Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner. Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner.

WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL combines elements of live performance with segments focusing on the fans and the artists. This unique feature, directed by Norbert Heitkert, is captured with stereoscopic 3D cameras and things do get freaky. Fans at metal shows are notorious for dressing up and looking the part and we get a tasty sample with this flick.

Interspersed are performances by Anthrax, Motörhead, Deep Purple, Lamb of God, Trivium,Rammstein and Anvil just to name a few. Alice Cooper’s crazy live show in particular was staggering, even though I’ve seen the band live twice. There’s a certain proximity that is quite attractive, although nothing beats actually being there. A segment is dedicated to the Metal Battle, an international competition for upcoming metal groups, which is an integral part of the fest. I thought this was an interesting platform for young up-and comers to gain attention on a global scale. Winners from their respective countries (29 in total) will duke it out in a final round at Wacken for metal glory. A panel of judges would ultimately decide which band would be the recipient of a record deal with metal label Nuclear Blast. The event took place during the 2013 edition of the festival and has known success since its inception in 1990.

The crowd of around 75,000 metal-heads are at the heart of this film. The seemingly endless sea of people is glorified where crowd-surfers float above like lily-pads. Moshing is made a focal point as well and viewers get a kind of voyeuristic look at circle-pits and walls of death captured in glorious detail. Gorgeous slo-mo shots of fans getting down and dirty in the muddy festival terrain will have viewers both thankful they are in the comfort of the theatre but will also leave an acute feeling of missing out.

Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner.

Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner.

The film succeeds in capturing some of the energy of the fest but it goes without saying that it is no replacement: you can only experience its true scope by going! (Although I’ve never been myself, it is definitely on my bucket list.)

What struck me in particular was the enthusiasm of all the attendees: everyone was glad to see everyone, and despite the roughness presented by the pit and the intense moshing, no altercations were apparent. Everyone there is united under a common banner and despite the many backgrounds of people, everyone is there to let loose and rock out to their favourite music. There is no sense of judgment and this is seen in the way people dress and act and it cannot be stressed enough: when you go to Wacken, you can be yourself.

Alice Cooper in Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner.

Alice Cooper in Wacken 3D. Dir. Norbert Heitker. Photo courtesy of Raven Banner.

Overall this film was great as far as concert movies go. The thing with festival movies is that they only give you a sample of all the performances, and although I cannot say it diminished the watchability of the doc, I was left wanting to see more performances (Germany here I come!). In my view it’s the most important documentary about the metal genre since Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005, dir. Sam Dunn) .

I highly recommend this film to fans of heavy metal music. However, given the nature of metal and its marginalized fan base, those who may not be totally familiar with the genre might want to stay away. That being said, I could see it being a kind of gateway for those interested from an outsiders perspective as it is very easy to digest and focuses equally on narration and exposition as it does on the actual performances. Unfortunately the metal genre is not as accepted in North America as it is in Europe. If you think you know great festivals (whether it’s EDM or folk or even country) I challenge you to watch this even if you dislike metal. But it goes without saying that those who absolutely cannot stand metal (and there are many people) might want to watch something else. Unfortunately I cannot attest to the 3D aspect of the movie but I’m certain it only enhances the experience and I’m excited to see what Norbert Heitkert is planning next.

8 out of 10 stars.

WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL is now playing in Montréal and across Canada.