Copenhell 2011

author PP date 24/06/11

The first ever Copenhell, a metal festival taking place only a short bus ride away from the heart of Copenhagen, took place last year. Only a few thousand people attended, but despite a few glitches and errors that always occur when you organize a festival for the first time, the festival was an enormous success in every way and encouraged the organizers and Livenation to repeat the event one year later. In that short period of time, the festival has not only grown to a full-sized metal festival with nearly 9,000 people attending - a notable number in the P3/Gaffa/Soundvenue dominated Danish musical landscape - but has also improved in all aspects from the year before. It has grown from being just a metal music festival with metal fans attending to a festival where the whole idea and culture of metal is represented in various, well-thought out, and sometimes amusing ways . More on that soon.. The metal scene has accepted the arrival of a new player in the scene with open arms, given the doubling, maybe even tripling of the amount of people attending this year even though one could argue that the lineup was considerably weaker overall compared to last year - on paper at least. But where the festival lacked trendy and popular names like TDEP, Deftones, or The Damned Things this year, they instead had death metal behemoths like Deicide and Morbid Angel playing alongside acts like koRn and All That Remains.

Lineup

Judas Priest, Bullet For My Valentine, Protest The Hero, Anvil, koRn, Opeth, Kyuss Lives! (replaced by Artillery), Mayhem, Morbid Angel, GWAR, Deicide, Baptized In Blood, Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult, All That Remains, Rolo Tomassi, Kvelertak, The Burning, Crematoria, Pitchblack, Billy Boy In Poison, Helhorse, Vanir, The New Low, Solbrud

Festival Area

Copenhell takes place in an industrial area of Copenhagen, refshaleøen, a landscape characterized by gigantic industry buildings designed to build cargo vessels and other shipping equipment. The bare, somewhat depressing outlook of the industrial area is a great fit for the blackened and spiked freak show that best describes the metal crowd in any country. Entering the festival is a fairly painless process, with the visitor simply showing up at the gates with their ticket, which is then scanned, and off you go with a wristband to enjoy the festival area. The first sight your eyes set on is the large beer tent which has been set up with inspiration from the German beer gardens: lengthy tables with plenty of seating space, and of course, a brutal metal DJ spinning the classics and the hottest newcomers in metal at a loud volume. Immediately before it on the left side, you had two windows for drawing out cash with a card, which was combined with the ability to buy drinks tickets for typical Danish club prices: 40kr per ticket, or 10 tickets for 400kr (which gave you an extra beer for free). The ticketing process is a great invention our readers already are familiar with from festivals like Groezrock, because it speeds up the serving process where the staff only have to accept a small cardboard with a Royal Beer log on it instead of having to worry about change and all that stuff. It's great, however, that you can still pay with cash at the same time if you so choose, giving the guest the option of going for either option.

The main stage of the festival, the Helvíti stage is almost twice as big as the one last year, now allowing for close to 16,000 people to spread in front of it and on the hill on the background. The sound system seemed to have received a complete overhaul from last year as well, because on the main stage sound problems were never an issue, with the exception of uncontrollable ones due to heavy winds pushing the sound away from the audience every now and then. Its sister stage, Hades, was positioned on the other side of the festival area, and appeared to also have gotten a facelift from previous years, now nearly matching the main stage size from the year before. Before each concert, a formidable blast of flame would explode on the side of each stage to signify that a band was about to start their set. In between the two stages you had a few industrial containers - again, a very metal thing to have - and some camo-netting covering the noise from the bigger stages for a brand new third stage known as the Upcoming stage. This new addition would house up-and-coming small bands from the Danish metal underground, giving them the chance to present them to new listeners who have possibly never even heard of them by name. A great addition, thumbs up from this scribe.

Little bit further into the festival area you had a repeat of last year's success in Jägerbus. A two storey, Jägermeister branded bus with plenty of relaxing couches and an infinite supply of Jägermeister for the thirsty festival guests who felt like beer was not a strong enough option. They were also dealing out free rain coats when torrential rain - another must-have on a metal festival - interrupted the first day out of the blue and managed to disrupt some element of the critical electric infrastructure. All stages - including the one where Rolo Tomassi was playing - and all booths lost power for a good ten minutes, which shouldn't happen on a festival this size due to a little bit of rain. But then again, it's only the second festival, so we'll forgive them for the small mishap.

But what really made this year's Copenhell more than just a festival for metal music were the extras, that really encompassed the whole idea and feeling of metal to the festival and its surroundings. Nearby the Jägerbus you had a makeshift high striker /strongman game competition were you could hit a sledgehammer onto a weight, and if you hit it hard enough, the weight would hit the bell on top, proving your masculinity to the other festival audience, which happened to be 98% male as well. At the bars, you could order a shot of Copenhell Vodka, a specially distilled vodka just for the festival. It's too bad it ran out so quickly, as after only a couple of hours it was nowhere to be seen in any of the bars. Strangely enough, there were more than enough of it left for the Foo Fighters concert a few days later. All the way behind the crowd for the main stage the festival had set up a "bash" area. It sounds just as insane (and maniacally awesome) as it is: you would put on protective eyewear and gloves, and you could grab any piece of metal, hammer, wood, and start smashing and batting away at old washing machines, printers, computers, chairs, dinner tables, and even abandoned cars! It doesn't get much more metal than smashing a printer through an old kitchen table, trust me on that one. It was an enormously fun way to let loose some violent energy, an extremely cool concept. Finally, the festival had built a giant wooden structure called "The Burning Man" - similar to the one from Wicker Man - which they burned to the ground at the end of the festival after GWAR's set. That was pretty awesome. Finally, one of the old industrial halls had been transformed into a cinema called DOX:HELL, which featured all sorts of metal documentaries, and of course brutal massacre movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Very metal. But now, onto the reviews we go.

Friday

Solbrud @ 14:30 on Upcoming Stage

Solbrud was perhaps not the wisest choice for opening the festival, their atmospheric progressive black metal being the sort of thing best heard and watched in the dark of night. Last we saw the band, they performed bathed in ominous blue lights and candles; today as the set begins the clouds that have been hanging over the festival area all morning suddenly part, sending rays of brilliant sunlight shining through the camo netting above the stage. But despite getting off to a somewhat drawn out and clumsy start, Solbrud eventually fall into perfect harmony and deliver an absolutely epic, entrancing crescendo in the final five minutes of their first song. That statement may seem puzzling to those used to songs of the radio friendly three-and-a-half-minute length, but in the ambient black metal genre it is the norm rather than the exception that one song persists for at least 12 minutes - because of this, it is even more detrimental to Solbrud's performance that a brief bout of rain kills the electricity after their second song, resulting in an almost 10 minute power cut during which the band can do little more than stand and shrug their shoulders. Once the power is restored, they have time for just one more song and struggle to rebuild the hypnotic atmosphere they managed to establish in the first half of the set. [6½] AP

Billy Boy in Poison @ 15:30 on Upcoming Stage

The second homegrown act to enter the cave-like confines of the Upcoming stage is Billy Boy in Poison. Although they start playing to an empty void between the stacks of shipping containers, it's not long before the showcase of tracks from last year's "Perdition" EP draws in the passers-by. These portly gents intend to make the most of their hard-won opportunity at the biggest metal festival in Denmark and bring some much-needed aggression to bear against the inclement weather. They trash talk Rolo Tomassi, who are currently playing the larger Hades stage next door, and proceed to toss free merch and copies of the EP into the growing audience. Things are going swimmingly: the sound is good and the band are getting into full swing with guitarist Mikkel mounting a speaker stack to the left of stage and the rest of the band turning things up with their awesome, layered gang-vocals. Sadly things begin to go a bit too swimmingly; the rain returns after only four songs and, for the second time today, drowns some vital electrical component and with it the best efforts of the band. We stick around for a while to hear some unplugged drumming and a brief a cappella segment of Eagle Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight" and yet more freebies are thrown into what had recently been a decent circle pit. Soon enough though, the downpour overcomes our feelings of solidarity and we retreat to the beer tent (where the nightmare continues as we find out that they can't serve the stuff without electricity). Of course, power is eventually restored, but it's too late for BBIP. [7] NB

Artillery @ 16:30 on Helvíti Stage

This was supposed to be the slot where reunited stoner legends Kyuss were meant to perform, but it turns out John Garcia was stranded on a Canadian airport, leaving the band no option but to cancel their performance at Copenhell. Lucky then, that legendary Danish thrashers Artillery were ready to take on stage with only three hours worth of notice, a surprisingly fitting replacement at such a short notice for a metal oriented festival like this one. Now, I've always found Artillery to be as generic as bands come these days, but today their classic thrash metal riffs sound awesome. Unfortunately their new vocalist is a typical heavy metal vocalist who sounds identical to the hundreds of like-minded Priest copycats from the Germany/Austria/Switzerland region, and coupled with his static leg-on-amp stance with the occasional hand gesture, Artillery look frankly dull and boring on stage. Especially when the rest of the band members opt to just stand still as if they were nailed to the ground. For a metal audience, that might be acceptable, but as soon as you've seen shows outside of the traditional metal scene it becomes difficult to accept bands not giving any effort for the live performance versus just playing their studio tracks live. That said, the bands' riffs are decent, but given that they play way longer than an hour, the vast majority of the crowd are eyeing their watches and hoping that the band is done with their set sooner rather than later. [6] PP

The Burning

The Burning @ 18:00 on Hades Stage

I had to roll my eyes when The Burning were announced as the best live band in Denmark. Clearly, the Hades host has never seen The Psyke Project live, because they wipe the floor with The Burning (or any other Danish band) any day. They do have a good live reputation, however, which goes a long way explaining why a huge crowd has gathered to check out their mixture of aggressive thrash metal and a few of the -core genres, colloquially referred to as "thrashcore". The band kicks off with what is arguably their best song, "Godless", which has a ton of melody embedded within its brutal Danish metal sound, enticing the vocalist to engage in head banging and ground-stomping so massive that the mic stand flies over and someone from back stage has to come over to fix it. Although the band has decent energy like this, it is not here their reputation stems from. It's the laid-back, light-hearted in-between song banter from their vocalist, who fires off one joke after the other, including one where they claim to have replaced Bullet For My Valentine because their singer has "aids in his eyes", that makes the crowd laugh and enjoy their live performance. His stereotypically Jylland-accent and simplistic jokes lighten up the metal atmosphere a little, but it can only take you so far, for there exists an enormous quality divide between the new material from "Hail The Horde" and anything else the band has written in the past. Whilst the former integrates at least some melody to their brutal Danish metal sound, the latter falls perfectly underneath the definition of generic Danish Metal, which may satisfy the simple mind of a typical metal fan from this country who just wants brutality and head banging, but anyone else will find The Burning an extremely generic and nothingsaying outfit, especially when spread over a 45 minute time slot. [6½] PP

Helhorse @ 18:00 on Upcoming Stage

Helhorse is today's final visitor to the Upcoming stage. You might have known this band as Dødning before last year's name change and image shift. Indeed, they seem to have a much greater following than the preceding local acts; their fairly unique sound, which emerged on the latest album "For Wolves and Vultures", booms out across a dense sea of eager spectators which has washed into this cramped inlet and spilled out over the grassy hill behind. The mixture of Southern groove and brutal hardcore vocals is perfect for the setting whist some interesting instrumentation helps the band stand out in today’s line-up. Co-vocalist Aske alternates between supporting the gruff clean shouts of frontman Mikkel with his crazed distorted growls and providing another layer of haunting electronic resonance with a Rhodes piano positioned at the left of the stage. There’s even a tambourine thrown in at some points for good measure. All of the band members look like they’re having the party of their lives up there, enjoying every swaggering bar, but at the same time managing to look effortlessly casual as if they’re just having a drunken jam at a local bar. It’s a level of confidence you’d expect from a much older band and perhaps it’s due to the low pressure of this intimate show but I think Helhorse’s performance would scale up nicely to the slightly larger Hades stage and judging by the reaction from the crowd perhaps we can look forward to seeing how that would work out at next year’s Copenhell. [8½] NB

Opeth

Opeth @ 19:00 on Helvíti Stage

Opeth have never been a festival band. In club venues they can be breathtaking, encompassing the entire crowd into an overwhelmingly hypnotic state where they can do nothing but marvel at the sheer elegance and pure class of their material played to perfection. On festivals, however, Opeth consistently struggle with creating such an atmosphere for two reasons. One, their expansive prog-death soundscapes aren't able to immerse the audience from all sides as the guitars and Åkerfeldt's voice refracts from the venue walls, instead escaping into the grand open. Two, they are judged in direct contrast to other bands which tend to move a lot more on stage than Opeth do. Their material is so technically advanced and challenging that they are simply not able to match their colleagues in this area. nevertheless, a sea of head banging follows the first few songs (read: more than thirty minutes) that the band plays, but the slower, more soulful clean vocals seem to draw little interest from the crowd. The growls, too, struggle occasionally due to the wind pushing the sound away from the audience, but as soon as the band breaks things down to one of their trademark walls of death metal, sound problems largely disappear and the crowd is happily head banging along. But like I said, the atmosphere isn't as intense as it should be, and after an hour the set seems to drag on forever, no matter how many multiples better their songs might be in comparison to anyone else played on the festival so far. [7] PP

Baptized In Blood

Baptized In Blood @ 20:30 on Hades Stage

Canadian modern thrashers Baptized in Blood deliver a punishing yet buoyant set, sparing no smiles and not forgetting to thank the sizable crowd for their interest. This is a band most Danish people are unlikely to ever have heard of, this being their first ever tour in Europe, so naturally Baptized in Blood are keen on delivering the best possible value for money. From the get go and all the way to the end, the band manages to build and sustain an impressive momentum that has an impressive number of people windmilling up front, as well as a continuous stream of people from the surrounding festival area walking over, curious to see what's going on. Truth be told, I had expected a lousy turnout, given the genre nazism and resistance to anything not true or pure that reigns in the Danish metal underground; Baptized in Blood, however, are pulling a crowd that nearly fills the entirety of the area before the stage as well as the hill behind it. Enthused by this, the band perform with rigour and charisma, brandishing their instruments at every opportunity and commanding a constant large moshpit. Finishing off with their hit single "Dirty's Back", it puzzles me why the festival had not chosen these guys to kick off the festivities instead of the odd ones out, Rolo Tomassi. For most festival goers at least, Baptized in Blood seems to be one of the day's main attractions. Too bad about the sound problems. [7½] AP

KoRn @ 21:30 on Helvíti Stage

When it comes to nu-metal, few bands can boast as glorious a reputation as KoRn. The band survived the crucifixion of the genre and has been entertaining an enormous fan base for nearly two decades. I feel like I'm 13 again, such is the nostalgia that strikes me when the band makes its entré with the opening track of their self-titled debut album, "Blind", porting the festival audience 17 years back. It is truly an honour to see that for once, the haters are comfortably sat in the beer tent while most of the grizzly old metal heads, clad in death and black metal merchandise, headband the hardest. Almost everyone, it seems, is a closet KoRn fan, or at least positively acknowledges the impact of a song like "Here to Stay", an ironic reminder placed as song number two, that KoRn are still alive and strong. Newer produce such as "Pop a Pill" gets an airing too of course, and whether it be one of these or a cult classic like "Freak on a Leash", KoRn perform them with unparalleled passion and just the right amount of enigma. Banter in between songs is kept at a minimum, with KoRn preferring seamless transitions and excellent medleys blending parts of their own repertoire and the likes of Metallica, Queen, Pink Floyd and Twister Sister between their songs.

Korn

Vocalist Jonathan Davis is - for all intents and purposes - the perfect vocalist for a live setting. His rendition of classics like "Got the Life" is simply sublime, delivering the unique, unhinged rap/scream dynamics heard on KoRn's records with exceptional clarity and power; his ability to rip through demanding vocal parts such as the infamous barking of "Freak on a Leash" or "Got the Life" without the aid of effects or samples and without running out of breath is breathtaking. Equally breathtaking is the fantastic drumming of recent addition Ray Luzier, who tackles the tribal beats with an almost unnatural ease, swinging and throwing his sticks around and head banging like this is all child's play for him. It is easy to be deceived by the simplistic drumming technique employed on most KoRn records, but when heard and seen live, it becomes indisputably obvious just how creative it is, especially with the personal touch of Luzier added. Were it not for Judas Priest hogging the main headlining slot (both Copenhell headliners playing on the same day was unfortunate, if unavoidable), KoRn would have been a perfect closing act for the first day, in the vein of Deftones last year, a band which unites the masses and easily gets a Deicide fan singing along to "Y'all Want a Single". As such, the only way KoRn could have one-upped every other act at this festival would have been with a longer set that might have included such fantastic songs as "Alone I Break" and "Did My Time", and a full version of "Coming Undone", rather than it being part of a medley with Queen's "We Will Rock You". Nonetheless, KoRn effortlessly deliver one of the best performances at this year's Copenhell. [9] AP

Deicide

Deicide @ 23:00 on Hades Stage

Deicide are legendary for two very different reasons: one, they have a tendency to cancel their scheduled shows (at least here in Denmark), and two, they play such high quality death metal that even those who aren't fond of their satanic and anti-Christian rhetoric must bow down to the impossibly intense nature of their music. That's why Deicide pack an immense crowd spreading all the way beyond the Jägerbus conveniently parked nearby the stage, and force this scribe to evaluate their performance from the elevated heights of the small hill behind the main crowd. Not that this makes Deicide's performance any less intense or insane, as our eyes are glued at the sublime guitar work and the evil vibe that the band exhibits when performing. That's why you don't even notice the almost complete lack of movement of the band on stage. "Kill The Fucking Christians", growls their singer towards the end of a set, which was as solid as death metal gets today, albeit plagued heavily by extremely weak vocals in the mix. [7] PP

Judas Priest @ 23:59 on Helvíti Stage

Unquestionably the headliners of Copenhell 2011, Judas Priest's touring schedule meant they would be closing the first night of Copenhell instead of the second one. Tonight's show is also the last ever Judas Priest show on Danish soil, given that their current tour has been announced to be the final Judas Priest world tour after 42 years of performing together as a band. Subsequently, no expense has been spared in terms of the set production. They have synchronized pyro effects, crazy lasers shooting in all directions, video backgrounds that adapt depending on the section of a given song, and an elaborate light show that underlines what is required for an amazing performance at a festival environment.

Judas Priest

Mr. Halford himself doesn't show any signs of aging with his classic crazy-good heavy metal vibrato, which finally makes this scribe understand why there are several thousand generic heavy metal bands in Europe: they are all copying Priest and Halford without success. His long leather outfit and spikes only fortify why many consider him as the ultimate cool vocalist in metal, of course helped by his hand gestures towards the flames, which make him look like the conductor in an orchestra of fire rising and falling on his command. Rehearsed and scripted, sure, but awesome nonetheless.

The band plays songs from all their eras to commemorate their last ever tour, which of course means there are some less exciting moments in between the hits, but overall this show has it all: the outfits, the appearance, the songs, the stage, the effects, the atmosphere to make it something special. How many bands do you know that can skip all vocals in their most famous song ("Breaking The Law") and let the crowd do the work? Eventually, the second encore sees Halford drive the motorcycle on stage in one final showdown of Priest magnificence...or so we thought. A total of four encores takes place, which is so unusual that after the second one the Rockfreaks.net contingent has already taken off expecting to see no more. [8½] PP

Setlist:

  • 1. Rapid Fire
  • 2. Judas Rising
  • 3. Never Satisfied
  • 4. Prophecy
  • 5. Night Crawler
  • 6. Heading Out To The Highway
  • 7. Blood Red Skies
  • 8. The Sentinel
  • 9. Turbo Lover
  • 10. The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown) - Fleetwood Mac cover
  • 11. Metal Gods
  • 12. Victim Of Changes
  • 13. Diamonds & Rust - Joan Baez cover
  • 14. Beyond The Realms Of Death
  • 15. Painkiller
  • 16. Starbreaker
  • 17. Breaking The Law
  • 18. Electric Eye
  • 19. Hell Bent For Leather
  • 20. You've Got Another Thing Comin'

Saturday

Given how Judas Priest played for over two hours and finished sometime after 2am, there was very little chance we would make it back on time to cover the up-and-coming band Crematoria. Apologies to the band for not covering them.

Anvil @ 14:30 on Helvíti

The legend of Anvil hasn't escaped the attention of this scribe. Not only are they cited for influencing Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, but the DOX:HELL cinema at the festival is also showing a heavy metal documentary titled "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil" on both days. As you might imagine, Anvil are about as heavy metal as bands come, both in terms of their look, feel and their music. Their vocalist/lead guitarist looks like someone straight from the 80s with his curly hair-do, and his stage antics also closely reflect the eras when heavy metal frontmen were imitated by men and lusted after by women (anyone see the movie Rock Star?). He's very much one of these 80s stars, complete with overblown in-between song banter where the word "man" is used at the beginning and the end of every sentence. Every song is of course followed by a display of the insane technical ability he has gathered over the years in the form screeching soloing and experimental guitar techniques. For instance, at one stage he pulls out a vibrator and uses it to play a solo, switching speeds for good measure, and actually pulls it off quite nicely. Amps, other members and practically everything else on stage is used as a guitar pick at one stage or another, culminating in a heavy metal story with spoken-word vocals about a Japanese monster and dramatic guitar parts to emphasize different aspects of the story. It's all fun and games, even though the music is rather generic (reflecting why Anvil never became as huge as Metallica, for instance), and even the undersigned couldn't help but chuckle when the vocalist unplugs his guitar cord, says "hold on guys, I think I'm gonna give myself a recharge", and sticks the cord into his mouth resulting in electrostatic feedback from the speakers. Lots of similar jokes and one classic heavy metal drum solo later, Anvil finish their set which, while enjoyable, was a little too long for its own good. [6½] PP

The New Low @ 15:30 on Upcoming Stage

One of the highlights of the Copenhell weekend was to see the fortunate winners of the Tak Rock! competition deliver one fantastic performance after the other on the Upcoming Stage. The New Low, too, recognise it as a great opportunity, and deliver possibly the best performance of their career thus far. Sounding more brutal than ever, and performing with more energy than many of the bigger acts at this festival combined, The New Low pull in an impressive crowd of curious festival goers. Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult may be performing simultaneously, but every third person voyaging from the Helvíti stage to the Hades stage to see the supergroup seems to stop and watch at least a few songs by The New Low, who take the opportunity to air a number of new songs as well as invite a guest vocalist - a friend of the band from Torremolinos in Spain - on stage during "Deathmarch". He is visibly excited to be here, performing with a madness that supersedes the band's own vocalist during the song. Moments of stillness or calm are few and far in between during the explosive half hour that The New Low have at their disposal, making this one of the best small stage performances at the festival this year alongside Helhorse the day before.[8] AP

Protest The Hero

Protest the Hero @ 16:30 on Helvíti Stage

Protest the Hero give off a defensive air when they take to the stage. Other bands seem to try to fit in, give something to the audience or ass-kiss to some extent, but Protest have a different attitude. They’re friendly and funny, but their demeanour suggests that they are here to do their own thing in a somewhat alien environment and that you can take it or leave it. Sadly, many people have chosen to leave it; the crowd is even more meagre than the one which showed up for Anvil earlier on. The organisers would probably have done better to switch Protest with the seemly far more popular All The Remains [sic] on the Hades stage. That the audience is so small is both a pity and not that surprising. Protest’s out-of-place feel may be justified; they are probably the most technical band at the festival and their unique brand of progressive metal and spartan stage setup make them stand out amongst the brash theatrics and bulldozer acoustics of the other acts. They stand huddled in the centre of the large main stage around a tiny drum kit and a handful of amps and deliver an utterly unpretentious performance. While the instrumentalists are hunched over their instruments in concentration, Rody Walker holds the crowd’s attention with his contorting figure matching the contortions of the vocal lines. Unfortunately, his unusual and impressive clean vocals are lost in the mix somewhat today but otherwise band manage to reproduce their recorded sound with astonishing fidelity. The set includes mostly songs off this year’s album “Scurrilous” but with the cream of the crop from the last two thrown in as well (and miscellaneous jokes about ice hokey and Canadians). Anyway, I’m not going to let the fact that the Danes chose to ignore the band completely dissuade me from giving them the grade they deserve. [8] NB

Kvelertak

Kvelertak @ 18:00 on Hades Stage

Given the hype that (with good reason) surrounds the enigmatic black n' roll outfit Kvelertak, it is hardly surprising that a huge crowd has amassed before the Hades stage to bear witness to their already legendary live show. It is no understatement to say that Kvelertak is probably a headliner for a good portion of the Copenhell audience. The immediate and insane reaction that meets the band from the first note of "Fossegrim" says as much, the entire front of the stage exploding into crazed moshing and head banging and continuing until the last note of "Utrydd dei Svake". You would have to attend a Chariot or Dillinger Escape Plan concert to witness greater madness on the crowd side. Kvelertak, however, are not going to be one-upped by their fans, and deliver a show that is equal parts pure energy, boozing fun, and unbridled aggression.

Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik is either high, tripping, drunk, extremely excited to be playing this show, or, most likely, all of the above, which makes for a plethora of entertaining moments featuring his warrior personage surfing over an absolutely mental crowd, who, despite not knowing what the fuck Kvelertak are actually singing about, do their utmost to reciprocate his vocals in what I presume to be gibberish. On the stage the remaining three guitarists, the bassist, and even the drummer, are ripping it too, thrashing around with their instruments like apprentices to Ben Weinman and KC Wolf, and playing with considerably more tightness than the last time the band visited Denmark. Even the torrential downpour from a freak rain shower fails to put a damper on the madness during the likes of "Blodtørst", "Ulvetid", "Nekroskop", and "Mjød", although it does send a number of the more casual spectators running for shelter in the nearby Jægerbus and beer tent. As Hjelvik puts it, "don't escape the fucking rain!" - those who did would have missed the mental finale consisting of "Mjød" and "Utrydd dei Svake", as well as the misplaced rallying call, "Kvelertak!", that concludes the performance. [9] AP

Mayhem

Mayhem @ 19:00 on Helvíti Stage

Mayhem, for those not in the know, is considered to be the most controversial band on Earth. The band's history is riddled with suicide, murder, church burnings, alleged racism and bigotry and prison sentences, and their live shows are renowned for being utterly devoid of taste or respect. How bizarre is it then, to see vocalist Attila Csihar appear on stage wearing a large black and red cape, clerical stoule, and fangs on his teeth, holding a microphone fashioned into an upside down cross in one hand, and a piece of skull in the other? The audience seems puzzled, amused even, to see a person effectively known as the person by whom evil is defined (in some circles) look like a concoction of Count Dracula, the Pope, and Satan. The music speaks a different story of course, sounding as brutal and extreme as ever courtesy of a stunning drummer in Jan Axel Blomberg, also known as the legendary Hellhammer (Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Shining, Ulver, etc.), the infamous though now slightly less malevolent looking bassist Jørn "Necrobutcher" Stubberud, and guitarists Morfeus and Teloch, who deliver faithful renditions of classic material such as "Ancient Skin", "Freezing Moon", "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", and "Pure Fucking Armageddon".

But looking at the strange, nonsensical, and admittedly hilarious, gestures Csihar makes with the microphone and skull, shuffling them around in front of him in slow robotic movements, I begin to wonder whether this highly anticipated and exclusive performance is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, or in fact the very essence of evil. If the piece of skull is is actually from a human being (Dead?), then it is definitely the latter. If it's a prop from a toy shop, then it is more likely to be the former. But in either case, the combination of the evening sun, thanks to an early time slot in order to allow Bullet For My Valentine to perform in darkness, Csihar's overt weirdness, and the omission of the elements that have made Mayhem's performances in the past court so much controversy from their live show, makes for a performance that in no way justifies the infamy surrounding the band. On the other hand, however, witnessing a band of such legend playing their songs in a format that does not sound deliberately shit, is an experience in its own right, and ignoring Csihar's theatrics, I feel privileged to be watching it. Assuming that Csihar is not deliberately making a parody of himself, Mayhem play with formidable precision, and take their music very seriously - the lighting, backdrops and instruments, all following a strict colour code of red, white and black, too, imply a show carefully honed through years of experience, and make Mayhem look and feel like the genuine, powerful and influential black metal band they are. [7½] AP

All That Remains @ 20:30 on Hades Stage

All That Remains are a critically acclaimed metalcore outfit that many argue to be in the top 3 bands for the entire genre, which is perhaps why they get a reasonably positive response from the metal crowd, at least in comparison to Bullet For My Valentine moments later. Their technically impressive and highly melodic form of metalcore draws a sea of headbangers and even a few moderate sing-a-longs near the front of the stage, as the band plows through their classics like "Six", "Not Alone", "This Calling" and newer tracks like "Forever In Your Hands" as well as "Two Weeks". The sound is for once precise and clear in all departments, allowing the band to display the sheer quality of their songwriting to metal heads who usually like to claim that nothing good comes out of metalcore. I'm sure a few jaws were, if not dropped, then at least opened given how energetic the band is on stage despite playing complex melodies, not to even mention their highly professional and active frontman who resists the urge for the foot-on-amp stance and instead uses the entire stage to his advantage. I think it speaks volumes that the attention is rarely focused on the band's lone female member, as is usually the case in such male-dominated world as metal or rock music in general, but on the vocalist, and their guitarist's breathtaking fretwork. Impressive. [8] PP

Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet For My Valentine @ 21:30 on Helvíti Stage

When it was announced that Bullet For My Valentine would be one of the sub-headliners of Copenhell 2011, many argued that it wasn't any different from sending a lone sheep into a wolf's nest expecting it to come out unharmed. While my fears of them getting bottled and taunted never manifested, the metal crowd instead chose to vote on their feet, leaving the main stage discouragingly empty at such a late position on the time slot. There's a tiny contingent of fans in the corner, and a bunch of closet BFMV fans who perhaps liked the band six-seven years ago when they were in their teenage years (hint: me), who reveal themselves when a decently sized wall-of-death is arranged, but it's difficult to shake off the feeling that it's all very contrived and trivial. The band try to play their more thrashing and heavier songs for the crowd, that much is clear from their setlist, but especially when the band wanders through the older parts of their discography the songs sound unrehearsed and awfully loose, lacking the proper screaming/guitar dynamics almost entirely, as if the band isn't putting any effort in their performance and have given up beforehand. And when they deal in newer songs, it appears crystal clear that the band backed the wrong horse, played the wrong cards, etc, with regards to the sleazier and poppier songwriting. The older, unapologetic metalcore songs just sound so much better in comparison to tracks like "Scream Aim Fire" and others, which simply show just how irrelevant Bullet For My Valentine is in 2011. [5] PP

Morbid Angel

Morbid Angel @ 23:00 on Hades Stage

Despite the heavy criticism of their newly discovered industrial side on their newest album, Morbid Angel pack perhaps the largest audience tonight out of all stages on the Hades Stage. It's not difficult to understand why. The band's death metal pieces are the heart and soul of the genre, thick and dominating in sound, delivered with a frighteningly intense and tight manner throughout the set. You can tell that the band has a few decades of experience behind them, for so overwhelming and superior they seem to be in both technical and intensity levels compared to any other band during the weekend. This is death metal, folks, and the much feared industrial tracks from the new album aren't aired for the most part, aside from the "I Am Morbid" track but even here the crowd is absorbing the brutality and insanity of the band without flinching an eye. The set is all-around solid, but unless you're a long-time Morbid Angel fan, the band's technical prowess unfortunately also means that you can't expect them to move as much as a square meter from their stage positions. It makes for a static and kind of boring show, but the band's material is so solid, thick and unnerving, that a lot of the inactivity is made up simply through that. A good show, on par with Deicide the night before. [8] PP

GWAR @ 23:59 on Helvíti Stage

Prior to the GWAR show I was questioning what a generic thrash metal band was doing on the headline slot of the festival, monster outfits or not. After the GWAR show I finally began to understand that at least 50%, if not more, of GWAR's appeal lies within their live show. The band members are wearing enormous monster costumes which make them look multiple times larger than a normal human being, to a point where it feels like as surreal as an alien invasion from the Predator home planet. But more importantly, they are constantly engaged in a bit of live-theater. In between songs we see epic ax/sword battles between band members and monsters, and during songs we see the two stage prop guys doing inexplicable things on the background (why one of them is dressed as a sumo wrestler, I have no idea). For instance, the "head monster" proclaims that many of us don't believe that Osama Bin Laden is really dead, so they bring out "O-Zombie Bin Laden", one of the stage prop guys dressed in a makeshift terrorist leader uniform, whom they of course cut open with an enormous meat butcher's knife, leading into the quintessential part of any GWAR show: red blood / magma shit spraying everywhere into the crowd. There are few moments, if any, when blood wouldn't be spraying like in the classic B-movies (or in Kill Bill) down at the audience from something that has been cut open. The humour, granted, is extremely stupid and low-level, such as the head monster announcing his next victim "as only second to Justin Bieber in the world he wants to kill" but Bieber was apparently "too small to find" so they brought out Lady Gaga instead dressed in a giant toilet outfit. Of course the toilet needs to be "unplugged", which results in Lady Gaga's breasts being sliced off with another humongous alien sword, and guess what: blood magma begins spraying everywhere once again. But then again it's way past midnight and everyone is fairly drunk, or on their way of getting there, so it's hilarious in its own, stupid way. Much like watching Jackass, which is incredibly stupid, but yet hilarious beyond belief at times. Much of the show is so far-out that music becomes secondary to the theatric entertainment, fake blood bursting out of every and any cut off limb into the crowd, and watching the band maneuver the stage in their ridiculous monster outfits. It's all scripted from start to finish, of course, so once you've seen one GWAR show you've seen them all. But just like Green Day, the first time you see the show, it's pretty fuckin' awesome. Unless you can't appreciate humour that is the polar opposite of intelligent. [8]

Suggestions & Conclusion

Overall, Copenhell 2011 can be judged to have been a resounding success. A ton of people attended - though most on Friday due to Judas Priest - and all the extras made the festival gain an identity, which is one of the most important things when you want to stick out from other like-minded festivals in nearby countries. But despite the good things, there's always room for improvement. Here's our list:

* More windows to draw out cash. Two booths simply isn't enough when you have several thousand people wanting to buy beer and food, and the stalls don't accept cards. The best solution would of course be that all the stalls accepted card as well, but an easier one might be to make it very clear on the website that people should bring cash beforehand, and perhaps add an extra window or two for the cash machines at the festival.

* Better communication to guests. We've seen festivals like NorthSide update constantly on Facebook and Twitter about the problems and possible solutions to problems at the festival. There had been a printing error on the official schedule which had Kvelertak, one of the main attractions of the festival, switched around with All That Remains. The guests weren't informed of this change and most believed Kvelertak was playing at 20:30, and so a lot of people missed the band because they hadn't yet made it back to the festival from the night before, or were perhaps in the beer tent, in the cinema or something along the lines of that. It's just not enough to announce it on the main stage after the last band - the festival must note it on the website, send out Facebook messages, twitter messages and perhaps print out A4-sized printouts detailing the change and stick them around the festival area (which is what West Coast Riot did in Gothenburg when they had a similar problem)

* Copenhell Vodka. How is it possible that it "runs dry" after a few hours, but is still in great quantities at a Foo Fighters concert a couple of days later? Of course everyone will want to try out such a cool concept.

* Beer prices. These were pretty atrocious considering you were meant to stand there for a good 10-11 hours each day. They should be nearly halved because the metal audience isn't usually a rich one.

* Food. The food was pretty disgusting all-around. Two out of three times when I ordered food (the chicken wrap, and the chili-con-carne) it was cold, and especially the latter food looked awful: nacho chips and cold chili-corn-carne sauce on top. Festival food need not be gourmet, of course, but at the very least it should be enjoyable to some extent.

Other than that, the festival was a great experience once again, and Livenation/Copenhell organizers deserve a big pat on the back. See you next year. PP

More photos can be found at Julie Weitmann Decome's Flickr page

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