Since 1990, the Wacken Open Air festival has been a favorite of heavy metal fans. Mixing old-school titans like Motorhead and Dio with the youngest and newest like , the festival is devoted only to the purest, hardest, heaviest metal-no trendy rap-rock or nu-metal, if you please. Armageddon Over Wacken is the 3-disc compilation of the bands who played the '04 festival, and there's plenty for both old-school metalheads and fans of the heaviest and newest.
The set is split into 3 discs: Black/Death/Thrash, Power/Traditional, and Underground. For old-school fans, there's the presence of Dio, sounding much raspier and aged since his heyday, but still clearly charismatic and energetic, and his version of "Holy Diver" clearly brings the crowd to its feet. Lemmy is his usual blunt-spoken self, and the 2 Motorhead numbers, both among the newest in the band's catalogue, are appropriately brutal. Anthrax, as always, deliver the goods with 2 of their most notable hits, "Indians" and "Only"to kick off the set with energy. '80s metal pinup Doro Pesch, on the other hand, doesn't come off nearly as well. She is clearly hoarse and her band is tired and listless. Similarly, seminal grindcore pioneers Cannibal Corpse choose a strange song to perform at an open-air festival-"Gallery of Suicide" is just much too long, intricate, and atmospheric for the crowd, and it stops the album cold.
For fans of newer artists, Orphanage's "5 Crystals" is a phenomenally unusual experiment with strings and flutes that somehow works. It's simultaneously epic and energetic. Similarly, Reckless Tide's brutal "Death Train" is quintessential metal, pure aggression. Cathedral's "Stained Glass Horizon" is phenomenal, and the enthusiastic crowd chanting is the kind of pleasure only live albums can provide. The bluesy bar-band metal of Dr. Rock and Gutbucket serve as a welcome change of pace.
There are other clinkers as well. Supersoma is little more than a blatant Pantera clone. Ex-Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bailey attempts to cash in on his former fame by covering "Fear of the Dark" (which was not one of the Maiden songs he had anything to do with) and enlists a female singer and an orchestra to help him out. The results can charitably be described as embarrassing. '80s metal relic Zodiac Mindwarp (placed, for some reason, on the "Underground" disc) is hardly going to win back any fans with his sloppy, tuneless rendition of "Like a Hurricane." And the closing oompa version of Van Halen's "Jump" (titled "Humppa") is the sort of jokey cover that is funnier in theory than in practice. But the flaws don't detract overall from a nicely packaged, superbly recorded live collection, and fans of all different kinds of metal will find plenty to enjoy here.