Wacken Open Air, Wacken
Wacken Open Air, Wacken ©www.metaltix.com

Wacken Open Air: come hell or highwater

There are three types of music at Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) – metal, metal and metal. Over three days, all hell breaks loose at this bastion of heavy metal where the slogan is 'louder than hell', a warning for the faint-hearted not to venture near. W:O:A – the world's biggest metal festival and Germany's biggest annual three-day open-air festival – is held in early August every year in the small town of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein.

Days before the Wacken Firefighters, the volunteer fire-fighters band, open the event with their traditional concert in the festival beer garden on the first Thursday in August, tens of thousands of heavy metal aficionados set up camp on the gigantic site. Arriving in advance of the official start has become the done thing and it stirs up the excitement. With over 80,000 visitors today invading a festival site the size of 270 football pitches, it's difficult to believe that only 800 people turned up for the first W:O:A in 1990. Originally this festival lasted just two days, but some years back the programme was expanded to run from Thursday to Saturday. Thursday came to be the 'night to remember', with a line-up featuring heavy metal royalty such as the Scorpions and Metallica. The other stages – party stage, hellfest stage and medieval stage – present a varied programme with every conceivable manifestation of contemporary metal, from death via speed to Viking.

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