Photography by: Toni B. Gunner – www.mondkringel-photography.de
Wacken Open Air, I don’t think that this Metal Mecca has need for any kind of introduction. Every year tens of thousands of metalheads from over the entire world gather here for some days in the capital of metal called Wacken, just 1800 inhabitants are overflown with long haired rabble with black shirts, army boots and beer. On 7 stages they have the biggst metalbands from the entire world, but the small bands get time to prove themselves as well.
On wednesday morning we arrive early in the village, after we get our wristbands we put up our camp and head, like every year, immediately to the swimming pool. In the town of Wacken is a swimming pool where once a year a big number of visitors go to play with inflatable toys and jump from a springboard. After a relaxed start of the festival it’s time for us to look for our friends and check out some bands.
Although the festival officially starts on Thursday, a number of acts are programmed on the Wackinger stage on Wednesday, and the festival site already has a lot of side activities to get you in the mood for the phenomenon called Wacken. Vogelfrey is one of the acts that plays several sets on the Wackinger stage during the entire festival. The German sextet has become immensely popular in a relatively short time, which is clearly visible on this early Wednesday evening; Wackinger Village was packed with fans who fancied a healthy dose of medieval folk-rock. Although we are generally accustomed to great performances from Vogelfrey, the band is clearly less excited tonight. The songs sounds messy, the sound is not adjusted properly and the wind instrument that is used for several different songs sounds incredibly out of tune. This clearly affects the show in a negative way, because the band is seldomly lacking in enthusiasm. Despite the fact that vocalist Jannik is an incredibly good front man who can easily manipulate the crowd, the entire set is diligently sung by the enthusiastic audience. All in all it wasn’t bad for the first show, but it could have been much better. Luckily the band was allowed a retake three more times at Wacken!
On thursday our personal program starts late. So after breakfast with hot dog sausages and coffee we slowly head for the festival area. We stroll around and check on what’s changed since last year. After a great Becks Lemon we head for Bullhead City Circus where Juodvarnis will play at 14:20. Before them it’s time for the metalbattle winner from China, Evocation. This band makes loud extreme deathmetal but in which they speak of the Chinese history as well. Great intro’s and a beautiful scenery remind me of folkmetal, but in the music there’s not the slightest trace of this. Though for the readers who like metal a bit outside the borders of our website, I can recommend you to check these guys.
Thursday afternoon, the big tent Bullhead City is entirely dedicated to the winners of the Metal Battle 2014. This is also the place where we discover the Lithuanian band Juodvarnis. The band describes their music as pagan heavy metal, but obviously makes a lot of trips to a varied range of musical genres. Although the band may not entirely belong within the lands of folk metal, it is definitely worth mentioning. The lyrics that are sung entirely in Lithuanian provide a wonderful contrast to the music, that goes from small and fragile to bombastic and obscure. Every no wand then some elements from genres such as black metal and post-rock can be recognized, but all in all the music is very accessible. The beautiful clean vocals of vocalist Paulius are a great addition to the music. The only downside is that the band only has 20 minutes of stage time, because I would have loved to enjoy more of this band!
After Juodvarnis we have another band for the readers who explore a bit outside the websites borders. This time we go the complete opposite way, to the medieval town of Duncarron that’s build in Scotland. The band Saor Patrol who’s known for their percussion and bagpipes are collecting money for this project. For the die heart metalfans this will not be tough enough for you, but for the lovers of folk music or the hardcore bagpipe fans (like myself) Saor Patrol is a must see. And don’t forget to support these men for the amazing project they support.
After this I head for Bullhead City Circus where I see the Spanish metalbattle winner. Since they’re real far away from relevance to our site I’m not gonna say too much about them. I’m not in the big tent for In Mute after all, I’m here to see the Danes who follow them up.
In Denmark, Huldre came back from the metalbattles as victor and by this they won a place in the line-up of this festival. Up front, I definitely was curious after the gig of this unknown name in the folk-metal scene, but looking back on the entire festival I would say the performance of Huldre this Thursday afternoon on the Headbangers Stage was one of the 3 best I’ve seen here. The reason for that, amazing sound, fantastic show and the most awesome of it all was after the gig, when I tried to find my way out of the tent, I noticed I was almost in some kind of trance from the psychedelic magic of the Huldre. The name Huldre comes from Scandinavian folklore, she was the spirit of the woods. Huldre, following the example of this, took an entire forest with them to serve as decor. This, in addition to the music of metal and a violin and a hurdy-gurdy and the enchanting vocals of singer Nanna Barslev where a complete spectacle. I’d really love to see this band longer than just the 20 minutes they gained with the metalbattles.
When talking about folk punk/rock the name Fiddler’s Green will undoubtedly ring a bell. The men, who claim to make Irish speed folk, have the ungrateful task of playing on n of the smallest stages of the festival. Wackinger Village has never been so crowded in years. As expected, the band plays a lot of classic songs. Songs such as ‘Mrs. McGrath’, ‘Bugger Off’ and ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ should therefore not be missing from the set. As we have come to expect from the enthusiastic Germans, we are once again treated to a great show that engrosses the entire audience. The rut that was noticeable earlier that day due to the heat completely evaporated, and Wackinger village turned into one big dance floor. In my opinion, Fiddler’s Green was definitely one of the highlights of the festival!
The evening continued with a band I’d never thought to find myself, Steel Panther. Let’s say it’s not the band for me. Fortunately they where followed up by the ultimate highlight of Wacken this year, Saxon. Unbelievable what a show, the violins, the scenery, the ambiance, the sound, everything was perfect! Unless the many shows I’ve seen at WOA, nothing could even come close to what these old Brits showed us this evening.
The next morning started early with at 11 AM another band that holds up just outside the borders of the site and so I’d like to call them in this review. Even more because these Taiwanese brought a small orchestra with traditional Asian instruments as well. Of course I’m talking about Chtonic right now, a band I was really looking forward too. What a show! Such a shame it got pretty hot and it was so early on the day, in those conditions less people show up than this band deserves.
After Chtonic we stroll around a bit and check out Skidrow and Knorkator. Than we go find some shadow and refreshment in the press area before we go out to Wackinger Village.
The biggest surprise on Friday night is without question the Romanian band Dordeduh. The sun is already on its way back, and the slightest breeze washes over the festival grounds, which only benefits the timing of the set. Dordeduh is difficult to place within one genre, but the music is best described as progressive / atmospheric black metal. The band uses traditional Romanian instruments, including the ‘tulnic’, a kind of alpine horn, a ‘toaca’ or hammered wood, a dulcimer, a mandola and various types of panflutes. These instruments, combined with the atmospheric elements in the music, create a dreamy yet grim atmosphere. I must admit that the band has never interested me personally, but their performance at Wacken made me change my mind. The sound was perfect, the atmosphere was perfect, and the music unfolded like a warm blanket. Although the band was the only folk metal act on the Wackinger stage, the music hot like a bomb. Dordeduh was definitely the surprise act of the evening, and could be admired on several other nights at Wackinger just like many other bands.
After hanging around with Apocalyptica and Carcass (who gave away an amazing show) it is time to head for the next band all the readers of folk-metal know
Saltatio Mortis, the celebrities from the German folkrock scene know how to get a great number of people in front of their stage, even when playing at the same time as King Diamond. In a set that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes there is plenty of time for an enormous amount of up tempo hits and bagpipe noise. As far as my knowledge of this band goes, I’ve heard all the songs I know from them. The sound was perfect and the show was catchy as always. It was real crowded in front of the party stage and even in the back everyone was singing along and dancing and clapping.
Saturday starts with packing all our stuff. After we fully loaded our car it’s time to head for the stages again. We arrive just when Sodom sets of, it’s trash, can’t say much more about them.
After Sodom it’s Behemoths turn, unless I’m no fan of them I must say the show was really good and so was the sound. But still we go find ourselves some shade in the press area from where we check out Devin Townsend Project and Emperor.
Surely Amon Amarth was one of the highlights of Wacken 2014 for many metal fans worldwide. Not entirely unjustified, because the Swedish Viking metal band has been a welcome guest at several major metal festivals. The rather blunt music combined with the distinctive voice of front man Johan Hegg appeals to many audiences, and this was no less true at Wacken. The Wacken audience went towards the festival site in great masses to admire the immensely popular band from up close. And the fans got what they expected; a long set and a great show. Even the decor looked insanely good, because on the stage were two smoke-breathing dragonheads and flamethrowers, turning it into a bombastic show with a lot of fireworks. The only downside to the show was that during the first half of the set, the guitars were poorly adjusted so they were barely audible. This problem was cleared halfway through the set, but it is certainly the reason why this nearly perfect show slightly lowers the final grade.
After Amon Amarth we head for Bullhead City Circus where one of my favorite bands will play. Fleshgod Apocalypse, it has nothing to do with folkmetal, but the do sell pasta, oh well, those Italians. After a good show it’s time to walk to Firkin.
As I arrive in Wackinger Village, Firkin already started. From the first note I heard, they didn’t really get to me. Firking is just a folk punk band like we have a million of them already, and than they arrive too. A fun show and good for the party in front of the stage. But it’s little much more than the thousandth cover of all the Irish folk tunes.
After having to spend some time with Avantasia and Kreator it’s time for the last band of the festival, my personal guilty pleasure, Schandmaul.
It’s late, very late, on the last evening of a long festival, when it’s time for the German folkrock legend Schandmaul. A festival of tough metal will end with some love songs about minstrels who are in love with gorgeous princesses. You can see that this is a band who really knows what they’re doing on stage. The sound, perfect. Performance, super. Choreography, amazing. At the front rows the crowd is very enthusiastic, but further in the back people start to lose the battle with their tiredness. After having heard the Drachenmedley as well as Teufelsweib and Traumtaenzer Yvette asks me friendly if we could head back to the car so she can take a nap. So I start the engine, back home, from another wonderful edition of Wacken.