Copenhell 2014

author PP date 17/06/14

The annual descent of hell to Copenhagen was celebrated by a metal cruise in the channels and a lineup-branded tombstone placed in prime real estate in central Copenhagen in the weeks and months leading up to the festival. What has in very short time become a Nordic mainstay as far as metal festivals go has continued to grow with more than 14.000 people having purchased tickets for the 2014 edition, featuring Iron Maiden, Watain, Suicide Silence, Anthrax, Twisted Sister, Arch Enemy, Sepultura, Clutch, Behemoth and many other mainstays with metal and hard rock. The lineup this year was a diverse celebration of all styles of metal from the hard rock cheese of the 80s to the classic thrash, hardcore, black metal, death metal, stoner, and even gothic metal, plus everything else in between, just like the festival surroundings itself. More on that soon.

As usual, we sent a sizable group of our best staff to make sure to cover as much as humanly possible of the festival, both in terms of beer consumption, but of course the whole atmosphere (you should've seen us swinging axes for the cabbages at the Viking area or AP's immense RF.net flag-wielding at the DJ area that almost destroyed an entire monitor) and a shit-ton of live reviews of (almost) all bands that played the festival. Needless to say, the weekend after was spent in a glorious hangover of epic proportions that felt like Thor's hammer had been striking on our heads for three days and nights straight (or did I accidentally pass out in one of the cars at smadreland?), but I believe that's how pretty much everyone who attended Copenhell felt this weekend. At least if you base it on the sheer amount of empty beer cups left behind on the festival area at the end of D-A-D's set late night Friday.

So here's our take on the Copenhell experience. If you're here just for the reviews, feel free to scroll down, or all the way down to our traditional 'good, bad, and the ugly' section.

Festival Area

Last year the opening of Copenhell was plagued by an immense queue for most regular festival attendees that took hours to clear. Not so this year, thanks to a smart pre-event at Pumpehuset the night before where you could exchange your ticket to the green wristband in advance, helping clear out the worst of the queues other than security check, of course. Once you cleared the security (who seemed to be confused as to what you could bring, some got warnings about a Go Pro while others had no problems with professional SLRs without accreditation), the gate of hell awaited that leads straight into the festival grounds. Here, an asphalted industrial area awaits in the shadow of the enormous concrete building (where Eurovision was held) with all the Copenhell goodies that come with it.

Viking bath

For starters, there are three different stages bearing various mythological names relating to the underworld. First, you have the Pandæmonium stage, which houses the up-and-coming names and most of the Danish bands playing this festival. It's attached to the Viking-themed area where you could purchase traditional foods as cooked by the staff dressed apporpriately to the theme, as well as cool down in large barrels re-designed as viking baths (that admittedly started looking more and more disgusting as the weekend went along), or try your luck at axe throwing, or swing at cabbages with swords and other quintessential Viking weaponry. Nearby, a stand selling Baphomet-fueled Bloody Mary's would guarantee to extinguish any hungover given its 66.6% alcohol rating, and a number of food shops including the excellent Churros stand would make sure you don't go home hungry. A number of ATM stands were setup here, but these were overwhelmed on Wednesday very quickly as basically no booths took cards on the entire festival, since the whole Dankort system crashed last year (see bottom of article).

Crowd at night

If you continued your journey further into the festival area, you'd come to a dedicated food court on the right side with a variety of different food on offer in a food-court style setup. Onwards in the main festival area you have the infamous grass hill, that offers a great view of both main stages, as well as a much needed location to lie down and rest if booze or standing on asphalt has gotten the best of you. As a surprise this year, the top of the hill featured a platform known as the 'Heaven And Hell', which also included a bar selling extra strong 6% beer throughout the festival. Very cool.

View from middle of the hill - photo by Lykke Nielsen

At the main festival area you have of course the main stage Helviti, and its smaller sister stage Hades, which would feature bands in alternating form throughout the whole festival. Helviti had been amended with a front pit barrier this year to anticipate the huge crowd for the Iron Maiden show, which was definitely a wise choice. In the middle, you have a few bars, as well as a classic 'bodega' style bar all the way down by the Hades stage, which was inside of a tent just in case it was raining outside. And in case you wanted to blow off some steam, you could grab a sledge hammer or another heavy duty weapon at the Smadreland area, be handed a set of gloves and goggles, and smash away at vehicles and office equipment to rid all frustrations once and for all.

The next Thor?

In the opposite end you had the enormous Biergarden area that featured DJ sets, cover bands, death metal karaoke, and all sorts of other fun stuff boosting the festival's entertainment value while none of your favorite bands were playing.

As for the food, here are some of our collective verdicts on what we tried on a three plus/minus scale:

Hellburgers: +++

Devilicious Veggie Samosas: +++

Devil's Thai Noodles: ---

Devil's Thai Rice, Potatoes & Chicken: ++

Stegt Flæsk Burger: --- (ugh, that shit was DRY)

Churros: +++ (with pink soft ice)

Helstegt pattegris: ++

Sprød Svin (spare ribs): +++

COPENHELL guests - photo by Lykke Nielsen

In terms of beer, well, it was the usual ROYAL variety (as well as The Trooper beers by Iron Maiden). 1 pint for 40 DKK, or 5 for 180 DKK (huge savings of 20 kroner). Needless to say, the profit-margin on selling beer at that price is HUGE, which was pretty much universally complained about by everyone we spoke to at the festival. The right thing to do would be to set the price down to, say, 35 DKK a pint and 150 DKK for 5, and that wouldn't hit the bottom-line of the festival too much. After all, three days of drinking sets you back way more than the festival ticket itself at those prices.... ugh.

Church of Jameson - photo by Lykke Nielsen

With that being said, the rest of the festival was organized very well. I believe the folks behind got a little bit of a wake up call for next year in terms of the ridiculous amount of people on the Iron Maiden day that caused sizable queues to pretty much everything out there, but seems like all those oldies didn't bother showing up in similar hordes for the last two days. Shame for them, but good for the rest of us.

And now, on to the reviews! PP

DAY 1

Fossils

Fossils @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

Opening this years festivities at Copenhell is Fossils, a band that in its most humble character only contains 2 members in the form of a bassist and drummer. Now, before letting your prejudices take flight, Fossils is not some jazz fusion concoction, it is in fact very minimal and complex but also extremely heavy. A high gain, heavily distortion bass is plugged to the max which produces a thunderous sound that baffles you upon first witness. The two lads from Fossils really know how to play their instruments and their precision is clearly attributed to the sheer concentration of their performance. Little to no crowd interaction allows the audience to bear witness to an impressive but rather exhibitionist performance. Songs like "Flesh Pillar" and "Filet Horizon" shake the foundations of the stage with their polyrythmic character and cataclysmic energy, both reminiscing the legendary Tool and fellow countrymen Helhorse. The duo stands relatively static in centre stage and therefore do not really contribute anything in terms of dynamic visuals. Having to open Copenhell is no easy feat but Fossils play with determination and drive to a rather large audience. It should however be noted that Fossils set is only 30 minutes long, and for a change, any longer could potentially mean a tedious experience. [6½] MN

Tyr

Týr @ 16:30 on Hades

Copenhell cannot succeed without a dose of some fun folk metal. Last year, Alestorm took Hades by storm and conjured up a collective puddle splashing from the heavy showers earlier in the day. This year, the secondary stage Hades is opened by Viking-metallers Týr from the Faroe Islands. Having released the critically acclaimed "Valkyrja" recently, Týr are all set to prove their worth to the both conservative-minded and open-spirited metal head at Copenhell. Opening with "Blood Of Heroes" in the most power-metal like fashion, Týr run enthusiastically onto the stage. Unfortunately, severe sound problems riddle their first couple of songs, which makes the Týr experience somewhat diluted and the sizeable crowd start to look up with scepticism. It is a shame that it is on account of technicalities that bands lose some credibility. Luckily, the sound is fixed with the onset of "Mare Of My Night" which finally gets the viking party up and going with the emerging heavy rain impending on the sky line. "Lady Of The Slain" finally gets the drums into focus and a moshpit starts to form in the front. Known for singing folk-hymns in metal version, their most festive expressions comes in form of the Faroese "Tróndur Í Gøtu" telling raunchy tales of the namesake viking from the Faroe Islands who opposed Christianity. Their vocal harmonies are the strongest element of their music, especially in the swaying "Grindavísan", which has an almost anthemic nature to it and becomes even more ceremonial with the onset of a very heavy shower of rain. According to the band, the more Faroese people are gathered together, the more likely the onset of heavy rain. The set ends with the anti-fascist "Shadow Of The Swastika" which is a reference to a deceased German "idiot" who believed Scandinavians to be of the purest and most righteous Aryan heritage, something that the lads from Týr clearly resent. Týr are a fun band with singalong hymns and power-metal pompousness, and for the conservative metal head, it is probably way too silly, but for anyone with an open mind and a sense for the unadulterated metal experience, this was a good performance. I am part of the latter crowd and therefore merit accordingly. [7½] MN

Dave Wyndorf

Monster Magnet @ 18:00 on Hades Stage

As the clock strikes 6 p.m., it is with an air of cool nonchalance that Dave Wyndorf & co. stride on stage and lay out with the title track to their 1993 album "Superjudge", an acidic 7-minute stoner trip that suggests Monster Magnet have no intention to treat the curious or casual listeners in attendance gently. Despite not exactly brimming with rarities either, theirs is a set composed from well known, but spaced out tracks like the title track to 1995's "Dopes to Infinity", as well as the title track, "Tractor" and "Space Lord" off their 1998 commercial breakthrough "Powertrip"; tracks that require patience and previous familiarity to fully divulge their treasures. As such, it is a docile audience of lightly swaying heads they face, and if you came to watch them expecting anything other than searing solos, droning riffs and tonnes of testosterone, then you will probably have left with a sense of disappointment - above all at the band's seeming lack of enthusiasm. It's not as intense or intimate as usual, but then through my goggles Monster Magnet are ill suited for a festival setting where it is much easier to get lost in conversation with a mate than in the long winding, contemplative compositions. [6] AP

Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men @ 18:00 on Pandæmonium

Of all the shows I saw this year at Copenhell, the metalcore explosion provided by Of Mice & Men is still what surprised me the most. As a regular metalcore fan I wasn't that taken back with how the acclaimed Of Mice & Men played a good show with lots of energy and a sweet set list, but I was surprised that so many festival guests genuinely seemed to enjoy it, as the booking of metalcore bands always seems to be a bit of a gamble here. However the band blew away any skepticism as they played through their equally heavy and melodic set that mostly featured songs from their new record. Vocalist Austin Carlile did a great job as his energetic presence reached far beyond the confines of the stage, and he only had to ask one time early on for the crowd to open up before everyone from the stage to the sound desk were ready for the first wall of death of the festival. Later several circle pits got going, and from where I stood it seemed nobody could resist at least nodding their heads to the music. [8] LF

Anthrax - feelin' it!

Anthrax @ 19:00 on Helviti

There's something about quality thrash metal in sunny conditions that makes you want to drink beer, is what goes through my head, as my Copenhell review duties start with the legendary thrashers in Anthrax. This is a bit later to their set, however, because the first few songs are plagued by poor sound quality with bass guitar and the blastbeats that drown everything else underneath, including one of their most famous songs "Caught In A Mosh" that they start out with, as well as "Madhouse" among a couple of others. Disappointing, considering there's a huge crowd gathered to watch the band play already at this point, but the band makes do with what they have. Vocalist Belladonna soon grabs one of the video cameras from the crew and starts filming awesome shots towards the crowd on the screens, and the crowd responds in huge roars and a big sing along towards the end of the song. He's very active on stage in general, running across frenetically and talking to the crowd throughout the show. "There's a massive pit of water in the middle over there... do a WAR DANCE!", he shouts, just before the band plays "Indians", which sees him kneel down with his mic towards the crowd screaming. He even picks up someone's crazy Robocop style sunglasses at the front and pretends like he's blind on stage, a rather entertaining move, but the crowd isn't as ecstatic as when former member Rob Caggiano returns to play guitar for "Antisocial". The rest of the band has spent many moments in triple formation headbanging with hair flowing all over the place (minus the bald guy obviously) in what felt like a nostalgia trip down to the old school thrash metal days. The sound problems continue throughout the set with the bass being way too loud in general, but the band does what they can and even throw in a cover of "T.N.T" by AC/DC, and play "Deathrider" from ther 1984 album. In the end, it's a great display of arena thrash that would've been much better without the sound issues. [7½] PP

Arch Enemy - boy she can scream!

Arch Enemy @ 20:00 on Hades

Straight afterwards it's time to check out Arch Enemy, who are paying their first visit to Denmark since exchanging longtime vocalist and melodeath icon Angela Gossow with a younger version in the 28-year old Canadian Alissa White-Gluz. Youthful energy is exuberant in her performance from the get go, as she growls "I WANNA SEE YOU BANG YOUR FUCKING HEADS!, and proceeds to be an example herself by showcasing her multicolored, insane hair in vicious circular headbanging throughout the show. The crowd responds accordingly: the view from the back is pretty much just a sea of horns instead of clapping after each song. And why wouldn't it be? White-Gluz is a born crowd-charmer and amps up the crowd on evey occasion mid-song, getting people to pump their horns up, shouting "LET ME FUCKING HEAR YOU!", "THAT'S IT COPENHELL!" and other crowd control measures that fit perfectly into their melodeath sound. This while their guitarists often are found in classic Swedish melodeath twin poses on stage as they tap through their frets maniacally, resulting in great melodies in the process. In fact, you could argue that in 2014, Arch Enemy are playing In Flames songs better than In Flames are in 2014, and that's basically what's happening on stage here. It's technically awesome, and a lecture in proper Swedish melodeath, spiced up with a crowd-pleasing performance that might not be awe-inspiring but is rock solid throughout. "ONE FOR ALL; ALL FOR ONE, WE ARE NEMESIS!" [8] PP

Iron Maiden @ 21:00 on Helvíti Stage

Much and more has been said of the Copenhell organisation's decision to move the festival midweek so as to get their hands on Iron Maiden - a band heavily requested by attendees every year - so understandably the expectations are colossal. This is one of the last shows of the ongoing Maiden England world tour, which has been running since the 21st of June, 2012 and bases on the heavy/power metal legends' 1989 concert video of the same title (shot during the 7th Tour of a 7th Tour in the wake of their 1988 album "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son"), and when it visited Malmö across the Øresund strait last summer, critics were universally up in arms praising the nerve, energy and volume with which that classic setlist was delivered by the band.

But despite the element of surprise all but removed by everyone knowing exactly which songs and in which order would constitute tonight's two-hour performance, frontman Bruce Dickinson has managed to rile most of us up by claiming they've brought with them one of the most spectacular productions they've ever had the day before. When UFO's "Doctor Doctor" and "Rising Mercury" eventually do announce their arrival some ten minutes tardy of the scheduled beginning, however, the setup on stage is largely identical to what you will have seen on that famed video: the arctic blue and white theme of the artwork to "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", (paradoxically) with vertical fire cannons shooting flames into the air behind the six piece as "Moonchild" initiates the proceedings for real.

Iron Maiden - Bruce looks like he's 20!

Already here and in the following "Can I Play with Madness" there is a pressing lack of low end in the mix, and despite Dickinson carrying himself with his usual charisma and energy like a man who really wants to play this show, Iron Maiden seem largely to be having an off day. This does not reflect in the audience, however: the sing-alongs to songs like "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "The Trooper" are thunderous, and especially the front pit looks to be boiling from my vantage point. The changing backdrops while maintaining the frosty colour theme are a nice touch, as are the various robotic renditions of the band's mascot Eddie and the masked intruder playing the organ in the lead-up to "Wrathchild" - and there is certainly no denying the legendary power of classic songs like "The Number of the Beast" and "Run to the Hills". But even so the proceedings feel somehow anticlimatic, being so controlled and pre-programmed.

I decide to surf the crowd to the front with my GoPro during "Fear of the Dark" - the only non-80's song on the setlist tonight - to confirm that the amount of people singing along is, in fact, even greater than I had deduced from my earlier position. But from here I am also able to see that it is more a look of people singing along out of obligation than passion, reassuring me that I am not alone in my slightly disappointed sentiments. Be that as it may, however, Iron Maiden will never not be a good live band, and certainly in the encore comprising "Aces High", my personal favourite "The Evil That Men Do" and "Sanctuary", they prove their abilities beyond any doubt. [7½] AP

Helhorse - exploding like a sun!

Helhorse @ 23:00 on Pandæmonium

Arriving post office-hours for my very first Copenhell, I spend most of the evening just soaking up the atmosphere (and singing along to more than enough Iron Maiden to not feel at all out of place). Come the late Danish double whammy at Pandæmonium however, our resident Helhorse fanboy wants the time off to throw down, and since I've been aching to (and failing to) rewatch the band for a while, this proves as much an hour of opportunity for me as it proves an hour of power for a group that have a few of those lined up this summer. Having stayed the course for years now, Helhorse clearly feel like they're finally arriving with this summer's sets here and at Roskilde, yet their performance is not one to rest on laurels.

Helhorse

Instead a crystal clear mix helps them demonstrate their relevance in an early display of power that's not to be mistaken. Theirs is not the largest crowd, but those present are quickly subdued by the combined weight and dirt of the band's grooves, and while the axe wielders on each side sport their "couldn't give a fuck" beer bellies, frontman Mikkel Wad Larsen looks to be in top form, belting his characteristic vocals expertly as he roams the stage with moves that belong to a different age of metal music than the one prevalent at this year's Copenhell (and that's a good thing). Meanwhile organist/screamer Aske Kristiansen provides an equally unhinged contrast yet his wild-card factor is in constant balance with the remaining expression on this night.

Their opening is so strong that Helhorse could've opted to handle the whole thing with swagger and a knowing grin, but after a while the weight of the moment gets the better of Larsen, whose appreciation for the opportunity is allowed to shine through as he thanks the audience and dedicates a song to a certain "Becca Lou". It's a crack in a presence that would otherwise have had us submitted to the end, but also a relateable touch to a deservedly impressive display. [8½] TL

Black Label Society

Black Label Society @ 23:00 on Hades

One of the quintessential metal guitar heroes is Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society who by all means deserves the recognition as a cultural icon and a fierce guitarist. This year, Copenhell has the honour of welcoming him and his companions to the Hades stage following the exit of this year's absolute biggest name Iron Maiden from the neighbouring Helviti stage. Having witnessed two hours of Maiden mayhem, Black Label Society will have a lot to live up in order to keep the crowd's attention buyoant, including myself. Black Label Society come on stage with Zakk walking proud to the centre stage opening with "My Dying Time" , a powerful track with a proper Zakk Wylde signature riff. It is unfortunate that Hades constantly has to deal with bad sound calibration, and there is a lack of punch and the sound is very muddy. Furthermore, Zakk Wylde is not a star vocalist and really needs his guitar to be crisp in order to lift the crowd. The sound is however already improved heavily on the following metal basher "Godspeed Hellbound" which awakes most of the audience from hibernation mode. As expected, Zakk spares no expense in flaunting his brilliant guitar skills, and his squealing solos compliment perfectly the groovy, almost stoner like riffs in songs like "Heart Of Darkness" and "Suicide Messiah". Midway through the set, Zakk performs a very long-winded solo which unfortunately hints at a degree of ridiculous pomposity and self-importance. No one denies that Zakk Wylde is a great guitarist, but perhaps a post-Maiden guitar solo show is not really something that kindles to my heart at the given time. The set does however contain some great songs in which set closers "Concrete Jungle" and "Stillborn" mark the highlights of this evening. [6½] MN

The Psyke Project

The Psyke Project @ 00:30 on Pandæmonium Stage

Slamming the darkest, dirtiest and most psychotic live bands Denmark has to offer into a late night slot on home ground looks perfect on paper. People have had plenty of alcoholic beverages and the the band is probably aching to meet their expectations and deliver one of the shows of their lives. All smeared in coal as has been their custom of late, the five veterans of chaos have put together an extremely diverse setlist for us, with surprisingly little focus on their most recent album "Guillotine" and lots of older material to enjoy. But at the same time, as the minutes clock in, so does it become apparent that as this stage does not facilitate the insanity for which they are infamous, they've had to focus on other aspects of performance.

Guitarist Christian 'Bono' Bonnesen is taking a lot more responsibility with his backing vocals in support of frontman Martin Nielskov, and generally the band seem to have placed the emphasis on tight musicianship and atmosphere. It's different to what I'm used to, but while it's not as riveting or primal as their club shows tend to be, it's not a huge disappointment either. It is thus left to the audience to produce the violence, and this it is more than willing to do. Still, I depart the show with mixed feelings, having initially hoped to witness something akin to a cluster bomb exploding on stage and then succumbed to simply losing myself in the band's paralysing music. [7½] AP

DAY 2

Aphyxion

Aphyxion @ 13:00 on Pandæmonium

Death/thrash metallers Aphyxion had the tough task of opening the smallest stage of the festival on its second day. As they began playing, a small crowd gathered in front of the stage but people in the immediate area seemed mostly concerned with stocking up on beer during the happy hour and fighting back hangovers from the day before. As such the band did a good effort in terms of waking people up without being too try-hard for their time slot. To me the experience was sort of anonymous as I didn't hear anything that really made the band stand out in their genre. Nonetheless they played solidly and judging by what I heard later as their upcoming record "Earth Entangled" was played exclusively in the Hi-Fi tent, there is fair reason to keep an eye out for them in the future. [6½] LF

Suicidal Angels @ 13:00 on Hades Stage

What better way to shed the hangover and kick day two into gear than with a barrage of blazing thrash of the Slayer school. The Greeks pride themselves with the speed and intensity of their music, vocalist/guitarist Nick Melissourgos leading the onslaught with his barking Tom Araya style singing. Suicidal Angels are not a band you should look to for innovation as their eyes are firmly fixed in retrospect, but in songs like "Bleeding Holocaust" and "Divide and Conquer" do betray a unique tone which, much to my surprise, reminds me of Meshuggah's rumbling foundation. And where the blistering style of thrash Suicidal Angels have opted to profess could easily lapse into simple Bay Area wank, the latter proves the Greek four piece have a flair for writing interesting songs, too. Once guitarist Chris Tsitsis is done stopping the cymbals for drummer Orfeas Tzortzopoulos in the bridge, the song slows into an eerie melody in the end; before the band's Kreator influences, too, become audible in "Seed of Evil". Armed with an excellent sound mix, Suicidal Angels manage to convince a small but engaged audience with a solid, if a little too archetypical thrash metal performance. [8] AP

Black Book Lodge

Black Book Lodge @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium Stage

After a stopover at one of the bars to refresh myself, I head over to the festival's smallest stage to catch the much hyped domestic stoner-doom crew Black Book Lodge, whom I've been meaning to check out for some time now having found much to rave about in their debut album "Tûndra" earlier this year. Guitar toting frontman Ronny Jønsson sound a little off at first, and although it is a given bands in this genre don't exactly ooze energy on stage, his lack of enthusiasm in his addressals of the crowd is a sorry sight. Fortunately, his compatriots guitarist Jonas Budtz Møller, bassist Trygve Borelli Lund and drummer Jakob Gundel; seem to be having a blast. The crowd is not particularly receptive to their efforts though, so it is left to the slow and desolate doom piece (the title of which sadly escapes me) near the end to impress me by providing stark contrast to the sun now breaking out from its veil of clouds. [6] AP

Mercenary

Mercenary @ 15:30 on Hades

Having existed since 1991, Mercenary are heavyweights on the Danish metal scene but they are also one of the most popular outfits outside the borders. Day two marks the return of blazing sunshine and therefore sparks a euphoric feeling around the festival grounds. We have sun, we have cold beers and we have metal music. The mood therefore reaches an ultimate height upon the entrance of Mercenary on the Hades stage. For the first time in my experience on this stage, the sound is finally adjusted from the start of the show. Mercenary play with a contagious energy and a determined confidence with songs like "Embrace The Nothing" and "A New Dawn" garnering significant applause. The quartet are on fire this early afternoon, especially vocalist/bassist René Pedersen proves his worth as a seriously versatile vocalist. Lead guitarist Martin Buus also plays a solid performance, of course with the founding member and rhythm guitarist Jakob Mølbjerg providing a tight rhythm section along with Peter Mathiesen bashing the animal skins with ferocity. "Welcome The Sickness" brings everything into unison and is a direct example of why Mercenary deservedly get the amount of attention that they do. They are a band that have found a winning combination of furious thrash/death metal riffage along with power metal input and melodeath guitar work. To some this may be a little too melodic for a metal band, but one cannot deny they also play extremely heavy music at times. They easily managed the best sound on the Hades stage thus far. [8] MN

Iamfire

Iamfire @ 16:00 on Pandæmonium

The relatively new constellation that is Iamfire was one of the bands I was especially looking forward to at Copenhell this year since I'd heard so many good things about their stoner metal from people attending Royal Metal Fest at Aarhus. I'd been checking out the few songs they have available online prior to this, and their music is definitely as deceptively groovy in recording as it is in a live setting, making me wish they'd hurry up and put out a full record soon. There's an irresistible flow to their performance making the technicalities of the more progressive moments in their music come off as the most natural evolution of sounds in their heavy, psychedelic soundscape. They are also without a doubt the happiest band I saw on the festival this year, especially eclectic frontman Peter Dolving being smiles all over as he doesn't seem to care at all that the amount of people here to see them is not exactly impressive. [7½] LF

Bad Religion - old but awesome

Bad Religion @ 16:30 on Helviti

So what is Bad Religion doing at Copenhell is what everyone was thinking before the show, because after all, punk rock isn't particularly metal related even in the old school format that Bad Religion is known for. But as the weekend progresses, it quickly becomes clear that the variety is a conscious decision from Copenhell bookers, because let's face it, even the hardened metalhead doesn't want to listen to three days of death metal straight on the main stage. It's very windy today, so the sound swings from acceptable to almost inaudible, giving them an extra challenge in what is already a very sparse crowd. All of it feels a little bit like their Roskilde set on Orange Stage a few years ago where they played in front of a disastrously empty field, and although there are relatively more people watching them in front of Helviti, the people singing along and knowing the songs count only a few handful. Here, the band's choice of playing some rare tracks like "Atomic Garden" feels a little weird, because it's the biggest classics like "21st Century Digital Boy", "Modern Man", "Supersonic" and others like them that draw the biggest response. "New Dark Ages" sounds good as well, but the band are starting to look really old and less engaging on stage especially in festival environments. Vocalist Graffin says they play fast and we might not be used to that in this crowd, but in all honesty Sepultura later shows what fast really means. "I wrote this album before most of you were born... in fact I wrote this album before I was born, that's how old this is", he says, before they play a few songs off 1988's "Suffer" with "You Are (The Government)" at the forefront, followed by "Best For You" and "Do What You Want" straight after. Finally, "Generator" arrives as it always does in festival setting, but I have to say I leave the set mildly disappointed. I've seen the band close to ten times now and this is simply nowhere near their best shows - even if it was a nice addition to hear "American Jesus" as the last song for once. [7] PP

Finntroll - trolling us all

Finntroll @ 18:00 on Hades

While I've always enjoyed the odd bit of folk metal, Finntroll is a band I'm mainly familiar with through a group of more casual music listening friends who enjoy them with irrational enthusiasm. Still, there's hardly a party like a folk metal party, so I have a rather wide grin on my face as the band appears smeared in corpse paint and one sporting longer troll ears than the other. Their presence is forthcoming without being over the top at this still relatively early hour, and they take their time with warming the crowd up before frontman Vreth throws away his jacket and goes to work bare-chested. The band's music is such a great mix of sufficiently heavy black elements and irresistably catchy folk melodies, that it works wonders on two levels the Copenhell audience appreciates almost equally. The effect is clearly evident, as a set that starts out calmly - with a sound almost completely mutilated by the wind - eventually snowballs to a point where crowd-surfers sail happily towards the front. If only Finntroll had gotten things off the ground quicker (especially soundwise) their start to my day would've been solid on all accounts. [7½] TL

Gorguts

Gorguts @ 18:15 on Pandæmonium Stage

Being one of the representatives of the more extreme end of Copenhell's line-up, the glowing sunshine is not the best companion to the Canadian technical death metal virtuosos that comprise Gorguts. But at the same time, the serial fire bass rhythms, richly textured instrumental passages and guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay's menacing growls capture my attention with immediate effect. It is no small feat to play music as complex as this, so in my judgment it makes no matter that the quartet - completed by guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Colin Marston and drummer Patrice Hamelin - are a rather static live proposition; their convincing look and old school sound, not to mention the unbelievable tightness of both song writing and musicianship are all enough to impress me. It's not spectacular, but you could do much worse than spend an hour in the company of these Canucks. [7½] AP

Sepultura

Sepultura @ 19:00 on Helviti

Next up are the macho metallers Sepultura from Brazil, whose guitarist is wearing a Brazil #14 shirt in celebration of the football world cup that is just about to start in his home country. Their thick, rumbling thrash metal is loud and agressive, with the first portion of their set being dominated by newer material like "Kairos", "Manipulation Of Tragedy", and other tracks from their newer albums. Their thrashing is as ferocious as it comes, but it doesn't look like the crowd is that much into them, probably because the band are mostly content at standing still in a tight triangular formation on stage for the most part. They've been a band for 30 years now so they announce they will be playing some old school stuff to celebrate their anniversary years, and it is especially here where the Slayer style references come forth in the screeching guitar solos that echo back from the Copenhell hills. These songs seem to animate the band a little more with a few bounces visible on stage, but especially vocalist Derrick Green is too static on stage, comfortable in his own zone. Yes, he does take over some percussion to bang a single drum where the guitarist grunts and chants vocals instead, but it's not really enough, there's not really that much happening on stage. By 45 minutes in, "Inner Self" is aired but even here, they haven't quite captured the crowd yet, but straight after we're back to aggressively fast, macho-driven thrash metal tracks and the crowd seems to wake up. Fact is, the second half of the set far triumphs the first half. I guess most metal heads still only listen to their old stuff from the Cavalera era. [7] PP

Trap Them - creative ways to scream

Trap Them @ 20:00 on Pandæmonium

"Sorry I don't have a metal voice", vocalist Ryan McKenney says with a pinch of humour in his voice in between songs in a reference to the band's blackened, Converge-inspired hardcore, which is not exactly fitting in with the festival profile like most of the other bands on the bill. His light hearted humour is in stark contrast to Trap Them's otherwise vicious intensity, that sees McKenney kneeling down delivering thick, aggressive roars while the rest of the band explosively moves across the stage left to right tearing it apart. There are static sections, too, but generally the band have solid energy and groovy riffs in between the hardcore pounding that keep the sparse crowd at least a little bit interested. "I'd like to thank you all for coming to our first practice", he says in reference to the band's exceptionally rare and sparse touring schedule from over the years, but there are no visible signs of the bands being sloppy or untight at any point, quite the contrary. That being said, hardcore of this intensity is always just that much better in the smaller club venues, as the elevated stage and the barrier here kind of block for the crowd-to-band connection. That said, the band perform with passion and with high-energy especially towards the end, which is enough for a solid rating in the end. [7½] PP

Triptykon

Triptykon @ 20:30 on Hades Stage

Swiss purveyors of metal in virtually all of its shapes and forms, Triptykon, were high on my list of priorities given the critical acclaim heaped on their latest album "Melana Chasmata" released two months ago, and of course the fact that the iconic Thomas Gabriel Fischer (most notably of Celtic Frost) is their front figure. So imagine my dismay when this strange amalgamation of genres and the ambitious song writing underlying it fails completely to measure up to the hype. Sometimes it is difficult to find an adjective fierce enough to describe just how anonymous or boring a performance is, and so I must thank Triptykon for providing me with a visual and aural substitute for coming up with such a word. So pressing is the lack of identity in the setlist, and so striking the absence of anything actually happening in their performance, that after five extremely average songs I cave in and head over to watch the last of Trap Them. [5] AP

Within Temptation @ 21:30 on Helviti

Unlike what I suspect from most of my fellow Copenhell guests, long-bearded manliness and exploration of music's darker extremities hold no special value to to me, especially not next to good old fashioned all around craftsmanship, and if there's one reason Within Temptation have grown to one of goth/euro-metal's two backbone bands, it's that there's no one reason at all and rather the band simply does everything with admirable professionalism within their chosen premises. With an impressive stage setup complete with metal stairs and huge dragon heads crossing fire breaths in front of massive visuals, the band's appearance rivals the finish of Iron Maiden's robot'n'banner circus, and with a tasteful backing track remaining firmly a backing track that steadies the band's music against the winds of Refshaleøen, the stage is set for the ever forthcoming Sharon Del Adel both looks and sounds impeccable in front of her band.

Within Temptation - one of the prettier sights this year

The band has piles of solid songs at this point in their career, and playing them convincingly is a thing of sterile routine and precision for them - although this is for better and worse as the set can get a bit jukebox-ish, especially during the many guest performances from this year's "Hydra" album, which the band handles by putting the likes of Howard Jones, Tarja Turunen and Xzibit on the large screen behind them. Still, few bands look, sound and feel as prepared on all fronts as Within Temptation do, and their professionalism is a thing that I feel is sadly not given proper respect, judging from the relatively modest size of the main stage crowd that are testing their operatic singalong voices shamelessly in response. That said, Within Temptation clearly seems a band that have persistently shrugged uncaringly at their own uncoolness, and with that in mind it's a good question if you can blame a substantial portion of the Copenhell guests for being a bit too cool. [7½] TL

Clutch - bring on the cowbells!

Clutch @ 23:00 on Hades

'Beer rock' is what I jot down in my notes during Clutch around the same time as their super manly vocalist rocks out on stage swinging a huge cowbell around. To quote an overheard female comment in the crowd, his voice sounds like having sex with all the girls in the crowd at the same time. Much of this can be attributed to the slightly macho delivery combined with a southern swagger that leaves everyone on stage with a rock star charisma. In general, this show is all about what you can achieve with personality on stage, as the band's groovy, southern tones and stoner vibes encompass us in warmth all around while the members play with energy and conviction simultaneously. Thick rumbling bass, dirty distortion and catchy songs is the name of the game, packaged in pure attitude and awesomeness. [8½] PP

taake

Taake @ 23:00 on Pandæmonium Stage

Though nowhere nearly as renowned for controversy as, say, his compatriots in Mayhem, the one man army that is Taake (aka. Hoest) isn't some PG-13 black metal caricature either. He is as unpredictable as he is enigmatic, and tonight, appearing on stage with a group of corpse painted musicians - guitarists Aindiachaí & Gjermund Fredheim, bassist V'gandr, and drummer Brodd - himself wearing a black hooded robe with the semblance of a skull mask beneath; the man certainly lives up to his name. The man looks absolutely terrifying, and coupled with the burning intensity of songs like "Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik, Part IV", "Hordalands Doedskvad, Part I" and "Nordbundet", the performance quickly assumes the feel of some evil seance.

Though the music is grandiose and full of melody, the proceedings never become too theatrical. True the show aspect of a Taake concert has never been more meticulously carried out than here, Hoest spending much of it veiled in shadows behind his flock of session musicians, brandishing his microphone stand like a man inciting us all to war. But at the same time, his message to televised reality contests like "The Voice" ("Come back to me after 35 years and tell me you're successful.") in defense of metal, and the sheer malevolence of the encore piece "Umenneske" set in stone that this man is as true and serious as they come. [8] AP

Twisted Sister rocking out

Twisted Sister @ 00:00 on Helviti

Each time I've realized that Twisted Sister are booked for this year's Copenhell, I've been equally amazed that the 80's relic is even still active. In a "what have you done for me lately" industry, this band has done nothing of substance since before I could walk (or arguably ever, depending on your take on substance), but as it turns out Dee Snider and his painted up freaks are active and then some looking a good deal less rusty and routine-worn than Iron Maiden for instance did for stretches last night. Snider and his troops strut about with a fine sound mix and a seeming intention of making everyone forget completely that we're not in the year "Back To The Future" ran in cinemas. They might have succeeded to, if it weren't for a surprising awareness in the audience (considering the hour), that this band is essentially - as AP dubbed them prior to the festival - "TwoSong Sister". Even if you try to take them as a band that just wants to be fun and rebellious in a way that's not too serious, people know them as the group that were a lot more of those things on "those two songs" than on anything else, and despite the band's rather valiant effort, it feels to me like everyone who's not completely in their cups are waiting for "We're Not Gonna Take It" so we can just move on. Despite the veterans' best attempts then, it remains comical that they were booked to headline here. The only question is whether it's a comedy you appreciate or not. [7] TL

Amenra @ 01:30 on Pandæmonium Stage

One of the more obscure and brave bookings at this year's festival is the Belgian Amenra who, despite their late night slot and a long day for most of us, manage to draw a sizable audience of curious eyes and ears to the Pandæmonium stage. And if you remained, you will agree that what is delivered is a performance of the highest calibre, full of energy, atmosphere and deeply evocative sludgy post-metal songs. The band utilises an enormous white backdrop onto which they project all manner of abstract visuals, the projections thus landing on the band members themselves as well, and so creating the impression that they are captive in their own dark musical universe. Though the band was formed in 2003 and have four studio albums as well as an enormous amount of splits and EPs on their belt, my familiarity with their music is non-existent. But this makes no difference, as much like the homegrown Redwood Hill & The Psyke Project, the allure of Amenra lies both in their ability to write engaging music, and in the searing way in which they deliver it live. Even our dear Editor-in-chief, who has angrily been knocking back a pint following some escapade involving not being able to find one of our friends and complaining about needing to stay at the festival this late, returns to comment that this is one hell of a show. [8] AP

DAY 3

Evra

Evra @ 13:00 on Pandæmonium

EVRA from Copenhagen are one of the few bands who don't have a genre description on the festival booklet, and that's probably for good reason. They have some groovy passages that reach into stoner rock, then they go straight into metalcore riffing, post-hardcore qualities, and even bits of hardcore in the middle, exploring a multitude of different styles often within the same song. Today, these manifest in long, extended screams by their vocalist, who also spends a bit of time down at the barrier standing on top of it and screaming amongst those of us who have woken up early to come check it out. SKÅL COPENHELL they shout on multiple occasions as we bathe in the afternoon sun, while they treat us to material both from their debut EP and an upcoming full-length that promises to be a very solid album based on my first impressions today. They provide an excellent early afternoon wake up despite playing in front of a largely empty crowd, showcasing good energy on stage and youthful vibes on a festival that this year is very much geared with the older metalhead in mind. [7½] PP

Toxic Holocaust

Toxic Holocaust @ 14:30 on Pandæmonium

Remember what I said in my Anthrax review about beer and sun earlier? Today, the weather Gods are exceptionally kind and we're seeing even more sunshine than before, which is just perfect considering the tight thrash metal assault brought on stage by Toxic Holocaust. "Let me see your horns everybody", their vocalist shouts, before introducing their next songs as "Death Brings Death". Generally, their soundscape is as fun and beer-laden as Municipal Waste's, if you exclude the dire topics TH deal with instead. Songs are introduced as "I AM DISEASE!!!!" or "WAR IS HELL!" with prolonged screams, or other murky names that defy the fun factor found in their hyper-speed thrash metal otherwise. Throughout this constant interaction they keep great control of the crowd, which keeps growing in size as the set progresses. The riffs are killer, and on stage the hair is continuously flowing around as a result of the band's constant movement on stage. So when the band screams towards the end of their set "COPENHELL! IT'S TIME TO BANG YOUR HEADS", they are a little late to the party. It's an absolutely correct notion through as most necks are sore after that demonstration of how high quality thrash revival sounds like. Might not be original, but it sure as hell was awesome. [8½] PP

Kill Devil Hill

Kill Devil Hill @ 15:30 on Hades Stage

True to tradition, a supergroup of sorts has found its way to this year's billing as well, and I'd be dishonest if it wasn't simply for the fact that Vinny Appice (former drummer of Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell and Dio) and Rex Brown (surely this legendary bassist of Pantera needs no introduction?) were to be found among their ranks (though I of course later discovered that Appice had left and been replaced by Johnny Kelly), that I make my way toward the Hades stage. Playing the sort of testosterone fueled metal that traces back to Pantera, these grizzly looking dudes walk on stage looking cool and casual, Brown smoking a cigarette and vocalist Dewey Bragg looking about as metal as is possible, all denim vest full of patches, various cross necklaces and a frizzy beard; and start the festivities with "No Way Out" and "Crown of Thorns". Bragg is a magnificent frontman, driven by an aura of experience and confidence, and both Brown & Kelly, too, impress with their laid back professionalism. But as tight wound as their setlist is, the concert never falls off the hinges and reaches toward the sky. It is hugely disappointing that Bragg delivers a fiery speech, demanding people on the hill to stand up and hail Pantera, and the band then fails to play a song by that band. But from that point on, the expectation that they must hangs so thick in the afternoon air that it comes as an enormous release when "Mouth for War" eventually blasts out to conclude the set. [7] AP

Thy Art Is Murder

Thy Art Is Murder @ 15:45 on Pandæmonium

All the way from Australia we have Thy Art Is Murder playing their very first show in Denmark. They are part of the variety offering by Copenhell as talked about earlier, considering they play straight up brutal deathcore which is immediately visible in the synchronized and circular headbangs the band display on stage. Ever seen Anthrax do something like that? It's pretty much breakdown after breakdown after breakdown, with all the other stuff that goes with it like constant requests for circle pits, and a few predictable wall of deaths (for "Parasitic Autopsy" they get a huge one in though). The vocals are completely inaudible growling so minus points there, but this is basically standard deathcore so that is to be expected. The last song is of course dedicated to Suicide Silence, who are the only other band representing deathcore at the festival this year, and in the end we're left with a show that feels decent, but definitely suffers from musical quality and originality in comparison to other bands playing the festival. [6½] PP

Behemoth @ 16:30 on Helvíti Stage

Polish blackened death metal legends Behemoth once blew the proverbial roof off this festival with a fiery late night performance on the Hades stage, so it was always going to be interesting how they would fare much earlier in the day and on the larger Helvíti stage. But my own skepticism toward forcing a band as blasphemic as this to play in sunlight is swiftly demolished as one by one drummer Inferno, bassist Orion and session guitarist Seth assume their positions in front of a white washed setup amidst an ominous intro sample, and guitarist/vocalist Nergal eventually marches on stage with a flaming torch in each hand and sets fire to a cauldron on either side of the drumkit. Behemoth look possibly even more menacing in daylight, when their dust stained black rags, ivory painted skin and psychotic glares are fully visible.

Behemoth

Though the conditions are windy and the sound quality thus wavering, the opening onslaught of "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" and "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" off this year's magnificent return "The Satanist" still understandably have the audience up in arms, one frenzied metalhead even setting fire to a bible during "Christians to the Lions" halfway through the set. Behemoth, meanwhile, stand so eerily still that I want to run away, but as if under some dark spell I am unable; even without actually having it, the music of Behemoth gives rise to a darkness that few others can muster. And as the backdrop's colours are reversed to a more traditional black towards the end of the set and Seth & Orion set fire to upside down crosses on stage, songs like "Ov Fire and the Void", "Chant for Eschaton 2000" and "O Father O Satan O Sun!", there is little doubt that Behemoth remain one of the most powerful black/death metal experiences in the world. [8] AP

The Hell

The Hell @ 18:00 on Pandæmonium

Playing a similar style of 'party hardcore' as the Aussies in Deez Nuts, The Hell is an interesting musical ensemble considering nobody really knows who they are and they claim to have over 30 vocalists on Facebook. Rumour has it that it features members of Gallows, TRC, and other British hardcore/punk bands, but since they perform with masks on stage, only a select few know the identities behind these bad boys on stage. Today, they are only five people on stage as opposed to the 11 in their promo picture. The party hardcore elements becomes quickly clear as the band claim that the next song is about food, and ask us if we like food. Soon after, an excellent new song "Everybody Dies" takes over with its super catchy "everybody dies, might as well 'n' fuck shit up while you're alive". The sheer energy and douchebagginess of their performance has me convinced straight away that I'll be there for the next Hell show when they're in town. It's aggressively stupid and anti-hardcore in its ideals, but that's exactly what makes it appealing. Hardcore is way too often engulfed in its own seriousness, so having a band remind us every now and then that no, music doesn't always need to be super complex and introspective analysis of the world we live in, is absolutely necessary. Excellent stuff. [8] PP

Obituary

Obituary @ 18:00 on Hades

Copenhell prides itself on variety in the line up and with punk legends Bad Religion, Danish rocknrollers D-A-D, and lastly metalcore outfit Of Mice & Men being booked, one must conclude that they have succeeded. The line up must however also pay homage and represent the originators of the various classic, fundamental genres in heavy metal. In this case, death metal is best represented by the veteran crooners from Tampa, Florida, namely Obituary. With 30 years of activity, Obituary are the best representation of old school American death metal. No other death metal band in my experience retains such consistency despite a lengthy hiatus. Obituary's members are reaching middle age, yet they still perform with fury and tightness. "Stinkupuss" and "Intoxicated" open the set and John Tardy anchors the gig with a no-frills performance. Initially, there is not much crowd interaction but the morose death metal is performed very well and is perfect for either full-on headbanging or just nodding while enjoying a cold one. John Tardy eventually opens the communication with the crowd and establishes a nice connection between the audience and the performers. Given that it's their 30th anniversary and the 25th anniversary for the debut "Slowly We Rot" Obituary are in celebration mode, playing their songs with a great punch. Especially the title track and death metal classic "Slowly We Rot" is performed seamlessly. This show is exactly what one wants and expects from a legendary death metal band, plenty of raw punch and energy. [8] MN

Graveyard

Graveyard @ 19:00 on Helviti

Graveyard might initially seem as one of those bands you might think to be misplaced on a lineup like Copenhell’s. However, their merits are unmistakable. Having released a modern classic with “Hisingen Blues” they have popularized heritage-rock along with select other bands and their appearance here at Copenhell certainly reflects that. Whilst not belonging in the heavier categories, Graveyard still managed to prove that they could in fact belong in this particular festival lineup. From the opening with “No Good Mr. Holden”, over “Slow Motion Countdown” and into the massive sounding “Goliath”, Graveyard mesmerized the crowd in a way that only very few bands can. Granted, their sound is not particularly heavy but they do have some great riffs and very, very strong songs that most of the crowd present at the Helviti stage seemed to relate to. The powerful “Uncomfortably Numb” had large portions of the crowd singing along whilst the rest anxiously anticipated their time to shine as they headbanged their way through the final, climactic solo of the track. Although I have heard them sound far better at an indoors venue, vocalist Joakim Nilsson’s voice sounded extraordinarily crisp and really helped push their set into a level worthy of the largest stage at Copenhell. At times I felt like the guitars (the lead especially) lacked some punch in the overall mix but for a festival, the mix was generally well-crafted. I’ve seen them before and I’ll definitely see them again - and with performances like this one, it is only a matter of time before they will occupy the larger venues of Copenhagen. [8] BV

Death metal hair frollickin'

Dawn Of Demise @ 20:00 on Pandæmonium

Danish rumbling death metallers Dawn Of Demise are the next band on the small stage. They are among the most brutal bands on the bill at this festival, and an epitome of what I've always considered rather generic Danish death metal where the purpose is simply to sound as heavy and as a brutal as possible with little regard to actual songwriting. This approach has never earned them a large international following, but within provincial Denmark in particular they've always enjoyed strong support because for some inexplicable reason, the formula to succeed in the provinces is to not care about sounding generic so long as you sound fucking brutal and immense in the process. As such, their thick death metal expression has drawn a huge crowd at the small stage, and I must admit that in between songs the band are very good. Their Jyde-accent is as thick as their rumbling bass-driven death metal approach, and the banter is very down-to-earth and almost dumbed-down in its nature. That's all well and good but their vocals are just terribly monotonous, and the low end growls are completely pointless. They put on a decent performance on stage but without the in between song banter their set would be hopelessly nothingsaying, even if one of their guitarists exposes his beer belly to play a few strings of guitar with that instead at one point. [6] PP

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats @ 20:30 on Hades

Now, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats’ stage time had me quite skeptical. Their horror-laden psychedelic doom-rock is obviously best suited for as dark conditions as possible, but by the time they went on the sun was still shining relatively bright due to the summer weather. As Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats worked their way from the grandiose “Mt. Abraxas” over “Mind Crawler” and into their arguably biggest ‘hit’ with “I’ll Cut You Down” it was quite evident why I have been calling them an utterly spectacular band for quite a while now. Sadly, I found their set to be relatively routine-laden for the duration of the first half of their set as they did not stray all that much from the pre-determined formula. Even the jammed-out sections of the longer tracks were eerily similar to both performances that I have recently witnessed and although it didn’t matter all that much to the crowd, it sadly mattered a bit too much for me. However, as the sun began to set and the band went into the spectacular “Withered Hand of Evil” things turned around completely. With this powerful track they completely redeemed their performance although I still yearned for a bit more variation from what I had already seen earlier this year at Pumpehuset. Still, the eerie vocal harmonies, the crisp yet hard-hitting guitars and the infectiously groovy rhythm section speaks for themselves; the crowd seemed to absolutely love the band and although I personally feel like I’ve seen them play better, their performance was still solid – and then some. [8] BV

Suicide Silence

Suicide Silence @ 21:30 on Helviti

Suicide Silence are the biggest deathcore band in the entire world and as such they are acceptable as some sort of headliners for the final night now that Megadeth isn't playing, save for D-A-D's late night show. New vocalist Hernan Hermida of All Shall Perish fame has only been performing with the band since October last year, so this is the first opportunity to catch the band with a brand new vocalist after the tragic death of their original vocalist Mitch Lucker in 2012. True to the tradition of deathcore, plenty of synchronized headbanging is on display here alongside Hermida's question of whether Copenhell likes to bang their heads, asked from his podium in the middle of the stage. A dust storm quickly rises as a circle pit gets going in the small, but dedicated crowd, which is appreciating every bit possible from what is quite possibly some of the best deathcore out there in general. "Let's make two walls of deaths!, Hermida screams, telling us to crush all those assholes on the other side, especially the guy in the panda bear costume that says 'free hugs'. The crowd complies, and later on a new song from upcoming album "You Can't Stop me" sees a huge circle pit form in the crowd once again. During "Fuck Everything", Hermida attempts to get the crowd to shout along to the lyrics but gets a very sad response instead, thanks to what is probably the smallest crowds all week in front of the main stage aside from the Bad Religion show earlier. It's an awesome song otherwise and displays some of the qualities Suicide Silence can offer despite being a deathcore band, so those of us present at the show leave it behind with a very positive view on the genre and the band in general. Solid show with lots of energy. [8] PP

Redwood Hill - Decapitated in honour of Copenhell

Redwood Hill @ 22:30 on Pandæmonium

Redwood Hill have only released one record in their three year existence, but their live shows and debut record has left such an unforgettable effect on the Danish metal scene that they still ride the deserved waves conjured by their efforts. This is my first concert with Redwood Hill and I eagerly seized the opportunity to review their live show. As was so aptly described by my colleague in his review of the debut "Descender", Redwood Hill is an intriguing project that invokes the most authentic and abstract degrees of emotion, it literally drags you into unexplored territory of the human psyche, from all its animosity to spiritual individuality. Stylistically, Redwood Hill can be hard to decipher. It can however be understood in a dichotomous relation of chaos and order. Chaos in form a cathartic and Dionysian experience of primal and savage unity while order is witnessed through invokations of light, perfection, artistry and aesthetics in a clearly Apollonian manifestation. It is this equilibrium that makes Redwood Hill such a fulfilling experience. Redwood Hill start their performance at the brink of darkness where fog fills the stage, and devours the area with a sense of desolate and forlorn forests. Opening with "Poseidon", Redwood walk on stage black-cladden and ready to shake the Pandæmonium stage. Each song is seamlessly blended into another. The band do not communicate directly with the audience, but this is very befitting as the music communicates more honestly than any crowd-banter would ever achieve. With a set of four songs, one may be surprised how I can possibly reward such a high grade but their show was a presentation of pure art and the sound was absolutely gorgeous. I did not see any missteps in this performance and I am eagerly anticipating some new release from this promising young outfit. [9] MN

Watain - everything is on fire

Watain @ 23:30 on Hades

Watain, counted among the most evil and terrifying bands on the planet when it comes to black metal, certainly put on an audiovisual performance as the closing band on Hades tonight. Virtually everything on stage is on fire, including upside down crosses and huge theatrical altar they've brought along with them behind (of course). And this is real, constant fire, not just pyrotechnics shooting fire every now and then. Actually on fire. For the whole show. . This is of course complemented by a blackened performance where the singer occasionally looks like Satan himself is on stage holding a sermon on hate speech and vicious ideology, and the guitarists deliver their screeching tremolo black metal with terrifying precision and the headbangs that go with it. From a little over half of their show what I saw was certainly a spectacle in pure black metal darkness, yet delivered gracefully for the big stage the band is standing on. A great way to close off the Hades stage, that's for sure. [8] PP

My Dying Bride - because it wouldn't be gothic without a girl in the band

My Dying Bride @ 00:00 on Pandæmonium

Blending together super melancholic gothic metal, elements of doom and even death metal at times, My Dying Bride were one of the pioneers in their craft when they were formed in 1990. It's midnight and the crowd may be sparse, but the down-tempo sections work their magic against a spectacular light show that leaves the singer reigning in darkness against the rest of the band. These are contrasted by more ravaging, faster sections that draw from death metal, which see the band moving around on stage as opposed to the standing still nature of their slower songs. This variation between the styles is what makes it work; the atmosphere that MDB build is sublime, especially when the violins and guitars complement each other nicely. It has been 20 years since the band last played here, and they have a multitude of songs lasting way beyond the ten minute mark, so they intend to make the most of their stay and actually showcase why they have often been considered royalty within the gothic/doom genre, so it's a shame they are practically kicked off stage at 1am to make sure nobody is to miss the D-A-D concert on the main stage right after. A rather soothing and ambient experience in comparison to the burn-it-all-down blackness of Watain just before. [8] PP

D-A-D

D-A-D @ 01:00 on Helviti

Having obtained the honor of closing this year’s edition of Copenhell because Megadeth had cancelled, one could argue that D-A-D might possibly have been in way over their heads here. Most people I know certainly wouldn’t link D-A-D and a metal festival together. Yet, here we stood waiting anxiously for the Danish rock institution with the promise that they would perform their spectacular album “No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims” in its entirety for the first time ever. Upon arrival on stage, front-man Jesper Binzer proclaimed that they were doing the album from finish to start – thereby opening it with the magnificent “Ill Will”. One can argue from here to eternity but even though D-A-D occasionally seemed completely misplaced, one cannot hide from the fact that this particular album contains some very hard-hitting gems that I personally found quite fitting for the festival in a way. Tracks like “Overmuch”, “True Believer” and, the soundtrack for Copenhell (as proclaimed by the band), “Rim of Hell”, all received enormous response and, from where I was standing, this seemed like something spectacular to end a festival like this with – showcasing the utter diversity within heavy music that is Copenhell. Obviously ending their initial set with “Sleeping My Day Away” one could argue that the band went a bit overboard in creating a sort of party-rock mood that undoubtedly put off some of the purists in the crowd. Proceeding then to continue the performance with a veritable hit-parade of tracks like “Monster Philosophy”, “I Want What She’s Got”, “Everything Glows”, Bad Craziness” and “It’s After Dark”, D-A-D entered a sort of cheese-fest state where I personally found it borderline uninteresting. Obviously “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims” might have been too short for the duration of their set, but there was still something unnervingly cheesy about their overuse of gimmicks like bassist Stig Pedersen’s crazy basses, the fireworks-laden helmet and the burning drum-kit in the center of the stage near the conclusion of their set coupled with this hit-parade. Obviously this is part of the D-A-D package and whether I like it or not might not make all that much of an impact in the end. Even though I liked most of the songs they played, and the surplus of energy they performed them with, I still feel like it would have been a tad more special if they had just stuck to playing “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims” in its entirety. Nonetheless, I’m still quite certain that you couldn’t have found a better band this year to conclude the festival in such a party-like state; that much I have to hand to them. [8½] BV

Final Words & Improvements

Congrats if you've made it this far, you're a trooper (*cough*). Couldn't resist, sorry. After a ton of great performances, some questionable ones, and very few awful ones, the common consensus within our staff (and, it seems like, most of you others out there) is that COPENHELL is still fucking awesome. The growth that the festival features year-on-year is very good in terms of attendance, although not that much new was added to the 'extras' this year.

Much needed rest

Sure, the return of 'Smadreland' and the viking area is awesome, but it did start to feel a little bit like more of the same. It would be very good for COPENHELL to try and innovate here and use their already brilliant sense of what metalheads want to create more funny, metal culture relevant extras that's at the same time not too tacky to be unnecessary. Perhaps an extra area next year, like an industrial factory or something? There are more creative people out there than me, so let's see what they can manifest next year.

Finally, here's a quick summary of what worked, what was meh, and what definitely needs improvement for next year:

The Good

* Pre-event at Pumpehuset for wristband and a free Deus Otiosus show.

* Set lengths. Only the headliners play lengthy sets, everyone else does a standard 45-50 minutes which is perfect. Just enough to get a good vibe of the band but without overstaying their welcome. I hate the 90 min sets at Roskilde for every fucking band.

* Variety. It's awesome that it wasn't just metal on metal spiced with metal. Especially the main stage lineup meant the event didn't feel monotonous. It's also nice to see some less serious bands like The Hell and Twisted Sister show that it need not all be so murky after all.

* Weather. Pretty much perfect. Almost no rain and around 20 degrees with sun nearly all the time, with a light summer jacket being enough in the evenings. Not too hot, not too cold.

* Heaven & Hell Bar. Very cool you didn't have to walk down to get beer. Needs to be expanded to a full bar next year.

* Happy hour. 25 DKK beers for 2 hours to encourage people to show up early. Awesome.

The Bad

* Fewer toilets? It felt like there were less pissoirs for the guys this year, or they were spread further apart.

* Wednesday night. It felt incredibly crowded. The festival needs to consider expanding space-wise if they are booking as big of a band as Maiden next year. It was difficult to get around, and queues were starting to form everywhere.

* Dankort? Just because the system crashed last year doesn't mean you should abandon it altogether. Carrying cold hard cash feels so 2000s. Need card payments next year again, especially for food.

* Mobile network. While it didn't crash a single time and it was always possible to text/call people, the data network was hopeless during the bigger concerts.

The Ugly

* The festival booklet schedule was inaccurate. Toxic Holocaust were marked for 14:30 but they started at 14:00. There was at least one other example. That simply CANNOT happen without notifying the crowd.

* Beer prices. 40 DKK a beer for 3 days straight is extremely expensive.

SEE YOU ALL NEXT YEAR

PP - all photos by Lykke Nielsen and Peter Troest.

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