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Articles : Wacken Open Air 2018 Review – Day One

By on August 3, 2018

Photo by Olaf Malzahn

a trip, often a long one, made to a holy place for religious reasons.

There is no doubt that for myself and many other metal fans, a trip to Wacken is a pilgrimage in the truest sense of the word. Denim vests, black shirts, goodwill and comradery were all palpable as we made the final leg of our journeys via shuttle bus from Izehoe to the village of Waken. Although German is the predominant language spoken at Wacken, it has been impressive to see how many people have travelled from far and wide to be here; flags from all around the globe can be seen everywhere you look.

Wacken has a reputation for its wet weather and lots of mud, but this year we have been blessed with blue skies and summer weather. Ideal conditions for enjoying the festival – The gumboots I cautiously packed won’t see the light of day, thankfully.

Although I’ve been to plenty of festivals in Australia and the UK, I can honestly say that Waken is totally unique, its like nothing I’ve seen before; A small rural village and 280 hectares of farming land transforms (for the best part of a week) into what is essentially a city with a population of 75,000+. But more impressive than the sheer size of the event, is the fact that the tiny village of Waken and its residents totally embrace the festival; Wacken Open Air clearly means a lot to the community. Residents turn their front lawn’s into pop up metal bars and food outlets, and the local children make money selling water and beer to thirsty travellers. 75,000 tickets are sold to the festival but given the festivity in the village itself who really knows how many metalheads are in Waken this weekend?! Regardless, its highly impressive to see the village become the undisputed capital city of Heavy Metal for a week.

After the formalities of checking in and setting up camp we made our way to the festival grounds. Apon entry I was struck by an almost Mad Max post-apocalyptic vibe of the place. I thought I knew what I was in for, but Waken is far bigger than I could have imagined. In addition to the live music, there are 100 food outlets, 300 non-food outlets, live entertainment performances, a gaming stadium and many other activities on offer. Despite the abundance of extracurricular activities, the line up is too good to refuse so most of my time on the festival grounds is spent watching the bands. Highlights included Florida death metal in Gruesome and some of the best black metal bands on the planet; Behemoth, Belphegor and Gaahl’s Wyrd. However, the headliners, Judas Priest, were clearly the highlight of the day.

Judas Priest is an all-time classic act and despite the absence, if KK and Glenn for much if the set (can you really still be Judas Priest without the founding axe slingers?!), their performance was up there with the best I can remember seeing. Absolutely phenomenal. I’m staggered by how good  Halford’s voice is – belting out metal anthems with the same gusto that he did in his younger days. Glenn Tipton has recently stepped away from touring with the band due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease, so it was especially heartening to see him join the band for a 3 pronged British Steel era encore of “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”. What an epic conclusion to an epic day.

Whilst I’m at risk of repeating myself, the scale of this festival is truly unfathomable, and after 29 years of expansion and fine-tuning, it would seem that the organisers have thought of every last detail to make the experience as positive as possible for the people attending.

If like me, attending Wacken was at the top of your bucket list, don’t hesitate to get your ticket and attend next year. The mecca of heavy metal is everything you would have dreamed of and much, much more. 2019 is the 30th year of Wacken Open Air, so who knows what the organisers have in store.

1 day down, 2 more days of Wacken Open Air to go. How good is heavy metal?!


Chris is a long time metal enthusiast and advocate for Australian heavy music scene. Chris grew up in Perth, Western Australia and is a past member of modern melodeath act Let's Kill Uncle. Currently residing in London, UK.