Tero Tolkki of Metal From Finland conducted an interview with Mathias Nygård (Turisas) on this years Tuska Festival held in Helsinki, Finland. Watch the interview below.
Tero Tolkki of Metal From Finland conducted an interview with Mathias Nygård (Turisas) on this years Tuska Festival held in Helsinki, Finland. Watch the interview below.
Tero Tolkki from Metal From Finland interviewed Marco Hietala (Tarot,Nightwish) in this years Tuska Festival held in Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland. Marco spoke about the early years of Tarot and how things are these days. You can watch the interview below.
By Tero Tolkki for Metal From Finland. It was a typical autumn afternoon in Finland. Dark, windy and rainy. But my day was getting better as I was driving to legendary Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland to hear the new Nightwish album Imaginaerum. It was a special event held for the press since there isn’t going to be any promos available. And the bonus was that the Maestro himself, Tuomas Holopainen was there to host the event. I’ve been in Finnvox studios many times before and I knew that the place wasn’t all that huge so I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t be packed with press. Wrong. But at the same time totally understandable. I couldn’t think a single journalist who would like to miss this one. It was nice to see that Nightwish was presented there not only by Tuomas but the rest of the guys as well. Only Anette was missing. After a small waiting period, we moved to the studio-room itself where we could hear their long awaited album Imaginaerum.
I will write about each and every song individually but keep in mind, this is not a review of Imaginaerum. It is impossible to write a review of such epic after hearing it only once. So the things I gathered on my notebook were more like feelings which I am going to share with all of you now. But I can say to all you Nightwish fans out there…with Imaginaerum Nightwish will challenge you in a way they’ve never done before. This album is by far not an easy album to approach. But here is Imaginaerum, track by track.
Started with this wind-up toy playing a lullaby. Marco sang the intro in finnish which was cool to hear. It was like a dreamworld entrance with flutes, choirs and symphony orchestras. A perfect intro.
Nightwish released this song as the first single from Imaginaerum. A nice mid-tempo song that actually reminded me of one other Nightwish song, just couldn’t figure out which one. Very strong guitar riffs. Contained a very strong symphonical part in the middle. Maybe the song itself was stretched a bit too much from the end but definately understandable why Storytime was chosen as the single song.
Another mid-tempo song. Marco’s singing in the beginning was like touch of madness and rage. After that it was more like a dialogue type of singing with Marco and Anette. Very strong symphonical part in the middle with a child choir. That sounded awesome.
SLOW, LOVE, SLOW
This was a treat…unlike nothing I’ve heard from Nightwish before. Started with a piano and while I was waiting the song to kick in…well…it didn’t Instead it changed totally. The best way I can describe this song is like, going to one of those bars in the 60′s, full of smoke and a on stage there is a woman in spotlight singing. When you hear this song you’ll understand what I mean. I actually spoke to Jukka about this particular song and he said that was one of the things they tried to capture on the song…well they did it And then there was this clean guitar part, like a solo but it was so funny. Couple of journalists started laughing and even Emppu himself was laughing. This awesome song ended with a long tic tac tic tac sound. I must say, not a song I would expect to hear from Nightwish but I love the fact that they are experimenting.
I WANT MY TEARS BACK
This song started with a very butch guitar riff. It doesn’t matter that Emppu’s sound is pretty much always the same and the riffs are similar but I do love how it sounds. On the early parts of this song I thought it could very well be a good candidate for their second single release but a middle part totally changed it. It had this middle age feeling…hard to describe. Well I am describing mostly my feelings on the songs cause now when I write it, I barely anymore remember how the songs went. Again to me that’s a good thing. Anette’s sound is a bit thin on this song for some reason.
Starts with a very nightmare-like pressuring atmospere, well it’s called Scaretale Loved how the double bassdrums started after the beginning and it gave a very groovy feeling for the song. At some point of this song Anette’s voice changed to slightly aggressive which in my books is never a bad thing! Middle part of this song contained a speech which believe me or not, changed into something that remotely resembled Finntroll on their early years ´:) This song was a combination of many different parts.
Instrumental song. Didn’t really get inside this one at all.
TURN LOOSE THE MERMAIDS
Starts acoustically with Anette singing and pan-flutes on the background. This song overall had a very beautiful and balanced atmosphere and while I closed my eyes, I almost fell asleep…some might think it’s a sign of boredom but to me it’s a sign of relaxation. And it’s not easy to achieve in a room full of journalists lol. Loved this song.
This one started with a nice guitar shredding. Marco started singing and Anette joined. Middle part changed almost entirely to acoustic while Anette was singing with a child choir.
THE CROW, THE OWL AND THE DOVE
Started acoustically and the song had a very tranquil feeling overall. There was a someone in the middle part who I think was a special quest cause it didn’t sound like Marco.
LAST RIDE OF THE DAY
Now this is Nightwish! From the very beginning to very end. Lots of choirs, strong riffs, melodic chorus, double bassdrums. Definately single material.
SONG OF MYSELF
Song 1: From A Dusty Bookshelf
Song 2: All That Great Heart Lying Still
Song 3: Piano Black
Song 4: Love
This is epic…EPIC. But also a song you need to listen over and over again and I am sure you’ll discover something new each time you hear it. It’s just a combination of so many things…overwhelming really. At times so melodic and then turns into a total end of the world atmosphere. Only Maestro is capable of doing such compositions. As I said already…you need to hear this song many times to get inside it.
Outro, symphonic, wow…it was funny cause when the song ended…the room was totally quiet…you couldn’t even hear a single breath…until Marco broke the silence by saying “Yes that was it”
People walk out the room in silence…surreal feeling. I don’t think the silence was cause of disappointment, I think it was more like “What did just happen?”. At least that’s how it felt to me. Over 70 minutes and it went by very fast. Now I am not saying this is the best Nightwish album, again one cannot even make such assumption based on one listening time. You can do that with many bands but not with Nightwish. There is simply too much content in those 70 minutes to state an opinion…only to describe feelings.
As you all may or may not know, they will also make a movie out of Imaginaerum which will be written and directed by Stobe Harju based on a story by Tuomas Holopainen. This was something that I actually kept in mind while listening. So what I did during each song was to close my eyes and just let my imagination fly. I couldn’t believe I actually started seeing images coming out of nowhere. It felt surreal…just listening to the song and the lyrics they transformed into images. Now let’s see how the fans like it when the album is released. I loved it.
For a band born in 2008 (Helsinki, FIN), things started pretty fast. In 2010 BATTLE BEAST was qualified to take part at Wacken Open Air in an international metal competition – the already traditional Metal Battle – in which 26 bands fought for glory, some prizes and a record deal. These Finns won. And how else could it have been…
For this one time, the essentials of Finnish metal are not there. No charming and tormented frontman, no lyrics about the bitterness of life, no instrumentation oozing with melancholy, pain and anger. This time we get something very different from Finland, and it’s worth a notice whether you enjoy the style or not – simply because it’s so different! These fellows of BB are committed to a revive the old days and to remind us that metalheads still need to know of Judas Priest and such… A revival attempt for the old school heavy metal is no bad thing, after all. BB’s music consists of chunky and screeching guitar, old style choruses, hellish and ballsy screams, while the image is composed of leather, steel, leather and steel. The outstanding part is none of these, however – it is in the vocals. The responsible one is Nitte, the one-of-a-kind frontwoman. Full confidence and full force! It is quite senseless to begin describing her or the amazement to hear her vocals, so I simply recommend listening…
Among their songs, “Victory” sounds like a serious piece of traditional metal and also “Armageddon Clan” is a five-star creation. “Iron Hand” has a good sound for me, as glorious as Turisas‘ “Battle Metal“, though we’re talking about such a different band here. About the whole album “Steel” (2011) I wouldn’t know what to say. The title is only the first cliché we find here. Add the repetition of certain elements, the obsessive Manowar themes (in the words used and image) and you don’t get much of a hit. On the other side, it is to be praised for the genre it manages to represent, for the raw power that fills it, for being an appropriate spin at metal events/venues and for just being the surprise that it is. Who would expect that kind of sound from Finland’s side?
Some will like it, some will laugh. BB is, however, welcome to the metal world.
BATTLE BEAST is:
Nitte Valo (vocals)
Anton Kabanen (guitar, vocals)
Pyry Vikki (drums)
Juuso Soinio (guitar)
Eero Sipilä (bass, vocals)
Janne Björkroth (keys, vocals)
I remember very well the joyful moment of seeing GHOST BRIGADE perform on the Wacken 2010 stage, changing the climate into Northern coldness. The band – whose musical style is very hard to pin down – has been receiving very positive reviews and keeps on gathering more and more praise with the latest release.
The video for “Clawmaster” is directed and animated by Fursy Tessier (Les Discrets, Amesoeurs, Alcest) and serves the first single of the album “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us” (which entered the official Finnish charts at #7!). I get the impression that, starting with the album title itself, GHOST BRIGADE wants to expose a philosophy of true liberation and it manages to put it in very interesting concepts. It’s nice how this dark metal act makes the leap to offering solutions instead of just stating the problems.
It begins with some of the most desolating scenes you’ve seen, all in grey and black, dark simplicity that lets in some kind of chariot pulled by the characters in the video. I have already forgotten that I was never really interested in watching videos with animation. This one is ART, and it’s art fit for metal. The band members appear as hooded silhouettes – dressed in something resembling long medieval monk garments, a sight to behold.
“I will break the bond between us
And prove my innocence (…)
They can tear me to pieces
but my ghost will stay whole”
The video is dealing with some simple but profound symbols, with the two opposing powers that are the polarities between which humans oscillate. Despite the simple cartoonish style and the things that can be seen as clichés, this work succeeds to convey a message of wisdom about the human condition. I was very impressed and looked to draw a meaning from its every detail; a beautiful, deep message; a very nice work of art and totally welcome in the world of metal, though its essence is unusual. GHOST BRIGADE and all their musical efforts show that dignity and intelligence belong to Metal.
When the characters break the ties that held them and transform into beings of light, everything is magically turned into pure euphoria. It is done in such a way that I can’t put my finger on what made it so, I just feel it, in the melody as well. It’s very mysterious how it lies in that simplicity. I guess that’s pure genius. See what happens, it is well amazing!
The work was completed in 6 weeks from 1st July to mid August.
Collaborators: Michael Bolufer, Fabrice Ascione, François-Marc Baillet, Stéphane Lefort, Adrien Bousson and Olivier Perras.
Production assistant: Audrey Hadorn.
The ARTmania festival, which takes place each summer in the medieval city of Sibiu, Romania, has quickly become the favorite local event for the fans of Finnish metal. Having debuted in 2006, Finnish bands were the only foreign bands playing at the festival that year; HIM, Amorphis, Carmen Gray and Silentium – the last two bands performing live outside Finland for the first time ever. The following years brought even more famous Finnish bands; Tarot in 2007, Nightwish as a headliner in 2009, and Swallow The Sun in 2010. In 2011, Tarja Turunen performed live for the fourth time in Romania on the 12th of August, while Sonata Arctica played for the first time ever for Romanian fans on the 13th of August.
Three different stages were set up for 2011′s edition; the main stage for foreign artists in the Large Square, in the center of Sibiu, a smaller stage for local bands, a few minutes’ walk, in the Small Square, and a third stage, for afterparties and concerts taking place during the night, 8 kilometers away from the city center, in the middle of a forest. In addition to concerts, the festival included several other events; meet and greets, painting and concert pictures exhibitions, workshops, free entry to local museums, book releases, a Harley Davidson motorcycle exhibition and parade, and free entry to the Transylvania Tattoo Expo, taking place in the same weekend.
One great thing about ARTmania festival is that the audience is allowed to stay in the concert area during the whole day, as they are kicked out and let right back in to check the tickets before the concerts start in the evening. The people who arrive early are sometimes lucky enough to be able to watch the soundchecks, in those cases when the musicians show up and participate in them. At 13:00, Tarja’s musicians got on stage, and she also appeared later. Around 100 people were in front of the stage at that time, and the band played three songs; “Dark Star”, “My Little Phoenix” and “Where Were You Last Night”. Both the band and the audience seemed to really enjoy the experience, as fans are not usually allowed to attend soundchecks.
Until several years ago, “Finnish metal” was used to describe a certain group of bands that would get their inspiration from SENTENCED and carry on with the same melancholy, heartache and gothic tunes. Soon there was not much left to say in this genre, so it faded away towards extinction. Was Finland going nowhere? Of course not. With new inspiration in its great melodic death metal acts, it began to develop its own brand of the genre.
GRENDEL‘s cross to bear in the Land of Metal is a tough one; the melodeath area becomes overcrowded already, there are simply too many bands and too good to make possible long-term successes like those from past decades. This explains why I, for example, am writing about this band in 2011 (they began in 2000). There were many occasions in which I encountered its name, it was getting a grip on my memory, but I got too emerged into other bands to check it… However, the effect of the discovery was a fast and mind-blowing one. I haven’t known such enthusiasms for a Finnish band since I got into SWALLOW THE SUN, which actually has quite a sound connection to GRENDEL. On some tracks, that is. I must mention the diversity of which this band is capable! From numbing melancholy to downright anger and aggressiveness. A great plus is that these musicians engage in acoustic and cover gigs – truly awesome stuff. By all evidence, they love what they’re doing and they invest a lot in it, expanding the experience.
So far I have befriended only their latest 2 albums, “A Change Through Destruction” (2008) and “Corrupt to the Core” (2011) If Mikko Kotamäki (SWALLOW THE SUN) impressed with his clean/growl duality of vocals, this time another Mikko takes it to an even higher level. The clean vocals of Mr. Virtanen are able to sustain much more with their richness and depth. Their specific sound is inviting, dark, seductive – at the same time intimidating – without the “unfortunate trait” of many such vocals in death metal, that manage to decrease the testosterone levels and to sound out of place. No, Mikko Virtanen is blessed with an unforgettable voice that adds depth. On the brutal vocals aspect, he does it fantastically also. There is raw power and harshness which, combined with well-crafted guitar riffs (like in “Apocalyptic Rain“) are a great metal treat. On tracks like “The Deaf Cult“, the slower pace and doom atmosphere remind of the aforementioned co-nationals. A bitter, blue-hearted, haunting masterpiece. The deeper and wider growls are something remarkable here. Its equivalent on the newer album seems to be “Five Years Without the Sun“, the difference being that this one is sung in clean vocals entirely, with the help of guitarist Mika Kivi (a nice surprise). “One Desire” is a song that probably makes AMORPHIS wish they wrote it. Also Tomi Joutsen has a serious challenge in front of this roaring lion – Mikko Virtanen – and his energy (can’t help but appreciate the storming stage presence).
I find their 2008 album to be somewhat richer than the one of 2011 – as the band made better use of the qualities they had and their uniqueness. “Half Life” can be an example for the state of the art for GRENDEL: it exhibits the best of melody composition, the best of Mikko’s vocals and technique and a perfect unity of message + atmosphere + execution. However, among their new tracks there are great compositions too, such as “Silver Tongues“, that gave me visions of a crushing gig at a big open air festival, with a crazy crowd and some fine pyrotechnics. This 2011 record is more brutal, fit for moshing, with more consistent guitar work (watch the killer riffing in “Day of Redemption“). It’s a release that shines on the faster and heavier side but lacks on the side of clean vocals, which are not used to their full potential on some tunes.
The lyrical themes of GRENDEL mostly deal with soul search, guilt and penance, mankind’s current state and so on. All in all, very introspective lyrics that maintain the band in the “top quality” area. It is a deeply human journey through many levels and aspects of life, put on a variety of rhythms. Definitely, the foremost qualities of this band stand in the various genres they visit, the vocals and the live appearances. Just can’t get bored with them.
Go meet this monster on the Metallia Perkele! -tour this autumn!
Mikko Virtanen (Vocals)
Mika Kivi (Guitars, Background vocals)
Jussi Kraft (Guitars)
Kari Martikainen (Bass)
Juha Terrilä (Keyboards)
Jarkko Piipari (Drums)
Under the daring line Blasting Europe in August, the king of all metal festivals reaches in 2011 its 22nd year and, once again, deserves all biggest words of praise. The fields hosted total number of over 85 000 participants, out of which 75 000 were ticket owners (according to a German law, the number is not allowed to grow – otherwise, this festival would’ve grown to monstrous sizes for sure).
If last year I delivered a much-encompassing guide and a longer coverage as a first-time Wackener, this time I will be just going through the new, the unchanged but very good, the particular moments to remember and – of course – the Finnish appearances. In 2011 Finland was represented by well-established names: ENSIFERUM, APOCALYPTICA, CHILDREN OF BODOM, MOONSORROW and, in support of last year’s glory, BATTLE BEAST who won the already renowned Metal Battle of the bands. Also the amusing humppa (Finnish polka) cover band Eläkeläiset was among the guests, as W:O:A is not all about being dark and grim.
As the numbers on the website visitor counter goes numb because of too many simultaneous guests, the camping fields around the metal village become populated with enthusiasts from all over the world. It’s the weekend before the festival. Metalheads do this from 2 big reasons: to avoid traffic jams in midweek and to enjoy the sweet camping life for as long as possible. Same story as years before, people are making early arrivals in spite of the measures taken to control the phenomenon. The organizers have raised the fees for the early ones, but in vain it seems. Anyhow, 10 and 20 euro don’t make a whole in the budget of those who love Wacken. Unfortunately I arrived on the holy grounds on Wednesday evening, which is quite late, but felt the celebration atmosphere starting with Hamburg central station. There, I already met fellows selling Wacken tickets, which got some raised brows, as many of these tickets can be counterfeit. This is a serious thing, because enough people were tricked and unfortunate enough to return home from the festival gates…
Travel tip: to go cheap, go carpooling; check websites such as Mitfahrzentrale – they usually have a version in English, too, or simply go to the international ones. Car sharing is a very effective way to reach the festival especially if you are in Germany, as you can find lots of daily rides to Hamburg or straight to Wacken (that also means travelling in company of metal brothers). People also advertise there group train tickets, which turn to have a ridiculously small price. Join them in the adventure!
Itzehoe is the last stop before the metal village and the mood was uplifting. The small station with its shops was crowded with metalheads looking for beer with a contagious over-enthusiasm! An official welcome point was set there to provide us with beer and informative papers on the festival and camping grounds, as well as the opening hours of all facilities. No time for waiting, the shuttle buses come fast and the “all in” ticket costs only 8 euro. The transportation is very well organized and I don’t think anyone can be in trouble with it. Thumbs up for the organizers, their efforts led to great results!
The campsite together with the festival grounds (Wacken Center, Wackinger Village, the beergarden, the food area, the 6 stages, the movie field) are a complex, well-thought structure, and it is possible at any step to wonder where you are and where to head to. Luckily, at crossroads and many other important points there are big maps with the very helpful “You are here” marks. Also the guards are ready to help the lost ones anytime. The problem with the printed maps we were given was that the writing was too small and thus difficult to read, even when sober.
Another trouble was going through the village in search of the Press Check In, placed so far away. The same spot was also for the guests and VIPs. Waiting in line with all our stuff around us wasn’t too pleasant, but finally getting our passes and bracelets was relieving and we easily set our minds on the coming beer to drink and the enchanted Wacken night.
Mornings can be so nice and sweet in Wacken. Perhaps the clean fresh air and the ever going joyous mood does wonders to the drinkers, as they wake up each day with new forces! In fact, I’ve seen party people who barely stopped in the morning. In any case, few have the occasion to take a longer break than a few hours. The people are (over-) friendly and their survival goods are easily shared with any guest or anyone in need, it seems. The opportunities for fun are always countless – they are up to everyone’s crazy imagination. After you have your Wacken baptism, you may pass through the traditional Slow Motion Zone, watch a tent “bullfight” or have a fun ride on whatever object is appropriate Also, don’t be surprised if the Air Guitar contest turns into a striptease show!
Useful tip: Ask and it is given! I wouldn’t have believed it at first, but a newly gained buddy showed me it’s possible. When you’re in need of beer, just go ask for it politely to the nearest tent. You will be surprised how fast they are to help, the Wackeners. We got 2
Having a hot coffee made with love and care in the camping, some schnitzel and grilled sausages, me and the fellows were ready to go and live the show! Great bands can be found scheduled even early in the day, at noon, like ENSIFERUM and MOONSORROW. Strange choices, however. Their music fits heavy drinking and a later time of the day, with cheering mood instead of morning sleepiness. That was said by many around.
On Thursday morning, grey skies and drizzle menaces our joy. Warm clothes, as well as something to protect from the rain are already necessary. It’s a bad omen to get this weather so early in the week. From the press area I catch a part of the BLIND GUARDIAN sound check – it is fabulous! The way they sounded showed that the band is definitely well prepared and ready for tonight’s (expected) mighty appearance: a stunning professional act and an epic celebration. Looking forward! I went on through the place filled with this energizing feeling of content for the day that had just started. The festival, in spite of the weather, was following its normal rhythm: people coming back and forth from the supermarket, going for drinks, waiting in great numbers to buy official merchandise, taking photos in a frenzy, crowding the beer garden and so on. It is time for the first gigs also. The Wacken Firefighters are the traditional openers, followed this year by the crazy band RUSSKAJA singing Russian polka music mixed with some fun melodies. The atmosphere had been more than warmed up already, time for some serious metal. Again – traditionally – SKYLINE & Guests (Doro Pesch, Chris of Grave Digger, U.D.O...) to perform the beloved Wacken hymn.
The most important thing about the running order at W:O:A is that… it has no mercy. From 12:00 to 03:00 the next day, bands play simultaneously on the impressive stages and usually at least some big names will overlap with some others. Choosing can be tough, so for most people the solution is to watch half of a gig and half of the other one. Also, it is to be noted that the headliners don’t play as the last bands of the day, but they are booked for the “prime time” – that is from dusk to nightfall. Thus the natural conditions and the sky’s majesty add the best possible touch to the entire show.
The first major act (and a delightful appearance that pulled a great crowd) was the German heavy metal legend HELLOWEEN. The “Seven Sinners” album of 2010 was a revival which also put Andi Deris‘ vocals in the limelight. He sounded wonderful on the new songs, being an energetic and overpowering presence at the same time. Truly nice to watch him. “I Want Out” was inevitably sung, but still no “If I Could Fly”, which they constantly leave out. My personal favorite was the brilliant, bitter and rough “Where the Sinners Go“, one of the recent compositions and a serious piece of metal. The band also had a rough start for this gig. What was supposed to be a true blast (and it was, for the first minute) turned to total failure. A failure of the electrical equipment. The Wacken stage couldn’t take the heaviness of the perfect anthemic opener “Are You Metal?“; it all went blank at the chorus. The band resumed it – blank again. And so one of the memorable killer festival moments was fully sabotaged. Nevertheless, the gig had successful moments, even for those complaining of Andi’s poor performance on the Kiske era songs.
Destiny made it so that I had to skip the Finnish BATTLE BEAST (which I strongly recommend, if you want to hear some old-school flavored heaviness and a very special front lady!), because in front of the Black Stage the ranks were getting packed and started an early choir in anticipation. It was time for the headliners BLIND GUARDIAN, with their only 2011 show in the homeland. The number of BG t-shirts worn was impressive. But what wasn’t, after all? A concert that I was sure would make it into history. With a reputation of being better on stage than on their (fantastic) records, the German symphonic-power-progressive band had an outstanding performance for 1h 30′. One cannot help but describe them in praise words, so bear with it! While still daylight, BG appeared in the sounds of the solemn and delightful “Sacred Worlds“. From the very first riffs we could realize they were doing a perfect job, as a very passionate musicians team. There was hardly any room for disappointment. Although Hansi Kürsch let out the high pitched vocal parts, he was perfect for the rest. Without a doubt, one of the most valued voices in metal! “Welcome to Dying” and “Nightfall” followed, forcing the crowd to sing along with the purest joy, and this didn’t really stop until the band was long gone off the stage, 2 hours later. Besides this, in partly random order, “Tanelorn“, “Traveller in Time“, “Lord of the Rings“, “Imaginations from the Other Side“, Into the Storm“, “Time stands Still (At the Iron Hill)“, “The Bard’s Song“, “Wheel of Time“, “Fly“, “Majesty“, “Valhalla“, “Mirror Mirror“. It is an impossible task to describe the skills of this band, the presence of Hansi – now much slimmer and younger looking and very simple in appearance – the passion on both sides, the atmosphere of the twilight (no better time!) and the awesome pyrotechnics towards the end, in the glorious night. Also the crowd surfing got unbearable – ecstatic fans were “floating” over the crowd, one after another. A mosh pit got formed, too. Thousands of voices were still singing the “Valhalla” chorus even after the bards were gone and the stage lights were off. Long after the event, heads were still filled with those tunes and the discussions were revolving around the most epic band of the world (regardless of people’s preferences in metal). At least the public’s attitude surely impressed those who were not fans of BG. This whole madness consumed, I had reasons to remain in the press tent and watch OZZY OSBOURNE on screens…
Friday, after so much partying and drinking, people were slowly waking up and moving towards the festival area. To have ENSIFERUM play at noon was a weird decision, but Wackeners are surprising creatures: they gathered in large numbers, filling the field to the entrance gates. There was no awkward morning silence, but heroic group shouts of “Lai lai hei!” and “Ta-ta-ra-ra! ta-ta-ra-ra!”, showing that this is no band to ignore. Hooray to the Finns! The opener “From Afar” warmed up the audience, which was soon making circle pits and a wall of death. At the same time on the Party Stage was PRIMAL FEAR, e respectable name in the power/heavy metal area. I sacrificed a bit of the Finnish warriors’ show to go check that, and hearing the amazing “Seven Seals” performed live was precious… Later on, MORBID ANGEL crushes the Black Stage, but I’m in search of epicness and find the Party Stage… where the a capella band VAN CANTO is, a perfect party act and energizing entertainer. If you thought that rappers are good at creating and sustaining rhythm with their vocal chords, check this one out. 5 singers and a drummer only – enough to perform with force and harmony well-known metal tunes, such as “Wishmaster” (NIGHTWISH), “Primo Victoria” (SABATON), “Rebellion” (GRAVE DIGGER) “Fear of the Dark” (IRON MAIDEN), “Kings of Metal” (MANOWAR) and, again, “The Bard’s Song” (BLIND GUARDIAN). It was impressive and FUN!
Next in line for me was SODOM, the thrash metal legend itself. Thinking that KREATOR was also present in this year’s W:O:A, on Saturday, makes it easy to say that it was a thrash metaller’s dream… Further on, RHAPSODY OF FIRE and AS I LAY DYING would’ve been very interesting acts to see – both overlapping, unfortunately. In my great responsibility… I managed to miss both I caught, however, a band that was not on my list, but which dragged me with its insane energy: HEAVEN SHALL BURN. In full sunlight, with some good use of fire blasts on stage, it was not bad at all to watch. A musically aggressive German band with a strong social message.
At 20:45 I was still in denial of what I was about to watch: JUDAS PRIEST on their farewell tour. and knowing there can be no better concert as in Wacken, this was definitely their ultimate show. 2h and 15′ for this heavy metal monster, equipped with all they had to bring so we could have the real taste of “British steel”. Regardless of age and preferences in metal, it was a Feast for all present souls. One does get goosebumps when, in front of them, legendary musicians of a respectable age deliver with passion heavy hymns that every rock club, rock radio and rock heart has known like a credo. Rob Halford (60), in spite of limited vocal power, did not leave it blank for the high-pitched parts. The band tried to go through its entire musical history – a wonderful, wonderful show – hardly anything can be so fulfilling in terms of metal experiences than being a part of this!
The festival rapture continued far in the night with the aristocratic treat APOCALYPTICA, emerging from the deep darkness… a very well chosen time, must say. They are good for the mysterious late hours of the night. And so they begin, with the wonderfully dark and mysterious “On the Rooftop with Quasimodo“, new track from their “7th Symphony” LP (2010). A perfect start with its slow and anticipating pace, building up the tension so magically… For the continuation I expected the band would jump in our face with their own brilliant compositions. Instead, they chose to focus on Metallica covers. A logical choice somehow, because those were fit for the festival and kept the crowd singing along. The final song was… another cover: this time, Edward Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King“. The rest of the setlist: “2010“, “Master of Puppets” (Metallica cover), “Grace“, “Bring Them to Light“, “Last Hope“, “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica cover), “Inquisition Symphony” (Sepultura cover), “Seek and Destroy” (Metallica cover), “I Don’t Care“. Personally, I think they were too much centered on that certain band instead of taking advantage and bringing their own compositions forward… I believe they were not invited twice in a row at W:O:A because they are good with covers, but because they are a well-established name with very original stuff they can boast with. Nevertheless, they’ve stayed very nice fellows, as hundreds of fans could see during the meet & greet session. Towards the end of the gig, deep fog coming down engulfed the area, creating an even more unreal atmosphere – something I haven’t seen in Wacken so far.
Saturday’s opener: once again a heroic Finnish band – MOONSORROW. Starting mercilessly with “Kylän Pääsä“, the blood-painted warriors did their best to sound cold and war-like (not in black metal style though) and, although I wish the vocals were stronger, it was convincing enough. “Kivenkantaja” proves it quite well HERE. Bad playing time, however. This band’s show would’ve gained in pagan metal atmosphere if it happened sometime beyond midnight. At least that’s how I felt and still feel.
KATAKLYSM was another rough band to play among the starters – and an exhausting one for the fans. The Canadians death metallers, apart from raising a little Illuminati awareness, set up for a “security stress test“. The madness consisted of stimulating the fans to do a mass crowd surfing, a true ordeal for the guards in front of the stage. The surfers were exhilarated, running in ecstasy and giving the irons in a frenzy after they were dropped off by the security. MAYHEM and SEPULTURA followed on the big stages, but exhaustion was knocking at my door after a stroll in the village and I could only watch a bit on the screens. I replenished my force right on time for the first headliner of the day. In fact, this last day of W:O:A had so many headliners that it seemed too crazy to be true! There… ICED EARTH… Last appearance with their long-time vocalist Matt Barlow. A farewell concert that everyone knew would be true metal history. Matt’s performance was brilliant and very much involved with the crowd – the look on his face said it all. Also, the rest of the band wasn’t any less involved in the subtle drama we were all feeling. As guitarist and main man Jon Schaffer began his solemn speech, the fans began shouting Barlow’s name wholeheartedly. The musicians didn’t make it any easier by giving brotherly hugs to Matt, Freddie Vidales wearing a “MATT F*CKING BARLOW” t-shirt and ending the show with the “Iced Earth” track itself. Under melancholic grey skies, tears gathered in many eyes, it was hard not to feel the sadness. How weird to see a band that performs so close to perfection, still young, legendary to its core, parting ways with such a dedicated vocal. I don’t think we understood it – there was a somewhat puzzled feeling all around, although we knew it was the end. It was, however, an amazing event to store in one’s memory. The gratitude, respect and appreciation were reciprocated – a band as fabulous as its fans. Matt lingered for a while in the V.I.P. area to shake hands with whoever wanted to greet him – and he wasn’t allowed to leave too soon.
Controversial as it may sound, the mood was high again really soon, when the festival grounds got filled for AVANTASIA at its only show of 2011. This one was bombastically advertised since last year and, out of curiosity and sincere admiration for the charming Tobias Sammet, a ‘god’ at the age of only 34, I joined the happy ranks. With a beer in my hand and a will to party, I got instantly carried away by the sumptuous show. Tobi is, by all means, a total artist. Hard to describe my awe when my eyes met the guests: Jorn Lande (MASTERPLAN), Kai Hansen (GAMMA RAY, ex-HELLOWEEN), Michael Kiske (ex-HELLOWEEN) and more. To see such gods on stage was blissful. I think it started to rain, but it just didn’t matter. My personal favorite was “The Scarecrow“, a delicious duel between Sammet and Lande, remarkably executed. 1 h 30′ of awesome rock spirit that showed it doesn’t matter how aggressive or harsh your music is, but how passionate and professional you are and how good you feel on stage as an artist. The huge crowd’s response at the best metal fest in the world clearly showed it too. I skipped a half of an hour though to see LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE on the Wackinger stage (!?) – a German gothic metal band heavily inspired by the famous Finnish scene. They put on a satisfying show and they deserve kudos for how neat they sound – even after they changed the vocal – a change that’s usually catastrophic for bands which rely so much on the vocals specific mood. The new guy sounds as dark and sexy as he should. Couples were swaying to the danceable music as the night was settling in.
It is now the final night of the fest, but spirits are still high. More or less tired, we still keep going strong – it’s time for MOTÖRHEAD – legend No…? I gave up counting, so much for this W:O:A! Lemmy Kilmister, at the age of 65, no longer has the vocal chords he once had, but the show was still a great one: loud as hell, fast-paced rock music with the trademark flavor of the guitar riffs. “The Ace of Spades” represented the memorable moment awaited by both fans and ‘ousiders’ alike. I wish I had gone closer to the dense crowd, but I stayed far in the back, enjoying the last cup of mead before the weather turned iremediably worse.
CHILDREN OF BODOM (it is Sunday already, ouch!) was emphasized by an aggressive light show, with the obsessive bright green predominating. Alexi Laiho, careful with the etiquette, as usual, overused the F-word. “In Your Face” was marked by the Finnish rockstar by performing on a platform on stage and by hurrying to begin one chorus, a mistake to which he nonchalantly replied in the mic: “I f*ucked it up!!“. The show can be watched HERE along with the heavy rain that poured down, chasing lots of attendees to their tents and to their cars, afraid of the swamp to be created. Before the ever-exciting “Downfall“, Alexi makes another fun moment by telling Janne Wirman, “play your f*ucking thing (*looks to the wrong side of the stage*)… wherever the f*ck you are!!” (*looks on the good side*). And they all play it fantastically. More confusion on the side of the frontman, as we heard him asking, “Where is my f*ucking cow bell?!“. Alright, ladies and gens, that was the mighty CoB in the mighty last night of W:O:A 2011! They seemed to be there for fun and it was pretty cool! SUBWAY TO SALLY was the last act for the metal mecca, with a mix of Medieval tunes and rock that is much-loved in their German homeland… but by that time the crowd was separated into 2: the ones vanquished by the weather, in search of food/warmth/shelter and the last enthusiasts, who would remain to dance in the glorious mud. Gloriously and carelessly. Still, I can say it was a lucky year. Wacken in mud is just not nice. Not nice. There was one interesting fact about the desolate Sunday morning, though: on my way out I noticed that the tent landscape looked untouched and people hadn’t departed massively, like they did last year. It was a very different, unexpected view, given the rain. It was the proof that Wacken rocked ’til the very last moment – Saturday was indeed crazy!
What else to say about W:O:A 2011? That I am sorry for not seeing more bands, though I have no clue how it could’ve been possible… Be prepared with a few clones of yourself when you plan to attend this festival.
Milestones of W:O:A 2011:
- JUDAS PRIEST on their farewell tour
- the last ICED EARTH appearance with Matt Barlow
- the only German show of BLIND GUARDIAN this year
- the only show of AVANTASIA this year
With a much improved organization than the previous year, we had the same Wackinger Village packed with Nordic Medieval awesomeness, the Metal Market, the Bullhead tent with comedy shows, wrestling and various contests, the movie field and the huuuge campgrounds to use for acting out all funny and insane ideas. Much respect goes to the organizers for making it better than before! Respect to the villagers also, for their support and for wearing without hesitation the official Wacken t-shirts!
Whoever craves to see bits to full concerts from this 2011 edition can easily find such in Youtube, as these were broadcasted live by the German t1elevision ZDFKultur and consequently uploaded.
Some of the next year’s headliners were announced right on the spot: we will rock along with AMON AMARTH, AXEL RUDI PELL, GAMMA RAY, HAMMERFALL, MINISTRY, SIX FEET UNDER and many more! Hurry to get your tickets for 2012 because 30.000 of them are ALREADY sold!!! To quote the Youtube user “TwDBladestyle”, “Wacken doesn’t even rock. WACKEN F*CKING METALS!!!“
Many thanks to Marie Neumann @ Wacken.com, to my road fellows and to the Greek bands Deathclocks and InsIDeaD! \m/
I leave you now with some samples of “Wacken Looks” for your entertainment!
Elysium is the second Stratovarius album after Timo Tolkki gathered his stuff and left. Many things have been said over the years but the thing that really matters is the music and Stratovarius delivers what their fans expect. But then again, it’s enough to have Kotipelto singing and Johansson play his keyboards to make it sound like Stratovarius. It’s the sound we all got used to during the last few decades. And on that aspect nothing has changed
Elysium is an ok album actually. But the gap between the best songs and the worst songs is huge. Songs like Darkest Hours, Under Flaming Skies, Infernal Maze (excluding the horrible intro), Event Horizon and epic titletrack Elysium are simply amazing but then again songs like The Game Never Ends, Lifetime In A Moment and Move The Mountain are pure crap in my opinion. And then comes the interesting part…all the good stuff is composed by newest member Matias Kupiainen (and Under Flaming Skies co-written by Kotipelto) and the not so good songs by Johansson and Porra. Clearly both Johansson and Porra are world class musicians and good composers on their own genre but they really should leave the composing of Stratovarius songs to someone else. I am quite certain Matias would’ve had 3 more songs in his sleeve to make this album even better.
Elysium covers basically everything. They have fast songs, mid tempo songs, ballads of course and then the huge 18-minute epic Elysium. I must say it’s been a long time since Stratovarius gave me goosebumps but this titletrack did. One would imagine that making a song that lasts 18 minutes is impossible to carry all the way but Elysium does. It feels like 5 minutes really. I think Stratovarius is in good hands with Matias as long as they let him do his thing.
If they would’ve had only 6 songs on the album I would have given it 10 straight. With other songs unfortunately it won’t reach that high. But at the end of the day this will satisfy Stratovarius fans just fine.
Timo Kotipelto – Vocals
Jens Johansson – Keyboards
Matias Kupiainen – Guitars
Lauri Porra – Bass
Jörg Michael – Drums
Stratovarius on internet:
Welcome to the sequel of my first (and awesome) W:O:A experience. Many things are left to say.
So, the festival started – it was for the 5th, 6th and 7th of August, also with the allowance to stay on the fields until 20:00 on Sunday. The event started in a magnificent way… I remember rushing to the gates while Doro was singing the Wacken anthem which we could hear on the website for the entire year, then we watched a hell of a line up entertain us: Alice Cooper, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden. I doubt everyone there was an oldies freak, but it was quite a show to hear the kings in these bands rock so hard after decades… Thank God they didn’t put W.A.S.P. for this day too! …Though I really loved this “A Night To Remember” concept, I had to make a radical switch of styles for a while, because the Finns of Ghost Brigade were playing in the tent stage. Well done, it was a band with very unique flavor in this year’s festival and I officially started my headbanging with them. Nordic harshness and coldness, typically melodic on aggressive tunes, with surprising slow or fast parts, all this in a very modern manner. I’m happy they made it here, they deserve it. Iron Maiden provided indescribable moments… and surely an indescribable attendance. It was well dark already, all the flames and light effects were at full splendor, showing what’s like to be in the biggest metal festival. By the end I could not believe it was only the first day! I was happy to get to hear top songs for me – “No More Lies“, which they perform very seldom as I know, and “Blood Brothers“, dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio.
On Friday, I had to end my morning laziness very soon and rush to begin a very full day, even tougher than the previous one. I checked End of Green on the Party Stage and they sounded pretty good. I sometimes find their goth style to be very catchy, while still keeping a bitter and rough edge. On the True Metal Stage, however, a highlight was being prepared (at least for me…): Amorphis. My 5th time to see them, and no, I didn’t watch them just to support one of the few Finnish bands in Wacken. I got a spot in the second row, being very happy with that. They were pure bliss to my ears, now more than ever. With a clear, perfect sound, they pleased a whole crowd gathered before noon – and think how early that feels in a festival!! Not many surprises in the setlist, except for “Alone“, a former Pasi Koskinen hit, now sung flawlessly by Tomi Joutsen. And yeah, he made it sound fantastic, even to the fans of the original version!
Then there was Orphaned Land to watch, which is an interesting, progressive, exotic band. Mixing their metal with traditional sounds of Israel, they invited everyone to get in a positive state and to enjoy the amazing variety of cultures. Well done, a lot of success for this band, must mention! I went to see the heavy Astral Doors, then had a good break until I witness another highlight: Kamelot. At first, I only intended to see it for their songs which have raised my mood during the past years… but it proved to be so much more. A true show, with majestic entertainers on stage and a wonderful public stretching much to the back of the area. Also, there was one totaly epic moment in which the band had to stop in the middle of “Forever” because… everybody turned backwards to watch a ballon pass very low above the crowd The guys handled it well and resumed the gig, all filled with “headbangers’ hits” and some new, very tasty songs (I was sold to “The Great Pandemonium“). I had to skip some bands from my personal running order (like Equilibrium, which would’ve been such a folk metal treat, as well as 1349) but I caught a bit of Ihsahn, Slayer, Atrocity and Corvus Corax. It was getting confusing and frustrating, to be honest… Too much, and at the same time I had to keep track of my friends, cure my hunger and keep the cold away. Damn, it was cold. The much-awaited metal party until morning was not an option anymore.
Saturday was killer hot. For a while, it was all about lying in the shade and drinking anything refreshing, except for alcohol. I saw Unleashed, fine death metal from Sweden in the vein of Amon Amarth and Kampfar, good black metal from Norway. I would’ve watched every bit of these, but they were at the same time, unfortunately! Delain followed (very good, but far from greatness without Marco Hietala…) then W.A.S.P. – my first time to see them, I was very excited… Looovely gig, but too short for me and with too few songs from the latest album. Stratovarius, the well-known Finns, were a band to remember! I expected a serious disappointment, yet they got the crowd cheering! Checked Immortal, Tiamat and U.D.O later on, but my main interest was in Rotting Christ, due to their superb album of 2010 (“Aealo”). Where were the calm and atmospheric passages? Where were the breaks? All I could hear was speed, force, speed, force. And it rocked!!! A very strong and ‘evil’ performance, leaving me in need to catch my breath. That was some pure metal energy, I swear. And there it was… the hottest day ended… with the coldest night. Too bad, it was also the last night of the festival… going through the campsite, I could tell the people were exhausted and maybe sad enough already. No more parties, no more shouting; for the first time, one could sleep in silence… which I felt extremely weird and saddening.
…Time to go back to beautiful Hamburg and join the afterparty in the famous (Headbangers’) Ballrom in the red light district of Reeperbahn.
W:O:A IS BEAUTIFUL!
See you someday, somehow, at W:O:A!