Wacken Open Air 2017: The Mud Diaries

It will be difficult to shake the memory of all 3 Metal As Fuck lads pissing in unison to the sounds of trumpets to signify the start of Europe's, The Final Countdown…

Everyone's descent to Wacken Open Air is different yet always full of anticipation - and we all converge in Hamburg, now known as the heavy metal airport - Hamburg is the heavy metal hub come August... Flying – the only time you can get trollied, fall asleep with your shoes on and wake up with your eyebrows intact… I had a pretty run of the mill escapade getting to the fields of Wacken this year. A few quick flights, one delay, a rather quiet bus surprisingly and some aimless wandering in an attempt to locate our tent... and poof there you are gumboots at the ready sipping on your first beer wondering if the rain will hold off…. Arriving in the wee hours of Monday morning, with the Wacken veterans, after their camp was set up, the Doom Raider Nikki Hallam just found herself sitting and staring into space with a beer in hand, just so happy to not be at work. It wasn't long before we were all putting our feet up and ready to soak it all in... In hindsight, Wacken 2017 was truly a year of relaxation, catching up with old friends on the old stomping grounds; Wacken is not just a festival but a reunion where friends from all over the world can catch up for only a brief 5 days. There were also thousands of new faces this year, the Australian population at Wacken notably exploded this year and it was great to see - and we were keen to see how the rookies would size up and as expected the Aussies thrived! 

The Wacken bug….

When the idea of heading off to Wacken Open Air floats about the mind of a bright eyed metal head, the general consensus from previous punters is ‘you have to see it at least once’ – funny thing is, after your first visit into an environment of five days worth of complete mayhem you get bitten by the Wacken bug and head back in for more and more, each time you become even further ingrained into the field and basically become part of the furniture. You become a mud barnacle and yet only a few days in you start to miss the simple things in life – battery on your phone, what does a hot shower feel like, will I ever see my toes again as you start to become one with your gumboot. You begin to appreciate the small things and the small wins – a clean shirt found at the bottom of your bag of unlaundered filth. Rejoicing that you remembered to pack your toothbrush as furry animals have already claimed your mouth for the week. The opinion of sanitary conditions are debated between the group - this year I found the amenities to be the best they’ve been in recent years - however this was not the case on the infield; as Nikki explains in detail - unfortunately the festival wasn't very sanitary this year. With no soap or sanitizer near any of the toilets. No water in the grounds apart from the toilets in the infield which had no soap either. It makes quite a difference to your health when the security throws out your hand sanitiser to the entire festival grounds. Both myself and Nikki are no wallflowers when it comes to Wacken and what I can describe as embracing our primal side as we hit the ground running (stomping) at Wacken. Absolutely fucking relentless - this ain't our first rodeo...

We’re living for Peanuts!

It will be difficult to shake the memory of all 3 Metal As Fuck lads pissing in unison to the sounds of trumpets to signify the start of the Final Countdown… But what a spectacle to behold! The band I mean, not the urination. Not being able to see Europe perform in 2015 due to severe weather conditions; we had a score to settle! And I must say we came out victorious! The sun was setting, the mud was churning and the bellies were full of Becks - we were indeed counting down to the beginning of the best metal festival on earth! Once Europe had initiated Wacken Open Air 2017 - the bands begun! Meanwhile over in Nikki’s camp who by this time had drank over 20 bottles of Steve (Jack Daniels) in three days, managed to play at least 10 games of ‘Legball’ (you’ll have to come to Wacken with Germans to find out what this is), initiated 5 new Wacken virgins into the crude with the ritualistic head banger shots and a beer shower. It was safe to say by the time Accept played on the faster stage, they had successfully already trashed their camp and drunk Germans were already passing out in it face down in the mud. Seriously, they had to call the paramedics a few times....

Day 1 Brujeria, Batushka, Aborted and…. Mud crabs?

Brujeria the band I had as my number one must see for Wacken 2017 - what makes their appearance even more special is the fact that 2017 sees Brujeria leaving Tijuana to tour for the first time! This is a monstrous event! With Brujeria seamlessly working with interchangeable parts (members) the set was flawless, bass so deep I swear my ovaries fell out of my body. I could not stop moving throughout the entire set; as beer trickled down my face we were head whipping, air thrusting and terribly trying to growl in Spanish (how does one growl in Spanish you ask? we still don't know) Brujeria had transported us to another world - their world, a world of witchery and scorcery. Nikki and I joined in on the crazy when they treated us to the Macarena.. Brujeria style, of course yelling ‘Marijuana’ instead of Macarena. There is nothing quite like a muddy, beer-spilling, smoke-filled, Mexican Macarena mosh pit, you had to see this to believe it. Batushka the Unholy Nazgul. This set was 80% theatrics, 20% music…. A hard feat to pull off in the middle of a farm paddock. However Batushka prevailed and after speaking to a lot of fans after the set, Batushka was a highlight for most for the day. Aborted... Un-fucking-believable - Aborted brought chaos to the masses! I seriously worship this band - purely for their technicality, their skill, their professionalism - they seriously raise the bar for any live band I’ve ever seen. Period. Don’t fuck with Aborted because they have you in spades...

Day 2 - the mud has taken us…. Memoriam, Apocalyptica, Emperor, Prong, Sacred Reich and Manson.... But first 

We are every damn shade of dirt by this stage and our dance card was full! A quick session of breakfast beers at Camp Gibbo, followed by a shower in a can and we were back on the infield... Playing tag today Nikki and I decided to divide and conquer. As we sauntered to our respective corners to check out the highlights of the today - there were so many highlights we were nearly blinded - both by the potency of the Mead and the sheer talent on the stages. 

Myself and the doom raider, Nikki Hallam were coming from opposite ends of the earth and meeting once again at the holy land for what can be described as not very holy behaviour…. Watches synchronized, we had the battle plans ready; one quick pep talk and we began our descent to the VIP. Heading into the VIP area is always a gas, and we sure as fuck aren't ever the bell of the ball. Half cut, covered in mud, we’d been out in the elements too long to resemble anything but dishevelled mud crabs. We spot the Jager tent. Arm ourselves with the herby extract and proceed to prep for a chat with Nile. A few more Jagers later and we’re chatting with Karl Sanders on a bench seat…. And being the embarrassing Aussies we can often be; we serenade ourselves and the immediate journo's around us singing the ‘Coles’ rendition of “Down Down Deeper and Down”, while Status Quo play their classics in the background. Join us! 'Down Down, Prices Are Down'! During our chat primarily focusing on Nile's upcoming set and the new blood, Karl ensures us has reignited the band; Karl made an interesting claim on the phrase 'Metal As Fuck' - that it was indeed his own. We discuss royalty payments and assure him a cheque is in the mail. Read more on our chat with Karl Sanders at Wacken Open Air HERE!

In for Memoriam Nikki has the 4-11; Memoriam made the hordes of Wacken trade their bratwurst for an old-school death metal breakfast and at 11am, still drunk from the night before and with no time for a shower, it was just what we needed. There was a lot of anticipation for this show, considering the band is a creation of Death metal royalty, including members of Bolt Thrower, Bennediction and Sacrilige, they didn’t let us down. The set was mighty heavy, full of energy and they definitely set the pace for the day. Meanwhile in the Dengorwegian's slice of dirt - Apocalyptica had me stumped. It was difficult to get into the Apocalyptica set this time around - purely because it was a tribute to 20 years playing Metallica. I understand the significance of this achievement - it was what started it all - however I mention this each time the band play any Metallica song - it's just a gimmick now - the band are that established and that well known for their own original music that it is not needed, certainly not to the extent of an entire touring circuit. The set was flat, had zero oomph and I found myself walking around doing other things….

Tonight's performance of Emperor was a special one, the band were playing the ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’ album in full for its 20th anniversary - to the delight of the 30,000 strong crowd that came to chant with them. Ihsahn lead the fire under a full moon, hovering over the lit lights of the Wacken bullhorn. This was the only way to see Emperor - the music was eerie and ominous and as we drank cocktails to the sounds of the northern beasts of black metal we were hurled into an abyss of light and darkness. Living up to all my expectations, Prong are a band that will continue to remain solid their entire career - bringing hard fast riffs to the enjoyment of the crowds. Prong's sound is brash and brooding, and leaves the senses menaced. Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck was the stand out track of the set - absolute crushing drums and Tommy Victors rancorous vocals! Always a pleasure Prong. 

Marilyn Manson, just... just…. What? Ok as I rub my eyes trying to assemble the right words to accurately describe what was Marilyn Manson’s set at Wacken, to be fair the first thought that comes to mind is disappointing…. To be more precise – abysmal. I was sceptical once Manson was announced as a headliner at Wacken, from reports over the last, oh I don’t know, five years – there has been no good press surrounding any of Manson’s live shows – although myself and the team waited (and I mean waited) with 50,000 other hopefuls that perhaps being at such a prestigious event such as Wacken – the set may be something to see. We were wrong – oh how we were wrong. Manson finally started his set, with barely a whisper of the voice he had 10 years ago, after making his audience wait through a 15 minute intro of smoke and spooky sounds. This was not worth waiting in the mud for; sketchy lyrics, some rolling around on stage like a fat miserable panda and what seemed like a 7 year' olds first practice on a bass and there we were, all looking at one another shaking our heads. Lucky Sacred Reich knew their lyrics and so did their audience. With the biggest pit of the day at the W.E.T stage, these old-school thrashers turned the Wacken mud pit into “Surf Nicaragua” and boy were we covered in beer by the end of it...

Day 3 - We are the mud people

Amon Amarth, Orange Goblin & Soilwork

What trip to Wacken is complete without an Amon Amarth set I ask you? Complete with a stage setting to make any fan proud, this year an oversized horned viking helmet was the centre piece for Vocalist Johan Hegg to run around on. I believe it’s now a Wacken tradition to crowd surf to Amon amarth these days, the security definitely had their work cut out for them. With crowd favourites such as Deceiver of the Gods it didn't take long for the crowd to be whipped into a frenzy. The power that was coming from that stage scorched the crowd as we come away with the battle scars to prove it. This was indeed my first time seeing English doom greats, Orange Goblin - on recommendation by my travel partner - and I am glad I caught them; the staunch and ferocity bellowing from vocalist Ben Ward - the 6.5ft absolute goliath of a man had us all groooovin savagely, with an immensely tight set - held together by the sturdy and unwaivering talents of Chris Turner on drums. What a performance! What a personality! What prowess!

An extremely late set by Soilwork saw the Swedes entertaining an already fiery mosh pit, showcasing both past and present sounds - old favourites and favoured new tracks from the smash hit album 'The Living Infinite'. Although the sound waned on their set a little - the crowd made up for it in spirit with a grandiose sing along, the bombastic crowd; even at midnight, after a full day of metal weren't going quietly into the night. It was now 1am in the land of Wacken, the paddock that doesn't sleep - we were full of beer, full of metal - possible slightly deaf in one ear - it was bed time for this old gumboot, so I left Nikki to her whisky and own devices for the evening as I retired to my 5 star polyester hotel, polished off my mead and played a uncivilized game of Canaster because I know how to live life to the fullest! 

Twilight Force, Aura Noir, Alice Cooper & Insomnium

Making one last trip to the wasteland, eating more meats on sticks, we watched the wasteland warriors drive through the mud in their mad max attire, showing off in their post-apocalyptic, beastly cars made from trash and treasure, while the rest of them fought for their lives in the cage fighting arena. In the Wackinger village, Danni Devine and her total babes from Pyrohex enticed us with their fire dancing and threw sparks at us from their sexy grinder belts. While the Vikings and medieval knights showed off their swordsmanship, Nikki was drunk, having a nap on the abundance of animal pelts and blankets for sale... We have a hard life, us ol' music journo's - expected to drink beer in the morning, forced to eat delicious meats off sticks, grinding in mosh pits to the heaviest music your constitution could possibly fathom, all the while going deaf for the greater good of music reporting, it's a tough gig but someone has to do it. 

Twilight Force.... elf metal? When do the genres end? Questions Nikki. These guys played to a very energetic full tent stage. There were blow up swords, fans wearing elf ears, and so much Finnish cheesiness. The crowd at the next stage awaiting the black thrash attack of Norway's Aura Noir, were in disbelief of the silliness! Aura Noir put on a very dark set, after the sudden cancellation of their 2016 Wacken performance, there were a lot of eager punters who had waited a long time for this. The show was fast, furious, and definitely what should be expected from an Aura Noir show. They left their fans with a Venom cover before the hoard ran for the merch desk. Insomnium were an absolute delicate mix of refinery, magic and brutality - as I had to wipe the dribble from my chin as tracks from their latest album ‘Winter's Gate’ and savoured tunes from ‘Shadows of the Dying Sun’ - we were not ‘One For Sorrow’ (see what I did there). A magnetic set that had the pit entranced from the first strum of the guitar to that last blow on that snare. 

Alice Cooper must’ve been up next, because it took us at least 45 mins just to get into the infield! He pulled out all of his theatrics and costume changes for this one. He wore a straitjacket, a sparkled leopard print number, a bloody doctor’s jacket, - there was a giant Frankenstein stomping around the stage, his nurse was taunting him and of course they even chopped off his head. Brilliant set! I think most of the festival was there to witness this one as the pit was a sardine can, the entire infield in unison with classics like 'School's Out' & 'Feed My Frankenstein'... Day 3 was drawing to a close – and it was when Thomas Jensen [the man who brings us this candy-land each year] got on the main stage for the promoters farewell he played 'Hero's sung by Lemmy for an 80'000 person group karaoke! This was beautiful! The mud, the dirt, the blood and the tears for Lemmy we saw it all and everyone was a hero!”

Battered and bruised, partially deaf; aching, hung over, hoarse voice, sore lungs, hammered heads and emanating the aroma of what a gag reflex would actually smell like, we awoke early Sunday morning to the realisation that it was over... no loud music blasting from the festival infield, just silence. Wacken Open Air had once again come to an end. Now was the time for the most dreaded part of the festival, clear up and clear out, folding clothes you swear are now growing moss, the last remaining ounce of mouthwash that was keeping your life together, broken shoes, bags and bags of used wet wipes, all your merch that now has to become tainted with the what is now your penicillin supply that was once your wardrobe. Yep, I’m good to go. The early risers had already gone, there were spaces where tents once stood and the Wacken tent graveyard was about to take form. Saying the last goodbyes to pals and acquaintances for another year, we shed a tear with our buddies, wiped our faces with that one last wet wipe you were saving for emergencies and backpacked off into the real world. Until next year Wacken Open Air, or as the glorified soldiers say 'WAAACCCCKKKEEEN!' 

2018 Wacken tickets are aleady on sale! All details and the first announcement of bands including Epica, Arch Enemy, Watain and Running Wild - can be found here WOA 2018 Billing Bands