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Articles : Wacken Open Air 2018 Review – Day Two & Three

By on August 9, 2018

Click here to read the Day 1 review of Wacken Open Air 2018.
All photos courtesy of  ICS Festival GmbH www.wacken.com

I woke up early on Friday morning, the 2nd day of the festival,  in a sweltering tent feeling the effects of an epic day one. In hindsight, the sheer excitement of being at Wacken impacted my ability to maintain sensible alcohol consumption rate. As we made our way to the festival grounds my head was still pounding as if my face had been smashed in by a hammer. Ironically,  the first band I checked out was the mighty Cannibal Corpse, who owned the main stage and delighted the already massive crowd with their classic brand of no-nonsense traditional death metal. Corpsegrider’s windmills were on point as usual.

Finland’s Amorphis were up next. Tomi Joutsen’s vocals were absolutely sublime throughout an epic set which focussed heavily on their newer material ‘Queen of Time’ & ‘Under The Red Cloud’. Seeing Amorphis for the first time was definitely one of the highlights of day two. I really enjoyed hearing them play “The Castaway” form the classic album Tales from the Thousand Lakes.

Next up we ventured to the Louder Stage to see Mr.Big, the American classic rock band featuring virtuoso musicians Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert.  I’m a huge shred guitar fan so whilst some of their songs are pretty goddamn cheesy I really enjoyed watching Gilbert and Sheehan wow the crowd. It was also impressive to see all 4 of the members sing harmonies live –  incredible musicians. Their huge hit ‘To Be With You’ went down really well too, which was a little surprising given the setting – incredible to think that only an hour or so previously we were listening to Cannibal Corpse! Wacken really does cater for fans of all types of hard rock and heavy metal.

Children of Bodom were up next, and I was really impressed with how great their material comes across in the live setting. I’ve only ever been a casual Children of Bodom fan at best, but they were really impressive so I might have to revisit them again soon. From there we made our way from the main area to the Headbangers Stage to see German thrash legends Destruction. As a long time, thrash metal fan Destruction’s no-nonsense brand really hits the spot. Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer is an absolute monster of a frontman, and I really respect how tight and heavy they sound being a 3 piece. One of my favourites from the weekend without a doubt.

After seeing Destruction we left the Bullhead Circus area and headed to the Wasteland Stage. Here Jasad, a 5 piece from Indonesia put on a masterclass in brutal death metal. Jasad were the heaviest band I saw over the entire weekend at Wacken, and their set is up there with the most memorable I’ve seen from a band I was previously unfamiliar with.

After seeing Jasad we had a bit of a food and beverage stop to collect ourselves. It has to be said that the food and drinks on offer at Wacken are surprisingly well priced, and there is such a diverse range that it certainly enhances the overall festival experience. The Fleischbraeter stands were a hit with us – basically, a sword-sized skewer of marinated pork – delicious. I also appreciate that the organisers have free drinking water and provide you with a refillable water bottle as part of your festival pack (alongside a huge range of handy goodies) –  It’s the little touches like this that set Wacken apart from any festival I’ve ever been to before.

Reloaded with food and beverages we made our way back to the main stage to see Running Wild, the classic, pirate-themed German heavy metal band. Being from Hamburg these guys had a huge, vocal crowd, however as I wasn’t overly familiar with their material I found them a little difficult to really get into. On the way back to the press/VIP area for a drink, we bumped into the members of Jasad, had a chat and arranged a formal interview. You can read the interview here.

Following the interview, we caught the end of In Flames’ set and got our self a good vantage point for Ghost. In Flames were tight, but their later work doesn’t really hit the spot for me these days, but the crowd seemed to really get into them.

By the time Ghost hit the stage it was 1:45 am. Given how late it was, I thought they were a really good choice – easy listening with an incredible stage show. Ghost isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I do get them and what they’re all about, and their set was really enjoyable. I like their mix of pop sensibilities and satanic themed lyrics – their whole sound and vibe was enhanced by the huge level of production they were afforded on the Wacken main stage, under a moonlight sky no less. Ghost played until 3.00 am and by the time we crawled into bed, legs aching, it was closer to 5.00am.

Saturday started much in the same way as Friday – waking up earlier than was would be ideal  – it was absolutely scorching in the tent – I guess that’s the only negative aspect of how good the weather was. Luckily we had learnt our lesson from day one so the hangover was less prevalent;  We were learning quickly that unlike a one day Soundwave, attending a 3-day camping festival needs stamina – we needed to play the long game.

We started Saturday in the same way as we started Friday, by watching the bands on the main stage. Wintersun & Alestorm were both really great. Wintersun plays a fantastic blend of metal styles, and Alestorm is just pure fun. From there we ventured back to the Bullhead Circus arena to see Night Demon play on the Headbangers Stage. We had met Night Demon at the bar late on Thursday night, so we were keen to see them play. Night Demon is a really great 3 piece traditional metal band, with huge chops and soaring vocals. They finished their set with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Wasted Years”, which was a nice touch too.

We made our way back to the main stages to see Gojira who was one of my most anticipated bands on the line-up. The 4 piece from France absolutely destroyed the main stage with their brand of rhythmically heavy, percussive groove. I enjoyed their setlist immensely, with a strong representation of the From Mars to Sirius album – absolute destruction.

Arch Enemy was a favourite of mine when I was at university, but I’ve lost touch with their newer material. Nevertheless, they were great and arguably had one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Watching the sheer scale of humanity packed into the main stage area was like seeing something from an epic battle scene from Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the tracks from Wages of Sin and Doomsday Machine in particular, and it’s cool to see Jeff Loomis and Mike Amott on the same stage, together.

We left while Arch Enemy was still playing as I was keen to check out Act of Defiance on the Wasteland Stage, featuring past members of Megadeth and Shadows Fall. The band played well, with Chris Broderick shredding the house down, but they would have been disappointed in the turn out for their set. A three-way clash involving Act of Defiance, Arch Enemy and Ensiferum was arguably the most regrettable clash of the festival.

Back at the Bullhead Circus’ W:E:T stage, Norwegian Progressive Black metal band Enslaved played a really great & varied set which contained songs from their latest album E, and a song form each of the Frost, Hordanes Land and RIITIIR albums. Enslaved are such a unique and talented band, I would have happily watched them play a far longer set.

Helloween (Pumpkins United) played a mammoth 2.5 hour set on the main stage, and whilst I really enjoy some of their career-defining work, 2.5 hours of uplifting power metal was a little too much for me to handle on tired legs towards the end of day 3 of a festival. Still, I enjoyed what I did see (in between spending some time at the bar and food outlets), and there’s no doubt that it is pretty amazing to see all of the classic Helloween alumni on the stage together.

We made our way back the Bullhead Circus W:E:T stage to see Samael perform. The Swiss band Samael started out life in the late 80’s as a black metal band but these days I’d call them more of a symphonic black/industrial metal band. It’s a unique sort of sound, although I do hear a bit of a Rammstein in what they do. The absence of a live drummer changes the dynamic of the live show a little, however, they put on a commanding show.

The last act I watched at Wacken 2018 was Dimmu Borgir. The Symphonic black metal band played a phenomenal set. The pyrotechnics and general high calibre sets and production on the main stages at Wacken are absolutely incredible. I haven’t had the chance to see Dimmu before but I’d imagine seeing Dimmu at a club show would almost be a totally different experience, but no doubt still a great one – they’re in top form and are about to tour Australia so check them out.

Wacken 2018 was easily the best festival I’ve ever attended. The sheer size and line-up alone make it worthy of attendance, but the level of community spirit and attention to detail in every aspect of the festival’s running made it such a pleasure to attend. I was dreading the lines on for the buses back to Itzhoe on Sunday morning, but as this was professionally managed as per every other aspect of the festival.


Tickets for next year (30th anniversary of Wacken) are absolutely racing out of the gates so if you have any interest in attending, don’t delay; get your tickets while you still can. Click here to secure your tickets to Wacken Open Air 2019.

About

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.