Report: WACKEN OPEN AIR 2003 - Privileges of accredited paparazzi

2003.09.01 00:00, Birute and Tadas

Tadas: Yeah, this year’s Wacken was special to me from the musical aspect: so many fuckin‘ great bands to witness it was shame to miss them and/or get too drunk and take too little care on them. So, the plan was pretty clear – to remember old good days when you have been running like mad to check this that and yet another, and after that a dozen of other shows.


Wacken week was hot & sunny, and overwhelmingly crowded as never before. Thanks Thunder, free access to the swimming pool and cold beer helps to get accommodated few days before the fête starts on Thursday, with A Night to Remember. Me was enough with the mighty Annihilator alone, who were angry and energetic enough, jumping forth with the new vocalist. Colleague Birute was more précised about what was going on that eve…
Birute: A Night to Remember traditionally opened Wacken Open Air festival gathering not brutal but well-known metal acts on True Metal stage. Fiesta 2003 started with Circle II Circle, the band of former vocals of Savatage Zak Stevens, but much attention was attracted by famous Canadian thrashers Annihilator. Metalheads still remember the great debut Alice in Hell and the command of Mr. Jeff Waters proves to stand among the best Thrash Metal acts nowadays. Such inspirational and unforgettable hits like Alison Hell, The Fun Palace, Sixes and Sevens, Stonewall, Never, Neverland, Phantasmagoria, etc. were the real trial to the necks of headbangers’ crowd raging and roaring in the space ahead the stage. Yeah, classical Thrash Metal still rules!
Well, some beer for the performance of Victory in the supermarket tent marked as “brutal” by Lithuanians, waiting for old good local band Running Wild. Playing so called “pirate” Power Metal this formation made a lot of triumphant marches during twenty years of existence. Despite numerous changes in line-up they keep on wild running, spreading crushing tracks of powerful sound. Moreover, Running Wild along with mates Grave Digger were about first acts signed by just formed Noise Records back in years. So, the show in WOA was great and never-to-be-forgotten. Darkness over Wacken fields was ripped by the sea of lighters and our ears were tested by the hit of mighty and furious Metal music. Wow, what the hell of duration – more than hour! The riot of fans was incredible despite the late time and fatigue. And the impressive firework was the finish of a cool show as well as of the first day of WOA 2003. Really, that night to be remembered for a long time!


Tadas: I guess I can call myself a seasoned veteran of Wacken already. With years you get more knowledge and experience not just in partaking music, but also some other things, like for example to get up in time in order to see the bands. Who the hell could wake me up in usual situation at home, with the day after in mind and aching head. Wacken atmosphere can do that with no fuckin’ trouble, heh. So well, we’ve jumped into Friday, the first full speed Metal marathon day of August. The Crown without Tompa was not my main interest, so I sort of episodically observed their hot morning warm-up party from a distance, but it was clear though these dudes had some kick-ass spirit in there anyway. Next in line were British mothafuckas Extreme Noise Terror – intriguing and legendary enough to miss. One thing was certain though: the stage for their Grindcore was not the best fitting. I am sure small obscure club is far better place to witness that punky Grind. Material they performed was not very diverse though, and two mean vocalists were not enough to keep the interest that high. A slight disappointment that is, but it was fun anyway.
Birute: Despite there are a lot of good bands in the festival it is impossible to see all of them. Anyway, you are standing on your legs from the early morning. So the first “full” day of WOA 2003 for me began with local command Dew-Scented. This Thrash/Death Metal act with hardcore elements is well-known already and just released their fifth album Impact. Dew-Scented provided classical but also modern Thrash sound with brutal motives in a spirit of Death. Thus the broad audience was satisfied for forty five minutes. In fact nothing especially original could be noted but still impressive. I even could not explain why.
Tadas: And I was definitely waiting for Dismember. Uhh, much like Necrophobic and Vomitory last year, Swedes have manifested their Death Metal neatly and for sure. Literally hot and sweaty academic hour – a lesson for those who still or already do not believe in True Swedish Death Metal! The band is absolutely back with their strengths and proud to carry their banner high. Rounded up belly of Matti did not stopped the frontman from being wild on stage, with others contributing. The huge arena was just about the place for the guys to act with a full force: nothing really uncertain about their set, just top-notch performance!
Birute: Now it’s time to take a piece of melodic Metal. Yes yes, that is one of my faves – Finns Sentenced. They started with brutal Death Metal ten years before, you know. And today those northers along with Amorphis stand among long-living Metal acts in Finland. What about the show on Wacken’s Black stage? Sentenced now balances between Metal and rock sound, and vocals of Ville Laihiala [hippy rather than a Metalhead] is soft and clean. But the music is still impressive, deep and dark. No matter there was any expressive effects or extravagance on the stage. The performance of Sentenced was excellent, that’s it. Waiting for the next album with a great interest.
Tadas: Certainly, no Wacken can slip through without the plead of German Heavy Metal legions. It was second summer there for me to witness Primal Fear live, and for the second time they have not let the senses down. One of those bands you know what to expect from, but it is still much better to be acknowledged with their albums beforehand. Then the impression is twice as stronger. Yup, one more band that is literally born for big stages. Like most of other grand stars, they have been doing a retrospective set with songs popping up from all of the albums, instantly pumping up iron and fire into the crowd. After such intense practices it is but obligatory to go back to camping place for more litters of glorious drinks. Moreover that Rotting Christ were about to play in the burning hell of Party stage, famous for highest temperature and density level inside. Well, you can imagine it was fully packed for Hellenic legend. It couldn’t be the other way, after their return to the roots couple of last albums. And of course we’ve got a nice mix of new stuff and legendary Thy Mighty Contract and even some demo track I guess. Perhaps sound could have been better, but they have brought a powerful feeling anyway.
Birute: Are you ready to burn in flames spread by the hottest band of WOA 2003? Ok, it was time to look at famous Gothenburg formation In Flames. During the band’s existence melodic Metal has never been betrayed for any brutality. Although the appearance of modern sound [corish, nu-metalized] in previous release Reroute to Remain caused disappointment of some fans, the band is still very popular. The raging crowd, perfect lights, pyrotechnical effects, all musicians in uniform, dreads of a frontman Anders Friden – it’s enough for a good show, isn’t it? Oh yeah, a big portion of excellent melodic Metal. All in all In Flames have been among the pioneers of that. So the success of the band isn’t any error.
Well well, have you the black testament in front of your eyes? You have not? However you had that one year ago, crushing your brain and making an hour of massive insanity. That was the great US Thrashers Testament. The legendary command of Bay Area legion blew up pessimistic ideas, kind of Thrash Metal is about to die and made an incredible show with full force. Fortunately, Chuck Billy seemed to win against the brain cancer and keeps on crushing all around with a powerful voice. The best tracks from the golden collection of The Legacy, The New Order, Practice What You Preach made full satisfaction, even ecstasy for a crowd of headbangers. Oh, feels like I saw everything just yesterday. Long live Thrash Metal!
Tadas: Holy shit, I need to add some details. Well, that stream of old material looked like a promotion for the latest remake album First Strike Still Deadly, but which Testament fan could critically care about it?! It was all about their best tracks ever, with addition of latest material as well. Indeed I was looking for this performance, my first live experience of a band I have spent early Metal years with, spinning some certain albums to the point of sickness back in time. The band that lives an absolute glory once again, especially after so magnificent performances as that day in Wacken. Perhaps the sound was creating most of the magic in the air. Imagine crystal clear yet heavy and sharp live sound you are used to hear on Testament albums, with hundred times louder resonance! And the band was working like mad professors indeed – masters of Bay Area Thrash forever!! Uhh, that hour I was feeling so great down there for the first time. Just for obtaining the right to take pictures, that is – to hang around the stage, at least for some songs. Concluding this whole chaotic ball of impressions – the best performance I witnessed in Wacken this year, and truly one of the best shows I ever saw by a [Metal] band!!! Testament the great.
Birute: And Lordi were served for the dessert. The Finnish act looked like masquerade or Halloween personages rather than a Metal band. Despite the music lacked of originality and in fact was even second after the show of Dracula, mummy, monster etc., Lordi attracted massive attention. Show elements, kind of blood, fire, water were for fun and should make you smile or laugh but that was the best attraction for tired eyes and “dried” brain. A lot of pyrotechnics allowed you feel warm in a cold evening. Yes, that’s good. And today Lordi have two full-length releases – Get Heavy and The Monsterican Dream. Enjoy!


Tadas: Before getting into details of Saturday marathon, I must admit this year’s Wacken was perhaps the most tight and punctual when it comes to the schedule. Many critical words were laid down after that chaos in 2002, so German ordnung have proved its fame, after all. Discussing this, the only disappointment of Sinister canceling it all still remains in memory. Now it is few times pitiful as the band is no more… Rachel was promised to go out and sing with Sabina and her Holy Moses, but that early morning there was just German freaks on stage, hardly making my tired muscles jump from excitement.
Birute: My last day of WOA 2003 started with the visit to the Party stage to see and hear Italian sympho Black Metallers Graveworm. Right, this band combines the style with gothic motives; such perspective is rather popular today. Risen from the deepest grave six “worms” created dark and mystic atmosphere although the sun shined bright and light effects were almost invisible. Some critics found Graveworm to be similar to Cradle Of Filth but I consider it not true. The band presented fifth album Engraved in Black and looked very well. Greetings from the cemetery!
Tadas: Well, if you know my point of view to Graveworm and bands like that, there is no reason to add why I was absent during their show. It was much more important to get well trained and stuffed with evil inside for some real Black Metal few hours later – the midday Carpathian Forest freakshow. Fuckin’ hot again, crowd is enormous for ex. underground team [I think they were quite surprised about that army of Satanic followers as well], but the deal was signed, contracts must have been followed, and almighty motherfuckers have started their show on huge fat monstrous Black Metal stage, covering its entire dimensions with that truly filthy grave rock’n’roll music they are famous for. Strange to see Herr Nattefrost without his instrument, but hands and the entire body gets more freedom to perform ritualistic violence on stage. Session musicians do their job nonetheless excellent, so the frontman does not mind some extra introductions with that specific humour in the air, whilst Vrangsin seemingly does not care at all his trousers fall down once in a while. Black Metal circus? Nope, I don’t think so even the show has a funny element to it. This crew has approved their name far too long ago, so it is not about getting retired really. Perhaps uglier and fucked up than anything else. Definitely a show above the average, especially in monstrous festival like this.
A bit later the same stage was occupied by another Blackest of the Black Metal brothers from Sweden – Dark Funeral. Surprisingly similar picture: Caligula has dropped his axe in order to focus on vocal execution, whilst the rest of the band was working hard for him on stage. And there was a show: no special requisites, just five monsters on stage creating the whirlwind of fast furious infernally ridden music. They have given us the best of the entire discography, digging up even the oldest MCD tracks to hail the most loyal fans around. As usual, Wacken was full of international Metalheads, ranging from Australia to Japan, Russia to Canada, and everything else in between. So it is sure as hell that Swedish hordes have brought no less crowd than Norwegian, and in general these two shows have proved once again that Wacken needs more Black Metal than it is usually exposed there. Something to think about for the organizers.
To end with Black Metal, that night there was an hour of Ancient Rites as well. Of course in a smaller – Party stage, but still that was a nice act of respect for the long time underground purveyors. And there were people eager to see them!! More than the tent could fit in, so it was a bit uncomfortable to see their set almost from the outside, yet anyway – it does not made their music sound anyhow weaker whilst the band acted exactly the same when I saw them for the first time on Hammerheart festival tour last year. Gunther was making endless reverences for the audience – it seemed he was obliged to thank everybody one by one, heh. Well, it does not take that sincerity from them anyway. Who else than devoted fans would have brought Ancient Rites to where they are now.
Birute: True Metal stage hailed another six persons united under the royal Scandinavian sword name of Thyrfing. Spirit of Vikings seemed to come back to life from Valhalla to greet Odin as well as other gods and glorious cruises of ancient warriors. Chords of angry, furious and powerful Viking Metal made the crowd of fans to go insane for forty five minutes. Truly, that example of the style was one of the best I have ever heard. And ghosts of ancestors seemed to rage and storm over the space. The last cut of Thyrfing was done from 2002’s album Vansinnesvisor.
Then the meeting was in front of Black stage to see famous US Deathsters Malevolent Creation. That long-living brutal act remained strong despite numerous changes in line-up including the frontman. So, vocals gained a bit of modern sounding kinda hardcore type, but it is still deathly enough. It was very difficult to stand in the mass of rocking Metalheads ready to feel cold breath of death but the attraction was cool indeed. Drops of sweat and cold stream from the hose, tremendous portion of brutal music and a massive roar following every track – that’s great, isn’t it? Malevolent Creation had the will to kill and they really killed us.
Tadas: As far as I remember I have taken some break after the midday madness inside the festival area, catching the echos of Masterplan performance – ah, you can’t see it all… enlighten meeeeee… That rest was truly necessary before three main bands of that night crawled outside, but my colleague was heroically sporting around to report you some more before the roar has reached its culmination…
Birute: Who did the most dirty work in the festival? Of course, that was Swedish act Soilwork, another presenter of Gothenburg melodic Metal. Their fifth album Figure Number Five was some kind contrary to the previous ones because of modern sound “flavoured” by electronic and industrial motives. On the other hand, those Swedes finely tuned brutality, melody and new effects also accompanied by doubled vocals of Bjorn Strid alone. Dynamic and inflaming music compensated some static character of the action. Ant it was strange enough as “soilworkers” really did not lack the experience on-stage. Anyway, banging and intensive diving showed Metalheads to love the band. Perhaps it’s worth of that.
Sweden never missed of good Metal commands, I see. Another one of Soilwork clan performed on the Wet stage – that’s Darkane. The band is more brutal, dynamic, fierce and less melodic but still very interesting. Vocals of Andreas Sydow changing from growling to corish or clear and vice versa, brutal guitar riffs and perfect work of rhythm section were even better than Soilwork’s. People did not fit in the tent and that was the best sign of the attention. I even did not feel any weariness then, despite all in all that was the twenty first act I watched in WOA 2003. So…
Tadas: Nile perhaps were the most unlucky guys during the festival, as far as sound is concerned, or at least from those teams that I have witnessed. Their performance crammed with numerous sound effects to fully recreate the Mesopotamian atmosphere live was definitely too much for otherwise tight German engineering empire, and the result was quite uncomfortable, both for the audience as well as for musicians. I know how annoying it is to have sudden breaks during your set, moreover when some part of performance does not work at all. Most probably they had troubles to hear details on stage either, so it was quite impossible to present the grand mystique live, even if guys were trying their best, if not more. Nobody could take off them that thunderous triple vocal attack, nor genius riffing at lightning speeds, so I was quick to realize how powerful it might be when everything goes smooth. Well, a good reason to catch Nile once again if opportunity appears, and to encourage Wacken decision makers not to forget about them in the future as well.
Birute: And right after it was time to greet the legend of Thrash Metal. Did you recognize that? Not? Well, just answer three questions and you should know. Which band kills for over twenty years with a lot of strong and intensive albums? The line-up of which command was wonderfully stable during that period? At last, which act gave the huge contribution to the Metal development? You are right, that’s Slayer! The attack of extremely intensive, dynamic, technical and angry music provoked a real storm both on stage and in front of it. Excellent light effects, the majority of Reign In Blood tracks played and return of a drummer Dave Lombardo caused the show of Slayer to be the best in the festival without any doubt. When the performance that lasted for one and half hours went to the end and the stage was left by four slayers, one should reconcile that was a real legend. Still powerful, still merciless, still uncompromising!
Tadas: Uhh, that surely was something to remember for the rest of my life. I am a winner once again, I had a permission to make pictures right in front of the stage, and during Slayer that was an experience to feel to truly believe. A huge army of paparazzis like me shared the allowed time to capture Thrash gigants live, so every group had two minutes only for all the action. You can not actually imagine what’s the feeling when you run into the area whilst Slayer execute down War Ensemble, and you occur some three-four meters away from that raging massmurder. Eliminating crystal clear sound, roaring audience under your backs and storming wild performance. No wonder that hands started to tremble slightly… Ah, fuck that, I’ve got the pictures anyway!
Right after it was very difficult to get closer to the stage, but it was fully enough to partly observe the performance on huge screen put up on the constructions. The real Slayer was seen a bit in a distance, still sound was the one and only. Being paparazzi means sacrificing some things you know…
Yes, Birute was right – I haven’t expected so many classics and perhaps the entire Reign In Blood live. Maybe Tom is not as rebellious on stage as before, and those breaks between the songs with him just standing and smiling were weird, but it also created a certain aura in the area of Northern Germany, metalized for ever. It is hard to correspond all emotions in written, that’s the bottom line of my report on this.
I can just guess about the others, but after the Slayer holocaust my arms, legs and the entire body refused to listen mind anymore. I was moving like a zombie, without much sense left in consciousness. But – there was Vader left, so all thoughts about quick sleep were pushed aside, at least for the next fourty minutes. Polish guys were quite modest on stage before the show, sort of calming everybody down that it is fuckin’ hard to perform after Slayer, but you could easily notice Polish fans disagreeing with that position. Well, how tricky it was, especially for such crazy zombies with sparking Death Metal spirit like me! And so the show began with rabid short but extremely fast Vader classics that quickly brought the lost powers back, and being alive you could witness unbelievable: yours truly was headbanging once again to that ideal symbiosis of technicality, rage, wisdom and brutality. Here we go – favourite The Nomad and that’s perhaps a final moment of Wacken’s culmination. Indeed, Vader show couldn’t be better than that which happened!
Traditionally, Onkel Tom has been closing the kiosk down, but that was not for my dying body and prospering soul. Yeah, one more musical death has been passed successfully, and next year we’ll reborn again for the next unholy weekend. Some things are made there to remain eternally…

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