The 1,800-person village of Wacken in northern Germany will soon be welcoming 80,000 metalheads and 160 bands for three days of headbanging and beer. Here's what's new at this year's festival.
Since mid-July, the fields surrounding the small northern German village of Wacken have been abuzz with preparations. It started with a few trucks, tractors and fork-lifts breaking the rural idyll.
Workers armed with walkie talkies rolled out cables, secured the electrical connections and dug trenches.
After that, artifical roads were laid and evened out and a 40-kilometer (nearly 25-mile) fence was set up. Within the fenced zone, huge tents and pavilions were set up and technical equipment was installed.
In just two weeks, an entire town arose over an expanse of 250 hectares (a square mile).
Smack dab in the middle is the "holy ground" - the festival compound for the world's biggest metal party, which is set to take place from August 3-5.
New stages, new sound
The heart of the festival grounds is known as the "infield" and is the area in front of the three huge outdoor stages that measure the size of six soccer fields.
For the 2017 festival, the stages have been reconstructed and given new names that echo the Wacken slogan: Faster, Harder, Louder.
This year, audiences in the last rows can looked forward to improved sound, since an additional set of speakers has been installed. The stage skyline has also been updated, but without doing away with the traditional huge burning bull skull in between the stages.
Last fall, the infield was fitted with a drainage system that should help the ground stay drier so the metalheads don't have to party in knee-high mud the whole time (though that is, admittedly, part of the Wacken experience).
Will new beer pipeline reduce the mud?
The notorious Wacken sludge isn't only produced by the heavy rains that are not uncommon in the region - even in early August -, but also by all the trucks needed to transport refreshments (mainly beer) to the festival area. Organizers have found a solution to this tricky problem.
This year, the beer will be transported via a special pipeline from central cooling tanks to the stands on the festival compound. The pipeline is situated 80 centimeters underground - far enough that thirsty festival-goers won't try to dig it up.
The pipe won't impact the taste of the beer, according to the bewery behind it. After the festival, the inner tubes will be pulled out of the pipe, which will stay underground until next year.
The musical highlights
Fans of loud guitar music will have a wide choice of bands to listen to. The headliners this year will be Volbeat from Denmark, classic German metal band Accept, shock rocker Alice Cooper, goth icon Marilyn Manson, and the US metal band Megadeth.
Fans can also look forward to the four rock cellists from Apocalyptica, Swedish melodic death metal band Amon Amarth and the cross-over band Clawfinger.
Other bands that will perform include Europe, Status Quo and the Boomtown Rats. As always, the brass band from the local Wacken fire brigade will perform several times with both folk and hard rock on their set list. They've become an annual highlight that is celebrated just as much as the big metal bands.
For 10 years now, the Wacken Foundation that promotes young international metal musicians has organized the Metal Battle - a contest to recognize the best newcomers from the scene. DW will be there and will present the five winning bands in upcoming editions of PopXport.
This year, a total of 29 bands from all over the world will compete, but only five can win.
The fans can hardly wait
For some fans, Wacken is their big vacation and they spend up to a week there for the three-day festival. Metalheads started arriving on the weekend already, and the camping spaces are beginning to fill up.
Some of the campers bring along impressive equipment ranging from inexpensive one-person tents to elaborate pavilions reminiscent of the Middle Ages.
Electricity is only available at certain locations, so some people have to keep their beer cold in ice chests and rely on generators to play music or keep their refrigerators running.
People eat whatever has been put on the BBQ. And they drink, well, "a lot," as the festival organizers put it. Fans have been connecting for weeks, planning their stay in Facebook groups and sharing their anticipation of the big event.
They can leave their suits, high-heels, or white coats at home. Once they get to the festival, no one cares whether they are lawyers, doctors or factory workers the rest of the year.
In Wacken, the "uniform" is generally black - with rain boots, of course. Showering is overrated. When 80,000 metalheads come together in Wacken, the atmosphere is one-of-a-kind.