Wacken Metal Battle 2016 Winners: Zombies Ate My Girlfriend

"It was the best show we’ve ever played hands down"

Wacken open Air is one of the world’s Biggest and most popular Metal festivals in the world. Over a decade ago, Wacken started a worldwide battle of the bands called The Wacken Metal Battle. The competition encourages eager bands around the world to compete their way to the top and the winning band gets to represent their country in the highest honour; playing at Wacken open Air in Germany. With over 40 countries entering the competition this year, there could be only one winner. Zombies Ate my Girlfriend, a melodic death metal band from Cape Town, South Africa, took home the first prize this year....

While wandering around Hamburg in a post-Wacken haze, we came across a sign that said, ‘Metal concert this way’. Naturally, we paid our 5 smackeroos, headed down to see what we could find and boy did we get a surprise! The venue was called The ballroom, which is a metal/rock club appropriately built on the tracks inside of the old St Pauli Subway station, complete with the walls still being made of the old, concave subway wall tiles! When we checked the line-up, there was one band left for the night, it just so happened to be, The Wacken metal battle winners, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend. We were stoked as we had missed their show at Wacken and really wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The vocalist Gavin Marchbank was very humble on stage, wearing some sort of striking ringmaster Jacket; he apologized to the crowd for his vocals as he had been ill. He thanked everyone for coming and spoke of not only how lucky they were to be the winners of the Wacken metal battle, but how lucky they were to have this extra show. Then the band flew straight into their onslaught of a set. Their Grindcore-esque stance shot through the crowd from the first song, causing anyone seated to jump up immediately and head to the front of the stage. Melodeath riffs shine through the long, technical guitar solos, by guitarist Adriano Rodrigues, while bassist Marc Olwage thrashes his hair around as he joins the crowd and plays from the pit, encouraging the audience to windmill with him. Chris Hall also on guitar helped out on backup vocals giving the overall sound some extra depth. Drummer Ferdi Groenewald kept the set together, periodically smashing out blast beats and meeting the guys for their punchy breakdowns. It was great to see Zombies put on such an energetic set, performing almost as if they were playing at Wacken again, although the venue was far from full. After quite a long performance, the band thanked everyone profusely and they left the stage with a jovial crowd chanting, “Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!”

Post Zombie-apocalypse, I ran backstage to catch up with guitarist Adriano about his thoughts on winning the battle and his overall view on Wacken. Adriano, first of all, congrats on the big win! The entire band must be ecstatic, how was the show playing at Wacken? “It was unbelievable! We played on the W.E.T stage on the Thursday, the entire tent was full and the crowd was wild! It was the best show we’ve ever played hands down.” You guys are from South Africa; you’ve come a long way, what was the process like applying for the Wacken battle of the bands? “Well first the different provinces in South Africa, battle it out around the country, then they held the final in Johannesburg, there was about 9 bands in the final and we won that competition. Then we went to the competition at Wacken and we won that and we were literally crying. I mean there is a metal scene in South Africa, but it’s not that big, there aren’t that many opportunities for metal. We’ve been working at this for 4 years now, but we’ve all been playing in bands since we were around 14. This was a dream come true for us.”

Having just watched you guys perform, I for one was a bit blown away, that was a very intense show, what are your main influences? “Well, very different, myself and Chris, the other guitarist, we both grew up on thrash, then I got into a bit of nu-metal and then it just carried on and on and now I like all kinds of genres. In one way our sound is very extreme now and in some ways, it’s stuck in one direction but we are really going to try and open it up on the next album, we don’t want to be a genre band.” Is this the first time you’ve played outside South Africa? “The first time with this band yes, but myself and Chris played Wacken three years ago in another band called Infanteria.”

Can you see Zombies Ate my Girlfriend travelling to tour Australia in the future? “Well yes, definitely, we’d love to get in contact with Australian promoters, we’ve sort of reached a peak at home and now after Wacken we are focusing on trying to get back to Europe again next year for a tour because we want to release the second album in April in 2017 and we will carry on from there. But yes to tour Australia would be fantastic as well.” So for our Aussie Audiences, who haven’t seen you guys play live before, what would you tell them as to what that they can expect from a Zombies live show? “Tons of energy, our show is almost like entering some kind of manic dance club, lots of peaking and dropping. We always give 100% at every show; no matter how small the crowd is, so they can expect an entertaining performance!”

Now last but not least, what was your favourite band at Wacken this year? “Ohh, favourite band at Wacken? Very tough, but I’d have to say Twisted Sister. It was very exciting, 40 years of entertaining - their last tour and seeing vocalist Dee Snider doing his thing on stage like that it was almost like getting schooled. This old guy, still performing at 100%, he’s commanding 90,000 people and even though I didn’t know some of the songs, he had me from beginning to end!”

Joined by the rest of the band backstage, I congratulated them all, smashed our bottles of beer together and went into the nightlife of Hamburg. Zombies ate my girlfriend won the Wacken metal Battle fair and square and in my opinion, it’s completely deserved. To the bands thinking of competing in next year’s competition, you’ve got some big shoes to fill, Good luck!