Review: Wacken Open Air 2006

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Once again, the Holy Land of Wacken greeted us with those special Metal days and nights.

At arrival, one could already see the thousands of people who were trying to get to the festival area. The traffic was jammed and the line of cars went on and on. For some people it took hours to finally get inside. Occasionally it would rain a bit, but nothing frightening (not like last year, gladly).

After settling the tents down and enjoying a few beers, A Night to Remember was the opening treat for the festival. From 6pm until a bit after midnight, Faster Inferno, Victory, Michael Schenker Group and the Scorpions took the True Metal Stage and opened the hostilities. The sound would tend more to a typical heavy metal approach, then assuming a hard rock contours with the Scorpions.

The headliners would be the band getting my full attention. They played for over than two hours, blending pieces from several works like In Trance (1975) Lovedrive (1979), Blackout (1982), Love at First Sting (1984), Crazy World (1990) and Unbreakable (2004). The Wacken website had gotten a voting contest for people to select the songs they wanted to hear. The outcome was a very long setlist, with some songs that really looked too alike… In my opinion, they played a bit too long, but I’m sure many thousands don’t agree with me. The particularity of this concert was the chance for Michael Schenker and Uli von Roth to rejoin the band on this big stage and play some of those old classics that everyone knows, together. Starting off with a symphonic intro, “Coming Home” and “Bad Boys Running Wild”, they were enthusiastically received by a crowd that sang along from the start. Among the c. twenty songs were: “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Love’em or Leave’em”, “Don’t Believe Her”, “Holiday” (one of my personal favourites; with the ‘help’ of Michael Schenker) loudly sang, “No One Like You”, “Big City Nights” and “I Can’t Get Enough”. There was time for great drums solo and the typical guitar ones too. Klaus Meine’s voice would seem a bit faded out sometimes, though he would still try to scream. For the encore, they played the lovely “Still Loving You” (was there anyone that didn’t know that song? I think not!), “In Trance”, a hard version of a known classical song, ending up with “Rock Me Like a Hurricane”.



First morning waking up on the festival ground. Funny how someone you have never seen before simply naturally joins your camp for a few minutes, to cook a hamburger or something else. Wacken has a very particular ambience, with most of the people always opened to new experiences, meeting new people from all over, mixed languages and, of course loads and loads of beer. It’s a good feeling.

First concert for me would be Wintersun on the True Metal Stage at noon. The crowd cheered from the start. After a nice intro, “Winter Madness” took place and then “Beyond the Dark Sun”. The audience was already shouting their name quite loud by now. “You like some metal in the morning?!”, were some of the saluting words from Jari Mäenpää (vocals, former member of Ensiferum), founder of this promising band. They continued with “Battle Against Time”, “Sleeping Stars”, “Beautiful Death” (straight away acclaimed by the crowd), “Death and the Healing” and finally “Starchild”, only leaving one out from their debut also called Wintersun. A really nice concert, though some times the drums were way too loud and the echo messed the mix a bit.

Next concert for me would be Nevermore at 16:15, also on the True stage. Right before, I could still listen to some strong tunes from Ektomorf, on the Party Stage.

So, Nevermore started off with a delightful intro from Loreena Mckennitt (I think the song “Prologue”, from The Book of Secrets”) that sounded quite weird concerning their sound, but ok. They were very well received, of course (I don’t think I’ve seen any band being badly received at Wacken! There are always fans there.), with the crowd crying out for them loudly. The band combined songs especially from Dead Heart in a Dead World (2000), Enemies of Reality (2003) and their last effort, This Godless Endeavour (2005). It started to rain for a bit, but nothing dismissing. The songs that I can put out are “The River Dragon has Come”, “I, Voyager”, “Dead Heart in a Dead World”, “Narcosynthesis” and “This Godless Endeavour”, the closing track which was suppose to be ‘a test to patience’, for it’s length. Warrel Dane wanted to close the concert strongly, so he basically asked something like “How many bodies can do crowd surfing?”. This, of course, lead to an intensification of that movement (if that is even possible).

Right after it was time for Opeth on the Black Stage. I find it hard to get a band like Opeth on the Black Stage, but then again, would Subway to Sally be True Metal? They eventually started playing a few minutes earlier, with an intro that sounded like the beginning of “Atonement” and then “The Grand Conjuration”, from their latest. Mr. Åkerfeldt was ever true to his particular humour, that I find quite amusing, though knowing that it can be highly misinterpreted. He thanked the crowd for checking out the band, even though Soilwork (also from Sweden – the South, he said) were playing at the same time. It’s always nice to see other band members, besides the guitar players, headbanging. During Opeth, we could also check the keyboard player, who in addition was doing backing vocals, which combine well with the leading voice. “The Amen Corner” and “The Leper Afinity” – without that great piano part at the end, unfortunately –, were the followers, with Mikael Åkerfeldt stating quite precisely that “If you’re not headbanging than you’re a fucking pussy!” (doing direct quotes here) and also that he wonders “… if Klaus eats cookies before the ‘Wind of Change’”. A person just has to laugh! Their show ended with “Deliverance” and a request for everyone to come and see them again next time, if one wants to have some ‘good time and lots of sex’!

Some people think that their show is not appropriate for a big outdoor stage, for its progressive tunes and extended songs. I liked it very much anyway. Funny how they play six songs and they’re done.

In Extremo took the other stage and the crowd watching them was enormous, which is easily explainable not only for their high statute in Germany, but also because at that moment only the W.E.T. stage was working. They kind of played their basic show, with all the normal hits and songs. I did not really see them, for then I left for Amon Amarth’s press conference, having the chance to see those nice Vikings in normal clothing, answering some weird questions. The last one I found particular, for it was regarding whether they had any kind of ritual or payer before entering the stage: they quickly answered (probably Johan Hegg, vocals) ‘Drink beer’!

On the folk metal note, Korpiklaani started their joyful ride on the Party Stage at 8pm. Even before they got on stage, people were already clapping and calling for them. After a happy intro, “Journey Man” followed. Presenting songs from all their albums, the band chose to introduce also some instrumental themes. I suppose this was probably one of the funniest concerts during Wacken, on which people could just dance, clap, sing and jump around, all of this in an almost jubilant mood. The band definitely calls for it. So, “Happy Little Boozer”, “Korpiklaani”, “Spirit of the Forest”, “Wooden Pints”, “Cottages&Saunas”, “The Hunting Song” and “Beer, Beer” (asked for during the whole concert), which was suppose to be the last song, where the party themes. They even got everyone doing the wave. There was still time to sing Happy Birthday to one of the band members (apparently, Juho „JuhoKusti“ Kauppinen, accordion player) and finish up with a couple more songs, like “Midsummer Night”, leaving a farewell tune on the back, whiles they bowed and thanked the crowd.

Children of Bodom followed, but I did not see them. I could hear them though from where I was and the sound stroke me as quite powerful. Knowing they have such a great legion of fans, it was probably a great concert.

Eventually, the band I later checked out would only be Battlelore, around 1h30 on the W.E.T Stage. One can get really tired with all those concerts. I’m sure there were loads of people who were there for twelve hours straight, but I needed a break.

I still got to hear a bit of Ministry while making my way to Battlelore and those guys were really making it big. Amazing sound, great lights, industrial, hard and powerful tunes… Regretted a bit not seeing them. I was lucky enough to be crossing while they were playing THE Ministry song that probably everyone knows: “Thieves”, that 89 classic from their The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Awesome!

Back to Battlelore then.

Kaisa Jouhki would be the first front woman I was seeing on this festival. I reckon a girl needs courage to stand up and stand out on a men’s festival. She looked quite at ease. “Usvainen Rhún” would be the intro, followed up by “Storm of the Blades”, both from last year’s Third Age of the Sun release. Kaisa started rather off tone, worsen by some feedback, but that would only be the starters. During the concert she appeared more and more confident and secure, leaving place to interpret the songs with her movements. Tomi Mykkänen (vocals) was, as always, wandering around stage, calling out to the people, waving is sword, but also setting himself free from the character, while at the same time appearing more natural. Combining all their albums, they set the field with “Fangorn”, “Ghân of the Woods”, “Starlight Kingdom”, “Pallando”, “Bucanners Inn” (one of the highlights), “The Mark of the Bear”, the great “Journey to Undying Lands”, “Of Orcs and Elves” and lastly “Sons of Riddermark” and the “War of Wrath”. On the last song, the sound appeared to have been cut off, for we could only hear the stage sound. I don’t know if they were suppose to be finished already and the crew decided to cut them off or whatever it was, but then the sound came back so they could at least finish the song.

A person can not have it all on this festival, for there is always the need to choose what bands to see, when the offer is so great and good.

Arriving late for Amon Amarth’s gig, I was told later they started off with the “Pursuit of Vikings”, getting their special Viking show on the run. Unfortunately, I ended up not seeing much of the theatrical part. I got there in time for “The Fate of the Norns” and later they introduced a new song, “Runes To My Memory”, from their forthcoming album With Oden On Our Side, to be released on the 22nd September. They carried on with “Releasing Surtur’s Fire”, “The Victorious March” and “Death on Fire”. It was nice to see those guys all in line headbanging, but it felt a bit like an appetizer, especially because I missed around twenty minutes of the show. I really think they should have played a bit longer. It didn’t seem that fair, considering the Scorpions had played so long the night before, but, hey, that’s the way it is!



Another bright day in Wacken.

The sun was shinning and the threats of rain seemed gone. This would be the warmest of all the three days, I think.

Lazy asses would only get to the festival ground almost at two, to check Arch Enemy. With a very long intro, the band elements started to come on stage, while being loudly cheered by the crowd. That Angela Gossow…. Great woman! Who the hell told her she could sing like that was damn right! She makes a somewhat interesting combination uniting her growls with her hot looks. Amazing! They set off with “Nemesis”, “Dead Eyes See no Future” and later “Burning Angel”. I admit I did not know Angela was german, so it stroke me hard when she started talking to the crowd quite fast. After a song I can’t recognize, I think they played “Ravenous” (not sure though) and finished with “We Will Rise”, definitely an anthem from 2003’s Anthems of Rebellion.

Next would be Fear Factory, but that was actually time another beer break and talk with some friends. Before getting myself close to the Party Stage, I heard that “Linchpin” song from their Digimortal album, which for some reason has always been stuck in my head. It sounded great live.

The concert which I was anxiously waiting was Orphaned Land, who took the Party Stage at 4pm. I was really looking forward to check this band live and they did not disappoint me a bit. The complex mixture between so many different influences makes this a rather peculiar band, which took the Wacken’s ambience to a completely different ground. “Ocean Land” was the grand opening track and then it might have been “El Meod Na’La”. The journey went on with “The Kiss of Babylon”, “Of Temptation Born”, “The Birth of the Three”, “Whisper My Name When You Dream”, “Halo Dies”, “Find Yourself, Discover God” (until here switching back from 2004’s Mabool to El Norra Alila, 1996), then “Like Fire to Water”, “A Neverending Way”, a song I think might have been “Aldiar Al Mukadisa – The Holy Land Of Israel”, which would then be the first of two from their Sahara (1994)album. There was always a chance for everyone to sing or chant along during the songs. Kobi asked everyone to jump for “Norra el Norra” and so a great part of the watchers did. Great atmosphere. The last song would be “Ornaments of Gold”, with me feeling the lack of “The Beloved’s Cry” as a big loss on this great set.

Later on, Gamma Ray took the True Metal Stage, but I didn’t stay. They were actually sounding quite good though.

From the distance, I could hear Mr Max Cavalera and Soufly, rejoicing while hearing someone saying a couple of words in my on language, even if they were just numbers. I would take away all those said ‘mother fuckers’ (not only from Max but from other vocalists. Is there a need?), for the show sounded great. The chance to hear “Refuse/Resist” live… wow.

Still from a distance: Whitesnake. Do you people remember them? I’m sure many of you heard some of their songs over and over again on TV or on the radio. They still sound like that typical 80s band, with those characteristic screams and long, very long stops for guitar solos. I wish I wouldn’t have been so lazy and checked their cloths out, but I was, so no comment on that. For me the definitive highlights were, of course, their big hits like “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again”.

Continuing this long day (weariness taking hold), it was time for Emperor to take the Black Stage a bit before 10pm. This was a concert which gathered high expectation for many, considering it was a comeback show. I didn’t really know the band before, so I can’t establish any comparisons. All I can say is that somewhere along the set they played “Curse You All Men”, maybe “Towards the Pantheon” (but I’m not sure), “The Loss and Curse of Reverence”, a song from Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise and they finished up with “Inno A Santana”. In the beginning, Ihsahn’s voice was badly heard and the guitars were not clear, but it got better. The songs were long pieces, with some nice melodic parts in the middle. The keyboard player also did backing vocals and the bass player, who I think was Secthdamon (from Myrkskog and Zyklon) was also doing some remarkable deep growls, at least for the last song. The concert wasn’t bad, with some pyro effects and all, but nothing amazing. They said they were happy to come back and be there, but they’re posture on stage was way too ecstatic, not denoting much excitement.

Leaving the Black Metal area, the ‘evil’ Motörhead greated the crowd in front of the True Metal Stage with a pleasant “Guten Abend” and stated from the start: “We are Motörhead and we play Rock n’ Roll!” Our dearest Mr Lemmy Kilmister was always communicative and doing well use of his british humour, if you know what I mean! They tried to present not only more recent material, but those really old songs that are classics today as well, which Lemmy joked about saying they were written before we were even born. Some of the songs played were “Killers” (04), I think a song from the new album Kiss of Death (out on the 29th August), “Dancing On Your Graves” (83), “Fast and Loose” (80), “Ramones” (91), “Sacrifice” (95), “Just ‘Cos You Got The Power” (90), the major hits “Iron Fist” (82) and “Ace of Spades”, followed by a couple more that I did not know. Lemmy regarded the audience as a ‘beautiful fucking crowd’ and stated that there were also girls. Yeap, there are also lots of girls in Wacken! The old guys pulled off, of course, giving a very nice concert.

Almost reaching the end of the Festival, there was still time for Finntroll to take their Humppa/Folk Metal on stage. Something new here too, for they were presenting their new vocalist, after Wilska departed from the band earlier this year. While hearing this new element, my first thought was: His voice is not as warm as Wilska’s. Then I finally had the chance to check him out on the screen and see that they got themselves, maybe not another troll (as someone pointed out) but, a very handsome lad! Vreth is aka Mathias Lillmåns (also on the bands Twilight Moon and Chthonian) and he did a great job on this show. He has a really nice voice (growls) that dwells good amongst Finntroll’s tunes. Can’t give here a complete setlist, but I can say they played “Slavet vid Blodsälv, maybe “Fiskarens Fiende”, “Trollhamaren”, “Svart Djup” (it might have been a faster version, not sure), two new songs and they finished up with “Det Iskalla Trollblodet”. There were so many people watching this concert! Altogether, it was good and a bit different from last year’s during the day on the Party Stage.

Finally coming to an end….

Subway to Sally were responsible for closing this big Festival.

To be honest, they didn’t really get my enthusiasm at that late hour. They played the usual Subway concert, with the regular songs and pyro effects. They are like this great band here in Germany and it seems they don’t have to try that hard (not saying that they don’t!) to pull it off. Starting off with a nice intro, then surrounded by ‘snow’ “Schneekönigin” took place, followed by Feuerland (probably to break the ‘ice’) “Knochenschiff”, “Kleid aus Rosen” and a slower fine tune. They took the chance to introduce their drummer, I think Simon Michael Schmitt, for apparently it was his first time in Wacken with the band. They played a few more songs, like “Flascher Heiland” and they eventually finished with “Sieben”. I had left the festival ground already by that time, but I was told they took five minutes to get back for a two minutes encore and even left before their playing time was finished. What can I say? I won’t really comment.

To wrap this up, I would like to once again mention the great security at the entrance, though we all know there are leaks. When you get ‘grabbed’ all over you know they are searching the right way (smile). This is all I can say about Wacken 2006. Great festival, great concerts, great sound, great lights, great beer….. Maybe more next year!