Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Destiny's End - Live at Wacken Open Air 1999

DE European promo glossy

[4 April 2017: This post is under heavy construction. -P]

I recently acquired the footage of Destiny's End at Wacken 1999 and uploaded it to YouTube for all to view. So, where do I start to blog the tale of the biggest gig of my career as a muso? From the beginning, I suppose...

Metal Blade Germany got Destiny's End a slot on the prestigious Wacken Open Air Festival. The good news arrived shortly before we trekked out on a full-scale tour of the US with Iced Earth and Nevermore in May and early June 1999. A mini-European tour with labelmates Sacred Steel and Wardog was also arranged. We had no idea what to expect in terms of logistics. Would we be travelling in a van like in the US? Would we get shared motel rooms some nights? What about the back-line gear? What sort of guitar speaker cabs, bass rig and drums and did Sacred Steel have to loan us?

There were challenges to overcome in order to reach European shores. It was my first trip outside the US, and I was a bit stressed about the long flight. It started with some technical issues with one of my main guitars, a white early '80s B.C. Rich Warlock. I spent the night before our departure at Dan DeLucie's pad. We decided to do some last minute string changing. What should have been a routine job turned sour, and it was crystal clear that I wouldn't be able to bring the Warlock. I was kind of apprehensive about taking one of my more valuable axes, but resorted to my trusty 1976 B.C. Rich Eagle instead. As a backup I had a new Fernandes Vortex, a futuristic V-shape, which I wasn't worried much about. The Fernandes could be easily replaced.

Perry with Fernandes Vortex

As it was impossible for Dan DeLucie and I to bring our bulky amp/effects racks, we resorted to using our Mesa Boogie long-chassis heads. At least we knew we'd have adequate tone with our own amps. I borrowed Boss delay and chorus pedals from my pal Aric Villareal to complete the package. Our gear prayers were answered in an email exchange with the Sacred Steel lads. They had boutique German Engl speaker cabs to share with me and Dan, not to mention a full rig for bassist Nardo Andi and SS skinsman Mathias Straub loaned his Tama double-bass kit to DE's Brian Craig. All Brian brought were his cymbals, while Nardo simply needed one of his two Ibanez basses. Sorted! Well, almost...

We miraculously made it to LAX on time and ready for our long-ass flight. Metal Blade Germany arranged our tickets, and for some bizarre reason it was cheaper to fly to Amsterdam first and catch a connecting service to Hamburg. Budget-wise it was a good decision. On the other hand, it could - and did - cause major problems.

After deplaning and making our way through customs, we hightailed it to the baggage claim area to find our gear. Andreas Reissnauer, one of the Metal Blade Germany guys, was there to greet us. The baggage carousels spun around as the minutes ticked away, with no sign of our gear. The oversized luggage section similarly yielded nothing. Though most of our clothes were intact, it became clear that our gear was lost. Andreas spoke to the Lufthansa luggage people. Did he get the message across? Who could tell? What to do, what to do? Whose fault was it? Was Metal Blade the culprit for flying us out the same day as such a critical festival gig, a scant few hours before stage time, knowing fully well that our gear might not make the same flight as us? Did it really matter who was to blame? Hell no! We needed to devise a solution. And quick!

DE at Wacken with Jason from Friday the 13th 'zine

Awake for something like 24 hours, we weren't very prepared to hatch a desperate backup plan. I slipped in and out of a troubled sleep, sitting up in the van on the way out to the fest. Upon arrival at Wacken, we were greeted by Michael Trengert, the head honcho of Metal Blade Germany. He told us we'd better get cracking on finding some gear to use. Tell us something we didn't already know!? I was understandably pissed off at Michael for not flying us out a day before our scheduled appearance. I was pretty annoyed, but got past it swiftly. Michael walked us through the throngs of camping metalheads to meet our new partners in crime, Sacred Steel. We were totally blown away by the double-decker tour bus. But beyond that, would Sacred Steel be willing to help us out? Fortunately the answer was affirmative. Lucky for me, I scored rhythm guitarist Oli Grosshans' trans red B.C. Rich Mockingbird, while Dan ended up with Jorg Knittel's black Charvel bolt-on. Nardo got Jens Sonnenberg's Ibanez four-string, comparable to his own. Another hiccup was introduced, though. Oli and Juerg explained that Sacred Steel tuned their axes down a whole-step to D, while we tuned to standard (E), in Destiny's End. I broke the news to the DE guys. We couldn't tune up to E, as the axes weren't set up for that sort of string tension. We were forced to stay in D for the Wacken set. Another wrench in the works, eh? James would have to transpose his vocals down on the spot to match our whole-step detuning. I often wondered what DE would sound like tuned to D. My fave ultra-heavy band, Death, played in D, and I tuned to E flat in the short-lived Stormhaven in 1996.

How about the amp situation? Well, it was explained to us that the festival itself had a backline on all of its stages. We made our way through the muddy festival ground, borrowed guitar cases in hand. There was so much metal happening simultaneously, on something like 6 stages. The sheer number of people who flocked to Germany's equivalent of a metal Woodstock was mind-boggling. Looking at the Wacken program, we discovered that we were to play on the Wet stage, one of two smaller stages. Smaller? This was Wacken, and our stage was still pretty massive, easily beating our biggest US gig at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, Colorado. Our adrenaline was beginning to surge. I noted that NWOBHM titans Jaguar, our old touring comrades Nevermore and Metallium (featuring Savatage guitarist Chris Caffrey) were heating up the Party Stage directly across from us.

Slated to play on the Wet Stage before us were our So Cal pals Steel Prophet, followed by Agent Steel. It was comforting to see familiar faces. We hung out backstage with Agent Steel and explained our gear situation. Immediately, a lifesaver was provided by AS axemen Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles, in the form of a chromatic guitar tuner. Phew! We were very appreciative to Sacred Steel and Agent Steel for saving our asses at Wacken. We stared on as Steel Prophet's Steve Kachinsky jumped around the stage like a madman. Texas doomsters Solitude Aeturnus and Canadian thrashers Razor followed in DE's wake.

We were on metal overload, and I was a bit more nervous than usual, fearing I might forget how to play a riff or solo. My anxiety was quickly quelled, though. We exchanged pleasantries with Steel Prophet after they departed the Wet Stage and we climbed aboard to find out what our backline consisted of. A couple of Marshall Major JCM 900 200 watt heads and full stacks for me and Dan. An Ampeg SVT head and 8x10" refrigerator cab for Nardo. Brian got to use a Tama double-bass set much nicer than his own Pearl Export Series kit. James lucked out that he had his stage gloves in his carry-on baggage. But James' stage clothes, like our gear, didn't make the flight to Hamburg. As a result he was forced to hit the stage in a Warlord longsleeve and a pair of black sweat pants. The rest of the DE guys wore street clothes live, so it didn't really matter. I chose my Celtic Frost Emperor's Return bootleg t-shirt. Setup time was minimal thanks to the festival's backline.

Perry at Wacken

Dan and I tweaked settings on the Marshalls to approximate our usual high-gain Mesa Boogie tone. We didn't have overdrive or distortion pedals, so it was a relief that the amps themselves pumped out plentiful gain. The sound engineer must've read my mind, as he threw on Death's Individual Thought Patterns on the enormous PA system. I further tested my hired amp by jamming along to "In Human Form". After all, I was tuned to D!

Crusaders of the Metal Blade Tour shirt

Before we knew it the set was off to a heavy start with mid-paced cruncher "Unsolved World" as the opener.I felt totally at home on Oli Grosshans' Mockingbird. The Wacken audience got a real treat in Dan's new song "Transition", which became the title track to DE's second album. A major difference between this early live version and the recording was Dan's clean-tone guitar intro accompanied by my lead melody. The intro was ditched by the time we demoed the tune months later. Other tunes in the Wacken set were "Breathe Deep the Dark", "Rebirth", "Under Destruction's Thumb", "To Be Immortal", "Idle City/The Fortress Unvanquishable", a cover of Judas Priest's "Beyond the Realms of Death" and Helstar's "The King Is Dead". The feeling of playing in front of a sea of thousands of metal maniacs was unbelievable. A genuine natural high! The crowd went nuts in between songs, chanting at the top of their lungs, "Hey, hey, hey!"

Following DE's set I spotted Solitude Aeturnus bassist Lyle Steadham and caught up with him. We'd last met at DE's March '99 gig in Dallas/Fort Worth at Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul's Tattoo Bar. My old friend Rob Preston also made the pilgrimage to Wacken, and we watched several bands together, including the German thrash band Warrant. No relation to the glam act of the same name!? An interesting aside: black metallers Swedish black metallers Marduk were meant to play the Wet Stage several bands after DE, but they failed to appear. In their place was an S&M striptease act, followed by our cohorts Sacred Steel.

Waking up in the bus the morning after Wacken, we discovered our gear had arrived from the airport. What a relief! My UK pen-pal, Solstice's Rich Walker and his wife Lucy were along for the ride with DE and Sacred Steel. The seeds sown at Wacken and the subsequent mini-Euro tour would eventually lead to me playing with Rich on the Isen Torr EP, Mighty and Superior

Jens Sonnenberg, Dan DeLucie, Jim Powell, Perry and Gerrit Mutz

What about the tour? Suffice it to say that it was a well organized and professional affair. We shared a massive bus with Sacred Steel and got enough sleep in our bunks to be at the top of our game every gig. That's not all we shared with Sacred Steel. We had a tour manager, a merch girl, three roadies, including guitar and drum techs. Dan, Nardo and I didn't even have to change our own strings, which was a breath of fresh air. There was even a wee bit of pyrotechnics in the form of small flash-pots. Although part of the package tour, Wardog travelled on their own in a van with their wives and got motel rooms. Slough Feg was the opener on a couple of dates.