Friday, July 28, 2006

Wacken 2005 Part III - Saturday, or, Time Flies When The Bands Don't Suck

This is the third repost of older content, this time from last year's Wacken.


This post is a continuation of the Wacken report found in the two prior posts. Read those first.


Saturday, 6 August, I rose resolved to drink less, see more bands, and enjoy some actual good weather. Two out of 3 aint bad. I took some pictures (to go up in a later update) walking over to the festival grounds, and started my nutrition with a cola -- and not a beer -- while sitting in the biergarten listening to the Wacken firefighters' band. A classic German setting of clear blue skies, good drink and a Blaskapelle -- if led by a guy who goes by the last name of Angelripper.

First up, Zyklon. Good, tight, brutal shit, with just the half-hacked cross of black and death metal to start your day off right. Lots of chaotic asskicking, and a good warmup for my neck muscles, even if they didn't do "Chaos Deathcult".

After 45 minutes, I turned to face left-stagewards for an hour from the London Municipal Fretboard Stunt Team -- well, DragonForce, but what the hell. They were a little loose, but fun and through-and-through awesome, especially the three-man cross-neck daisy chain at the end of the last song. It's hard enough to fret another guy's axe while picking yours as he frets it, but this sort of nutso requires staying in perfect time with two other people, not just one. Fucking killer. In other news, Herman Li cut his hair; he's down to only like 2 1/2 feet now (or, half his actual height), and Sam needs to fire his guitar tech, because the guy basically took him out of the show. He blew a string in the first song, and it took another two songs for the backup axe to get properly set up. Not cool, but at least he was smarter than Toby Sammet and was able to get back to the stage unguided after running around on the stagefront.

Instead of immediately sticking for Suffocation (I'd seen them touring on Souls To Deny two years ago at the Palladium), I decided to get some food and start drinking. I ended up sitting on the bar at one of the Hasseroder taps in the infield, drinking pils, next to an Aussie with little tolerance for Frank's tendency to drone on and on between songs. Frank Mullen is a terrific brutal vocalist, and his little daughter in a toddler-sized Suffo shirt tossing merch into the crowd is probably the most bizarre and gosh-darn-it-cute thing in the history of Metalfest, but he is a New Yorker, and even if he shut up once in a while, he'd still be annoying to listen to. Discussing this -- and Boston/Cambridge, and expat life, and how AMD rules, and a bunch of other stuff -- led to me basically sitting on this bar all day, and becoming a temporary Anhaenger to Andy's crazy crew of friends: his girlfriend Lucia (friends with someone whose sister made Dissection's forkedcross stage props -- Sweden, where they live, is a small world), Lars the big crazy Dane (wait, I just said "Danish" twice in a row) from London, their pint-sized designated driver Matthias (Lars: "I thought you were not drinking because you were a gay, because it's only gay people who don't drink at festivals" -- joke joke), and a pair of Brits whose names I didn't catch. Add in a multigenerational party of women from Luxembourg and some antics from prior friends of the barmaid, and you have one of many metabars in the infield, though probably more interesting than most.

Overkill, next on the bill, had a fairly short set, and aside from "Old School" and "Rotten To The Core", kind of sucked. Not very interesting, and ther set really seemed abnormally short. They've been getting some good reviews recently, but either they didn't play songs off them, or they just don't translate live.

Next: Dissection! Jon and his new crew(all of whom have allegedly done hard time as well) exploded onto the stage with "Night's Blood" and ripped virtually nonstop through a set of classics (actually, every song on Somberlain or SotLB is a classic, but still). He did take time at one point to remind us that the diabolical symbols that everybody wears are not mere signography, and that he is willing to fight and die for the beliefs behind them. Fight and make others die is more accurate; the 'web' tattoo on his left elbow and the seven-year hiatus that this performance marked the festival return from testify to that. (For both people reading this who don't know, Jon Nodtveit murdered a gay Algerian guy and went to prison in 1997, from whence he was released in 2004.) They also did both new songs -- fuckin' A! -- and were the first band (that I saw, anyway, to receive a legit encore. For this they did "Xepher-I-Set" and "Thorns of Crimson Death", and then Jon smashed his guitar and threw the pieces at the audience. Given the financial circumstances of the band and German liability law in general, the message is clear: Jon "Action" Nodtveit is back, and he still doesn't give a fuck.

Next, Axel Rudi Pell, who was paid little attention. It was good background music for beerdrinking, though; 80s-styled hard rock that made you feel like you'd already heard all these songs somewhere before.

Then, Panzerdivision Marduk! Truppen vorn! This was definitely the truest that the main stages got, and fairly extreme even overall. Good, brutal shit. I did get in a few glimpses at Finntroll (performing simultaneously on the Party Stage), who put in a good performance, but after their visa problems on the last run, Marduk is probably never going to play the US again, while Finntroll might eventually get over.

Then...uh....HammerFall. This time Lars summed them up: not great, but entertaining, and at a fest this big, that'll do. They had the most complicated and crowded stage set of any band, mutli-leveled with chunks of "iceberg" reminiscent of Spinal Tap. And Joachim Cans can't help it if he sings like a girl -- that's pretty much the normal pitch of his voice, which is sad in its own special kind of way. Fortunately, they were the last sucky band on the bill.

Immediately following them was Kreator, with the kind of mass-devastation smoke-and-strobe-filled performance that you almost have to be in the back row to really take in. Awesome, awesome, awesome, and not just that I knew so much of their setlist -- this was another "headbang for an hour straight" kind of situation. IT'S TIME TO RAISE THE FLAG OF HATE!!!

I then went to the W.E.T. stage to catch my next-to-last "must" band, Primordial. I got to the tent a little early, and ended up seeing the last half of Endhammer's set. Decent enough for German metalcore, but the real shit was still coming. 45 minutes, 6 songs. Pure Primordial, pure epic madness. If you're of Irish heritage and don't listen to Primordial, you ought to; any loser can play Riverdance riffs in their solos and pretend to be "Celtic", but nobody conveys the real feeling of Irish, the spirit of Joyce and Yeats as well as the ancient bards, the way that Primordial do. The spirit of IV-Munster is alive and well, and received well by the heathen hordes of Germany. Let's hope they eventually tour other places where I live so i can see them again.

While this was going on, and briefly after I got back to the bar, it was nostalgia time for the "grownups" -- Accept was an der Reihe, and proving abundantly that just because you're 60 years old and roughly the size and shape of a fire hydrant doesn't mean you can't rock. "Balls To The Wall" and "Burning Like Fire" are still dumb live, but "I'm A Rebel" easily makes up in fun what it lacks in freshness.

Then, almost immediately after, Sentenced blasted out of the gate, the first band to perform their own "entry bit", in this case "Where Waters Fall Frozen". Fucking kickass. The rest of the set was he typical pounding waves of misery, misanthropy, alcoholism, and self-hatred tat we've come to know and, admit it, love over the past 10 years since Love & Death. They closed with "End Of The Road", the slow lead-in building up to the wild instrumental dance at the end, as the funeral into the wake. And then the lights went down, and Sentenced was no more. Last date in Germany. Only a few more left on the tour. It wasn't all tat bad, or was it now?

Over on the Party Stage, Torfrock hung over a little bit, not very metal, but fun music, and the bar staff was singing along as well. Before Onkel Tom and the firefighters opened their set for real, we got a couple songs from Doomfoxx, a decent but totally unoriginal 80s-stye-hard-rock-band from Australia, and then they brought out the reunited East German answer to the Beatles, the Sputniks. They spun through a few well-known metal riffs, first straight, then working them over into beat-rock, showing off just how much the surf guitar style has contributed to heavy metal picking and composition. Then Angelripper came out on vocals as they did a fairly straight and burning cover of "Ace of Spades".

He then started up with his Onkel Tom project -- somewhat metalized versions of classic German folk and drinking songs, this time backed by musicians including the Wacken firefighters' brass band -- but I was headed to bed, this time more or less sober, and despite the waterloggedness of my gear, to sleep, for a few hours at least.

NEXT: Part IV - Sunday and Final Thoughts

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