Wacken Open Air - Wacken, Germany, 1st August 2009
|Event:||Wacken Open Air 2009|
|Written by:||Baz Anderson, GT, Promonex|
Wacken Open Air - Wacken, Germany, 30th July-1st August 2009 by Baz Anderson (165)
Wacken Open Air 2009 - Wacken, Germany, 29 July - 01 August 2009 by Promonex (50)
Barry: There is mixed opinion on Einherjer, but it seemed like a good idea to see what was going on, on the Black Metal stage. There were some very un-Viking, and un-black metal looking men on stage and their music didn't sound particularly great either, so Napalm Death seemed like a better option on the Part Stage. Unfortunately upon arrival of the Party Stage, Suidakra had taken over and were doing their thing. Seems these two bands had been switched without anyone being told. Suidakra being of even less interest it seemed like Einherjer would be the best choice after all. After this gap the band had seemingly warmed up and were actually starting to sound rather nice now. Some stereotyped song titles later and it was all over though.
Gorm: I was determined to see Einherjer having really enjoyed the few songs I know from them, so I tried to ignore the massive hangover and dragged my arse to the Black Metal Stage. I don't regret doing that, even though I left after a handful of songs to see Suidakra on the Party Stage. The handful I heard was pretty nice. Not really special or anything, but the time of day wasn't the best and they had only a small crowd.
Gorm: My expectations were quite high, having heard much good about these guys, but they failed to impress me much unfortunately. Again it might have been the time of day and/or my hangovers but I never really got into the music.
Barry: Rage on the True Metal stage decided it would be suitable to pull a few tricks out of the hat. Two years ago here they had that whole orchestra and now they decided to pull a few guests onto the stage. These were Hansi from Blind Guardian, some woman called Jen Majura, Schmier from Destruction and Eric Fish from Subway To Sally. This made for a much more entertaining show than previously anticipated, and let them put on a much more powerful show than two years ago. It seemed although everyone on stage were having a great time, and this transferred down into the audience as well as quite a number of wildly enthusiastic German people sang, or shouted along.
Barry: The weather at the festival had been great thus far, not too hot or too cold. Testament on the True Metal stage put on a fantastic set of much-needed thrash metal but the sun had decided to come up and reign terror for the duration of this set. The initial excitement people had about seeing Testament soon withered in the sun and although the audience would have been enjoying the show, the sun was just a bit too much of a distraction. As soon as they finished the bars did very good business.
Barry: Borknagar is a band you just had a feeling that is shouldn't be missed. Over on the Party Stage then was the next port of call for these extreme metallers who didn't seem to know if they were supposed to be a progressive metal band or a black metal band. They are another band similar to the newer Enslaved in that they probably please both camps to some degree, please a few people immensely, and please some people not at all. Personally preferring the faster black metal parts it became a little frustrating waiting for them to come about as for some people it may have been the same but the other way around. Quite a bizarre band, but entertaining nonetheless.
Daniel: One noteworthy thing about Borknagar probably is the mix of the sound: no other band had the bass as much in the foreground as these Norwegians. And absolutely rightly so as Erik "Tyr" Tiwaz's bass playing was pure magic! Presenting his new custom-built fretless 8-string bass Tiwaz created the foundation and the sky of Borknagar's sound, the framework in which all the other musicians poured their input. Even if the sheer awesomeness of the lineup (featuring Vintersorg on vocals, Solefald's Lazare on keyboards and Malevolent Creation's former drummer David Kinkade) didn't convince you, simply staring at Tiwaz in awe throughout the set made for a great time alright.
The Medieval Market
Daniel: After Borknagar's (or well, Tiwaz's) impressive performance I decided to hang around a bit in Wacken's new medieval market. Many people have criticized the festival for investing money into such sideshows while lacking in the lineup department, and rightly so when it comes to complaining about the lineup, but the market itself appeared to be quite a great idea as it offered various options for leisure and chilling out while still being close to the hectic festival area. Wandering around in the medieval village, hanging out with the patrons, battling your friends in sword fights, engaging in axe or javelin throwing, cleansing yourself in the bathtub, learning some tricks from the poi spinners or just getting something different to eat than the usual hotdogs and pizza, there were enough things to be done on the medieval market when there wasn't anything of interest for you on the main stages. And occasionally there were also bands playing on the new medieval stage, such as the aforementioned Ingrimm or Adorned Brood who delivered quite a decent pagan metal soundtrack to my wanderings.
Axel Rudi Pell
Barry: There are some kinds of music that are just fantastic in the festival environment, but unfortunately Axel Rudi Pell doesn't fall into this category. Having seen the band three years ago in an indoor venue, this Wacken Open Air performance seemed incredibly lost on the audience. Axel Rudi Pell has some absolutely amazing albums and even better individual songs, but none of this came out apart from the beginning of "Masquerade Ball". The set was unique in the way that not many complete songs were played through, rather it seemed as if the set was a huge medley of songs from "Casbah" to "Eternal Prisoner" and "Tear Down The Walls" and everywhere in between. This isn't a bad thing, but what is, is when you have guitar and keyboard solos that go on for ten minutes, and then a drum solo on top of that. Complete overkill on the musicianship level, all we wanted were some good, hard, solid songs that we all know Axel Rudi Pell has. We didn't even get "Call Her Princess"!
Daniel: "This is what metal is all about! No bagpipes, no frills, just fucking metal!" This was the first thing one of the attendants of Trouble's gig shouted at me when even I as a German had to flee from In Extremo's lacklustre set. And that guy was absolutely right! Heavily inspired by early Black Sabbath with some occasional pinches of psychedelia and stoner these Chicago doom metal veterans - with new vocalist Kory Clarke, who is a veteran in his own right - delivered everything In Extremo failed to deliver: a convincing performance, old school to the bone, a great setlist with more than enough reasons to keep your head spinning and the feeling to be at a fucking metal festival!
Barry: In Extremo pulled a very large German audience, but it seemed like it was going to be another one of those kind of shows. Many people seem to love this group, but they just seemed like an overblown band overusing the whole folk concept again. One of the last of the German-in-joke bands, it wasn't worth staying around for.
Gorm: Next up for me was German folk metallers In Extremo a band I really like on CD and DVD, so again expectations were high. They delivered an enjoyable set, even though they didn't quite manage to live up to my expectations. Their set consisted of, for me, mostly unknown songs and quite a few slower (and a bit boring) songs. Not as good as expected but still rather enjoyable.
Gorm: Time for another Danish band. Since I had never seen Volbeat live before and after the praise people gave them after Hellfest they were definitely on my "must see list". Half the festival seemed to have the same opinion and the crowd gathered in front was huge. I completely failed to get in the right mood and didn't really enjoy it much, so I left after just four songs. The sound on these four was great though, the crowd was really enthusiastic and stage/crowd interaction seemed to be going well.
Daniel: I on the other hand was absolutely in the right mood and apparently I wasn't the only one. Volbeat's unique brand of metal meets rock'n'roll got most of the crowd going in no time and if the space permitted it some people were even twisting, turning and dancing alone or in pairs. Frontman Michael Poulsen seemed to appreciate the warm reception, expressed his gratitude in his usual modest way and occasionally sucked up to the audience ("I don't get what's up with that VIP thing. In my opinion YOU are the real VIP's!"). And in between these speeches Volbeat rocked out to the fullest, emanating joy, glee and a whole lot of attitude.
Barry: Those with slightly more extreme tastes found themselves wandering over to the Party Stage for Enslaved's diverse modern set. There isn't a lot that ties this band with their much more black metal oriented days other than one song from a 1993 demo they played this night. The rest of their set is constructed of their extreme progressive metal with those Viking touches. Enslaved have grown up and matured both physically from their early days, and musically. These later Enslaved albums are very different, and live they are almost psychedelic in their tone and rhythm. Having seen this band play these songs many times before, the set this time began to appear quite uni-directional as all the later songs seem to have the same tempo and constant double bass drumming that almost induces you in a trance. That's great and all but it turned a set of progressive songs into almost seemingly one big hallucination.
Gorm: The Norwegian Vikings were on my list as well and I got myself to the Party Stage right on time. Unfortunately the first song performed sounded absolutely horrendous. The sound was bad, the backing vocals were shrill and sometimes even false and the lead was barely audible at times. It luckily got better after the first song and the set was quite enjoyable and somehow scary psychedelic. That said I somehow managed to fall asleep standing and regretfully had to call it a day, thus missing Turisas, Gwar, Korpiklaani and Subway To Sally.
Daniel: However, if you were ready to let Enslaved indeed set you into a trance (and weren't too tired to fall asleep on the way there), you were in for one of the most impressive and definitely the most sophisticated performance of the fest. After some initial problems the band managed to achieve a flawless sound, the setlist seemed to be designed for maximum effect, progressive, hypnotic, halcyon, yet gloomy, and the brilliant lightshow intensified the atmosphere. Most importantly the videos in the background added to that effect, displaying soothing shots of ocean shores, a paranoia-injecting all-seeing eye or disturbing images of blood and despair. If you were in the right mood the whole show was pure audiovisual bliss which managed to lift you up to total euphoria in one second and scare the shit out of you in the next. And fortunately this time the audience seemed to be a lot more receptive than at last year's gig of Enslaved's side-project Dream of an Opium Eater.
Barry: Someone has to tell Saxon that this show from Wacken Open Air 2009 was the best Saxon live show, ever. Not only because the band played fantastically in an amazing environment, but because they took the step of doing something a little different to celebrate 30 years of Saxon. Working their way backwards starting at the new 2009 album, Saxon worked backwards playing a song from every album they have ever put out, with a few extras in choice gaps. The setlist was therefore very interesting not only because it contained songs from every album, but also because the song from each album had been voted for by fans on the internet, so we really did have an almost perfect setlist with plenty of surprises. The song from "Destiny" was skipped due to lack of time, but it was marvellous to hear Saxon go backwards through the years playing songs not usually present at Saxon shows. Everyone who has seen Saxon, and that is a lot of people because these guys play live a lot, has already seen "Wheels Of Steel" live a million times, and so it was so refreshing not to dwell and pay too much attention to the older material. Songs such as the powerful and underrated "Unleash The Beast" or "Power And The Glory" and the slightly quirky "Rock 'N' Roll Gypsy" were so refreshing to hear from a band that have many great songs from over the years, but unfortunately usually stick to a predictable mix of old, apparent favourites, and new songs for promotion. Seriously, the best Saxon show ever. Everyone thought so. For interest purposes regarding the polls, here is the setlist.
Battalions Of Steel
Let Me Feel Your Power
Strong Arm Of The Law
Wheels Of Steel
Unleash The Beast
Dogs Of War
Rock 'N' Roll Gypsy
Rock The Nations
Solid Ball Of Rock
Power And The Glory
Princess Of The Night
Heavy Metal Thunder
Live To Rock
747 (Strangers In The Night)
Stallions Of The Highway
Denim And Leather
Barry: It seemed that Saxon had run over their time slot, and Korpiklaani were already plodding along through their set of predictability. Coming from such a high of the best Saxon show ever, Korpiklaani seemed extremely lacklustre and were unbearable to watch.
Barry: So over on the Black Metal stage, the often overlooked Gwar were bringing cartoon style violence to the stage. Not many people consider Gwar as anything spectacular on album and so may discard the chance of seeing the band live as a result, but this would be such a bad move. Gwar are a band that thrive in the live environment, not just musically, but because of the hilariously entertaining stage show put on by these insane Americans from outer space. Whatever you might have heard about Gwar covering the audience with blood and various other things, it is true. Strange green liquids, fake blood, everything was being squirted into the audience. Not only this but various talk-show hosts and U.S. political figured took the stage to have their heads cut off or breasts removed. The music is not entirely the focus of a Gwar show, more like it helps the progression of the show going on on stage, and it works fantastically. Surprise of the festival, these are an absolute must-see live, just trust me.
Subway To Sally
Barry: So we were at the very last band of the festival Subway To Sally. Another German band who insisted in only speaking in German, you can see the reasoning behind my term German-in-joke band, but anyway my mind was open to them after previously hearing some material and liking it. These guys put on a hard and heavy show that had quite a few dimensions, from hard hitting and at times bouncy, to some slower songs. It all sounded great, it all seemed like it had ended so soon, but unfortunately the Wacken Open Air had to close for another year. To close the festival Subway To Sally were joined by a few guests to sing a special song written about Wacken. The English lyrics were shown on the big screens, and although the whole karaoke ending was typically German and cringeworthy, that didn't matter because everyone was having a great time and was getting ready to say goodbye for another year. Subway To Sally did a good job of closing the festival, even though the omission of "Julia und die Räuber" may have disappointed some fans. Even though the festival seem very keen to broadcast American game adverts in between songs and draw in as many people from around the world as possible, obviously they do care somewhat to keep the festival quite a German occasion.
Many thanks for the accreditation.
Written by Barry, Gorm and Daniel,
Photos by Barry and Daniel.
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