Live albums are a difficult concept to get right. In the main they appeal primarily to the people who were there. To succeed with a live LP beyond that it needs to be a special performance, with a great atmosphere, something special captured for ever. There are some great examples I can think of off the top of my head like The Clash at Shea Stadium, Live After Death from Iron Maiden or Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous.
What we have here though is a different type of appeal. It’s a compilation album of the best of Wacken 2015. It is accompanied by a double DVD where the number of songs by each artist are doubled up (we only have the CD for review). For those that aren’t that familiar with Wacken it is a heavy metal open air festival in northern Germany that has been going since 1990. It’s grown from a festival that had tribute acts headlining to one of the biggest metal festivals in the world, known for its electric crowd atmosphere.
With this release we are treated to 38 different bands from across the weekend so as you can imagine there is a lot to listen to. My first impressions are twofold; one, that it is perhaps not as live as some live albums I have heard. There is little crowd participation included. Perhaps I am tainted by those classic Donington Radio 1 broadcasts back in the day (or just because Donington was my festival) and secondly, it’s very traditional/classic metal in its sound. There are other bands on there but there is a Wacken sound emerging from this album. The majority of the bands included are mid-lineup bands, how they are chosen I do not know. That said there is still plenty on here to keep your interest and hopefully with all good compilations introduce you to new bands also. I have just had a pick through my highlights of the CD and the performances that jumped out at me. Because it is such a big album it actually took me a while to realise that there is a theme to the album and that the bands on the whole have been clumped together by genre. On paper it sounds like a daft idea but in reality it works and allows the album to flow.
CD1 pretty much has a similar sound throughout, that being classic metal, classic bands and hard rock and has a pretty impressive list of bands. Opening the CD is one of the all-time great live bands whose own live albums often make the top 50 list of greatest live albums, Judas Priest. This is classic Priest, an appreciative crowd, Rob Halford having interaction with the crowd and then a storming version of “Painkiller”. The live solo is worth listening to alone. It’s a great track but a little bit of me still wonders whether I would have opened the album with a classic act and not someone newer but the performance alone does make it worthwhile. They’ve certainly not lost any of their power.
Elsewhere on CD1 some of the highlights that I have picked out from my listens include Finnish Prog death metallers Amorphis doing a pretty great version of “My Kantele”. If there ever was one song that pretty much sums up a bands style in one song this it. It’s prog, it’s death, it’s Finnish folk and it’s captured well here at Wacken. Continuing with the classic band theme is Germany’s Running Wild, not a band that I am particularly familiar with but will be very well known to the Wacken crowd and on this CD they have chosen their classic 1978 track “Under Jolly Roger”. Perhaps this is another trait of the album, it is very much a greatest hits they haven’t really gone for any unusual festival moments or guest appearances. It’s pretty much a straight up compilation of the band’s greatest hits.
Like all good compilations though you are likely to come across bands and songs you did not know but sound great. If Running Wild is one then the Swedish hard rockers The Poodles is another. Let’s face it slightly manufactured and with possibly the worst band name ever, but their live version of “Nights of Passion” is a cracker and we actually have some words from the stage and it’s clear The Poodles are happy to be here. The Scandinavians seems to be out in force at Wacken in general. Sabaton are also included with a storming version of “To Hell and Back”, a festival favourite anywhere. My favourite track of CD1 is probably Danko Jones’ version of “Full of Regret” and the reason it stands out is that it is probably the funkiest, and most soulful track on CD1. It’s a little different and the better for it.
So with CD2 we seem to have been offered a slightly different fare. There appears to be 4 different sections to it – We have the death, extreme hardcore metal opening section. This is followed up by German speaking bands, next is an overspill from CD 1 and finally the winners of the Metal Battle stage which for those not familiar is Wackens annual new band metal competition which takes place at Wacken each year.
Biohazard open CD2 and you can’t really go wrong with them can you? Again they have chosen a track with good crowd interaction to open the CD2. This version of “How It Is” is very good also, exciting and full of energy, probably my favourite track of the album. The whole opening section of CD2 is good and definitely worth a listen. Very close in terms to producing a killing version of one of their own songs is Kataklysm, “To Reign Again”. The crowd interaction here is great, the version is almost produced in pain it has that much passion. Special. This opening section is the best part of the whole album for for me, but that’s just a preference, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, Skindred. Elsewhere we have My Dying Bride and Godsized from both of which are great tracks.
There is so much to this album but I have to stop somewhere. In summary, this CD is a great representation of Wacken as a festival. Yes, it’s primarily going to appeal to those who are there or those who have been before. I would like to have seen them take a little more risks with the bands, this is a festival with over 8 stages after all and perhaps it would have been good if they could have included some exclusive to Wacken, material; bands doing covers, introducing guest etc. If, however, you put this aside and look at it as a live compilation. I would definitely recommend it, the bands are high calibre, they have chosen their best songs and the versions have an energy to them that is addictive. Give it a whirl, there isn’t a bad song on it.
01. JUDAS PRIEST – Painkiller
02. IN FLAMES – Paralyzed
03. AMORPHIS – My Kantele
04. RUNNING WILD – Under Jolly Roger
05. BEYOND THE BLACK – Rage Before The Storm
06. ARCHITECTS OF CHAOZ – Horsemen
07. ARMORED SAINT – Left Hook From Right Field
08. ANNIHILATOR – Alison Hell
09. DEATH ANGEL – Buried Alive
10. EXUMER – Possessed By Fire
11. BURGERKILL – Under The Scars
12. SABATON – To Hell And Back
13. DANKO JONES – Full Of Regret
14. ULI JON ROTH – Virgin Killer
15. THE POODLES – Night Of Passion
16. EUROPE – War Of Kings
01. BIOHAZARD – How It Is
02. KATAKLYSM – To Reign Again
03. CANNIBAL CORPSE – Evisceration Plague
04. CRADLE OF FILTH – Burn In A Burial Gown
05. ANAAL NATHRAKH – Idol
06. SKINDRED – Proceed With Caution
07. OOMPH! – Gott ist ein Popstar
08. SANTIANO – Gott muss ein Seemann sein
09. IN EXTREMO – Himmel und Hölle
10. KÄRBHOLZ – Ich hör mir beim Leben zu
11. GODSIZED – Welcome To Hell
12. THE ANSWER – Raise A Little Hell
13. MY DYING BRIDE – Turn Loose The Swans
14. MANTAR – Into The Golden Abyss
15. SAVAGE MACHINE – Prisoners Of War (METAL BATTLE)
16. BLAAKYUM – Baal Adon (METAL BATTLE)
17. METAPRISM – Reload (METAL BATTLE)
18. WALKWAYS – Half The Man I Am (METAL BATTLE)
19. VESPERIA – Iron Saga (METAL BATTLE)