In the small village of Wacken, at the north side of Germany, every year takes place the most famous Metal Festival in the world. Οn the occasion of the 30 years of the festival, we went there once again, to pay tribute to the mecca of all metal Festivals….. The legendary W: O: A
This year’s line up didn’t include very BIG names in the bill but, anyway you don’t care much if you visit the festival for all the fun… the festival is set in the pastures of the region…..
It is great achievement that from the 800 visitors in 1990, the festival has reached the capacity of 75000 this year! Sold out again for another year!
Day 1 W: O: A – Thursday 1 August
I was early in the festival’s area. SKYLINE was the band that opened the program at the big stages. The Germans were the headliners of the first W:O:A. They even wrote two songs for this event. “30 years ago” and “This is W:O:A.” With Henning Basse (FIREWIND) on vocals, they played songs from other artists and all the people had fun. In the guests were included DORO and GUS G. Then we had our first visit to the “closed” stages with VAMPIRE from Sweden. They played songs from their two albums, especially the amazing “With Primeval Force”. They’ve received the applause of the crowd.
Back to the big stages, to enjoy the beautiful Jennifer Haben and BEYOND the BLACK. The German Fans were excited with their symphonic metal. Their style is something between Within Temptation and Nightwish. Highlight of their perfomance was the entrance of the cellist Tina Guo at the stage. The cover on “Love Me Forever” by Motorhead was gorgeous. We remain at the central stage for the legendary KROKUS. The veterans came out loud with “Headhunter” and gave live performance lessons. Great perfomance for an hour! In” Eat the Rich”, ” Easy Rocker” and “Tokyo Nights” the fans went crazy..
We went to beergarden for beer refuelling but also to see CROBOT. The first live contact with them was when they played a great live as a support band for Volbeat and Airbourne in 2016. Well, the Americans have became a great band since then. They played songs from the brand new “Motherbrain” album. We were hit by their funk rock rhythms. We went back to the main stage where we would stay till the end of the first day.
We didn’ t see HAMMERFALL from the beginning and till we reach the front rows, we lost half of their setlist. Joakim Cans’ voice as also the whole band were in an amazing shape. In “Let the Hammerfall” chaos existed! Very beautiful solo by Pontus Norgren in the “Game Of Thrones” theme. They closed with the brand new song “We Make) Sweden Rock” and “Hearts on Fire”. An apotheosis for the band.
Afterwords we went ahead to enjoy AIRBOURNE. By far they were the best live performance of the first day. In my opinion, AIRBOURNE are included at the top three bands of the whole festival. Those you haven’ t seen live, you should! There’s no way you won’t get excited from the amazing Joel O’keeffe.
The Australians love AC/DC and they show it proudly. For an hour and a half we were “lost” at their rock and roll party. “Ready To Rock”, “Bottom Of The Well”, “Breakin’ Out Hell”, encore with “Live it up” and “Raise the flag”. And of course the sensational “Runnin’ Wild” where everyone was jumping! Shocking! So the time has come for the headliners of day one.
SABATON, have already announced that they will use both central scenes (Faster & Harder). At the begging they’ve opened the show at “Fatser” stage with the track “Ghost Division” , followed by songs from their new album “The Great War”. The fans went crazy. A man’s choir dressed in military clothing came on stage and the former guitarist Thobbe Englund had participated at the songs “Fields Of Verdum” and “Shiroyama”. At some point, the bassist and co-founder of the group disappeared from the stage (Sandstorm and Broden are the only ones from the original line up) and appeared suddenly at the stage beside!
For the next 2 minutes he is describing how they’ve got “such a big name”, the stage opens and Civil War appear. A band with the ex-members of SABATON that left the band at 2012. From there on, a fantastic show begins, in both stages at the same time! “Panzerkampf” “The Art Of War” “Attero Dominatus” and many more. At the encore, the crowd has created a battlefield. “Primo Victoria” “Swedish Pagans” “To Hell And Back”.
A superb appearance from a band which we have to admit, whether we like them or not, that it has become really “strong” as a name, and it will remain like this the following years.
Day 2 W:O:A – Friday 2 August
While on Thursday the weather was amazing with unusual temperatures for North Hamburg, on Friday the weather reminded us where we were at that time! WE appeared early enough at the festival, to see ELUVEITIE. Even if more than half of the tracks played were coming from this year’s amazing “Ategnatos” album, the Swiss gave a great perfomance for the fans who came early at “Faster” stage. In “Artio” we enjoyed the elusive voice of Fabienne Erni who seems to be completely connected to the group, after two years of presence.
He “pinned” us down! They said goodbye with “Inis Mona”. In the meanwhile the organizers had interrupted the show because of a warning for lightning during the next hour. Fans evacuated the area within minutes and only when the organizers were sure there was no more danger, the doors were open again. The result of this situation was that many shows changed time and others moved to other scenes, while EVERGREY didn’t play at all! A mess was created since we found the new program’s hours…
When we arrived, the BLACK STONE CHERRY band was playing. In about 40 minutes of their set, they aroused the world with their Hard Rock melodies. We left for the headbanger stage to see VENOM Inc.
In front of us the mythical figures of Mantas and Demolition Man. We’ re “bombed” at first with “Ave Satanas”, “Metal We bleed”, “Time To Die” to the amazing “Ave” and afterwords they played all the songs we love. Their show was amazing. The good thing about W:O:A is that no matter where you are, there’ s always an opportunity to eat or drink, and to find a stage to watch a band playing. So we’ ve reached the Wackinger stage where GERNOTSHAGEN started their program
The Germans play a kind of Pagan Folk Black Metal. It’s one of the dozen German bands you see in this festival. And the truth is that the world was satisfied with their music.
Break for our hot dogs and beers! We went to Beergarden stage to see NAILED TO OBSCRACY. Having released the very good album “Black Frost” at the beginning of the year, the Germans played in front of a few people because most people did not know that they were transferred to play on that stage. However, those who were there, enjoyed their Doom/Death melodies. It was time to go to the big stages again. It took us about 20 minutes to get closer and all that time, WITHIN TEMPTATION were playing their program. It was nothing special. The Dutch may have gained new fans by turning to more melodic and rock trails, but in my ears they sound like a bad copy of Nightwish.
It’s time for DEMONS & WIZARDS. For an hour and a half, this supergroup gave us unique moments. They began with “Rites of Passage” “Heaven Denies” and “Poor man’s Crusade” from their first album.
People are getting “crazy”. Besides, this festival has a huge love for the Kursch-Shaffer duo and especially for the leader of BLIND GUARDIAN. He honored them with “Welcome to Dying” and “Valhalla” songs!
Of course they couldn’t leave out from their setlist songs from ICED EARTH. They played “Burning Times” and “I Died for you”. This incredible show has ended with “Blood on My Hands” and “Fiddler on the Green” songs. We only had 15 minutes of rest for what was going to happen…
SLAYER were the headliners of day two. It would be their last concert at a big festival in Europe and their second-last in general (at Stuttgart the following day would be their last show in Europe). What can you say? They’ ve “finished” us once more! Having seen their show in June at Hellfest and knowing you’ ll never see them live again, you get an incredible melancholy.
For an hour and a half, all the songs with which we grew together passe in front of us… A war machine that was literally throwing flame against us. “Angel Of Death” , “Season In The Abyss” , “Hell Awaits” , “South Of Heaven” , “Raining Blood” , “Born Of Fire” , “War Enseble” …. Thank you for everything….The gaze of Araya will stuck forever in my mind…
Day 3 W:O:A – Saturday 3 Αugust
No matter how tired you feel on the last day, as soon as you get there you feel strong again! For once more we were there really early, to see SUIDAKRA on the Headbanger stage. A lot of fans came for the Germans.
Although they have not released something great lately, their live appearances are still like a Celtic fairy tale dressed in melodic Death/Folk sounds. Very good perfomance. Then we visited “Louder” stage where it was time for KVELERTAK. Lots of Norwegian flags in the crowd. And luckily, they focused on their first two albums, “Kveleratk” and “Meir”.
Nikolaisen is quite good as a singer, but he certainly misses the madness of Hjelvik. In “Utrydd Dei Svake” the expected craziness from the crowd. That day we had a lot of walk between the stages because everything we wanted to see was on the other side of the festival. Back to Wackinger stage to see OPERUS.
The Canadians play something between Symphonic and Epic Metal. They were pretty good and they’ve played songs from the only album they’ ve ever released. The temperature was 35 degrees at the time, so we went to W.E.T stage to cool off and see the VINTAGE CARAVAN.
The Icelanders gripped the audience. Powerful Psychedelic Rock with stoner elements. We left just before they finish, because we wanted to see O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS at wackinger’s stage!
An Irish Folk band from Germany which we were told not to lose. All those three days, most of the people gathered in Wackinger stage, was for this band. A real party. Only Airbourne in the first day had similar “crowd surfing” conditions. From the greatest moments of the third day!
The next two hours are included at best moments of the festival, since PRIMORDIAL and SEPTICFLESH played in W.E.T and Headbanger stage. Those two stages were beside.
The Irish were incredible! Lucky were those who experienced this mystagogue! ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’, ‘Nail Their Tongues’, ‘To Hell Or The Hangman’. Alan was awesome with his moves and his look. “Stolen Years”, “The Coffin Ships”, and of course “Empire Falls” ended an incredible perfomance
We took a few steps to see SEPTICFLESH and continue our headbanging sessions! No need to talk about the acceptance of this band all around the world and the love of the metal fans. Awesome. All tracks they played were coming from their latest albums and especially from “Codex Omega”. Spiros was great. In “Anubis ” a mess.from the crowd! Apotheosis at the end for their live perfomance!
We finished with the bands in the “closed” stages. Time for the big stages till the end of the festival. First at “Louder” to see AVATAR. The Swedes are growing fast and in a few years they will be headliners in big fests! Amazing show on stage with a unique frontman Johaness Eckerstrom.
They may have changed their sound, but they’ ve done it so well and they earn new fans. The “Paint Me Red”, “Bloody Angel”, “The Eagle Has Landed”, “The King welcomes You To Avatar Country” highlights of a unique show. It’s time for PARKWAY DRIVE, the headliners of the third day!
The Australians made an impressive entrance through the fans. Security with torches opened space for the band members. For almost 2 hours they ripped us with their metalcore hymns! McCall didn’t seem to believe what was going on the arena. “Prey”, “Carrion”, “Vice Grip”, “The Void”, “Chronos”. Everywhere fans making crowd surfing! The band made an incredible performance! The bass player (O’Connor) was at a wheelchair after an accident during the tour. Encore with “Crushed” and of course with “Bottom Feeder” and nonstop jumping from thousands people. Hundreds of fireworks made the night seems like day. Best finale ever! By far the best band of the festival. A very good end for us was given with SAXON’s metal hymns!
They’ ve found the magic elixir of youth. Time doesn’t affected them at all! They played all their hits. One success after another. They celebrated their 40-year career with an amazing show!
This year’ s W:O: A has given us incredible moments and unique memories to remember. AIRBOURNE, SLAYER and PARKWAY DRIVE were the ultimate highlights of the festival. The 30 years of the festival were celebrated in the best way and the festival of 2020 was sold out in a few hours!
No matter how its critics consider this festival as a huge “carnival”, Wacken was and will be the most famous festival in the world…… The Mecca of all….
Let’ s move on to the next…..
Live Correspondence: Nick Vlachos
Cover Artwork: Chrysa Antoniadi