Festival Review: Wacken XXX Day 2

The first full day of Wacken, which runs Wednesday to Saturday, was to be another of just finding our way around and wandering with just a couple of bands on the “to see” list. We’d intended to arrive for 11 to catch Baby Face Nelson but things didn’t go to plan… A new arrival in my hostel, Spencer from Connecticut, was getting a lift from us and we’re glad he did otherwise we may not have spotted the huge bulge in one of Mark’s back tyres!

Replacing it with the spare (which needed inflating) took up some time, and we were then limited to 80km/h as it was a space saver. Net result, we arrived after midday and just in time to get the VIP bus to the site and sort out our kit before Bloodywood came on stage. I wasn’t missing the chance to see these guys for the second time in a few days, and they were a popular choice. Watching a huge crowd of metalheads opening up a pit so they could attempt to dance like Bollywood stars is a sight to behold. The sound was good and the lighting somewhat better than at the Islington show, and Bloodywood absolutely tore the place up.

Veritatem Solam (c) Shellstar Media

The W.E.T. Stage they were on is right next to the Headbangers Stage – and both are inside one enormous tent. It’s like a smaller scale version of the Infield area with its Faster and Louder stages. Afterwards we had an interview arranged with the band, so headed back to the Press area but unfortunately things didn’t work out so we’ve yet to chat to the guys! I’m sure they’ll be back in Europe sometime soon, though, and we’ll grab them then.

Fuelled up, we set out to explore and caught the start of Testament‘s set on the Louder stage, then a good part of Veritatem Solam on the History stage. Being able to switch from one huge band to one relative unknown within a few minutes is the joy of a festival like this. Despite Krokus being on one of the other main stages, the Egyptian act still had a decent crowd in front of them (which they deserved).

The aim of the day was to catch Sabaton’s two-stage extravaganza, though. As such, we headed down to the Infield to watch HammerFall first off. Like Powerwolf (until recently), they seem to “tour” the UK by chucking in a single date in London so I’d never had the chance to catch them before. That box is now well and truly ticked, and I’d definitely like to see them cover the UK properly in future!

Due to the alternating nature of the bands on the Faster and Harder stages, Airbourne were on the Faster as we stayed at the Harder for Sabaton. The video screens meant that we got to enjoy the show fairly well regardless, and the Aussies put on a hell of a show. Energetic as always, they’d have had the crowd in a sweat even if the temperatures hadn’t been so stupidly high anyway. The band are playing two Irish dates this week and are back in mainland Britain in November. If they play a set like today’s (and they will) then I’d start hitting the gym now if you intend to keep up with them.

But finally, finally 10pm rolled around. Then 10:10. Then 10:15. Then finally (again), the curtain dropped and… all the fireworks and explosions went off on the Faster stage and we were stood staring at some sandbags, a drumkit and a video screen. Sabaton had opted to base themselves on the Faster stage that Airbourne had just vacated leaving us with the stunted second cousin. Arse.

Obviously the set was great and the video show was OK but it wasn’t the same not having the band there. Eventually, halfway through, we found out what the show was going to be about. Twenty years in and the band has gone through numerous line-up changes, mainly due to the intense working and touring regimen that Sabaton undergoes. Members have left to raise families that they’d actually like to spend time with and so on. So… what do you do with two stages? Simple. You have two Sabatons!

With Joakim on the main stage, the remaining founder member Pär took up residence in front of us with most of the other original members: Rikard Sundén, Daniel Mullback, Daniel Mÿhr and Thobbe Englund. It’s lovely to see these former members referred to as friends – and for the existing band to recognise their input in times past to the extent that they get to play at this huge event as part of Sabaton. The sound engineers must have had a shit-fit trying to get all of this working together, but work it did. We even got a drum duo with Mullback squaring off against van Dahl across the two stages.

In terms of songs, there were no real surprises with all/most of the favourites in place as well as a perfect selection from the recent Great War release. The touring choir really added depth to the sound (even if we only got to see them on a video screen as they were at the other side of the sodding field), and just to make things even more difficult for the sound people there was a special guest. Cellist and closet metalhead Tina Guo was invited up and got to “choose” the next song. For those who’ve seen the band and witnessed the running joke for long enough, it’s probably no surprise that it was “Swedish Pagans”! If her appearance stirred your classical music urges, then she’s touring Europe in November including a date at the O2 in London on the 26th as part of the World of Hans Zimmer.

This was as good a show as I’ve seen Sabaton put on (and I’ve seen them a few times), but the opening half was a bit of a damp squib for those clustered at the “wrong” stage. I spoke to quite a few people afterwards and the overall feeling for those at the Harder stage was one of being let down a bit. Had they put something on this stage at the start, or at least balanced things out more then this could have been so much better. Still, I’m off to London in February to see what they pull out of the bag for us at their first UK arena show.

The day ended for us as we walked back to collect our stuff and head accommodation-wards, though Wacken itself was alive into the early hours with discos, films and drinking!

Photos by Shellstar Media

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