Wacken 2011 review

Overall 9/10

In the flat fields of Northern Germany, something dark and heavy is looming. Wacken, the world’s largest Metal festival is a four day rock and roll beast dedicated to bringing you the best of the best in the scene, and this year organisation is second to none.

Being able to camp next to your car is an absolute godsend, though the camping fields seem to stretch right out to the horizon where some people must have to trek from each day, but the entertainment fields make up for it, with sprawling food stalls from around the world you can get anything your heart desires from pizza to traditional bratwurst cooked on huge open barbeques. The site also boasts an enormous metal market, The Wackinger Village with battle re-enactments, Vikings and axe-throwing, as well as 3 gargantuan stages in the main arena.

Thursday afternoon sees Edelweiss covering ‘Highway To Hell’ in German and the Jagermeister crane-suspended bar taking people up for a look around over the main stage, where Frei Wild (8/10) start the party by drawing a huge crowd. Helloween (8/10) take to the True Metal stage and manage to play a great set despite blowing their sound twice in five minutes and the sun is out in full force for Germany’s own Blind Guardian (9/10) who played an aptly blinding set of melodic speed metal. Frontman Hansi Kürsch’s incredible voice carried all around the site for ‘Valhalla’, as body after body was crowd-surfed to the front – metal horns waving in the air.

Ozzy Osbourne’s (8/10) headline set proves to be as crazy as usual and the heavy metal legend certainly seems to be enjoying himself, spraying the crowd with foam and getting his arse out whilst rolling through hits ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Crazy Train’.

Friday starts with a bang as Ensiferum’s (7/10) midday folk-metal offering is well received with the whole crowd singing along, and Rhapsody of Fire’s (9/10) epic show featuring a voice over by Christopher Lee and the fan-favourite ‘Emerald Sword’ (pronounced ‘Eeemrald Swaaard’) bring out the inner warrior in the metalheads of Europe.

Trivium (7/10) thank Wacken and say it’s “The best show [they’ve] ever played” but Judas Priest’s (6/10) set, though entertaining and on everyone’s Need To Know Metal History 101, isn’t the heroic headline performance that many expected.

Stand out band of the day are Welsh ragga-metal band Skindred (10/10), playing to an overflowing Headbanger’s Ballroom. Ending on ‘Warning’ from new album Union Black, Benji Webbe throws himself, dreadlocks and all into the fray and tells the packed tent he hopes they can come back. Airbourne’s (8/10) 1am show is a headbanger’s wet dream, synchronised hair swishing and feel good sounds spark mass air guitaring as mental frontman Joel O’Keefe climbs up the stage struts to the top, sans rope with his guitar perilously slung across his back.

Saturday’s atmosphere has an air of ‘rock your little black hearts out, because it’s back to reality tomorrow’ and the fans are moshing hard to death metal band Kataklysm (7/10). Over on the Party stage The Haunted (8/10) from Gothenburg, bust out ‘Unseen’ to a massive crowd and joke “The colour of the festival has changed today, you can trade your black tshirts in for a lavender or light yellow one at reception”. Mayhem’s (5/10) doom and gloom death march seems a bit lost in the face of the bright sunlight that has peeked out, but Iced Earth (7/10) say goodbye to bandmate Matt Barlow with a huge crowd chant and a typically action packed performance. As the rain starts up Avantasia (8/10) come the floor with their melodic riffs and cameo’s from special guests Bob Catley (Magnum), Michael Kiske (formerly Helloween) and Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, Helloween).

Simultaneously booked on two of the main stages are Kreator and Danko Jones (7/10) battling for the loudest beats of the evening. Danko Jones’ blues inspired rock and roll is infiltrated by the rolling drums of Kreator but manage to build themselves a big crowd with the likes of ‘Play The Blues’ and ‘First Date’ as Danko shouts “Fuck, Kreator are loud!”.

Veteran Wacken band Motörhead’s (8/10) headline slot was a fitting end to this monster metal-fest, with legendary rock god Lemmy’s gravelly voice resonating into the black night. Wacken Open Air 2011 is every bit the metal-fan’s Valhalla and promises to be back next year even harder, faster and louder.