After Khold and Kataklysm have kicked the day off in grim and brutal fashion, the final day of Wacken sees a truly astonishing volume of people turn up in the midday sun for Powerwolf. A vast mass of fans (their t-shirts are everywhere today) sing along vigorously, even to the brand new stuff. Armata Strigoi in particular sparks the kind of sing-along normally reserved for a headliner.
There aren’t many bands in the world that could follow that without it looking a bit meek, but if you’re Skindred and have Benji Webbe fronting your band, you can shine. It takes the crowd a few songs to work out whether they like the ragga-metallers, but from the second they sample House Of Pain’s Jump Around, the locals are totally won over and join in with gusto.
Meanwhile Amorphis put on a sumptuous rendition of their classic Tales From The Thousand Lakes album, Tomi Joutsen’s velveteen clean vocals and brutal death growls articulating the old songs and making them feel young and fresh.
Later, after Dee Snyder, Michael Kiske and a symphony orchestra have mixed classic rock and classical in the wittily titled Rock Meets Classic show, the Swedish (with a touch of Yorkshire) death metal Bloodbath are gleefully horrific in the setting sun. Blood spattered and looking fresh from the massacre, Nick Holmes leads proceedings with just the right mix of vicious destruction and dry humour.
Next, the staggering sea of people that Sabaton draw even seems to shock even them, but they’re unperturbed, charging with confidence through a tour de force of power metal tunes, their two tanks on stage shooting pyro from their cannon and gatling guns. There’s the usual cheerful jesting from the band between songs too, a running gag involving guitarist Thobbe Englund wanting to start playing Swedish Pagans at the wrong point in the setlist translating well to the colossal throng singing every note back.
There’s still time for Judas Priest to belt out their armada of classic metal songs with verve, zest and skill. It’s been a long festival, the conditions have occasionally been challenging and the beer has been plentiful, but no one has buggered off when there’s a set this good to watch, Halford marshalling the crowd with great aplomb and the twin axe attack of Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner slaying with shred.
With darkness fully on, Cradle Of Filth completely redeem their poor outing at Hellfest with one of their strongest performances of recent times. The stage set – including two crucified skeletons – is impressive, and Dani’s charisma and physical performance is a given, but a combination of phenomenal sound and the rest of the band looking driven and vicious raises the standard significantly, and reminds you just why people went nuts for Cradle in the first place.
The weather gods tried to fuck up Wacken. They failed. The rain, the mud and the blazing sunshine all failed to kill the party vibe and good mood, let alone bring the festival to a grinding halt. Thor 0, Wacken 4.
There’s a splendid DVD out about the first 25 years of this metal institution, chronicling its genesis and evolution. Judging by this year’s outing, you wouldn’t bet against Wacken celebrating its 50th birthday in 2040. This festival will not be beaten down.