Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wacken 2007 - Saturday - In The Air Tonight

On my way up to the bank in the village to get my last euros out, I ran across this little kid, standing in the door of an outdoor-goods shop. He jumped out with a green astroturf rug over his head and back like a shaman's ritual cape, and gave me the double horns, Norway style, arms crossed, and he grinned like hell when I shot him one back.

Someday, this kid will grow up, but even if he forgets what he used to see as so cool in metal and metalheads, he'll still remember how he lived it up as a kid in this most unique place. Hopefully, though, he'll remember, and give metallers the benefit of the doubt as good and social people. And if he stays in this region (not real likely, everything demographically is against it) after growing up, he'll see that impression rather more reinforced than it is tarnished.

Ultimate badass award: Andy (spelling? no idea.) from Ireland, who I met at breakfast today. He rode a motorcycle over here from Eire, which is pretty fucking amazing. Come to Wacken, meet the craziest adventurers metal has to offer!

37: This is what it looks like when you pwn everyone and get front for SACRED FUCKIN REICH.

To the right in the pic above, there are actually people stacking up (wtf) for Sonic Syndicate (wtf wtf) on the Black Stage (wtf wtf wtf). Behold the power of Nuclear Blast marketing.

Sonic Syndicate
Even admitting that they made some decently entertaining music, this band would be a lot more accurately called Children At The Edge of Dark Flames; take a bunch of huge-selling Swedecore acts, blend thoroughly, and don't add anything new. The most fun part about this band was seeing how long it took to figure out whether the song they were playing was originally by In Flames or by Dark Tranquillity. A follower-band doing DT B-sides shouldn't, abstractly, be playing Wacken, but DT B-sides are pretty damn good for noon on Saturday...leaving aside that I saw Metal Church in this timeslot last year.

38: Sonic Syndicate passing the time.

39: Sacred Reich checking and setting up.

40: Sacred Reich kicking ass -- front row again, bitches!

Sacred Reich [7/7]
If you were behind the pit, maybe this is a six; there were rough parts, and Sacred Reich's music was never at the top of the Bay Area pigpile. However, I was on the rail, and spent the last three songs as an acceleration and intensification of the first part of the set, ceaselessly throwing people over to the secus while getting blasted by crunchy, grooving thrash. They weren't the best thrash band of the weekend, but they were damn awesome and in this set provided a hell of a killer comeback.

There was a camera in my face for almost the whole set; if you get the DVD from this year, this is the band to look for me in; the jacket studs are pretty unique and should be a tipoff.

Heaven Shall Burn [7/7]

41: HSB im vollen Effekt.

42: The crowd rides the waves.

43: This is Skinless getting one-upped
Janini ist toll -- na, klar so iss sie. Janini ist toll und dazu supergeil.

The music was about at the 6 level, but still the best metalcore has to offer, solid and honest hardcore mixed with competently executed and grounded death metal, which forms the basis of Heaven Shall Burn's almost unique attraction outside their own scene. Plus, the band successfully invoked a circle pit, as shown in pic 43 above, that went all the way around the mix stand and the bar complex behind it, for a total circumference somewhere in the vicinity of 100-200 meters. This may be a world record and certainly was fucking astonishing to behold; those who weren't nearly 2m tall naturally were hopping on other people's shoulders, hoisting themselves on the fence, standing on the urinals, anything to see over the crowd to check that shit out. The pit ran for nearly the entire song at nearly full strength, which is something really special.

The interruption above is from this girl whose crew I ran into while writing up HSB and Sacred Reich during Stratovarius at the True Stage infield-wall bar; she literally took the pen out of my hand and wrote the first bit herself, then pressed me to write the second. I don't remember if this was before or after I helped her boyfriend mess with her and the rest of their posse by hiding the second of their inflatable drinks trays on the roof. Weird, weird people, but this was just the beginning of a long sequence of weird people and weird events that would go on through the day and into the night.

44: Mudman attacks! This guy is a crazy Dutchman who had his girl recently break up with him after three years, and the chick that he saw Sacred Reich with ran off. The descent into beer and madness was expected, but the mud was not. I talked with him for a while, and drank the Bruderschaft, but didn't get his name. I don't know that he went to see the strippers (this year, new, Wacken had its own occasional strip show in the Metal-Markt and a poker tent in the same area, as well as the newspaper; there's very few small-German-city services that aren't provided by the fest) later, but he dug the idea when I showed him the paper to help get his mind off his romantic woes, and despite or maybe due to being covered in mud, he may have picked up another girl later. Skol! To craziness and the true festival spirit! As I said when we raised our glasses, there may not be anyone at this festival who's going to pick up a girl he didn't come with, but we've got cold beer and loud metal, and two out of three aint bad.

Stratovarius [4/7]
I took this band mostly off, but was right next to the stage; they were OK, but not, to me, particularly inspiring, despite playing a fair bit of stuff off the Infinite album, which does happen to be my favorite. The time was better spent with the music as a backdrop to watching - and talking with - crazy dudes and cute girls. This may have been reversed as well, but I'm not qualified as a judge of male beauty, and none of the girls were throwing waste-contaminated mud at people or hopping around backwards, trying to INVERSE RAEP people with their bare butts.

The Vision Bleak [6/7]
Too short! Too short! Whoever gave this amazing band only 30 minutes should be shot. This was one of my most anticipated sets of the festival, and it didn't disappoint....until after only 30 minutes, they closed up without doing "Sister Najade", even though they did about half of Carpathia and it was all wicked awesome. They did a new song from the upcoming record, which was as kickass as the Carpathia and ...Deathship... material in the set, and the musicianship of the numerous session doods (of two guitarists, vocals, bass, drums, and keys, only two of the six members, the vocalist and one of the guitarists, appear the CDs, doing everything) was superb in playing up to the standard of the full members on record. Great stuff; here's hoping they do a US tour (not likely) with a longer set time.

45: The Vision Bleak in The Tentstage Packed.

Outside the WET stage, before the band started, I sold my liter-mug to these kids who were looking for a souvenir. I already had one, and they were saying that the bars were out, which may well have been the case. The organizers should know by now that nearly everyone who gets one fo these things will want to take it home.

46: Peavey, Rage, and a few of the Lingua Mortis Orchestra.

Rage, with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra [5/7]
I missed a bunch of their set due to The Vision Bleak, but still caught a good idea of this combo, real progressive and genuinely innovative. It's hard to keep an orchestra in time with a rock band, but here it was done with skill and aplomb. Without the orchestra, Rage isn't really in my favorite style, but very well done regardless.

47: Christmas in August! These skinny Santas with death metal T-shirts under their coats come to give Destruction and Type O Negative to all the bloody-minded little boys and girls camping the front rail.

48: Destruction kicking off. Unfortunately, there was a fucking camera crane in the way that I couldn't shoot around.

49: The Alliance of Hellhoundz -- or as many as were at the festival for other reasons, anyway. Bobby Blitz and the guy from Communic were supposed to be in this shot, and Peavey and Tom Angelripper showed up to chime in as well.

Destruction [6/7]
This wasn't as good as their set at the Middle East back in February, but it was a lot more colorful with the Mad Butcher and Satan's cheerleaders running around, and the same composite-lineup thing that Sodom did earlier; this involved three drummers playing for most of the second half of the set and the resulting sound was immense. It was fun, but I was majorly footsore at this point, and I was on Type O's side of the stagefront as well.

50: Johnny Kelly soundchecking. Type O got one of their amp flags (the one up in this picture) from the same place I did.

51: Type O, take 1. No idea how these got so overexposed.

52: Peter Steele on full power.

Type O Negative [7/7]
Pete got drunk during the set and fucked some shit up, as well as tossing a 750-ml glass wine bottle into the crowd, for which for a second it seemed like the security might break up the performance. Nevertheless, the total performance effect was ace; that element of true self-destruction is what makes Type O, beyond other goth bands, really true and essential. If you haven't seen something like this yet, do it quick; how long these legends are going to be alive and functioning correctly is in definite dispute. Peter's lost a lot of weight (probably a result of being in jail) and would look really cadaverous if not for the facial hair he's got now; no idea if his substance problems are coming back to bite him again or what, but he had to take two long breaks in the middle of the set, and seemed a lot less together than he was last year with Carnivore.

If you see video of this set and someone in the crowd is holding up a green banner with a black vertical stripe, that's me, using my Vinnland flag like a football shawl. I couldn't get up close enough to put it over the rail, so I did this instead.

I went up front for Immortal to prove I could get fence. I did, then went back to sit on the bar and drink beers, instead. Immortal will be awesome all the way to the back of the house, and I was hungry, tired, and short on fluids. Also, the part of the fence that I was able to get to was right the fuck on the side, and it was debatable how much of the guys I'd actually see.

Immortal [7/7]
If there was any idea that this score would turn out otherwise, go and have a good laugh at yourself; Immortal's material is awesome, and their professionalism is legendary. I came all this way mainly to see these three men hold 70,000 spellbound, and the place for that is the back, not the front -- and of course Wacken, not B.B. King's. Unfortunately, they weren't able to make it snow during "At The Heart Of Winter", but it was pretty damn sublime all the same...and we did have a nice north wind throughout.....

I was going to take In Flames' set off to hit the head and get some food, but they took so long setting up and the line for the toilets was so relatively short that by the time they started up, I was out, doner in hand, walking back to the bar. However, I didn't really get the chance to pay much attention to the band -- or to Cannibal Corpse, following them -- because Monika's boyfriend and his pal went up front, leaving her in the bar, and she struck up a conversation.

The combination of 'cute', 'buxom', 'funny', 'in the semiconductor industry', 'dressed as a Bavarian dirndl', and 'into metal and will headbang to Cannibal Corpse' hits so many of my known weaknesses that it is not funny, though it is eminently understandable that I'd be distracted from the bands on stage. That she'd be first noticeably, then extremely into me as well, was not forseeable, especially since she already had a boyfriend, but this led to the totally unanticipated experience of making out with someone else's girlfriend in traditional peasant dress during a Cannibal Corpse concert. In the end, she went back -- though seemingly with great reluctance -- to those she came with, and I was left there confused, euphoric, and with a lot of crowd to cross to see Vital Remains.

In Flames [5/7]
An In Flames fan would have been in heaven for their set. I'm not a huge fan, though, as I can recognize that at times they can be pedestrian and barely clear the threshold of nu-metal, but this shouldn't stop anyone from also noting that In Flames have some pretty fuckin badass songs in their catalog, and when they play that shit, old or new, they're among the best mass-bands in the world. They'll never be cult again, but if they can spring from here to doing stadiums on their own while keeping the old material in the setlist, it's another victory for metal. I was glad of the distraction, especially by someone so appealing, but also glad that we still got good music as a backdrop.

Cannibal Corpse [6/7]
Unfortunately, the nature of progressive flirting means that my impressions of Cannibal Corpse are a little less solid -- in no small wise because the band's sound is so thick and dense that we were basically wrapped around each other the whole set, cheek to cheek and shouting in each other's ears to be heard. The band was fucking on, though, no doubt about that, and the songs that we took off to headbang to -- including "Make Them Suffer" in an absolutely killer take -- were balls-out awesome. However, there's still the impression that I'm somewhat irredemable as a fan of the brutal, and a truly top-flight set from these legends would have commanded more of my attention, no matter who was cuddling up. If I was instead, as usual, among sweaty, hairy, dudes for this set, I'd likely have enjoyed the time just as much, if for a decidedly different balance of reasons.

So after this little operetta played itself out, I finished my beer and went walking over to the tentstage to see Vital. Unfortunately, there was a scheduling cockup and the set times were shifted about an hour later than planned. in the meantime, I caught some rumors and the first half of 1349.

Rumors first: while I was watching The Vision Bleak and everyone else was seeing Rage, the organizers made an announcement, which was broadcast live on the internet, but at the festival spread only by rumor as everyone was at the damn bands. The scuttlebutt that night was focused on two lines:
line 1: Metallica in '09.
line 2: Iron Maiden may not necessarily be the top headliner next year.

The second of these is more interesting, because it's slightly more likely to be true; all that's confirmed is that they're talking with Metallica, AC/DC, or a full Sabbath reunion with Ozzy, those being the only acts in the heavy-metal world who could legitimately headline over Iron Fucking Maiden. Of course, these are just rumors, and even Florio wouldn't print something sourced solely to "some drunk kid standing outside the tent stage". As it turned out, the "big announcement" was Avantasia for 2008; huge news to those power metal nerds who were at home watching from their couch and may need to buy some outdoor gear for the first time ever, but a letdown in expectations to those who were already out at an unbelievably awesome festival.

Also while we were waiting for 1349 to start, the singer of Subway To Sally made remarks to the effect that there were a hundred thousand people in attendance. This was self-apparently ridiculous -- but if we had 70K this year for this lineup, six figures for Iron Maiden, Kreator, Bodom, and whatever other top acts are added in the next 11 months isn't out of the question....unless tickets, as they ought to be, are strictly limited. As it turns out, there were 60,00 paying attendees and 12,000 volunteers, vendors, bands, security, and other staff, which is the limit that the authorities will allow. Get your '08 ticket early, they won't last.

1349 [6/7]
In some ways this was a little flatter than their set at Mark's, but the atmosphere was incalculably better. This was one of the few black metal performances at this fest that could be unambiguously rated as true, perhaps the single most so, definitely the most so of those I saw, the band roaring out of a hellmouth of smoke and red lights to lay waste to this packed cave in the midst of utter darkness -- and the music was as kickass as might be expected. It wasn't a worldbreaker performance, but it was a great set regardless, and I'm glad I went over after CC.

Unfortunately, I was dead on my feet and needed to get moving homeward the next morning, so I turned away around 2:30 and didn't stay for Vital Remains. Oh well; I didn't see them or Municipal Waste or Kampfar or Moonsorrow or Chthonic or Swallow The Sun or Communic or Belfegor or Dimension Zero, but by the end of the fest I'd seen a ton of kickass bands and had, overall, an awesome, awesome time.

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