FESTIVAL REVIEW: WACKEN OPEN AIR 2016 – Day 2 (Friday)
So after getting what little rest I could after crawling back into my tent late after a monstrous Day 1 at Wacken Open Air, Day 2’s proceedings kicked off swimmingly. Heading in yet again to watch one of the first bands of the day, I was able to catch Sweden’s The Haunted, and I was lucky I did as they put on one of their best shows I have seen of theirs. As a band I’ve watched now over 10 times since the restructure in 2012, these guys just have one of the most charismatic front-men of all time and it just bolsters their live show tenfold. There were a few minor issues with sound, which I think could be attributed to the wind carrying the sound and making it choppy and wavy, but apart from that the band absolutely killed it.
Only catching a small amount of Legion Of The Damned, who were putting on one hell of a show, I raced over to the Party Stage to settle in for Equilibrium. Performing in the lead-up to the release of their latest album saw some new songs injected into the setlist, and pumped the crowd up so much that mud was flying into the air from people running around in the circle pit. There is always something cool about seeing a German band playing in Germany, and Equilibrium really did set the bar nice and high for the day. Doubling back over to the Black stage I was able to catch the always-impressive Eluveitie who have had a rough year, but didn’t let any of those challenges stop them from performing here. The addition of Liv Kristine (ex-Leaves’ Eyes), to perform the female sung parts was definitely a stroke of genius by the band, and while it still didn’t feel the ‘same’, it was pretty damn close to the mark!
Following a small shuffle to the True Metal main stage I was able to catch probably one of my highlights for the festival in Bullet for My Valentine. Now, I have caught these guys numerous times before, but can honestly say that I have never seen a better, more energetic, or faultless performance from the band. Frontman Matt Tuck’s voice seems more refined the older that he gets, and the harsh/screamed vocals handled by the most recent member of the band, bassist Jamie Mathias, just gave the band a renewed vigour that many had thought they had lost some time ago. Their set covered the new material but also ran like a ‘best of’ and I just loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, by this time I had been standing for a fair few hours and my legs had started to hurt, and knowing how long I still had to go for the day I opted out of standing to watch Tarja and moved over to the Beer Garden to take a seat and was lucky enough to be blown away by Blechbosn.
Next up was Blind Guardian who were one of the bands on my wishlist to see. Having one of the pioneers of Power Metal performing to their native crowd at a festival that they have performed at numerous times was definitely something that was quite important to watch and I am glad that I took the time out to catch them. Vocalist Hansi Kürsch still has one of the most impressive harmonic ranges and hearing it live you quietly understand why this band has had such a longevity. The thousands of fans that turned up sang every moment of it, and when the final closing 1-2 punch of “Mirror Mirror” and “Valhalla” began, the crowd erupted into heavy chorus. As the headliner for the second night, this show was every bit the spectacle that you would expect and definitely resounded approvingly amongst the fans.
But the night wasn’t over there, as next up was Uncle Al Jourgensen with his Industrial metal band Ministry. Beginning slightly after midnight in the pinnacle of darkness, this performance was everything that you would have wanted from a band that has been around since 1981 — lights, strobes, crushing riffs and the always intense vocal performance from the man himself. Watching Ministry is always an experience and on this occasion this was no exception. Wandering back to the campsite reflecting on the day, the gravity of some of the bands I couldn’t get to see struck me. As is the unfortunate thing with these festivals, you just can’t see them all, and I was just unable to get around to seeing bands like Axel Rudi Pell, Ihsahn, Entombed AD, Orden Ogan, 1349, and Testament. But when you’re spoilt for choice and running the marathon that is these festivals you have to pick your battles wisely, so while Day 2 yielded a lot of great and fantastic memories, the third and final day was the day I was most looking forward too, and it was just on the horizon.