Co-authored by Berns von Bernington
Our arrival was anticipated a day before the actual Wacken Open Air 2012 festivities were to begin. For an extra 10 Euro, we received nothing more than a bracelet of admittance and the joys of ill equipped outhouses under a mocking mixture of blazing sun rays and foreshadowed overcast. With a reluctant and unsettling site selection for our weekend abode, emotions of which were only exhibited by the yang half or TINAS dynamic duo, it turned out to be an excellent choice we would later acknowledge, to our relief. This day was essential however as we made the trek to gather supplies centralized the troops and watched as the world’s nations collapsed into slurring mounds of pre-emptive intoxicated celebration. Illegally ignited fireworks cracked the sky and we dozed off the shouts of!!!! WACKEN!!!! in our waterproof (fingers crossed) tent.
Well you were pretty much shit out of luck if you expected the luxury of sleeping in, even with the abundant percentile of hung over metalheads in your midst. Over excitement and perhaps the sheer obnoxiousness of those less conscious or considerate would not allow it. That point however, was the beginning of a long chain of acceptance that could only be linked through the reason we were all in that god forsaken tiny town of Wacken to begin with; or at least we were there for the music.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012, the stages were set and yin of our scribes organized to a tee with pre-meditated itineraries accompanying a few hours of perused artistic potential for the upcoming week. Effortlessly coaxing our amigos into the arena of the Headbangers stage, no forewarning or research could have prepared us for the amount of over analysis we were about to witness. Canadian rocker Danko Jones spoken word detailed his lifelong obsession with the infamous KISS, particularly the early Peter Criss. Early being the key word to his entire speculation, or should we say, belief? It’s still questionable now whether his certainty into the death of KISS’ drummer was an impeccably constructed farce or something he’d bet money on in a poker match against the tops gamblers in the game. He sure as hell had the evidence to back it. As we all straggled out of the tent at the end of his talk scratching our scalps and asking ourselves ‘what the fuck did we just watch?’ he probably accomplished what he intended either way.
We ventured back later on to the W.E.T. Stage for France’s Lord Shades; an atmospheric black metal band that were an average rendition of the genres sonic potential, adding appeal to their sound through vocalist Alex, who’s deep and expansive notes were enough to enter your marrow, travel down your spine and make a grown man quiver. Following Lord Shades, Cold Snap woke up our drowning souls knocked us right out of the water. Headbanging till our neck muscles were stretched out to that of a puppeteered ostrich was just a reminder to do some neck limbering before the next time we catch this Croatian Metallic Hardcore act in full force. Their stage energy was unmatchable in its entirety and had a presence which took over every inch of that stage, spilling out over into the pit.
“I was absolutely blown away by Cold Snap and I doubt I was ready for a show of such intensity on the first day. The way the band controlled the emotion of the crowd was immense and it was a roller coaster ride of hardcore which I didn’t want to end. One of the best live performances I have ever seen.” Bern’s recalls.
Heading back over to the Headbangers stage, where we anticipated another hardcore act, four guys sporting black hoodies entered the stage and caught us totally off guard as the vocalist pierced our ear drums with the shrill of a black metal scream. This Icelandic black metal band, Gone Postal had heavy death metal influence and was definitely one of those cases where judging a book by its cover would have given you a completely wrong idea. This made for a surprising twist to the summation of day 1 and we retired back to our tents to rest as our surrounding fueled their tanks with more alcohol to greet the next day.
Day 2, August 2nd got off to a rough start. Our Swedish and Brazilian camp mates were still hung over from the night before, which was to be expected with the amount they managed to guzzle and with a few hours shooting the shit around the camp, we were off again. First on the docket were the infamous Sepultura with their blend of Brazilian thrash and death metal featuring a lineup you would not generally be expected. Partnered with Les Tambours Du Bronx it was pretty easy to hate on their performance if you weren’t a fan of a lot of drums and by that I mean, drums and not much else. The base drums kicked in over everything, shaking the ground for what could have been a pretty engaging percussion show, if you weren’t expecting to see Sepultura. Derrick Green’s vocals were barely audible at times which was a shame. “I know he’s no Max Cavalera but he’s given the band his own edge and as a first experience with this band live; I only wish I could have seen them alone. I left with the sentiments that I still hadn’t truly seen Sepultura”, Christine recalls. “As much as I love bands with similar vibes such as Street Drum Corps, that’s not who I was there to see.” Bern’s was not a happy camper over the matter either. Though this was his second time seeing them live, he remained the harshest critic of their performance.
“I recall seeing Sepultura last year at Wacken and they were absolutely outstanding, I have no idea what possessed them to perform with several morons banging on empty drums, I now refer to the once mighty Sepultura as that drum and bass band from Brazil. It was absolutely atrocious. The sound, along with the monkeys smashing their tin oil drums was the worst sound combination in the world, ever!” Berns said.
After going back to the camp and realizing we had missed Chthonic, we strayed from the pack into the night to watch Panteón Rococó on the Wackinger, a Latin-ska band formed in Mexico City. As a reluctant as fellow scribe Berns was to join in on the jovial ska atmosphere, we danced and boogied down to the ground with the rest of the glowing crowd as smiling faces and ridiculous outfits bounced in the peripheral. On our way back to the camp, we stopped to gaze at the spectacle of two men fighting with red and blue bolts of electricity atop these elevated platforms in the middle of a field. It was unlike anything either of us had ever seen. The beauty of the lights dancing, entwined in each other was the perfect way to end a happy evening.
On to August 3rd, Day 3, things were still were starting to look a little hazy weather wise. It had rained a bit overnight and whiles some of us headed over to see the German black metal band Endstille, we had only begun to sink into the mud as the sun came out again and baked us for and uneven cook, our centers still chilled. Though Endstille put on a great set, with stage props reminiscent of darkened trenches and cold war, it seemed to drag a bit. Skipping on Warbringer who we’d both seen previously, we then trekked our way over to the True Metal Stage for Sacred Reich, a Phoenix, Arizona-based thrash band. These old timers still had it in them I’ll tell ya. Together from 1985 to 2000 and together again since 2007, these gents are still set in the same attitude of their youth with a tad less gusto; still very impressive considering.
Heading back into the shelter of the tented Headbanger Stage we watched Henry Rollins in his post Black Flag career of spoken word as he entertained us with tales of music sharing, tour stories and his captivating presence. We stuck around to see The Black Dahlia Murder and though neither of us were current fans, their stage presence and the crowd they drew was truly god like; not to mention astounding musicians at that. The one fan in our camp left with a Cheshire grin from ear to ear.
Catching the rest of Overkill on the Black Stage, we stood in the back of the crowd. This was not for lack of interest, our tardy arrival or there being no way to the front. During the time we’d spent at the covered Headbanger stage, a rain storm had taken control of the fields turning them in a torrential rain disaster zone, not to mention the majority of the standing area in front of every stage. The puddles were knee deep and pissed in, the mud lathered up festival goers legs, torsos and sometimes even faces and you were hard pressed to find a standing space that you weren’t instantaneously suction cupped to. Neither of us felt the desire to venture forward at that point and it was one of those time you just sort of settle, thinking ‘here is good.’
We split up at this point. Christine venturing over to the Headbanger Stage again to catch Red Fang; sludged out stoner rockers from Portland, Oregon and Berns to the Black Stage to fill his lifelong love for Opeth. “Red Fang totally knocked it out of the park.” Chistine recalled.
“I was right in the front where the crowd tousled me around as we sang along to tracks from their latest record “Murder The Mountains such as ‘Wires,’ ‘Hank is Dead’ and my personal favorite ‘Malverde’ which I sang at the top of my lungs as I moshed around to the sludgy riffs. What an amazing live show.”
Berns braved the muddy mire filled with sweat and piss and made it to the front against the barrier. Opeth as usual, kicked off and everything was absolutely spectacular. Lingering worries of the band’s ability to play an Open Air festival subsided as ‘Heritage’ followed by ‘The Devils Orchid’. The rain followed in full force, however, fans were united in awe of amazement. The set had a good variety of sings from most of the albums. After every other song, some meatheads would keep on yelling “GHOST.OF.PERDITION!!!, GHOST.OF.PERDITION!!!” Mikael immediately asked them and I quote “Are you being fucking rude?” which was greeted with cheers! Some classics such as ‘Demon of the Fall’ and ‘Deliverance’ were among the favorites. Finally the rude bastards in the crowd got their wish as ‘Ghost of Perdition’ ripped Wacken a new one. The charismatic front man did not disappoint, as intersong crowd banter was one of the highlights, as with any Opeth show.
Then it was time for a band we’d both been anticipating since the dawn of this trips planning, D.R.I. Dirty Rotten fucking Imbeciles, man! Loosing ourselves completely in the swirling pit of moshing thrashers, taking dives over fallen bodies into the muddy, thick custard that glazed the stage front. By far the most engaged crowd of the festival. Leave it up to the thrash fans to take the collective energy to the next level.
Out of breath and beaming, we waded our way back to the Black Stage, through the puddle, or dare I say small lakes, swimming with wood chips that just couldn’t muster any more absorption. Dimmu Borgir had taken the stage accompanied by a full orchestra. The waterways seemed to have been over looked by festival goers because the area in front of the stage was fully occupied. So much so that we accepted our fate and watched the screen from behind a beer tent, soaking in the incredible sounds. On a whim, we met up with some friends we had made earlier and too the opportunity for some grim and evil photo-ops, good conversation and some hilarious drunk antics. Aura Noir ended our night on the sweetest of sinister notes. “It was great to see Carl-Michael Eide join them back on tour again” Christine recalled having last seen the band as just a trio in 2011. “He’s a truly amazing musician and I’m glad he’s recovered to once again grace our ears and torture souls with his experimental musicianship and abrasive vocals.” Drained and wet, we gave up on making our way back for Ghost Brigade and sought the shelter of out tent for some much needed Zzzzzs.
Sun rose on the final day of the festival, August 4th and of course it had rained, AGAIN! This wouldn’t be the first time on this fateful day either. The crew broke out the provided Wacken ponchos and embraced the day as Napalm Death was first on the docket and we were not about to miss them. As Mark “Barney” Greenway got the set underway, he simply stated “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of albums.” With 15 albums under their belt, too many to list of and get specific, the band kept the crowd happy, playing tracks from their “Scum” origins to the latest “Utilitarian.” The pit was a muddy mess and fans moshed patriotically, draped in their countries flags and forgetting about the state of the terrain for the time being. We then took in a bit of Gamma Ray, appreciating their legacy momentarily until it was time to move on to the next stage.
Kylesa absolutely rocked it, over at the Headbangers Stage. Then sauntering over to the W.E.T. Stage that was rapidly becoming the spitting image of its name, we waited and waited for Electric Wizard to show their faces. After several delayed minutes, an announcement sounded over the loud speaker in German and the disappointed crowd slowly dispersed. They were not coming. Whether they were just high as kite and didn’t get their act together or actually stuck in traffic, the reason wasn’t really clear but we could do nothing more than except the fact and move on. Taking our grimaced faces over to see Sick of it All instead, “they were actually a pleasant replacement considering I’d wanted to see them both initially anyway and they just happened to conflict on the schedule” Christine felt. Hardcore’s no English doom metal, but hey, there’s a time and place for every love and it was then time for some NYHC. For a show that we spent in the rear, due to our tardy arrival and lack of a pedestrian bridge to traverse the ever expanding water way between us and the stage, our spirits lifted slightly.
Dark Funeral translated surprisingly well live, bringing every bit of darkness to the daylight and shadowing the crow in their evil energy. Their live sound was superb even with the bleed in of Dani Filth’s vocals from the neighboring stage. It probably rained again in there somewhere. At this point, when it wasn’t actually raining is a bit of a blur, so for the purpose of the rest of this article, just imagine it raining either during or in between everything.
Camping out at the W.E.T. Stage early for Nasum, we made sure we had the best standing spaces in the house. One of the most incredible performances of the entire festival, both of us grind bastards would agree without question. Slightly bitter sweet, considering it would be the final time we could ever be afflicted with their technically sound slaughter wall of sound as they bit farewell to the world as a band on their final tour. After such an incredible set, we made our way back to the Black Stage to catch Amon Amarth.
Having heard some rumors earlier in the week of possible line-up changes, we weren’t really sure what to expect and alas, our observation of “This sure does seem like a lot of fans for Amon Amarth,” was not just an odd insurgence of their fan base. They were all there to see Scorpion, whole families, festival goers and older couples in their fold out chairs. Apparently, we never received the official memo.
Tolerating a track or two which was all we could muster, the gods began to sob once again and we ate baked potatoes and fries in the rain with the intention of waiting it out to see Watain later that night but the tears just kept coming. The ponchos we no longer cutting it, as if they ever were and winds blew and rain water dripped in through the neck hole and sleeves. We knew if we took the journey back to our tent at this point, there was no going back but there was two hours to go before Watain and we began determined to stick it out, hoping the intense rains would pass. An hour in, those rains weren’t going anywhere and we made the reluctant decision to call it a night. Getting back into our temporary home, surprisingly still dry due to our excellent site selection, neither of us seemed to regret the decision one bit.
We were done. Tired and cranky with 4 days of metal under our belts, we abandoned camp and headed back to Hamburg for some more adventures for another day. For a Wacken virgin and an experienced Wackener, we can collectively say that Wacken Open Air 2012 was truly an undertaking. Whether you experience it once or come back year after year, the experience is something that can never recreate and will be reminisced upon for the rest of your days. Don’t take our words for it. Go experience it yourself before it takes over the world.