As we stood in line for the shuttle bus back to Itzehoe station, young men brandishing tent poles circled the grounds. A pointman briefly investigated tents. If a tent appeared to be abandoned, he signalled to the rest of the posse. The mob then charged, before wailing on the (hopefully) abandoned tent. Three days ago, these same lads stood orderly in line for shuttle buses to the site. It was a metal Lord of the Flies. If the festival had continued any longer, we would have been worshipping a pig’s head on a stick.
Rather than carrying tents, cookers and mattresses back home, many festival-goers simply walked away with their tents still standing. In other cases they smashed everything. 20 metres from our tent, punters decided to burn their tent. They were not alone in this exit strategy.
Hellfest had been quite impact conscious. Rewards were given for handing in rubbish and recycling. In general people seemed to be quite respectful of their surroundings. In contrast, the Wacken we left resembled a dump.
Whilst I can sympathise with the cathartic joy of running around, destroying shyte (and I probably would have joined in when I was 19), the waste and pollution did not sit well.
I’m sure that the organisers go to major lengths to clean up after the crowds leave, but still… In some cases we are not even talking about outright laziness, we are talking about deliberate attempts to leave the place worse than you found it. And destroying perfectly good camping equipment? Who does that? Who has the money to buy something and abandon/destroy it? At least take it home and pass it on to someone else. A tent isn’t that heavy, dude.
Before the campsite carnage, came the aural assault. The previous afternoon, we joined 40,000 others for Cannibal Corpse’s set. I’ve only seen Cannibal Corpse once before and that was in the 500-head capacity room of Fowler’s in Adelaide. I still haven’t decided whether it’s a good idea or not to gather that many Cannibal fans…
… but joking aside, Cannibal is a fun band. I witnessed many more smiles in that crowd than aggression. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher sounds like an unholy demon on the mic, but his banter between songs in pure honed schtick. With song titles that include “F_cked with a Knife”, its hardly a band to take a girl to on your first date, but my girl of four years took the band in the right spirit. She knew that George was just playing.
The energy in the 40,000 strong crowd, created an immediate storm of dust. It was at times difficult to breathe. Maybe those bandanas that double as dust masks aren’t 100% lame after all.
Since our 18th birthdays, Noise Road’s good friend, Stavros, and I have heard death metal bands get lost in muddy mixes in tiny rooms. So how could it survive being blasted out into cow paddocks?… Surprisingly well. Very well, actually.
A decent mix is important in a Cannibal set, as you would lose a lot of the dynamics in a muddle. Their set is surprisingly varied with a discernible groove throughout.
The title track off Evisceration Plague, chugged along, allowing some of that groove to come through. Off the same album, Priests of Sodom hammered from the get go. Even with the hammering there is always time for the guitarists to wail. Hammer Smashed Face even leaves room for Alex Webster to show his incomparable bass prowess, before the rest of the band joins in to hit hard.
Cannibal are a seasoned, professional unit that live on the road. So their tightness and polish are not surprising. But I think it is the strength and variety of their material that separates them from the death metal pack. They effectively vary tempo and feel, ensuring that their set never sounds like one song played 12 times.
Sepultura were the first metal band that I got into. And old Sepultura is undeniably great. But former Sepultura frontman, Max Cavalera, has spent over a decade p!ssing on his legacy.
I saw Soulfly twice early on in their career. And whilst I wasn’t hanging out for Fred Durst’s rap passage in Bleed, or ultra nu-metal songs, I did, in the main, enjoy those gigs. Max has always played a high content of the Sepultura classics in his sets.
Night had fallen by the time Max and company hit the stage. The screens flanking the stage reminded the crowd that there was no circle pits to be entered into. Someone forgot to hand Max that memo. I’n not sure there was a song that he didn’t call for a circle pit, or for the crowd to “jump tha f_ck up!”.
So while Max may or may not be a tool, he has undeniable stage presence. He and the Soulfly unit had the crowd bouncing throughout.
We thrashed through Troops of Doom and screamed along to “Roots!… Bloody Roots!”. I even allowed myself to enjoy a bit of nu metal as I remembered back to singing Eye for an Eye at the 1999 Big Day Out. Oh, the youthful indiscretions.
Soulfly still have that nu-metal feel, but the new songs sound a little thrashier. I still wouldn’t fork out my hard earned for another Soulfly record, but the live set has been worthwhile every time I’ve caught them.
Fear Factory also played Hellfest. Following that performance, I thought that it was great to reminisce about the music of my youth, but my time is better spent exploring bands that are pushing boundaries today. After the Wacken set, there is still room in my life for Fear Factory gigs.
Fear Factory’s set was shorter than the one at Hellfest, and fortunately they cut out the nu metal fat. It was great.
Like angst-ridden, 16-year olds we yelled along with Burton C. Bell:
“I’ve got… No more… God d@mn… Regrets!
I’ve got… No more… God.. d@mn… Respect!”
We bounced along with Martyr, pausing only to join in the chorus:
I’ll admit that I still haven’t investigated the new recorded material, but live, it stood up well against the awesome machine-metal of the Demanufacture era songs. Even if those new songs don’t cut it outside of the live experience, I now believe there is room in my life for more Fear Factory gigs. I see they’re touring Europe with High on Fire in a month. I’m on it!
With the inner 16-year old in me once again satisfied, we ventured back for our last sleep in the tent, before waking to the carnage of the morning. Another night in Hamburg, and we were unfortunately too soon returning to the real world.
I’ve attended a few festivals this season. Whilst Wacken’s lineup wasn’t as strong as Hellfest, and the scale of the event prevented the communal vibe of a festival like Roadburn, Wacken is Wacken.
For sheer scale and metalness, Wacken can’t be beat. Like Muslims required to pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetime, so every metalhead owes it to himself to attempt to assemble the funds and time, to find enlightenment amongst 75,000 Slayer fans.
Hop to it!…
and thanks for reading…