Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wacken 2006 Part 2: Friday, or, Hail Satan, Fuck the Sun, Pursue the Vikings

Since I was occupied spending too much money on merch on Thursday and didn't get in to the Edeka in town, I decided to stop at the breakfast tent and get some fuel in me before I went into town to get additional cash. I got the basic drunk-and-can't-order breakfast set, which can be eaten piecemeal German-style, or combined Voltron-like into the most unappetizing-sounding yet awesome breakfast sandwich in history.

How to make a Wacken-style German breakfast:
Take a mini-baguette or other hard-crust, flattish roll about 6 inches long and split it, then put orange or peach jelly or marmalade on the bottom part. Put a slice or two of real cheese on top of this, then put about the same amount of salami on top of the cheese. Butter the top half and stick it together. Drink some good coffee or cold OJ with it, and put the nutella packet in your pocket for eating/depraved acts later. This will keep an adult metalhead awake and thrashing all morning.

On the way down to breakfast, I saw two separate cars just on the road that I walked in with an alphanumeric code on their license plates ending in 666. Given that a later more careful survey later found 10 cars with this element on the same road, I think we can rule out coincidence, despite the fact that I wasn't aware until now that Germany generally allowed vanity plates.

After breakfast, though, it was on in to town, to get some more cash from the fly-infested ATM booth, and to hit a local landmark:

10 - The world-famous sign on the town's only real hotel.
This sign on the Gasthof Zur Post is de riguer for German-speaking metalheads, wherever they come from: Be Happy, You Are In Wacken. And truly, everyone should; 51 weeks a year, it's a perfect little farming town, and the other week, it's the most pure and perfect heavy metal city in the world. Things are not hard here, either for the festivalgoers or for the year-round residents whose economy they substantially underwrite by dumping in a substantial share of the 4 million euros in gate receipts
and buying up a colossal share of the food and beer in stock at the Edeka a little down from this sign, in addition to the money raked in by the households on the main drag that set up bars in their back yard or sell kegs of Warsteiner off their front porch.

At the Edeka I got some research, some food, and a souvenir that I unfortunately couldn't take away:

11 - Wacken beer from Flensburger. I was not able to bring back an actual bottle, so this will have to do. This beer was some good stuff, a nice clean pilsener feel, and a rich aftertaste of toast and coffee...though this may have as much to do with my own breakfast as with the breing process.

Both at the market and on the way back to the Festivalgelande, I noticed a lot more French, Italian, and Spanish being spoken in addition to English, German, Dutch, and the Swedish dialects from north of here. Some of it is that there are more people than there were in 2005, when the weather kept out all but the ultradiehards, but it's quite possible that part of it is an aftereffect from the World Cup, and the associated Europe-wide recognition of the fact that the Germans know how to fucking throw a party. Given the level of the bands and the fans there, Wacken is in itself the World Cup of heavy metal, except that, as with Queen's "We Are The Champions", everyone has already won just by showing up. Of course we win, it's fuckin' metal man!!

Finally, the bands start,

Mystic Circle - 4/7
These guys opened the Black Stage for Friday, and provided a decent start to the day with a mixture of black and death metal that at least got everyone into it, even if it was really kind of average. There's a reason they went on at 11 AM instead of headlining, after all.

12 - Mystic Circle kicks it off.

Wintersun - 5/7
The new project from the former singer of Ensiferum, these guys were genuinely epic and definitely got the surprisingly huge crowd pumped up, even if they started to drag a little by the end. They didn't really have enough unique riffs to fill out all of the space in some of their longer songs, though the initial impression was absolutely kickass.

13 - Wintersun totally rocking out.

Legion of the Damned - 5/7
This Dutch band is fairly original as the brutal thrash revival goes, but in this set there was a lot more kick and punch than original manner of doing such. However, that's just fine in a festival context (can't get Slayer in every year), and the intensity of the performance was to be marveled at. Watch for them on next year's DVD.

14 - Legion of the Damned thrash it up.

Danko Jones - 6/7
Despite starting out a little slow, including a crazy tirade when people turned to look at a low-flying Bundeswehr helicopter rather than at the stage, Danko eventually won the crowd over by the anthemic end of a punky and kickass rock set, probably the second-best non-metal set after Motorhead of the entire festival, which also included a lot of lunatic commentary that you're not going to get anywhere else. Hail Satan - fuck the sun - Danko Jones.

15 - Danko Jones and company playing some satanic rock'n'roll.

Ektomorf - 4/7
I wasn't really watching, but they had the whole crowd at the Party Stage jumping and pounding their fists. It's still mostly the same jumpdafuckup music that people would miss from Soulfly in order to watch Atheist on Saturday, but the delivery was ofcourse impeccable...and there's still the hope that this band will one day grow up and do something original.

16 - Ektomorf exhort the crowd to show their fists.

Six Feet Under - 5/7
Another band I wasn't really paying attention to, but I was leaning more this way while standing up at the front waiting for Nevermore to go on. The response was good, but the set was mostly average, somewhat formulatic deathgroove until Barnes opened up with "TNT" as the closer. Still good shit, but considering the pedigree of the band, they shouldn't have to borrow AC/DC's thunder.

17 - Chris Barnes and Six Feet Under covering some AC/DC.

Nevermore was the first band I went forward for this year, and the first time that I'd really, really gone forward for a band at Wacken. Last year I was concentrating mainly on the spectacle, but this time around, there was a real ton of bands that I was hugely into, so up to the front I went.

18 - The infield waits for Nevermore.
19 - Changing sides from SFU for Nevermore.

Nevermore - 7/7
A flat amazing set, with a crazy crowd response that you really had to be in the second or third row to see and believe. No mistakes, and never a down moment, and while we didn't break Bodom's crowdsurfer record from a few years back, I didn't break my fucking knee either, unlike the last time I got in a pit at Wacken. I did twist one up a little lifting this one crowdsurfer a little awkwardly, but someone else had just kneed me across the nose, so it was probably distraction as much as anything, and it had mostly cleared up as soon as I got out of the heavy lifting zone. Pure chaos, but pure bliss as well.

20 - Van Williams gets some help tweaking his drums.
21 - Van warms up.
22 - Jeff Loomis gets his sound dialed in.

Opeth - 6/7
They did a good job, and played out a smooth, awesome set, but in a setting like this, they really need to be the only band playing. They were on the Black Stage, whcih meant that the Party Stage was going at the same time, and the result is that from where I was standing, half of their dynamic variations and almost all of their softer parts were overridden by the Krach from fucking Soilwork. They persevered and put on a good show, but this isn't really the right venue for them.

Soilwork - 5/7
Since I was trying to watch Opeth at the time, I don't have much more than a peripheral feel for them, but they did deliver pretty well, and they certainly had their crowd going. Unfortunately, they were stomping all over Opeth's sound and not with music I particularly care for.

In Extremo - 7/7
I'd seen this stage set, and heard all of the material played, plus a lot more cool stuff besides, on the Dresden stop of their fall 2005 tour, but In Extremo showed off their masterful show coordination abilities as much as their musicianship by carefully selecting all and only the songs that would work best in the festival setting for their set here. The performance was totally killer, with everyone singing along on nearly everything, and a couple new fire gimmicks as well, including fireworks attatched to the ship's wheel that they could not have done in the narrow confines of the Alter Schlachthof.

23 - In Extremo's ship stage set.
24 - In Extremo playing "Macht und Dummheit".

Carnivore - 6/7
A cool set from a band that no one rationally thought they'd ever see again, but the day of this style of music has come and gone, and it's hard to look at the band and think that Pete Steele doesn't also realize and acknowledge this. It's pure nostalgia, but it's also nostalgia that remembers how it got its original edge, and fucks with the crowd by leaving after the intro music and only coming back when they hear people yelling about how much they suck, nostalgia that still gets topless chicks out to throw blood substitutes on the crowd, completely and throughout the twisted product of Steele and his warped, dark sense of humor. Cool almost as much for this as for the actual content.

25 - Carnivore setting up.
26 - Carnivore jamming on "Jesus Hitler".
27 - Carnivore in butchers' smocks for their second encore, "Sex and Violence", as the moon comes up.

Children of Bodom - 7/7
They tried but failed to break their own crowdsurfing record, but the rest of the set, by contrast, was marked by delivering exactly as expected. No surprises, ot from this band, butt lots of mile-a-minute melodic black metal, or blackened heavy metal, whatever you want to call it. I was way in the back, but this still turned out as a damn cool set.

28 - Children of Bodom get the place fucking crazy.

Celtic Frost - 6/7
A great set, full of the old, dark, doomy material, but unfortunately their really, really weird stuff didn't make the cut. It was a good balance between old and new, but Celtic Frost's most experimental period was in the middle, and not nearly as well represented...though in truth, their most psychotic stuff might not have been the best for a huge festival like this.

DespairsRay - 4/7
They hung over a little after CF finished, so I was able to hear a song or two for real from them. They were a jrock band, but fortunately didn't totally suck, which was a relief, and while I'd never in a million years skip Celtic Frost to listen to them, I'd definitely take them over Dir En Grey.

I didn't really hear anything at all from Ministry as I was up front waiting for Amon Amarth at the time, and the side of the Black Stage that I was at is in an acoustic shadow such that nothing intelligible from the True Metal Stage gets over. This was some important intelligence for Saturday night, allowing me to both camp for Emperor and avoid hearing Whitesnake at all.

Amon Fucking Amarth - 7/7
Amon Amarth, live headlining the biggest heavy metal festival in the world. A new song ("Runes To My Memory") off With Odin On Our Side, nearly two months before street. The Jomsvikings, battling it out during the interlude in "...Stabwounds..." in real Viking country. From "Pursuit of Vikings" to "Death In Fire", this was the perfect festival set from one of our era's greatest festival bands. Absolutely incredible, and this alone would have been worth flying over for, even if Emperor hadn't gotten back together.

29 - Johan Hegg throws up the horns at the conclusion of Amon Amarth's set.

I also ran into Andy and Lars from last year again, this time briefly after Celtic Frost, but we only talked briefly; with a festival lineup like this, there wasn't much reason to stay in one place. After Amon Amarth, it was basically back to camp, to sleep and recharge for another long hot day and long crazy night.

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