Published Oct 29, 2015Since 1990, heavy metal fans from around the globe have descended upon the tiny village of Wacken, in the northernmost part of Germany, for a festival experience that is now the stuff of legend. Though the 2016 edition of the Wacken Open Air festival is already being billed a sellout, watching Norbert Heitker's film Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell might just be the next best thing to being in attendance. Capturing all the action of the 2013 edition, the release gives viewers a hard-hitting look at the chaos and community behind the monstrous gathering, all in the name of metal.
Over 80,000 people make the trek each year to watch a line-up built of giants of the genre both past and present. Well-cut concert sequences see the crowd rocking out to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" one moment, and opening up a circle pit for Lamb of God's "Redneck" the next. Legendary Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister can't help but crack a smile as the legions of fans chant his name, while Rammstein make full use of their legendary pyrotechnic display during "Du Hast." As much fun as it is for the audience, it's nothing short of a memorable experience for the artists, too. "I don't care if there's a rad motherfucking pit," exclaims Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian in an interview segment. "You don't get to feel what I feel when I stand onstage at Wacken."
Off the stage, the film is able to demonstrate the community aspect of both fans and artists by loosely following the days of a handful of protagonists. Cielu has come to the festival from Taiwan, where she told her mother she was taking a business trip to avoid disapproval. Aby, Brandy and Kathy are three friends from the United States who have been counting down eagerly in anticipation. The doc also follows winners of the Wacken Metal Battle competition from China, Uruguay and Romania, who will play the festival in hopes of landing a record deal with popular label Nuclear Blast. Footage in which Chinese finalists Nine Treasures sit down for drinks with Toronto metal outfit Anvil while showcasing balalaika shredding embodies the inclusivity that the genre and festival promote. "It says 'Welcome Metalheads' on the way in," says punk icon Henry Rollins in reference to a sign at the festival's entry. "That's what makes Wacken unique. There's a real spirit to it."
Rollins also refers to the three days of metal at Wacken as "humanity at its highest point." Until ticketing for the 2017 edition opens up, you'll be hard pressed to find a better motivator to take yourself from the couch to the circle pit.