I started with their enchanting symphonic metal of Beyond the Black. Fronted by the captivating Jennifer Haben, their performance was a mesmerizing display of talent and emotion, setting the perfect tone for the rest of the day.
Under a scorching sun, I then made my way to Krokus, who were all too happy to transport us all back with their classic hard rock hits (many taken from their recent cover album). They once again demonstrated that age was no barrier, and their catchy hooks and anthemic tunes had the crowd singing along with nostalgic fervor. Sadly, I couldn’t stay for the entire set, as I had to then run to the LOUDER stage to catch Testament.
One of the pillars of thrash metal (a 5th member of the Big 4, if you will), Testament blasted their relentless onslaught of razor-sharp riffs and aggressive vocals, sending shockwaves through the crowd. Next on my list was the Swedish powerhouse of Hammerfall, whose grandiose power metal sound managed to create an electric atmosphere that resonated with every metalhead in attendance.
I checked some of Airbourne’s high-octane rock ‘n’ roll spectacle, but had to cut it short to get something to eat before the headliners took the stage. As always, Wacken had a great variety of food available, so it wasn’t too hard to get something.
The headliners of this first night were Sabaton, and they made sure to live a mark. Taking over both stages, bringing back former members and some guest musicians, they set the FASTER and HARDER stages ablaze with their history-infused lyrics.
I closed the night with Dark Funeral, although I couldn’t make it until the end of their set. What can I say? I was exhausted (blame it on the 5-hour drive and the scorching heat).
I started my second day with Blackstone Cherry’s southern-tinged hard rock. It was a refreshing change of pace after the previous night’s headbanging extravaganza.
It was then time for Body Count, fronted by the legendary Ice-T. At the Harder Stage they unleashed a torrent of rap-metal fury that ignited the crowd into a whirlwind of energy and emotion. Their unapologetic social and political messages struck a chord, and made their performance one of the festival’s most memorable highlights.
Anthrax, one of the Big 4 of the trash metal, reaffirmed their status as one of the genre’s giants, delivering a high-energy set spanning their illustrious career. Their infectious enthusiasm and raw power resonated with both longtime fans and newcomers alike, abd created an electric atmosphere that permeated the festival grounds.
I checked out Within Temptation at the HARDER Stage, before going to finally get my lunch. Even from a distance I could see how WT’s symphonic metal sound was captivating the entire crowd. Not a minor feat for a 20-year old band.
I was a bit bothered about not being able to shoot Demons and Wizards and Slayer, although the impact was somewhat softened by the fact that I had shot them at Hellfest already. Although carrying my gear meant that I couldn’t just join the fans in the moshpit and just headbang with them for a few hours, I got together with other photographers and enjoyed their show from a distance. With an emotionally charged setlist and a stage presence that commanded respect, Slayer said goodbye to Wacken with a barrage of ferocity that shook the audience to its core. The chants of “SLAYER!” reverberated through the night, as fans bid farewell to a legendary band that shaped the course of heavy metal history.
I expected the final day of Wacken 2019 to end the festival on an unforgettable note, and I was not disappointed.
Kvelertak, known for their unique blend of punk and black metal, kicked things off with a blast of high-energy chaos that had the crowd in a frenzy… even as they helped the singer crowdsurf over them. I then went to check out Of Mice and Men who, despite not being exactly my cup of tea (I find metalcore to be extremely boring), definitely have a huge appeal. They delivered an intense and emotionally charged performance that resonated with the younger generation of metal fans.
I was looking forward to Prophets of Rage, the supergroup with members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill. It was absolutely amazing. They injected a potent dose of politically charged rap-rock anthems, rallying the crowd in solidarity. Not that anybody needed any help going absolutely crazy as they played Bulls on Parade or Killing in the Name Of.
Since, as I said, metalcore isn’t my thing, I only checked Bullet for My Valentine for a little bit, before going to get some dinner. Well-fed, I made my way back to the stage to see Powerwolf, whose theatrical and gothic power metal spectacle created an atmosphere reminiscent of a dark ritual. I then ran to catch Avatar since, let’s face it, they photograph quite well.
The headliners were Parkway Drive, a band that has somehow reached huge levels of success, despite being… well, kind of shit. Their performance was nevertheless an inferno of energy that ignited the festival grounds with their fierce and aggressive set.
And as the sun set on Wacken 2019, the veterans of Saxon took the stage with their iconic British heavy metal sound. They once again demonstrateds that true metal legends only get better with age, as their unforgettable anthems marked the end ( at least for me) of this edition of Wacken.
As the last notes reverberated through the night sky, I knew that the memories created at Wacken would echo in the hearts of attendees for years to come. Until next year, when the gates of Wacken open again, the spirit of metal will continue to live in the hearts of those who experienced the magic of the world’s most iconic heavy metal festival.
As always, I’m sure I’ll be back, rain or shine!