ian Gillan’s voice sounded as powerful as always, and he delivered tracks like “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water” as if he was still that young kid driving our parents crazy. With a mention to the recently deceased John Lord, the concert moved many of us, and opened our appetite for things to come.
As this first night’s headliners, Rammstein were the center of attention. Over 80,000 people held their breath as the German battalion took the stage and commenced one of their massive live shows that put Kiss to shame.
With Till Lindemann descending from the heights to open up with “Ich tu dir weh”, the fire-infested “Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?”, “Asche zu Asche” and “Feuer frei!”, and the impressive costume changes and Rammstein’s trademark theatrics, this is, by far, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
True, some people have complained that Rammstein are not what they used to be, and that they’re nowadays just living off of the fame that catapulted them into stardom with Sehnsucht but, honestly, who the fuck cares? They can put a great fucking show, and I’m very happy that Wacken had them on board.
Festivals are all about making plans that you fail to accomplish. This year’s edition of Wacken was no exception.
Having partied too much during the night, and feeling way too tired to get up at a decent hour, I missed the first part of Gojira’s show. I then ran to catch Powerwolf, one of my favorite bands, and was not disappointed. Since my first exposure to their music back in 2008, when they first played in Wacken, they have become a true powerhouse name in metal, whether they are called “power” metal or whatever genre they want to put them in. It’s really great to see how the crowd welcomed them with open arms.
Although I was never much of a fan, my girlfriend and I went to check out Ugly Kid Joe’s show. I’m happy with did. Whitfield Crane moved like he had a firecracker shoved up his ass, and kept moving the whole time, as the band made a quick review of their discography. Considering all the problems that have affected Mötorhead during this year, the crowd went wild when we saw no other than Phil Campbell go on stage to play “Ace of Spades.” Fucking amazing gig.
Having become acquainted with them thanks to Ronnie’s collaboration with Avantasia, we headed out to check the show by Pretty Maids. Even though I can’t complain in terms of their musical output, I felt like they were not able to get the crowd going, and sort of missed an opportunity to awaken the spirits.
After taking a break we headed out to check Sabaton, a band that I really enjoy. For some reason, many of my friends seem to hate them. I guess the fact that they smile on stage means that they’re “not true” (or that my friends are assholes). Although I’ve seen them before, this occasion did not disappoint me, and their renditions of “Primo Victoria” and “The Art of War” knocked the shit out of me, as they always do.
Having seen them on this same stage some years ago, I was excited to see Mötorhead once again. I was afraid, like everyone, really, that Lemmy’s health would simply make it impossible for them to play this gig… until I heard Lemmy say “We´re Mötorhead and we play rock ´n´ roll”, and just went nuts. Like Deep Purple the day before, seeing Mötorhead is one of those things that must be done by metal fans all over the world, because of what they represent in the history of this genre.
A life full of excesses has, sadly, taken its toll on Lemmy, who was unable to complete the show, which was cut short. Still, knowing that he was here in spite of the doctor’s orders (whether that was smart or not is for someone else to decide) the crowd did not react negatively, and still manifested their support for this heavy metal champion.
This edition of Wacken Open Air was special for the German Doro, who was celebrating her 30th anniversary in metal. Doro’s place in music history, particularly when it comes to her role in regards to female performers, is undisputed, and the crowd was sure to let her know this. With a pyro show that got everyone excited, it was truly beautiful to hear tens of thousands singing some of the classics of the rock queen, as well as some of the newer ones, like the Wacken Hymn, “We are The Metalheads”. Of course, a celebration can’t be done alone, and Biff Byfford, Uli Jon Roth and Phil Campbell joined her on stage, and delighted the exhausted crowd.
Although Doro would have been a great way to end the night, we somehow managed to drag ourselves to catch some Amorphis and Grave Digger (who were even joined by Sabaton’s Joakim Broden)… although we were too tired to really appreciate it!
We opened our last day of Wacken with Fear Factory, a band I’ve been following since their great album Archetype. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed by their show, as I felt that singer Burton C. Bell was not really up to the task, and offered a performance that paled in comparison to his bandmates.
Having seen Die Apokalyptischen Reiter once before, I was excited to see them again, even though they’re not really a personal favorite. For a band that does really well in Germany, with a sound that is reminiscent of Saltatio Mortis and Rammstein (!), they don’t seem to have been able to replicate that success outside of their homeland.
Randy Blythe and Lamb of God were a sight to behold. Playing with the kind of full force that only flashbacks of an Eastern European prison can give you, they truly beat the shit out of their audience, even if during their set they were met with a massive downpour that got us all soaking wet. Believe me, when I say SOAKING WET, I really mean it.
As a result of the rain, we had to miss out on Anthrax and Danzig, since getting back to the tent and changing our clothes took way longer than we originally expected. Suffice it to say that by the time I was finally wearing a clean set of clothes I was already having dreams of my warm bed and my shower.
We closed the night, and the festival, with Alice Cooper followed by Nightwish. While the former represents the history of heavy metal, the latter shows a new generation in the genre, starting in the 90s, and which changed the shape of metal forever.
Floor Jansen gave a magnificent show, and it was a privilege to witness it. Her power as frontwoman, gained from years with After Forever and ReVamp, was more than capable of submitting almost 100,000 metal fans, all of whom were paying attention to her every move and word.
Wacken 2013 was, to say the least, magnificent. I, for one, know that I will be here in 2014…
Rain or shine!