Posted on by Bláthín Eckhardt

Wacken Open Air – a festival that paints a small farmers village pitch black. It is literally a tiny farmers village in the very north of Germany. The residents of Wacken embrace the fierce looking, but peaceful visitors with self-pitched beer and food tents in their gardens.


The first impression of the Wacken Holy Land is left in the mud. Thousands of boot prints are embellishing the festival grounds, as the 70.000 metal heads fight their way to the 8 stages.

This humble person was happily humming “These boots are made for Wacken…”. However, the environmental circumstances were not as bad as the previous year, where the flooding of the festival grounds opened the kind hearts and houses of the locals to the drenched metal heads.

photo credit: Patrick Schneiderwind

photo credit: Patrick Schneiderwind

Giant improvement for this years Wacken are the sanitary installations around the main stages instead of portable toilets. The quality, price and variety of food and beverages is outstanding, although most people were cheerfully munching their meat on a stick and sticking to a pint of beer.

Lemmy Tribute

Earlier in 2016, music had to let go of many legends. One of the most mourned farewells of heavy metal was Lemmy Kilmister’s passing away. As the biggest heavy metal festival on earth, Wacken Open Air paid it’s tribute to this immortal legend of Rock ‘n Roll.

photo credit: Patrick Schneiderwind

Photo credit: Patrick Schneiderwind

Micky Dee and Phil Campbell appeared on the Black Stage to celebrate Lemmy Kilmister’s life with the black masses after showing a heart touching animation of Motörhead’s legacy. You can watch the entire tribute on by clicking here.

Ronnie James Dio tribute – Dio Disciples

Dio Disciples closed Wacken Open Air on Saturday night. Having multiple guest singers for the entire concert, the remembrance of Dio’s spirit was resurrected. Until he really was resurrected…

­A hologram of Ronnie James Dio was created with the American company Eyellyusion. With the hologram moving as Dio and a live recording of his vocals playing in the background, the band performed one song, ‘We Will Rock’. The availability of this technology is quite baffling and it surely was an interesting homage to one of the greatest heavy metal vocalist to ever roam this planet. But to roam the world in the future as a shadow in an electric mirror?
According to, Dio Disciples and Wendy Dio are planning to tour the live concert with hologram “Ronnie” in 2017. Morally questionable, it is in my opinion quite frankly a tasteless and disrespectful way of leeching money out of a legend’s heritage. On the other hand, Rainbow and Dio fans could enjoy his spirit with a live band and thousands of other fans, instead of watching recordings at home on TV.

A performance that would be a sacrilege to leave unmentioned is Iron Maiden’s 72nd and last performance on their Book Of Souls tour. Iron Maiden were headlining Thursday night and it is remarkable that after all this time, Iron Maiden still puts an abundant amount of effort and energy into their live shows. This is not only due to the mind boggling stage design, when Eddie for example appears as a giant balloon monstrosity.


Or when the beast itself appears, watching and glooming over the packed area. Iron Maiden prove once again that they are giant theatrical dorks, when vocalist Bruce Dickinson rips out their mascots heart. Every member of Iron Maiden is ecstatic: especially Bruce Dickinson jumps across the stage like an out-of-control bouncy ball while Janick Gers flips his guitar upside down. It is an incredible atmosphere as tens of thousands of fans from all over the world collectively focus their energy on the same band, celebrate and indulge in the same music, the same feelings, and revoke similar memories that this music has conjured or has helped forget. Before Iron Maiden finish their show, they have a message for the Wackingers and for the people that were streaming the show globally (which by the way broke streaming records):

“ […] There are all sorts of awful things going on in the world […] One thing that all of us stand for – this is family. This is not one nation, this one race, one religion – this is all religions, every races, every colour, every person every gender – there used to be two, now there are more[…] The answer to the bullshit is not to be full of hatred. Its to be full of love, light and music and beer.”


Iron Maiden finished the show with accordingly with ‘Blood Brothers’. Check out the bands full performance below.

Wacken Metal Battle. 30 slots on two stages are reserved entirely for (mostly) unsigned bands across the globe, including representatives of places that are not known for metal – for example the Caucasian republic (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajan), the Faroe islands, the Carribean and South Africa, just to name a few. The twin stages of the Bullhead Circus are opened one day earlier every year, to give these bands the chance to show their guns. People who are involved neck-deep in the music business are invited to watch each show, additionally the bands are invited to hang out and network in the Wacken Metal Battle lounge in the artist village. Five outstanding performances are rewarded with money, sponsored by the Wacken Foundation and with prizes in forms of gear, amplifiers and instruments, which are sponsored by renowned brands such as Randall, Washburn, Pearl and Marshall.

Ireland’s Metal Battle winners zhOra played on Thursday afternoon and made the most out of their 23,5 minute set with a spellbinding performance that won the large crowd over from the get-go! zhOra’s progressive sludge sound could be the bastard son of Gojira and early Mastodon and therefor is quite unusual for Wacken Open Air. Hand painted animal skulls adorn the stage as the Tipperary barbarians whack their hurleys and call to the higher forces, multiplying their energy and channelling it with no mercy directly onto the baffled crowd.


Wacken foundation – Pole Sitting
Many visitors were equally as confused, wondering what the hell this is about. As above mentioned in the context of the Metal Battle, the Wacken Foundation is a non-profit organisation that is separate from the festival – the Wacken Foundation offers financial support to any band or artist in heavy metal for the implementation of tours, concerts, albums and any other creative project.  The money is gathered partially through on-site projects, such as the art tent or th pole sitting. For every hour the participant sits on a pole, the sponsoring company of that pole donates 10€ to the Wacken Foundation. The poles are located in front of the main stages, and are raised at a height of 2.5m, so the participants can enjoy the bands sitting comfortably from above.

photo credit: Olaf Mahlzahn

Photo credit: Olaf Mahlzahn

Read more about the Wacken Foundation and how to apply for support here.

There is a shit ton of controversy opinions about Wacken Open Air. The massive size of this festival of a music genre which has been wrongly blamed as the cause of certain individuals horrific actions (not including the church burnings in Norway, that’s a different story), the culture of provocation and separation from the norm that exists around it and the curiosity of it taking place in the fields behind a tiny farmers village has led to high mainstream (apologies for mentioning that bad word for us metal elitists, I hope it didn’t make you cringe) media coverage, especially in Germany. There is this ongoing “fear” of so-called “metal tourists”, who supposedly pillage the purity of a metal festival. Yes, Wacken Open Air is breathtakingly ginormous and I wouldn’t recommend going to W:O:A to see your favourite bands if you are bothered by people that aren’t as trve as you, and unless you don’t mind standing for hours in front of one of the main stages only to secure your spot for the headlining act.

Wacken_Open_Air_Wacken_Open_Air - 05

I experienced Wacken Open Air rather as a celebration of the whole genre. The sizes and technical availabilities of the stages allow all bands to unleash their wildest creative imaginations onto the setting of the stages.


Arch Enemy @ W:o:A 2016

Arch Enemy @ W:o:A 2016

Additionally one has to take the Wackinger village into account as and inspiration to the genre, where you can witness medieval blacksmiths welding metal bowls, choreographed swordfights, wood carving with chainsaws (!), sword and axe throwing, and a crowd that looked like they walked out of the latest Mad Max movie which caused a lot of heads to turn. But especially for the tens of thousands of metalheads that pilgrim every year from the furthers corners of the globe to this place they call their second home, this festival provides an outstanding experience of the collective athmosphere of heavy fucking metal.

At the press conference on August 6th, the first bands who will play Wacken Open Air 2017 were published: Amon Amarth, Avantasia, Kreator, MayhemSaltatio Mortiis, Paradise Lost, Heaven Shall Burn, Lacuna Coil, PowerwolfCandlemass, Sonata Arctica and Hämatom.

Tickets are yet available under

Blathin Eckhardt

© Overdrive, 2016