Wacken Open Air 2001, another milestone in heavy metal history. The largest heavy metal festival in the world with a great bill of hard rock and heavy metal bands from all over the world. Me, Rita and 27,5000 other metal heads had a blast again up in the Northern part of Germany. What you will read here is a reflection of how we looked at this festival.
Because we were there with only two people, we had to make some choices. This due to the fact that the bands played on three different stages and one of these stages was just outside the festival site (the WET stage). To get there, you had to move in and out the site constantly, so we only saw a very few bands there. We mainly focussed on the main stage (of course) and the Party stage, where a lot of cult bands played. But let's start from the very beginning.
Thursday, August 2nd
Thursday morning, five o'clock. The alarm goes off, and I know what this means: it's Wacken time again!!! The most important part of this day will be the trip from Leerdam (which is situated in the middle of The Netherlands) to Itzehoe, where we have our hotel. From Itzehoe, it's only a fifteen minute drive to Wacken. After a good breakfast, we start the six hours drive to Itzehoe. According to the weather forecast, it will become a very hot day. Hamburg is the busiest part of the trip. Once you've gone through this city, life becomes easy.
Hellion records in Itzehoe is our first destination. Armed with loads of money, we enter the store. You need that, because there are so many (hard to find) interesting CD's, LP's, singles, videos and magazines for sale there. After two hours of close searching, we hand out our final order to the friendly lady behind the counter. On Friday and Saturday, it will be very crowded at this place. Bands will autograph their stuff and hang around in this very cool records store. With a bag full of stuff, we drive to our hotel, which is not far away from Hellion records and a great place to stay. The people, who run the place, are very friendly and they really made us feel at home. But the main reason we are here is to see the bands.
Just like last year, the organisers promised us a very interesting opening night. From Itzehoe to Wacken is only a short drive. The only difference with last year is, that there's no police control this time. Just before the backstage entry, there's a little traffic jam. Also there's a short queue at the ticket booth, but collecting our backstage passes has never been that easy! The only small disadvantage is (so we were told) that there are about three hundred and fifty photographers on the festival site and we have to take pictures in turns. Well, we'll see what happens, won't we? It's time to bang our heads on this first day of the festival.
Unfortunately, we had to skip the first band, KNIGHT ERRANT. They are from Turkey and they play folk metal. Because of the fact, we had to collect our passes, we only heard the band very briefly. They have a female violin player, by the way. FINNTROLL is a very promising band from Finland, that mixes death metal with folk metal. Their sound is happy and aggressive at the same time. They got some good response from the public and I think that their new album "Jaktens Tid" will definitely mean an international breakthrough for this band.
If there was a category called sex metal, or something like that, then THE IMPOTENT SEA SNAKES would be the inventors of this style. They filled in for CREMATORY, who had to postpone their farewell-gig, because their car broke down somewhere on their way to the festival. Their show is a mix of an SM sex show and rock 'n roll music. I don't know if someone of you still remembers THE TUBES from the late seventies? Well, you have to think in that direction, when you want to describe their show. The band members wear dresses and during the set they play some sketches, which are full of sex, SM, striptease acts and other kinky stuff. Oh, and the music is great, too! The crowd went wild, when they played "Rock And Roll Nite", the well-known KISS classic.
I don't think, that WASP could ask for a better support act than this one. WASP knows how to create a great atmosphere. And although Chris Holmes is not in the band anymore (He left the band after they'd recorded their new album "Unholy Terror"), we still can enjoy a sort of 'Best of' show this evening. The new guitar player, next to 'the man in black', is called Darrel Roberts. He previously played in a METALLICA tribute band, called ALCOHOLICA. "Love Machine", "Wild Child", "I Wanna Be Somebody" (during which Blackie drank blood from two skulls!!), "Animal, F*ck Like A Beast" (where Blackie shoot fire from out of his pants!!) and the encore "Blind In Texas", it was all there. WASP really marked the end of day one in their own special way. Standing on a sort of chopper model handle-bar mike standard, Blackie took control of the stage and of the hungry audience. The end of day one of Wacken 2001 was a fact, but from tomorrow on, we would be in for the real stuff. Can you imagine that this was just a warming up night?
Friday, August 3rd
We went to the festival site early again. After all, there could be another police control and we didn't want to miss a thing. But we could drive on without any problem. Nothing could stop things now, so let the madness begin! Sometimes, it was hard to choose which band we wanted to see. At other times, we watched half a set and then moved on to the next band to watch another half of a set. Some bands that played here, I've never seen live in the twenty-six years, that I go to metal concerts. Wacken Open Air is a cult festival, and with that in mind, we made our decisions. So we decided to skip some well-known names to see the bands that we've never seen on a festival before.
It's never easy to open a festival like this, but I think you must see it as an honour, for a band, to be on the bill of this festivity. DECEASED opened on the main stage. This old school thrash metal outfit, led by OCTOBER 31 frontman King Fowley, who played here last year, hit the stage at ten o'clock sharp. King has changed his place in the band from drummer to singer, by the way. I think he was proud to open this festival. It would mean the kick off of thirty hours of pure metal music. Right from the beginning, I had to divide myself in two, because on the other stage NOSTRADAMEUS was starting their set, too. This is not the band of Nikolo Kotzev, but a Swedish power metal band, who were here to promote their new album "Words Of Nostradameus". STIGMA IV hails from Austria and they play melodic power metal. A great band to watch. They proved us that it's always cool to play a cover for all these metal heads out there. They choose to play "22 Acacia Avenue" - the well known IRON MAIDEN song. The audience loved it! They continued with "Dream Machine", which sounded like another fine metal attack for our ears.
On the WET stage I saw a short piece of BIONIX, which is the new band of Schrödey, the ex-guitar player of TEMPLE OF THE ABSURD. BIONIX is a different band. They choose for a much softer approach than TEMPLE OF THE ABSURD, but the ideas in their compositions are not bad at all. When I finally got back in again, I heard that CARNAL FORGE had already begun. Their brutal thrash metal got a great response. Some of the songs they played were "No Resurrection", "Head Of Doom", "Born To Hate" and "Uncontrolable". CRYSTAL SHARK plays metal with a heart for melody. Their new album "Sownfall Of Eden" was presented on stage today, and a lot of fans found their way to the WET stage today to watch this band from Hamburg. "Destination Unknown" was one of the last songs I saw, before I had to move back to the main stage to see LACUNA COIL. Although I must admit that this band is not really my cup of tea. A lot of fans of this Italian band disagreed with me and they seemed to enjoy their set a lot. A set that consisted of songs like "1:19", "My Wings", "Halflife", "Honeymoon Suite" and the nice duet between Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia called "Hyperfast".
After LACUNA COIL, we could celebrate the come back of German thrash legends, HOLY MOSES. Sabina Classen took us by surprise and she kicked some serious ass. They played some songs of their new mini CD "Master Of Disaster", but of course they also played some old stuff like "Lost In The Race". I think that the biggest surprise however was a guest appearance of Germans most legendary metal lady DORO. Together with Sabina, she showed that women earn their place in the heavy metal world, too. A great show, a great comeback, who could ask for more?
CAGE surprised me with their nice metal riffs. Songs like "Shoot To Kill" and "Astrology" proved that this band can be seen as a very promising one. On the main stage, NAPALM DEATH was firing their songs at the crowd already. They switched on from songs of their debut album "Scum", that came out in 1987, to their most recent work. In which the DEAD KENNEDYS cover "Nazi Punks, F*ck Off" cannot be missed of course. Although they played here last year too, the crowd still loved the extreme death metal attack of these Brits.
EXCITER was one of the highlights for me. They always are, because EXCITER stands for true metal. They presented us a great mix of old and new stuff. And so they went through such great anthems, like "Stand Up And Fight", "Dark Command", "Rule With An Iron Fist", "Burn At The Stake", "Pounding Metal", "Marshall Law", "Rising Of The Dead", "Long Live The Loud" and "Violence And Force". The great set of this Canadian metal machine made me forget, that KAMELOT played at the other stage. But people, that had been there, told me that they played a very cool set. Sorry for missing that! PRIMAL FEAR, the new legends of heavy metal in Germany, were on next. Their PRIEST like heavy metal is getting more and more successful each year. "Batallions Of Fate" is a great song to prove that your lungs can still come up with some air. A perfect moment in the middle of the day to shout your balls off.... Literary speaking then. After this, the announcement came that WIZARD cancelled their show because a family member of one of the band members died. Which is a crying shame of course. WIZARD is a band that I like a lot and hopefully they will be added to the bill again next year, to make up for this. TRAIL OF TEARS played at the WET stage, but I must admit that it really didn't sound that professionally.
I'm only talking about the beginning of the gig, because I rushed back to see PAUL DI ANNO, after a few songs. The band seemed to have some trouble with the keyboards and their new singer Cathrine Paulsen lacks the experience, that their previous singer Helena Iren Michaelson did have in the early days. PAUL DI ANNO doesn't need any introduction, I think. The former IRON MAIDEN singer came here to have some fun and sing some old MAIDEN classics. And I think that he did a great job. For me, he still is the ultimate singer for IRON MAIDEN. Although the man is getting a bit older now, I still enjoyed todays versions of "Killers", "Wratchild", "Sanctuary" (which was introduced as a real punk song), "Murders In The Rue Morgue", "Prowler", "Remember Tomorrow", "Phantom Of The Opera", "Running Free" and "The Beast Arises" from the "Murder One" album of PAUL DI ANNO'S KILLERS. The man has got a crush on BRITNEY SPEARS, I think. He shouted "BRITNEY SPEARS is mine......I'm gonna kill her!!" He also asked the crowd, how many people came from Brazil today. Not too many people responded to that, so he continued with "Well, I guess that's only me then!". I know for sure that PAUL DI ANNO loves your country and with this short sentence, he paid tribute to all his fans in Brazil. After PAUL DI ANNO, it was time to get something to eat. In that time we saw short pieces of the sets of EXHUMED, the bloody splatter death metal band from America. I only saw that they'd printed 'GORE FUCKING METAL' on the back of the three guitars, they played on. We also saw a little piece of the set of NEVERMORE during our dinner. They played songs like "Beyond Within", "The River Dragon Has Come", "Dead Heart In A Dead World", the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE coversong "White Rabbit" and the SIMON AND GARFUNKEL cover "Sound Of Silence".
Then we got one of the highlights of the first day of the festival: OVERKILL. They had sorted out a perfect 'best of' set for us, consisting of songs like "Deny The Cross", "Hello From The Gutter", "Protector Of Chaos", "Bleed Me", "Elimination" and of course "F*ck You". Inbetween they couldn't resist to play segments of the BLACK SABBATH classics "Children Of The Grave" and "War Pigs". Bobby's voice was in good shape today and I think that people must agree that this was one of the finest performances of the festival today. THERION from Sweden attacked the other stage after that. They were completed by a choir, which they also used during their last tour. Their music is very bombastic and the arrangements are mixed with a touch of classical music. The intro music of "Oh Fortuna", from the "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff, came from a tape. It would have been nice, when they would have played this song themselves. Nonetheless, the mix of bombastic opera metal and heavy riffs seemed to please the crowd really well. Next, we saw HELLOWEEN take the stage. Only for a very short moment though, because we got in touch with the members of CULPRIT, one of the headliners of the second day. HELLOWEEN surprised us with a sort of 'best of' set. And you can imagine that they've got a lot of songs to choose from. But this time they choose to play some more oldies than before. After all, this festival simply asked for a bit of nostalgy.
And the hitmachine kept going, when SAXON climbed the stage. Their set didn't surprise us a bit. Although they played the title track of the new album "Killing Ground", which was one of the very few surprises, they had planned for us today. Who doesn't know songs like "Heavy Metal Thunder", "20,000 Feet", "Metalhead", "Princess Of The Night", "Power And The Glory", "Cut Out The Disease", "Motorcycle Man", "Conquistador" with a long drumsolo of Fritz Randow, and encores "Wheels Of Steel", "Strong Arm Of The Law" and "Denim And Leather"???!? The only two other songs that made me grin, because they almost never played them recently, were "Crusader" and "the Eagle Has Landed". During this last song we saw the mighty 'Eagle' come down, fully covered in bright white lights. Great to see this after so many years again. It was almost like stepping back into the early eighties again. I didn't see EXUMER, but people who went there told me that they were a bit disappointing. This first day ended again with two bands, that shared the stage at a similar time. DIMMU BORGIR from Norway is to be seen on many festivals. Their dark death metal echoed through the night, while many people had already left the festival site. Songs like "Puritania", "The Insight And The Catharsis" and "The Maelstrom Mephisto" kept the people awake, who decided to stay up until the last band had cleared the stage. On the other stage I saw the 'continuation' of GLENMORE, who have now changed their name into RAWHEAD REXX. They opened with the scary "The Wolf", to continue with songs like "Sons Of Mayhem", "Rawhead Rexx", "Holy War" and "Town Of Skulls". We had survived the first day, but we still had another day to come. I wish I'd seen a short piece of THE HAUNTED from Sweden, who play old school thrash metal. The band should fit very well on a bill together with SLAYER on their upcoming tour, because their music is similar to the sound of these 'kings of thrash'. We also missed SONATA ARCTICA, a talented band that can be compared to bands like old HELLOWEEN and RHAPSODY. But this wasn't possible through the very tight schedule that we had to follow. Sorry for that.
Saturday, August 4th
While a lot of people will do their shopping for a whole week on a Saturday morning, we decided to jump out of bed early to see some more heavy metal bands. Jump is a contradiction in this sentence, it was more like sleepy crawling out of bed after five to six hours of sleep. We catched the last few tones of WARHAMMER. After this HELLHAMER like band, we were awake enough again to enjoy CRYPTOPSY. It was the last gig for singer Mike Di Salvo, who decided to quit the band after this gig. So it was his final chance to shout out loud during songs like "Shroud". DESTROYER 666 came all the way from Australia. Their mix of old school thrash and black metal makes you think back to the sound of the mighty eighties again.
BRAINSTORM has got a strong new album out again, called "Ambiguity". Their set consisted of songs like "Voices" and "Tear Down The Walls", for which they got some great response. After that we had do split ourselves into tiny little pieces. Sometimes we just had to follow one interesting band, but sometimes they played on every corner of the festival site at the same time. While DARK TRANQUILITY from Sweden was attracting the people on the main stage, I decided to have a short peak at the only Brasilian band on this festival, KRISIUN. Their MORBID ANGEL like metal appealed to many people and although I don't know their music too well (shame on me), I think they might be the next big thing from Brazil after SEPULTURA, SOULFLY and REBAELLIUN. METALIUM were dressed up in their body building suits again.The band had some beautiful decorated microphone standards and their bass player played on an instrument, that looked very much like the axe shaped bass of Gene Simmons of KISS. Of course they also did their fire spitting act and they played their version of the DEEP PURPLE classic "Smoke On The Water".
On the WET stage CHINCHILLA played their IRON MAIDEN like metal. No wonder, that PAUL DI ANNO took these guys on tour this year. Due to a lot of schedule changes, we had to look very carefully on what would be next. THE CENTRE OF GRAVITY from Russia didn't play. And also ARCH ENEMY cancelled their gig. Angela Gossow has got a throat disease, and things don't look too good for this new singer of ARCH ENEMY. She has to rest for a while, before she can sing again. I was very curious about this band, because their new album "Wages Of Sin" (until now only available in Japan, but they are already talking about an American and an European release) sounds very promising. So we got some time to see SOUL DOCTOR now, who surprised us with their catchy melodic rock music. They made good contact with the audience and songs like "What Do U Want", "Soul Doctor", "Unspoken Words" and "Shake 'Em On Down" got some great response. A real surprise in their set was the LED ZEPPELIN tribute with the two songs "Whole Lotta Love" and "Black Dog", played in medley form.
CREMATORY, who officially would play at the opening evening, was fitted into the program now at the main stage. It was their last big festival performance ever. They decided to quit, but they just wanted to say goodbye to a big audience. The Wacken audience was perfect for this ocassion. The band recorded a two CD 'best of' compilation, that will come out together with a two hour video/DVD, containing all their hits. Yes, I am talking about hits, because CREMATORY regularly show up in the German charts. Songs like "Ist Es Wahr" (Oder Nur Ein Traum?), "Tears Of Time" and the SISTERS OF MERCY cover "Temple Of Love" were sung by many throats. I think they couldn't have asked for a better way to say goodbye, than they did here today. While CREMATORY was celebrating their farewell party, PARAGON created a real metal party at the WET stage, promoting their new album "Steelbound" in a great way. All the headbangers were united in front of the stage. RAGE consists of three well talented musicians. Peavey is the soul of the band. Guitar player Viktor Smolski already surprised us with a great solo CD and drummer Mike Terrana also doesn't need any further introduction. They had built a small castle on stage and I think that the song "Back In Time" stood for what this band is all about. A good mix of new and old stuff, in which they even created some space for a short drumsolo of Terrana ,'the beast', himself. SUBWAY TO SALLY were here last year, too. Their gothic folk metal created a dark atmosphere, complete with instruments like bagpipes and violins. For a short time you're wandering around in the Middle Ages.
While at the same time ANNIHILATOR kicked some serious ass on the other stage. It's crazy, but true. On the first day of the festival OVERKILL surprised us with a killer performance. Today it was the other well known speed metal band ANNIHILATOR, who brought us a killer show. Songs like "Set The World On Fire", "Welcome To Your Death", "Refresh The Demon", "Chains Of Fire", "Never, Neverland" and "Phantasmagoria" got an extra dimension through the funny faces of Jeff Waters, who was in a perfect shape today. Killer riffs, great solos and a great set, made this show to one of the best of this last day. After this we got back to the year 2001 again and got something to eat, while GRAVE DIGGER and TANKARD were playing their set. TANKARD was still singing about a "Chemical Invasion" and buckets full of beer, while GRAVE DIGGER recorded their show for an upcoming live CD. Then the time came that we got to see a few bands that actually made us decide to make the long trip to Northern Germany again.
First we got a great set of JAG PANZER, the living legends from America. A real cult band, with Harry "the Tyrant" Conklin as their frontman/singer. We were treated on old and new stuff like "Genrally Hostile", "Reign Of The Tyrants", "Chain Of Command", "Prophecy", "Take To The Sky", "King At A Price" and "Frozen In Fear". A great performance by a great metal band. On the WET stage, we got see the reunion of the Norwegian metal band ARTCH. They opened with "Shoot To Kill". A lot of Norwegian metalheads stood in front of the small stage. And although I wasn't able to watch their whole gig, I know for sure that they had a great party of their own. A great return of these 'Vikings Of Metal'.
Finally, it was time for one of the bands, that a lot of people definitely didn't want to miss. Scott Earl on bass, Bud Burrill on drums, Jeff L'Heureux on vocals and John DeVol on lead guitars, in other words the legendary CULPRIT! Their classic album "Guilty As Charged" was almost played completely. Scott constantly swinged his bass guitar around his neck, while jumping up and down the stage. Bud has got arms of steel. He pounds the drums so loud, that I feel sorry for the cymbals and the bass drums. Jeff L'Heureux is a complete madman on stage. He's constantly moving around, throwing his fist in the air. His voice however stays clear and very powerful. And John DeVol, well I think you can see him as a real guitar hero. Not like YNGWIE MALMSTEEN or JOE SATRIANI or all those other speed monsters. But he plays some excellent, fast solos, that go beyond all human comprehension. I already hoped that they would sound like this. They had never imagined that they would be so popular over here. It was their first appearance in Europe, but I would almost beg them to come back soon. Then we can hear more songs other than they played tonight. They opened with "Guilty As Charged" of course. But they also didn't forget to play unbelievable versions of songs like "Ice In The Back", "Steel To Blood", "Same To You", "Tears Of Repentence" (a song that they almost never play live), "Players" and the supercrazy "Ambush". What a great show!!! After this amazing performance, they simply could have ended the festival for us, but guess what?!? They had even more for us. Through this great selection of old cult metal bands, we simply forgot to check out IN FLAMES and we missed a big part of NIGHTWISH. But since these bands play a lot on festival and in concert halls all over the world, we thought it was wise to see the bands that don't play over here too much. NIGHTWISH played a good set, for what I saw of it. They included the GARY MOORE cover "Over The Hills And Far Away" in their set, which is their new (hit)single. But we also heard songs, like "Wishmaster", "Kinslayer" and "Sleepy Song", that they played for the first time in Germany. Slowly we were heading towards the end of the festival. But first we had to see HAMMERFALL. These Swedish metal heads showed us what real metal is all about. They got a great response and in the end we got to see Oscar do his fire spitting act again during the set closer "Hammerfall".
DEATH SS is another cult band, that we simply had to check out. Even if we had to miss the beginning of MOTÖRHEAD. The band is very well known for their great show, and also this time they gave us all they had. They used a lot of flash bombs and from the opener "Let The Suffer Begin", I watched them.....mouth open wide. They had a cross with neon lights, with a woman hanging on it. This woman would appear again during the show to do some sexy dancing on stage and to play around with the singer of the band.The songs were heavy and on the background they were showing pieces of black and white horror movies on a video screen. At the end of the set they destroyed their instruments completely. Even the keyboards and the drums. Steve Sylvester ruled for forty-five minutes here, which was far too short in my opinion. While Steve and his band mates were cleaning the stage, Lemmy and MOTÖRHEAD were playing a long set. They included songs like "We Are MOTÖRHEAD", "Shoot You In The Back", "Damage Case", "No Class", "God Save The Queen", "I'm So Bad", "Iron Fist", "Ace Of Spades", "Civil War", "Sacrifice", "Ace Of Spades", "R.A.M.O.N.E.S.", which was dedicated to the late Joey Ramone (RAMONES vocalist), "Overkill" and "Bomber". During this last song we got the 'Bomber' airplane flying down from the sky, full of bright shining lights. It created the same atmosphere as 'The Eagle' did during the SAXON set. Of course they also didn't forget to play "Going To Brazil" as an ode to a country, that they love very much. The only disappointment here was that MOTÖRHEAD didn't allow the photographers to take any pictures, due to safety reasons. Whatever these reasons may be… Because of MOTÖRHEAD, I completely missed DIE APOCALYPTISCHEN REITER. But I heard them scream inbetween the songs that "Heavy Metal would never die", which is a true statement of course. At the end of the festival day, we could enjoy two more bands at the same time again. On the main stage I saw SODOM partly, who also played some kind of 'best of' set, consisting of songs like "Bombenhagel", "Ausgebombt" and "Agent Orange". During this last song they set the whole stage into the orange smoke, which was very impressive to see.
The very last notes came from the party stage, where MÄGO DE OZ had their own party. After I heard their most recent album "Finisterra", I knew that I didn't want to miss this band from Spain. They play a mix of metal, celtic folk music and hard rock, similar to JETHRO TULL and SKYCLAD. I know that they played the opening song of their new double CD, but I was too tired to recognise some of the other songs. When I looked around, after this fine show, I saw that a lot of the 27,500 other people had already left the site.
Wacken Open Air 2001 can be seen as a huge success, mainly due to the terrific organisation. So at the end of this review, I would like to thank Sheree, Thomas and Holger and their crew for doing another great job!! And I also would like to thank the people at CMM (esp. Eske) for all the work they did concerning the tickets/backstage passes. These people form the base of this great happening. It was wonderful to see that Heavy Metal is still very much alive in these days of boring hip hop and dance music. I think this will give the organisation the spirit and the strength to organise another successful edition of the Wacken Festival next year. If nothing changes, I will be there again, watching the bands, walking for miles to see everything and shooting cool pics together with my wife Rita, and give you the idea that you were there, too...... Until the next time and Larga Vida Al Rock And Roll (=Long Live Rock And Roll).
Written by: Toine van Poorten
Photos by: Rita van Poorten-Wiegel
(Printed in ROCK BRIGADE (Brazil)/Sept.2001)