With Thor having apparently forgiven us for whatever had made him so angry earlier in the week, the sun is shining over Wacken, slowly baking the lakes of mud into tacky sludge that’s much more manageable. The mood was cheery yesterday, but today it’s positively in party mode. This is immediately apparent as At The Gates are at their destructive best on the main stage, a menacing Terminal Spirit Disease the highlight of a taut, crushing masterclass. They are almost matched by the cheerful Stratovarius, who immediately get the crowd singing miles back with Black Diamond.
Changing the mood, Queensryche are as accomplished as you would hope, and with the message filtering through the site that, yes, the weather is now lovely, they have a vast crowd watching them to go with it. Then, the law of sod duly takes effect; having travelled several hundreds of miles to come to a festival, one of the best performances of Wacken so far comes from a band from Birmingham. Anaal Nathrakh may be missing Mick Kenney (Dave Hunt’s blaming Norwegian airlines) meaning the grinding black metallers are down a guitarist, but that doesn’t stop them being as venomous, vicious and victorious as you could ever ask. Not bad for their Wacken debut.
Back outdoors, Mikael Åkerfeldt may not be looking particularly metal, looking dapper in a tan jacket and red t-shirt, but there’s plenty of death growls and blast beats in Opeth’s set to remind you they know exactly who their audience is. Unsurprisingly, they’re terrific, never more so than on the mix of destruction and subtle texture that makes up Heir Apparent. Meanwhile Annihilator are thrashing up a colossal crowd on the Party stage with a mixture of skilful shred and plenty of charisma, classics like Phantasmagoria sounding as fresh and vibrant as you could ask for.
Dream Theater then prove the technical marvels you expect them to be, precisely weaving their epic prog metal spell over the crowd with aplomb. What’s a touch more surprising is quite how fantastic Black Label Society are following them. You know Zakk Wylde is going to shred the arse off his signature Gibson, you know he’s going to look like he could wrestle a polar bear while juggling trees, and you know there’s going to be plenty of groove and drive. But the zest the band pull it off with is huge fun, seeming to insist that, yes, you are going to enjoy yourself, whether you like it or not. And everyone does seem to like it.
It’s harsh on In Flames having to follow that, but the Swedes manage it without too much trouble, a spectacular lighting display helping their melodeath carry through the darkness. There’s then another “only at Wacken” moment as Running Wild’s theatrically presented heavy metal wows an enthusiastic crowd on the main stage, while Within Temptation’s catchy-as-crabs monstrously large tunes spread grins throughout the field. It’s been a thoroughly splendid day of metal – and we still have a full day to come. Ace.