Copenhell 2016

author BV date 01/07/16

At last the ultimate weekend of every single Danish metalhead's calendar has been upon us; a veritable cornucopia of all things needed to make the genre so dear to all of us in attendance. Copenhell is a safe place of expression where you can be the most brutally corpse-painted mosh-warrior of all time or simply a parent taking your kid out for some awesome tunes as a completely parallel universe to the sluggish everyday life and trivial situations we all find ourselves in. All that matters here is music, good vibes and euphoric sensations tingling down your spine when you unleash yourself upon the many entertainment options found at Copenhell. Although masses of testosterone and, to outside onlookers, 'dangerous-looking people' gather in the small area near the old B&W shipyard you'll never quite see all hell break loose in a fashion where one might feel in danger – there is no violence here, only beers to be had, music to be heard and entertainment galore. We've said it before and we'll say it again; Copenhell is simply one of the most friendly, readily embracing festivals we at Rockfreaks.net have ever had the pleasure of attending.

Crowd atmosphere

Therefore it's not really a surprise that we keep on returning in sizeable numbers as nearly our entire Denmark-based staff gathers around the former B&W shipyard at Refshaleøen for a strange little excursion. Men, women and children of all ages, orientations and taste come together to enjoy heavy music – likewise this article offers you, the reader, an insight into our thoughts during and after the 2016 edition of Copenhell – regarding everything from atmosphere to artists and even continuing our attempts to know stuff about the food we consume with a sense of gluttony while drinking our fair share of beer. Take your time and reminisce about these three days in hell whilst looking forward to next year's edition. BV.

Festival Area

If you're a seasoned Copenhell veteran, you will already know what sets Copenhell apart from other festivals; attention to detail and the variety of stuff you can do that isn't directly related to bands playing awesome shows. Take for instance the wonderful thing called Smadreland wherein people of all ages can smash up printers, cars and computer monitors among other things - you can even enter the Danish Championship of destruction (as several of our staff consequently did). There's also the Styx area which played host to a variety of endeavors including the photo exhibition “Full Metal Jackets". If this kind of thing isn't to your liking, the Asgård area offered plenty of opportunity to act like a viking and sit around in a hot-tub whilst drinking mead. Not a bad choice at all.

Just hanging out.

The increased capacity (and the sold out status) of the festival also offered a massive crowd meaning that the party-vibe was consistent throughout shows on Pandæmonium stage, as well as Hades and Helviti. - Even during (and after) massive showers of rain occurred at the festival, effectively leading to large puddles of water amassing around the general festival area. If, however, you sought to seek shelter from the rain (or the sweltering heat of the sun) you could also venture into the Biergarten tent to listen to great DJ-sets, participate in karaoke at “Openhell" or listen to Mandowar playing rock and metal classics reimagined for mandolins.

A small section of Asgård

In terms of food options and variety there were generally plenty of choice. However, in general we felt that the pricing seemed relatively expensive at most places compared to the amount and quality of food you actually got. The same could be heard around the festival ground regarding beer prices. However, the high price of beer didn't seem to affect the crowd in terms of partying hard as crowd surfers eventually became a genuinely common sight throughout these three days - making many of the shows seem generally more enticing as a result thereof. However, as we have just touched upon the food options, let's move on to our now recurring segment of the Copenhell article: Food reviews!

Food Reviews: because we can

Seeing as we did food reviews last year and apparently got away with it, we figured we'd try it out once more. Last year's ratings were on a simple trash/average/great scale, whilst this year will simply contain selected thoughts from our various staff members on their food experiences.

Big Bad Wolf

The ‘stegt flæsk' with parsley sauce seemed fairly divisive within our ranks as Editor-in-chief PP deemed it average whilst several of our other staffers seemed quite content with the food on offer. It should be noted that PP deems the dish itself fairly average in general.

Butcher Boy

It was hardly surprising that Butcher Boy's hot dogs once again impressed. That cajun sausage with a slab of wholemeal bread, spicy and flavoursome mustard, and ketchup that actually tastes like tomatoes is the perfect quick meal in between bands.

Pigs from Hell

The spit-grilled pork with cream potatoes and coleslaw was divine, and much better value for money than what WarPigs for example was pushing. Zero bullshit, maximum taste. Together with Gorm's pizza, this was AP's favourite food at the festival.

Gorm's

The pizzas on offer at Gorm's were in general a very tasty product - especially when comparing it what is generally available at festivals. However, a few of our writers noted that the pizzas were overall overpriced. Furthermore the waiting period from ordering to receiving your pizza was quite long.

La Creperie

Our photographer LN sampled the sugary ones with bananas and nutella and deemed these great as usual. As an added bonus your pancake was accompanied by a cardboard holder with sections easy to tear off; thus being more effective and less greasy than the usual thin paper wrapping. Our Editor-in-chief PP concurs on the quality, having sampled their option with chicken, salsa etc.

Hell BBQ

Hell BBQ served burgers with neck fillet. The overall taste seemed really good, but LN deemed that there was simply too much fat in neck fillet for a picky eat like herself. Furthermore both she and BV seemed genuinely dumbfounded as to the necessity of parsley in the burger's salad.

Devil's Thai Food

Opinions on the food from Devil's Thai Food seem to vary among our staff. Photographer LN deems the taste great, but feels there could have been more vegetables in the dish. Writer HES deems it bland and concurs on the lack of vegetables.

Bloody Sweet Churros

The generally voiced opinion among our staff is that churros could easily have been cooked for a little while longer to optimize the overall eating experience, as they weren't really all that warm once you got them. LN further adds that the option of soft ice on top of the churros for an added 10kr came across as a joke.

Hell Burger

Both the regular and vegetarian burger options at Hell Burger were sampled by our staff. LN deems the veggie version worthwhile due to the delicious taste and overall value for the money. BV is slightly more skeptical towards the meat-filled version which he deems alright but nothing special. The price is proportional.

Fuck the Duck

Fuck the Duck near Biergarten had a wide range of tasty foods on offer. From the samosas with hoisin sauce, cucumber dip and chili-mayo to the amazing duck burgers. Furthermore the fries with hoisin etc. were also deemed extremely delicious. General consensus amongst our staff is that this was probably the best food on offer at the festival.

Hansen Is

BV came around more than once to this particular food stand to procure milkshakes - the ultimate tool against sweltering heat. As such he sampled three of their five choices on offer, the fairly standardized vanilla, strawberry and chocolate milkshakes. The results were quite shaky and BV deems the vanilla one the most tasty - however, the near-constant queue to the food stand implies that several people were quite satisfied with the milkshakes. Or needed something cold.

Grill ‘em All

General consensus: Awful. The pulled pork burger came with out-of-the-box coleslaw and not-so-tasty, almost mackerel-resembling meat. According to HES these burgers tasted sad, and we saw several of them ditched around the festival grounds. The nachos, likewise, were abysmal. Prices were fairly standard, but the general food options seemed below standard.

Hell's Kebab House

Much like the issue with Grill ‘em All, Hell's Kebab House wasn't entirely on par with the majority of the food on offer. The bread was the general concern as this resembled a store-bought tortilla more than an actual durum. Furthermore it didn't seem heated. To make matters worse it was also loosely filled. The kebab itself was pretty good, alas it is not enough in the long run according to HES.

REVIEWS THURSDAY

Defecto @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium

It is usually a thankless job to open the proceedings at a major festival, yet at Copenhell, they tackle the predicament in a manner wiser than most: the gates open at 13:00, true, but only to the Pandæmonium area, with the rest of the festival site left closed until the first band has finished playing. As such, the local progressive metallers of Defecto have the pleasure of playing to a much, much larger audience than their credentials would otherwise suggest; the sort of crowd that not only offers ample opportunities for group selfies against a sea of horns, but also has the capacity to energise a band to deliver to the utmost of its abilities. And rather than look daunted, the Copenhagen quartet tackles the job with an almost arrogant confidence, like musicians that know they are good. In Defecto's case though, it is not just bravado; the quartet's cool charisma is founded in genuine talent, especially when it comes to Frederik Møller's wizardry with his John Petrucci signature guitars, and the astounding power and breadth of Nicklas Sonne's vocals. The former's pitch black sunglasses and rock star antics, and the latter's devious glares form the backbone of Defecto's aesthetic appeal, and when coupled with Thomas Bartholin's bass licks and Henrik Been's ever solid drumming, there is little to hold the capital city darlings back from enamouring their first-ever Copenhell audience.

Defecto

The problem is that Defecto's material, whilst technically proficient, has you searching far and wide for those truly memorable moments. With these boys, it is a rare case of having the performance aspect nailed, yet still lagging behind in terms of songwriting, as really only the closing piece (and lead single from this year's “Excluded" LP) “Sovereign", with its catchy chorus and neoclassical solo bits, leaves a lasting impression. As a result, in good spirits though the crowd may be, one never gets the sense that Defecto is about to break through here. Rather, they serve a solid and entertaining precursor to all of the fantastic music that is to follow, but one which will only be inscribed in Defecto's own history as a standout career moment. [6] AP

Blind Guardian @ 15:00 on Hades

There are a lot of people present today who've been looking forward to this for a long time, but finally they're here: Blind Guardian, the legendary German power metal band from Krefeld. It's the band's first show in Denmark in more than 20 years, and thus I'm not surprised to find a rather large crowd in front of the Hades stage. The introduction to “The Ninth Wave" is blasted through the speakers, and when the song's chorus hovers above the asphalt, it's hard not to headbang just a little to the anthem. Afterwards we're greeted by frontman Hansi Kürsch who jokes about not having had enough beers this early, but he hopes that we're up for the task of awakening Copenhell on this hot, sunny Thursday afternoon. Initially, everything runs smoothly music-wise where especially drummer Frederik Ehmke sounds great, but I must admit that I miss some more movement from the remaining band members.

Blind Guardian

When most of your songs are long epics with lengthy musical ventures, it's Kürsch job to keep the crowd entertained. I don't want to compare them to the likes of Iron Maiden, but Bruce Dickinson is a pretty good example of how that's done. But luckily the crowd is doing an amazing job, and throughout at least half of the songs there are sing-alongs and lots of jumping around. Especially the classic “The Bard's Tale – In the Forest" creates a lasting memory as everyone sings the lyrics without any music playing or help from Kürsch, and after the band's final song “Valhalla", the crowd keeps on singing for several minutes. So although a few songs overstayed their welcome, the mass of fans in front of the stage made this show quite an experience.[7] MIN

Black Peaks @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

This proggressive post-hardcore band from the UK is not one I have known of for very long but their constantly changing debut album "Statues" is one that has only increased my interest in them for every time I have heard it these past months. As they play through their dark songs, I am pleased to see that many others in the front part of the crowd also seem familiar with their music and are singing along to many of the hooks, not least during "Glass Built Castles", "Say You Will", and "Saviour" that all make stellar impressions. The unpredictable song structures takes us from raging parts with sharp and loud screams to calmer, prog rock parts that give us probably the best vocal harmonies of the festival. Judging from the nodding heads all around, the band is quite understandably making some new fans here as well and with a ferocious performance topped by a shout out to their Danish friends in fellow talented prog band Town Portal, what's really not to like? Their vocalist attracts some laughs as he tries to pronounce "Pumpehuset" while telling us that the band is coming back later this year, and there's no doubt in my mind that that's going to be just as good as the show today. [8½] LF

Dropkick Murphys @ 16:15 on Helviti

Is there a better kind of festival music than Irish folk music dressed in punk rock clothing? After a length traditional Celtic intro with flutes and the whole shebang (“The Foggy Dew"), Dropkick Murphys get people dancing right away during first song “The Boys Are Back". The walkway at the center of the stage - constructed either for Alice Cooper or Scorpions presumably - gives lead singer Al Barr ample opportunity to reach down towards both sides of the pit to get the party going. “The Prisoner's Song" and “Sunday Hardcore Matinee" are festive as always, but “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" is the one that draws the big sing along durings its “hurroo, hurroo" moments.

Dropkick Murphys

There's very little interaction from the band otherwise, limited to announcing a new album for September and two new songs from it, one of which is acoustic and is taught to us underway so we can all sing along. Works pretty good. Otherwise, Al Barr and rest of the gang pace up and down the walkway while going through a lengthy list of Dropkick classics from “The Warrior's Code" and “Rose Tattoo" to “The State Of Massachusetts" and “I'm Shipping Up To Boston", both of which transform Copenhell grounds into folk dance pits and echoing sing alongs. Not as intense as their club shows, admittedly, and a little short for our liking, but as always Dropkicks deliver the good. [7½] PP

Norma Jean @ 17:30 on Pandæmonium

A personal favorite of mine, Norma Jean's melancholic post-hardcore and metalcore was always going to be the key band at this year's Copenhell when it comes to the more modern genres. Today, they don't disappoint with a chaotic stage presence that includes throwing around the mic stand and full-blown guitar swings Dillinger Escape Plan style. They open with “Redeemer" classic “Blueprints For Future Homes", but here the performance is surprisingly subdued despite the catchy "that's what I said, you're killing me" passages that lend themselves for pure chaos. Turns out they just needed a song to get warmed up as “The Anthem Of The Angry Brides" sees Cory Brandan wave around his microphone stand explosively whilst the guitarists are crashing into each other.

Norma Jean

Later, an older song opens up a crazy circle pit up front whilst the guitarists go absolutely mental on stage. New song “1,000,000 Watts" sounds good, but “Wrongdoers" one ups it right away with its melancholic tone. At this point it has to be noted that people don't really seem to be ‘getting it', almost as if the technical nature of Norma Jean's mathcore-driven instrumentals are too complex for the Copenhell audience. So despite the band displaying solid energy with constant headbangs, guitars being thrown around, and other movement, the audience stands mostly still aside from the active front rows. Norma Jean deserve a better audience where people know them properly. Today, the brutal intensity dynamic of their club shows is simply not there. [7] PP

August Burns Red @ 17:45 on Hades

It's been a couple of years since I had the pleasure of seeing this American metalcore band live and since they released a very heavy technical record last year, I'm especially looking forward to hearing the new songs here. They start off with a couple of those before moving into the momentuous "Empire" soon to be followed by slightly older songs "Spirit Breaker", "Cutting The Ties", and one of my favorites, "Provision". There's plenty of backing oomph-effects in their sound and up front the audience is moshing around, at first chaotically but with vocalist Jake Luhrs' direction soon in a circle pit that grows gradually bigger through the set.

August Burns Red

Luhrs dances excotically and slowly to the more eastern-sounding instrumental parts of their music and in general he does well even though his lyrics are not always that easy to decipher even when he sings instead of growling or screaming. It's obvious that especially lead guitarist JB Brubaker and drummer Matt Greiner are musicians of considerable skill but for a long time the guitars seem very low in the mix even though it gets better through the show. Come "Provision" in the middle, the sound has definitely improved. The ending duo of the new song "Majoring in the Minors" and the classic "White Washed" also sound great today, and overall I walk away satisfied with the set but nothing more than that. [7] LF

Alice Cooper @ 19:15 on Helviti

I've been wanting to see Alice Cooper for most of my teen years and early twenties - no doubt helped by his appearance in Wayne's World, but also by the sheer fact that songs like “I'm Eighteen" and “Poison" are timeless rock classics, making the show a must see for classic rock fans. To the sampled voice of Vincent Price, Alice Cooper entered the stage as a hooded figure and opened the with “Black Widow", followed immediately by “No More Mr. Nice Guy" and “Under My Wheels". There was no doubt that Alice Cooper and his band had intended for a proper party in the pit while airing these classic tracks. However, the party never quite got there until Cooper predictably unleashed “Poison" half an hour into his set - much to the joy of the audience which immediately proceeded to sing along.

Alice Cooper

Not my personal highlight of the show, however when the band then launched into “Feed My Frankenstein" and its accompanying theatricals featuring Alice Cooper being tied to Frankenstein-ish machinery only to have a massive ‘monster' waltzing around stage for a segment of time, I couldn't help but think quietly to myself that this was what I came for. this is an Alice Cooper show. These antics continued with the almost traditional beheading of Cooper between “Ballad of Dwight Fry" and “I Love the Dead". Although the band's flurry of covers like The Who's “Pinball Wizard", Bowie's “Suffragette City", Hendrix's “Fire" and Motörhead's “Ace of Spades" were cool, they added little to the performance - add this to the massive amounts of show-off time the individual musicians got, and you've got a performance with severely stagnant elements. Nonetheless I was quite entertained throughout. [7½] BV

Converge @ 20:30 on Pandæmonium

Converge

Converge you can always count on for a high-energy performance. Previously, I haven't been that fond of their festival performances because the larger stages and the barrier removes some of the intensity from their brilliant club performances, but tonight is an exception. Performing in pouring rain, the dramatic setting recovers some of the lost intensity especially as singer Jacob Bannon conquers the small stage in an imposing manner. In constant movement, he rises far above the crowd in swinging fist motions that incite an absolute riot in the crowd that is being punished by the weather gods, delivering one harrowing scream and melody after another. What should be pure noise quickly transforms into an epic soundscape as Converge mix brutality with their melancholy-driven hardcore pieces, all the while claiming the throne for being the most active band on stage today save for maybe Norma Jean earlier. To call it a crazy show might be an understatement, especially given the pouring rain. [8] PP

Sixx:A.M @ 21:00 on Hades

Sixx:AM

Leaving Converge's show early to catch Sixx:A.M is probably the worst decision I've made all festival. Rain has now switched into cloudburst mode which also means people have been running for shelter and away from the open air of the Hades stage. Despite this, Sixx:A.M. have their massive banner ready behind them and kick off with “This Is Gonna Hurt", demonstrating just how boring and anonymous their brand of washed out hard rock really is. “Rise" and “When We Were Gods" from the new album may sound epic in terms of instrumentation, and are definitely helped by the dramatic weather setting, but after a few songs of watching generic hard rock I have to admit: enough is enough. With hardly any interesting songs to offer, the Sixx:A.M set feels as pointless as it is forgettable, with a small audience who are more concerned about the rain than the band playing. Not willing to waste any more time on such a display of mediocrity, I bolt after “Everything Went To Hell" knowing full well it's just not gonna get any better. [5] PP

Scorpions @ 22:30 on Helviti

Another legendary German band is taking the stage tonight, this time on the main stage, and although the excessive amount of rain, thunder and lightning have made many people leave prior to the show, the huge setup that I can see the band has brought along gives me hope for an excellent concert: The two layers of the stage are lined with huge screens for visuals, and a catwalk going out into the crowd has been added to the stage. Another thing that bodes well is the fact that Scorpions have brought former Motorhead and King Diamond-drummer Mikkey Dee with them tonight. However, as I quickly discover tonight, neither of these things are able to save Scorpions from themselves.

Firstly, the screens display some of the worst animated video-sequences I've ever seen at a live show, featuring animations that are flat out embarrassing. We're talking cartoon-ish explosions (“Going out with a bang // Ba-ba-bang, bang, bang!"), animated women hanging in metal cages, and even lyric videos to help the audience sing along (on “We Built This House"). Secondly, the band just isn't very good at playing anymore. I have huge amounts of respect for a band that's been playing for 50 years, but you've got to know when to stop. During the entire first half of the set, vocalist Klaus Meine had a hard time hitting most of the notes he was supposed to, and his voice honestly wasn't very good any longer. It was almost impossible to hear what he was singing during the chorus of “The Zoo", and I honestly think that that song has been ruined for good. Furthermore, there are the guitars: Scorpions have a ton of excellent riffs, but a lot of the time they were just going nowhere, never building up or creating anything remotely close to catharsis. Just the same riff going on and on for longer than they're supposed to and for longer than they do on the records. However, I will add that I'm impressed the band members went out unto the catwalk and stayed there several times while playing – not everyone half their age would've done the same.

Scorpions

But then there's Mikkey Dee! Now, that guy is a beast. His performance greatly outshone everyone else on that stage, and I can't help but tip my hat to anyone who lets himself get lifted high above the stage with his drum kit, only hanging from a few ropes, while playing an impressive drum solo. Luckily, the second half of tonight's show wasn't as bad as what I've previously described. The musicians are still rusty, but the sheer value of every song we get from here and until the end is excellent, and when most people present sing along, it's hard not to get a little sentimental. I don't think anyone present isn't singing along to “Winds of Change" or “Rock You Like a Hurricane", and even “Still Loving You" is respectively delivered. Meine still shies away from the high notes, but both he and the rest of the band actually does a good job during these songs – maybe if they just warmed up a little more before their next show, they'd actually pull it off pretty well? By the end of the night, Scorpions delivered one half which was horrible, another which was actually decent. Except for Mikkey Dee – he was good all the way. Add a few extra bonus points for the huge sing-alongs and the perfectly adapted thunder, and it almost feels worth it to have suffered the harsh conditions tonight. I guess this scorpion still have a little poison left in its sting after all - just don't expect to become numb when it hits. [5] MIN

Gutterdämmerung @ 00:00 on Hades

Named after Wagner's opera “Götterdämmerung" (meaning Twilights of the Gods) is probably the strangest phenomenon on the Copenhell ticket this year. Announced as “The loudest silent movie on Earth", the “experience" is a mixture of a silent movie accompanied by a live band. But as we, cold and wet, assemble in front of Hades for this very late screening, it quickly becomes apparent that the show is more of a mix of live show, theatrics, movie, lights and smoke. The semi-see through screen becomes solid when the movie is projected, but at other times turns see-through to reveal a full live band, instruments lined with red LEDs.

The plot line is pretty simple: Epic guitar is sent to earth, kind of allowing sin back into the world - this is done by Iggy Pop playing some sort of arch angel. Henry Rollins is playing a hardcore priest figure that finds this not to his taste, and sends a young nun to fetch it. In a classic fairytale fashion she encounters obstacles on her quest in the shape of everyone from Josh Homme to Lemmy. Every time another rock hero appears on the screen, the crowd goes wild. But mainly, it is the actors that carry the experience, making it completely immersive in a fashion a screen or a soundtrack couldn't. [8] HES

REVIEWS FRIDAY

Grumpynators @ 12:30 on Pandæmonium

The duty of lighting the match on day two befalls the Grumpynators, a Copenhagen based rock'n'roll outfit and the final addition to this year's Copenhell line-up (the winners of a contest set up by Royal Unibrew's Tak Rock! campaign). The profuse injections of rockabilly, not to mention the foursome's festive spirit make this the best way to rustle us awake, awfully short of novelty and… well, identity though the music may be. The group's self-fashioned genre of ‘motorbilly' is a dead giveaway, but even if the four musicians flash their influences overtly, the music is both fun to listen to, and entertaining enough to watch. Provided you can stomach a couple of porn riffs, a cascade of upright bass licks and a Motörhead-esque fuck yeah! attitude, there is little here to upset the average listener. One just wishes that the four musicians were a little more enthusiastic in their expression, and not exclusively reliant on the generic, if catchy bounciness of their music. A merry way to begin the day, but rather on the predictable side. [6] AP

Sólstafir

Sólstafir @ 13:15 on Hades

Much less predictable is the Icelandic doom / post-metal phenomenon called Sólstafir, whose early afternoon set in no way does justice to their prowess or appeal. Whether it was the real meaning of their moniker (radiating sun beams) that confused someone, I cannot say. But in truth this is music designed for darkness, or at the very least a gloomy autumn day; enormous, melancholy tunes that do their own bidding and require little from the musicians in terms of stage antics. As such, the hill facing Hades is the perfect position to lean back and let the music wash over oneself in huge, evocative waves, as even at an outdoor festival such as this, songs like “Ótta", “Pale Rider" and especially “Goddess of the Ages" manage completely to envelop the immediate surroundings. It is merciless, yet beautiful; introspective, yet grandiose. And despite my earlier remarks about the trio not needing to do much else than ply their trade from static poses, there is a subtle intensity to the way the three musicians carry themselves, an emotion which screams from their every stroke and move. Yes, almost certainly this would be better in the dark of night, accompanied by a stunning lightshow. But regardless, Sólstafir pull it off admirably, and judging from the roaring response they get from the audience in between every song, and even when the power cuts during the finale of “Goddess of the Ages" at the end, the Icelanders manage to woo most everyone and cement their concert as one of the finest at this summer's Copenhell. [8] AP

Monuments @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium

As the only djent band on the festival, these British metallers immediately remind me equal parts of Periphery and TesseracT and they provide a somewhat heavier take on the genre here. Even though I am not that familiar with the band's songs, their energy pulls everyone in the crowd with them from the beginning and the show proves to be both well-executed and entertaining throughout.

Monuments

Vocalist Chris Barretto wastes no time before he begins hyping people up in between songs and convincing us to move with comments that draw laughs like: "This is a god damn metal show, not a Justin Bieber show!" Soon there's a big circle pit going, surprisingly big in fact considering that this is the smallest stage and it is still early in the day for some of us. The band also uses the tired gimmick of making people sit down and jump up but again I am surprised to see how many people in the crowd who seem otherwise unfamiliar with the band's music are actually up for shenanigans like that. As such, the band pulls off a convincing show that also sounds good, not least in the guitar prowess by John Browne or when Barretto crowdsurfs while still making all his high notes. Definitely a good way to get in the right party mood for the day! [8] LF

Tremonti @ 15:00 on Hades

Having just spent 90 percent of my body's energy at Smadreland (a place where you can go back to your primal instincts and destroy old cars) I drag my corpus to the Hades Stage where Tremonti is going to perform. What first hits me as the band enters is an overall horrible sound, but luckily the sound engineer notices, too, and fixes it within a few minutes. Throughout, the band presents some excellent grooves and crushing riffs that are quickly aided by anthemic vocal performances, and although the band's doing a good job, the crowd doesn't really seem to notice as there's a serious lack of movement up front. Even when the excellent “Flying Monkeys" airs, nothing seems to move more than a few people. And it's truly a shame, especially when the colossal “Brains" is played; there's a certain bombastic feeling to it when the bass, guitar and drums are in sync with each other, and soli and guitar drops that almost feel Slayer-esque are one of the main courses.

Tremonti

What baffles me, though, is that there's a lack of new songs. Tremonti's latest album “Dust" was an excellent hard rocker, and so far I can't tell we've heard anything off it. However, the last part of the set features several songs off it, and these actually manage to get the crowd moving. Before the last song, Mark Tremonti thanks us all for coming out several times and tells us that this is the last date of the tour, luckily resulting in him asking for a circle pit – which he gets! The band has unlocked everyone in front of them, and moshing and fist-throwing is everywhere. An excellent ending to an overall great display of what good riffs and grooves are. [7½] MIN

Beartooth @ 15:45 on Pandæmonium

Beartooth with frontman Caleb Shomo has quickly earned a name for themselves as a great American metalcore band with just two albums out. Here at Rockfreaks, we have been fans of both 2014's "Disgusting" and "Agressive" which just came out this month, and today their set list consists of pretty much equal parts new and slightly older songs with both "The Lines" and "Hated" sounding good early on.

Beartooth

Shomo's vocals are mostly on point and the characteristic wavering sound he makes especially on his longer screamy notes sounds just as great here as on record. The space in front of the stage is filled with people and up front there's jumping and singing along all through the set. Still, while the prerequisites for a good show are there, the sound is kind of thin just a bit further back and the breakdowns thus don't pack as much of a punch as they could have. The songs seem to rely very heavily on their catchy choruses and as the band has a relatively short set at the festival, it becomes a bit tiring as they play through them in such quick succession. Even then, "Beaten In Lips", "Body Bag", and not least "In Between" make decent impressions later on. [6½] LF

Amon Amarth @ 16:30 on Helviti

Last time they guested Copenhell, Amon Amarth brought along a viking ship on stage. Today, they outdo themselves once again and have constructed enormous dragon heads made out of stone, accompanied by glowing runestones and a drum set elevated on a stone wall. It's an exceptionally authentic Viking look, especially given the epic banners depicting Viking battles that they switch between throughout the set behind the band. If there was one band that symbolizes Copenhell best, it is Amon Amarth, and unsurprisingly the crowd responds with big chants and a sea of waving fists for the first song. Then it turns out the dragon heads are actually climbable, so naturally Mr. Viking himself, the long bearded, long-haired Johan Hegg makes his way up there to headbang at first opportunity.

Amon Amarth

Later, we see the guitarists do the same feat during “Destroyer Of The Universe", and of course the classic drinking horn being utilized by Hegg himself: "Awesome weather. Cold beer. Great music. What's not to like?", he asks us, before announcing “First Kill" from “Jomsviking" as the next track. "Pour a beer for thirsty men, pour a beer for tired men, we raise our horns for our beer", Hegg proclaims in an almost poetic manner, before raising his drinking horn high up in the sky. Much like everything else about Amon Amarth's music, it is dramatic and epic, a fitting scene show for the main stage. L.G. Petrov from Entombed A.D. joins to sing “Guardians Of Asgaard" together with Hegg, before the storm sounds of the encore suggest it's time for the band's Viking metal smash hit, “Twilight Of The Thunder Gods". The audience is loving it, the construction on stage is impressive and authentic, but it all feels like another day in the office for Amon Amarth. Not sure exactly why - this should arguably be their “home" stage. [7½] PP

Epica @ 18:15 on Hades

Dutch symphonic metallers Epica are a rare band who have gone completely unreviewed on Rockfreaks.net until this day, despite having put out six albums going back all the way to 2003. Supposedly they're not unused to being having some success, though, as they engage the crowd confidently from the Hades stage, egging on those that respond to them with smiles and gestures while singer Simone Simons has the cheeky bravado to remark smirkingly that "Listening to music, drinking beer and looking at beautiful women is what a festival is all about". The red haired frontwoman has reason to be confident, though, if not only for her appearance then for her operatic vocal abilities: Her notes ring across the festival area clearly as crystal, and although it's near impossible to pick up on the lyrics, one supposed that's a staple of opera in the first place. Maybe we missed where lyric booklets were handed out?

Epica

Sadly, charisma and impressive clean singing technique aside, Epica soon prove to fall short in comparison to the show their colleagues Within Temptation gave two years back. One must wonder what kind of cheese-tolerant audience the band must have found to have had success, considering how comically cookie-monster-ish guitarist Mark Jansen's vocals sound, And simultaneously it's clear that, as expected, a festival slot doesn't lend itself well to accommodating the detailed instrumentation in the band's thick layer-cake of a soundscape. The keys and sampled orchestral instrumentation blurs together into a constant ambiance that sucks any feeling of dynamics out of the performance. Add that a clever idea of featuring a curvy keyboard to let the audience see Coen Jansen's playing, falls flat due to how suspiciously it looks like the thing is unplugged and we're really just hearing backing track. It adds up to a It adds up to a respectable attempt, but it feels like Epica have neither the songs, nor the precision in the mix, to fully shoulder the Copenhell inheritance of their colleagues and countrymen Within Temptation. [6] TL

Entombed A.D.

Entombed A.D. @ 18:30 on Pandæmonium

In my experience, Entombed, and its current incarnation Entombed A.D., has tended to be an unsteady force in the live setting - sometimes punishing and excellent, yet all too often stale and monotonous. Unfortunately the group's much hyped first appearance at Copenhell (discounting vocalist L.G. Petrov, who is a frequent visitor to these festivities) ranks in the latter category, the death metal machine thoroughly oiled and grinding sleekly, but missing that manic, unpredictable rage for which it has garnered renown. Granted, the signature intensity, propelled by virtually non-existent breaks in between songs, and badassery is very much present. But it never becomes engaging; instead, the concert proceeds as though on autopilot, offering up a standard fare setlist which nonetheless manages to omit a slew of classics far superior to the three picks from this year's disappointing “Dead Dawn" LP that are aired, and leaving much of the audience unimpressed. Only when the staples “Left Hand Path" and “Supposed to Rot" erupt from the speakers is there any noticeable movement, as a moshpit opens up at last (how can the crowd's reaction be so docile during “Wolverine Blues"!?) to set a seal on the Swedish veterans' safe and calculated show. [5] AP

Megadeth @ 19:45 on Helviti

I'm not the first when to say it and I probably won't be the last one either, but here it goes: Megadeth seriously lacks movement and stage-presence when performing live. Also, Dave Mustaine isn't, and hasn't ever been, a great singer. However, tonight the band has a pretty cool setup which looks like a spaceship and some screens with cheesy videos of war mongers and power-preachers – which is definitely more than I've seen Mega Dave present previously. Along with him on stage stands David Ellefson who never fails to impress on the bass guitar, relatively new companion Kiko Loureiro, and on skins the band's joined by Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork (who's filling in for Chris Adler rather nicely). And must I say that whatever the band lacks in showmanship, they make up for in skill.

Megadeth

Megadeth's latest album “Dystopia" is miles better than the previous “Super Collider", and the new songs off it actually work really well. Especially the album-opener “The Threat is Real" and “Fatal Illusion" are excellently executed, but also the slower, progressive and dystopic “Poison Shadows" is a nice addition to the band's live catalogue. Throughout most people are jumping along and headbanging, but obviously the songs that get the best reception are the classics. “Tornado of Souls" (which is dedicated to Nick Menza tonight), “Hangar 18" and “Wake Up Dead" are all aired early in the set, setting things off, but it's by the end of the concert, when we're treated to “Peace Sells" and “Holy Wars… the Punishment Due", that things really come together as the crowd up front goes crazy. As I previously mentioned, the guys in Megadeth are good at playing what they do, and if you just let the music talk for itself, there's plenty to enjoy during this show, as every song is brilliantly executed. Also, I must admit that I'm surprised to see Dave Mustaine smile by the end of the set, thank the people sitting on the hill, and actually introduce the entire band he plays with. That's probably more than I've ever seen him interact during a show.[6½] MIN

Kadavar @ 21:00 on Pandæmonium

I'll get right out there with some honesty; I've seen Kadavar several times now and wasn't expecting much renewal or anything like that. I just wanted a good time. When I then saw the massive crowd in front of Pandæmonium stage prior to the band's performance I could only think to myself that this would be awesome. Flanked by beers and good people I was instantly overwhelmed by Kadavar's stage presence which seems to be a power in constant expansion whilst they let loose a flurry of tasty riffs and a solid groove which never wavered even in their most intense, psychedelic jams. “Are you ready for the Doomsday Machine?" asked front-man Lupus Lindemann, before unleashing my favorite song by Kadavar to date - the aforementioned “Doomsday Machine" with its riff sounding like Black Sabbath on more amphetamine than it would be humanly possible to endure.

Kadavar

They sound like it though, and even when drawing out the track's runtime to play blisteringly great solos it retains the flavor of a track which is in many ways far too short. Regardless of the track being played, drummer Tiger unleashed fury upon his drumkit - making me wonder several times throughout the show when he might blatantly destroy it. It never happens though, but couple that proper bashing with the solid bass-grooves of Simon “Dragon" Bouteloup and Lupus Lindemann's fuzzy guitar and you've got the recipe for something the crowd wouldn't willingly let go of. Definitely one of my personal Copenhell highlights. [8½] BV

Trivium @ 21:30 on Hades

Okay, so it's on a smaller stage - it still must feel pretty cool for a thrash-inspired heavy metal band like Trivium to play right after Megadeth. They draw a large, yet at first mostly curious seeming crowd, which they meet with the sort of robotic enthusiasm you expect from such seasoned showmen who, at seven albums in since 2003, must surely feel that playing shows of this size are just another day at the office by now. It takes two or three songs before the balance between the guitars and frontman Matt Heafy's interchanging singing and screaming finds a good level, which supposedly is why demands of interaction from everyone, including the hill crowd, take a little time before they start winning people over. As the sound improves, however, and as the Floridians start to unload some of their more potent tunes, so does the sense of good times being had start to prevail.

Trivium

Fans get cuts from the consensus best albums "Ascendancy" and "Shogun", namely "Rain", "Down From The Sky" and "Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr", while Heafy and his colleagues also show their confidence in more recent material by including "Watch The World Burn" and "In Waves" from "In Waves" as well as of course the two most recent singles "Silence In The Snow" and "Until The World Goes Cold" from "Silence In The Snow". And although one misses the absent classics as "Like Light To Flies" and "Dying In Your Arms", as wells an underappreciated tune like "At The End Of This War", especially the newer, more melodious heavy metal-ish tunes prove to fit the occasion well. All the while, Heafy's growl's are particularly nice to listen to, as are his harmonised solos with guitarist Corey Beaulieu, who has been nice and active on the left side of the stage. So after a bit of an unbalanced start Trivium find a nice stride and get the curious guests to accept some perhaps slightly overzealous American bravado and give into the band's deft mix of indulgent metalcore heaviness and more traditional melodious heavy metal. [7½] TL

Redwood Hill @ 22:15 on Pandæmonium

Over the course of the festival's seven-year existence, Danish dark post-metallers Redwood Hill have established them as one of Copenhell's house bands, though unlike Helhorse with whom they share the same number of appearances, the quintet remains anchored to the smallest of the three stages. They do, however, have the distinguished honour of playing beneath the cloak of darkness, which is the only setting where Redwood Hill's music can reach its full potential. The show is absolutely stunning, a whirlwind of dry ice smoke and unnervingly dancing beams of red, orange and yellow light exclusively from behind creating an impression of some demonic entity emerging from the netherworld. That impression is further reinforced by the customarily frenetic movements of the five silhouettes, whose violent, unhinged bodily twists and turns paint them in malicious, fixating hues. You cannot take your eyes off of the spectacle. Meanwhile, the evocative songs - those heaves and subsides that have the songs jostling between unsettling tranquillity, caustic furor and sombre grandeur - inflict the same grasp on our ears with a strong helping hand from one of the best sound mixes of Copenhell ‘16 yet. That is, until the sound disappears altogether because of some technical malfunction toward the end of their set. That is, however, a minor hick-up in an otherwise awe-inspiring performance of the sort that sends chills down the spine, and raises the hairs, and must mean that if Redwood Hill are to be booked again in the coming years, they'll be bumped up to perform on Hades. [8½] AP

Redwood Hill

King Diamond @ 23:00 on Helviti

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a King Diamond fan. Tonight's very specific show, King Diamond playing the entirety of his classic album “Abigail" seems a pretty harsh crash course in an artist that for many have an iconic place in rock history. And it is quite the show. As expected the King himself (much less known as Kim Bendixen from Hvidovre) shows up in full corpse paint - or at least his own rendition of it. His characteristic falsetto breaks through the dark night and it is clear, that this show is supposed to be enjoyed valuing theatrics and music equally, as the stage is clad in gloomy lights and victorian fences. However, it still does seem that there is a disconnect between King Diamond and his audience, afforded by the theatrics that otherwise carry the show.

King Diamond

For most of the album-runthrough shows I have seen by now, the construction is - well in all cases I have seen - to first play the entire album and then leave a little space for the greatest hits in the back of the set. But for a change King Diamond decides to start off the set with a few collected hits from his time in Mercyful Fate, including “Melissa" and “Come To The Sabbath", to then continue into the runthrough of “Abigail". In hindsight this was probably a construction not welcomed by the weather Gods that decide to open up the skies as a welcome back to Kim. Having already played the “hits", many of the audience members decide that it is time to visit their beds instead. [6½] HES

Abbath @ 00:45 on Hades

Let's just state the obvious: Abbath offers no surprises for anyone who has seen (and heard) Immortal, the band from which the eponymous frontman split in 2015 citing irreconcilable differences and as a result the impossibility of moving forward as a trio. The experience is akin to watching rock stars perform - with the slight adjustment of corpse paint, blast beats and snarling screams - and as such there is nothing trve or kvlt about it. But that's not the point, and provided you can look past the dogmas of the black metal genre, it is hard to imagine a more glorious and entertaining concert than the one Abbath delivers tonight. The man enters the stage carrying a torch, breathing fire over the audience before the scintillating light show takes over and the bombastic “To War!" explodes from wall of amplifiers. One wonders what the truists would say to Abbath and his three session cohorts' (bassist Rusty Cornell, lead guitarist Ole André Farstad and the drummer I'm not sure who is at this moment) ridiculously theatrical demeanour, let alone the unorthodoxy of songs like “Winterbane" and “Fenrir Hunts" neither of which is afraid to incorporate a slew of pop influences into the fray.

Abbath - photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution

It must be dry to be one of those people and in so doing place an artificial barrier to enjoying what is objectively an extremely good performance, but even for the elitists, there is plenty of classic Immortal material mixed in to be satisfied. “Nebular Ravens Winter" and “In My Kingdom Cold", for example, are aired early, and there's even I's “Warriors" nestled between them, whilst the full might of Blashyrkh is unleashed towards the end with “One by One" and “All Shall Fall" - the two most widely recognised Immortal tracks (though objectively speaking probably not the two best!). And the audience absolutely laps it up, not least because Abbath & co. are so magnificently and dramatically expressive on stage, clearly very self-aware about the fact that almost no one takes this stuff seriously. That, perhaps, is the key: to absorb the tongue-in-cheek grandeur of Abbath at face value, to appreciate that the music is catchy and well written, and to behold the indelible fervour with which the four musicians perform. [8] AP

Crowd chilling on the hill

REVIEWS SATURDAY

I'll Be Damned @ 12:30 on Pandæmonium

On this last day of the festival, the Aarhusian rock 'n' roll heroes I'll Be Damned are ready to kick us all into shape. The sun is high in the sky and as the band gives it their all, their only struggle today seems to be with the heat, dressed as they are entirely in black. From their logo entailing a cowboy hat and their vocalist's preacher-like singing, a very thick American country vibe seeps through their style of heavy rock music. The songs often cement themselves with slower beats that give lots of space for the smoldering guitar riffs to burn through.

I'll Be Damned

As they play through their half-hour set with bangers like "Believe It", "Right For The Money", and not least "Fever", heads are banging all around and time goes by way too fast. Their vocalist is never standing still for long without gesturing wildly or pointing at us and he even finds time to take a walk out into the crowd and wake us up more directly. There's no doubt that despite hangovers and sleep deprivation, we're all in much more of a party mood after this set, and the band fully deserves the huge audience that has come out early to see them, even though a later time slot would of course have worked wonders for the crowd's wildness. [7½] LF

Tribulation @ 13:15 on Hades

Tribulation staged a major breakthrough last year with their third opus "The Children of the Night", the latest in a procession of records to have garnered universal praise for their unique fusion of extreme metal, progressive rock and (gasp!) pop, so it was almost a given that Copenhell would be stumbling over suitors to be able to present them at the festival this summer. And despite the early hour, the Swedish quartet tears into the task with the utmost zeal, enamouring the (still hungover) audience not just by the virtue of their music, but also a performance to which there is no equal across these three days. As with Abbath, the more stubborn and inflexible type of metalhead may be grumbling about the band's theatrical ways - all four are costumed up, donning camply tight outfits and adorned in unorthodox ‘corpse' paint to look like… well, dark elves, for want of a better term - but it is precisely this flair for the dramatic that distinguishes Tribulation as an elite live act.

Tribulation

Not only that, but the front three members - guitarists Adam Zaars & Jonathan Hultén, as well as the bass wielding frontman Johannes Andersson - have an almost Dillinger Escape Plan-esque wildness about them as they bust out unforgettable renditions of tracks like “Melancholia" and “The Motherhood of God" and physically enact the emotions tied to them, looking grotesque yet elegant, like some fantastical rock stars from J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination. Indeed, one wishes that more artists that fall into the extreme metal category would loosen the reins a little bit and express themselves as freely as the four musicians of Tribulation do. Certainly their showmanship is unlike anything I have ever seen in this genre before - raucous, but never verging on the ridiculous. Truly, based on the seven songs aired today and the brilliance of their three studio albums thus far, Tribulation earmarks itself as one of the premier bands in metal right now, one which does not shy away from innovating on the age old principles of the genre. [8½] AP

Grusom @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium

Arriving just in time for Grusom, I came prepared for a retro-tinged psychedelic rock-bashing. Apparently, so did a lot of other people as well, as the crowd was noticeably larger than what I had actually expected, as I had personally pinpointed Grusom as the odd ones out on this particular festival lineup. Not quite so odd as I originally had them marked as, the band kicked off with a phenomenal organ-based intro whilst the remainder of the six-man strong band entered the stage in an excessively great mood, ready to get a party started. Armed with classic riffs and syncopated leads galore, Grusom quickly took control of the sizeable crowd and let no moment go to waste, taking time in between songs to clarify just how stoked they were to even be playing the festival.

Grusom

“Cold Stone" proved to be a massive highlight of their set and although the band hasn't got a massive repertoire as of yet, the performance weren't hindered noticeably by it. Surprisingly a large portion of the crowd seemingly knew the lyrics to several of the band's songs - making for minor singalongs as the band's set progressed. The band's tasty grooves and tight musicianship aside, this was most certainly a complementary factor. For all I know, Grusom will only get better with time - their live performances are a sure indicator of that. [7½] BV

Helhorse @ 15:00 on Hades

Those of you who have witness Helhorse live in the Danish live circuit are well aware of their high-energy sets, characterized by the constantly moving dual vocalists Mikkel Wad Larsen and Aske Kristiansen. That is also the theme of their Copenhell set tonight which receives a fanboy-like introduction by Mr. Danish Metal himself, Anders Bøtter of Sort Søndag, who is later seen in the crowd going mental to what appears to be one of his local favorites. Through a bouncy performance and constant shouts of "Copenhell!!! Are you with us?", Helhorse get the crowd moving big time, resulting in one of the widest circle pits of the festival and a continuous mosh pit . On stage, the band members with instrumentals display solid energy, but it is the vocalists that get this party properly started.

Helhorse

“Hell Of A Ride" and “Fortune Favours The Bold" from the new album receive a good reception, amidst Mikkel's "Let me see them!" shouts that prompt a sea of horns from the crowd's side. One audience member is pulled on stage to headbang and dance his face off, and rock'n'rollers Bersærk join for another song because, as Mikkel says, "No party is a good party without good friends". There's no denying Helhorse are great at warming up the crowd - as evident by the amount of moshing and even a wall of death - but the question is still whether their songs are interesting enough to capture the international audience. They compensate very well with their high-energy approach, but compared to other bands today, they still feel more like a warmup band than the champions of Danish metal much of the media makes them out to be. [6½] PP

Bombus @ 15:45 on Pandæmonium

Kicking off their set with the energetic and heavy “Let Her Die" from 2013's “The Poet and the Parrot", Bombus from Gothenburg, Sweden, raises hope for a set that'll draw heavily from that particular album. Although their newest album “Repeat Until Death" is good, it pales in comparison to their earlier material. Obviously the band plays the choice-cut singles “Rust" and “Deadweight" from “Repeat…", but besides 3 or 4 songs, the rest consists of excellent tracks from their earlier albums where the influences from Black Sabbath and Motorhead is even more evident (very suited for tonight's headliner and late-night spots, eh?).

Bombus

Unfortunately for the band, not a lot of people have decided to show up despite the set being later in the afternoon than one could've feared, and furthermore the wind is blowing so hard at this moment that some of the guitar details are hard to hear. These two factors result in a lesser intimate feeling than what I've personally experienced the band in previously. And although the brilliant “Biblical" is excellently showcased with its Egyptian guitar riff, the set never really reaches any defining climax that could've made the show transcend into something better than “just great". The band made a great display of well-played old school heavy metal and rock n' roll, but today's circumstances hindered the show somewhat.[7] MIN

Clawfinger @ 16:30 on Helviti

On paper, Clawfinger was a perfect fit for the annual pure stupidity band we tend to have at Copenhell for comedic value. Body Count last year showed that you can be both retarded and extremely entertaining at the same time, much like The Hell two years ago. In practice, their rap/nu-metal set was limited to being interesting only during a few songs at most. The beginning was admittedly good, with the band's lead vocalist arriving in a Leopard suit and asking us if we want "Brexit English or Danish - Fuck Brexit English" right after “Prisoners". He performs with admirable energy, making his way far into the crowd for “Zeros And Heroes" to get everyone to raise their hands up before moshing with the crowd. Later, he crowd surfs down asking for a beer during “Catch Me".

Clawfinger

But the quality of songs post-"Nigger" (yes, they actually have a racist song where the word is repeated multiple times during the chorus in a hilariously stupid rap metal manner) falls down significantly. This is knucklehead music that makes Five Finger Death Punch look genius, and I can't help but think that the title of “Nothing Going On" symbolizes their entire performance. Because let's be honest here: musically, it's awful, and the comedic value is nowhere near high enough to support it. “We're biggest, the best, better than the rest" shouts just before the encore highlight the stupidity of it all. That's why only front rows seem to be appreciating it, save for obligatory crowd control measures like getting everyone to wave along or to bounce for “The Truth". Overall, with almost no musical relevance creating absolutely no demand for the band (they've only played four shows in the last three years before today's set), it's hard to appreciate the set even if you don't take it seriously at all. [5] PP

Shinedown @ 18:15 on Hades

I guess it's kind of easy to see the appeal in Shinedown: The choruses are memorable, the music is simple and the lyrics are occasionally relatable to average Joe and his next door-neighbor. But on the band's latest album, “Threat to Survival", the band over-simplified both music and lyrics, resulting in a pretty bad album. Luckily, today's set also features some of the band's older songs, and although I don't see eye-to-eye with these either, I can understand those better than the newest batch the band has spawned. And therefore it almost feels like a punch in the face when Shinedown's set starts with Prince's legendary “Let's Go Crazy" being blasted through the speakers, only to have it followed by the band's own song “Asking For It" from “Threat…". Luckily, things seem a little brighter when the band plays “If You Only Knew" and later “Second Chance" which both gets the crowd singing along.

Shinedown

The band must be doing something right since most in attendance are highly enthusiastic about the show; the connection between frontman Brent Smith and the crowd is excellent, and you can't deny that Smith is happy to be here. He also states this many times and gets the crowd moving on several occasions – especially when he gets down to greet them personally. Like the music or don't, it's undeniable that the band's got a firm grip on the people who want to hear them. But even in the band's rendition of the Lynyrd Skynyrd-classic “Simple Man", I can't help but feel that the band's exaggerating too much with over-the-top vocal performances and bigger choruses than what's necessary. Anyone can make things sound bigger, but it takes true skill to sound and feel intimate and vulnerable at the same time. Otherwise, you're just catering to the masses instead of pulling the heavy load. Today's show is hard for me to rate since I really think the band isn't very good at all, but then again they know how to work a crowd that loves them, and I'm sure many left here with a fond memory. If you're a fan of the band or if you'd had five more beers pounding your liver than I did, maybe this was a great show. But I'll never understand.[4½] MIN

Havok @ 18:30 on Pandæmonium

Havok is - perhaps unbenounced to many, quite a political band and hence one of the bands that I have been looking the most forward to at this year's festival. Coming from a mainly punk background their fast-paced compositions and aggressive vocals speak to the old mosher in me, but alas, I have hurt my knee over the course of the festival and have to enjoy the pit from afar. But what a pit! The show starts with an old recording of George Orwell's “Final Warning" from an old biopic, including the line; “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don't let it happen. It depends on you" leading into “Point of No Return". Then the pit opens up, only to be expanded several times, most aggressively under “From The Cradle to the Grave" and lastly the “hit" “Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death".

Havok

The band manages to maintain the high energy with their short and fast tracks, only broken up by small speeches in between songs - vocalist David Sanchez sometimes maybe speaking a little too long about freedom; this audience is mainly here to smash things. And smash things they do! Probably to the extent that the crowd safety personnel should be awarded overtime - always around 2-3 crowdsurfers mid-air, as well as an extensive circle pit in constant movement. At one point the band introduces “The Blender" - a wall of death that ends in a giant circle pit spanning most of the space in front of the smaller Pandæmonium stage. What Havok doesn't win in originality, they win in energy and execution. The show ends way too early after 45 minutes and 9 high intensity tracks, delivering one of the best shows of Copenhell 2016. [8] HES

Rival Sons @ 19:45 on Hades

After two consecutive sets on the main stages that were frustrating to sit through for anyone who gets twitchy from listening to obviously shallow music, it is with no small sense of relief that one has at least looked forward to Rival Sons, as the Califonian classic rock revivalists hold the promise of at the very least a slightly more authentic sound. That and oh, singer Jay Buchanan is probably the best singer to sing at the festival this year, so there is that. And to begin with, expectations are met as Buchanan does indeed sound positively impressive, upon a backdrop of tight riffs and rhythms that do tug at the hips and feet exactly as you'd hope and expect.

Rival Sons

The band blows their load a bit prematurely though, by dishing out some of their highlight tracks, “Electric Man" and “Pressure & Time" early in the set, and it soon becomes apparent that as thrilling as Buchanan is to listen to when he's singing, his banter between songs sounds like he's dead inside. You get bored just from hearing him speak, so lacking is his enthusiasm, and sadly, as the band heads into some of their slower and more drawn out tracks, it becomes clear that they just don't have the depth to stay engaging when they take away the driving pace. The classic rock idols you'd compare them to - take Led Zeppelin as an obvious example - have always had feelings of hypnosis, psychedelia, danger and atmosphere to them, feelings which Rival Sons do not evoke when they space out their otherwise toasty riffs and impressive vocals. So it's a well-sounding but ultimately superficial and slightly disappointing performance from them overall. [6½] TL

Bersærk @ 21:00 on Pandæmonium

Bersærk is the second Aarhusian heavy band I see today that leaves no question as to their quality as a great live band. The band has been consistently good every time I have seen them in the past and they're not about to let anyone down today. Benefitting from the part of the crowd that has come in early to get ready for Black Sabbath who play in a couple of hours, the space in front of the small stage is completely packed and it doesn't take long before everyone is banging their heads and raising horns at the band. Some of their most politically charged Danish songs hammer at us with some well chosen cuts in "Nordenvind" and "Dæmring" from the band's debut full-length. The strong lyrics present an open minded nationalism, not least in "Dæmring" that fits perfectly in the proud metal community at Copenhell with the shouted words of "Husk hvor I kommer fra / Og skål til alle jer andre / Og der hvor I kommer fra".

Bersærk

The songs roll over us with big circling riffs, a shining guitar solo and powerfully shouted vocals, never losing momentum at any point, and when the end of the show is announced it seems to come just as suddenly for the band as for the audience. As the ending song, we get the older "Lugten Af Frygt" that soon has the front part of the crowd moving with its irresistible tempo. Fittingly, the chorus includes a line about having only just begun and with the overflowing energy and quality of the songs presented here, the band could have easily played a longer set. The compact one we get is however, hands down, one of the very best of the festival and adds yet another impressive show of force in the line of good experiences I have with them so far. [9] LF

Decapitated @ 21:30 on Hades

Celebrating their 20th Anniversary this year, the buzz around the festival area has been that Decapitated is one of the most eagerly anticipated bookings at Copenhell this year. And the onset of darkness that coincides with their stage time provides the perfect circumstances for these Polish maestros of groovy, technical death metal to show us what they've got. Not ones to disappoint the huge audience that has gathered before the Hades stage to behold the spectacle, the trio's (plus session bassist Hubert Wiecek) appeal is instantly understood as they send the crowd into a headbanging and moshing frenzy with “Exiled in Flesh" and lay down their formula for a successful concert. It is based on the simple doctrine of enthusiasm, relentless expenditure of energy, and song choices designed to incite a physical reaction. Some of the older material extremely technical, yes (“Post(?) Organic", “Day 69" and “Spheres of Madness" in particular), but even at their most mind-boggling, Decapitated showcase a strong understanding of lasting value in their music. There is always a slick groove or breakdown as an anchor, and as a result one is never threatened by the impossibility of headbanging.

Decapitated

Decapitated grind through the setlist with gratuitous smiles, with vocalist Rafal Piotrowski in particular looking antithetically warm and cozy as he lets the staggering length of his rastas loose in huge, windmilling motions. For some reason the show feels like a homecoming, a long due visit from the cool uncle which the fans of course receive with wide open arms. And this reciprocation of positive energy between band and audience lifts the performance to an almost absurdly entertaining level. It would be a stretch to label the music of Decapitated innovative (especially the more recent groove metal stuff from 2014's “Blood Mantra" and 2011's “Carnival is Forever"), but it has this primal appeal that seems always to sit well with the Danish audience, that tends to result in lively and engrossing performances such as this. [8] AP

Dark Funeral @ 22:15 on Pandæmonium

Dark Funeral

One always looks forward to the one or two late night sermons delivered by black metal bands at Copenhell, expecting an inferno of flames, lights and ultra-serious anti-religious attitude. Given that Abbath the previous day was a little on the humorous side, it is left to Dark Funeral to raise hell then, and having given the Swedish black metal icons' latest album “Where Shadows Forever Reign" a couple of spins in the weeks leading up to the festival, it felt like this could be another Watain or Marduk type, majestic experience. And as the demonic figures on stage light the match with “Unchain My Soul", it does threaten to become one of those totally off-the-hinges rituals of pure evil. But alas, that kind of intensity is totally and utterly absent from Dark Funeral's demeanour, the five musicians seemingly content with just standing in line and getting the job done without expressing any kind of personality or interest. The excellent “As I Descend" produces a solitary (musical) glimmer amidst a total yawn-fest, and while strictly speaking there is nothing technically wrong with the concert, the band's dispassionate, mechanical performance feels almost insulting. Thankfully, Dark Funeral restricts itself to playing just seven songs - any more, and yours truly would have been blissfully snoring away. [4] AP

Black Sabbath @ 23:00 on Helviti

Let's just get this simple fact out of the way; yes, I am indeed a fan of Black Sabbath. Unsurprisingly I had thus looked forward to this particular performance quite a bit, whilst also (occasionally) being downright worried about the quality of the show as Black Sabbath are notorious for phenomenal peaks and horrifying lows in terms of overall performance quality, often dividing the general public's opinion on them post-show. As the clock struck 23:00 on this Saturday night in the drizzle of the rain however, Black Sabbath opened quite strongly with “Black Sabbath" - a slow opener guaranteed to divide the crowd as it is not, and has never been, an obvious hit. In my opinion it is a great start and as “Fairies Wear Boots" follows, it is also quite evident that the band has opted to start with classics that aren't necessarily hits but great songs nonetheless. In terms of musicianship the band was generally great throughout the performance with Iommi's legendary guitar-skills shining as bright as ever, constantly underlined by the solid grooves of Butler's bass and drummer Tommy Clufetos' forceful bashing. Granted, Osbourne had the usual struggles with his voice and, at times, he drowned out completely when faced with the mighty riffing. However, during classics like “War Pigs" Osbourne's maniacal vocals resounded clearly through the night at this midnight mass where 20.000 people had gathered to pay their respects to three quarters of one the most prominent quartets of metal history. In between awkwardly yelling “I love you all" and everybody jump so many times you'd start to pray for a third sentence for Osbourne to yell, the band provided great albeit non-energetic renditions of classics like “Iron Man", “Into the Void" and “Snowblind" - the latter being introduced with the statement; “We once messed around with something called cocaine. That was when we were young and stupid."

Fenris mural watching over the audience

The crowd went absolutely nuts during “Children of the Grave" before Black Sabbath finally concluded their set with “Paranoid" before ending the midnight mass. For me, it was a definite highlight of Copenhell ‘16 - even in spite of Osbourne singing some genuinely horrifying false notes during “Dirty Women". I realise many might not agree, but to me this was a powerful performance by a band deserving of their legendary status. They're not young anymore and it's probably good they call it quits now, but their age does not take anything away from this particular performance. [8] BV

Red Warszawa @ 00:45 on Hades

So you've just seen Black Sabbath and you're damn stoked. What do you do then? Personally I ventured into the pit of alcohol and despair better known as Red Warszawa. Why I did so, cannot be fully explained, but let me tell you right now that my life will never be the same again, as these four drunken buffoons took the stage with their so-called party metal to a crowd of a size I cannot quite fathom. Armed to the teeth with ‘hits' like “Tror Du Det Er For Sjov Jeg Drikker", the band went on an idiotic rampage which had massive parts of their already questionably large audience going absolutely fucking crazy.

Red Warszawa

Alcohol works wonders and throughout their performance I genuinely wondered if this band was amazingly stupid or stupidly amazing. A few days later I have landed on the former, but had you asked me while I was present, I might have said something else. Or, well, probably not but you get the jist of what I am saying. Back by popular demand, Red Warszawa utterly dumbfounded me and spellbound a large audience. Yet I cannot and will not grade their performance, because doing so seems somehow superfluous. BV

Bömbers @ 01:30 on Pandæmonium

Bömbers

Strangely enough, it is hard to imagine a more suitable impersonator of the late Lemmy (may he rest in peace) than Abbath Doom Occulta. True to the legend, Abbath makes no sense as he mumbles gibberish in between covering one Motörhead classic after another with his trusty cohorts - Fast Tore on guitar and Pez ‘Party Animal Taylor on drums - as the final act of Copenhell ‘16, to a surprisingly low turnout of people. Despite faithful renditions of songs like “The Hammer" and “Ace of Spades" though, this ‘ultimate Motörhead tribute' never feels like the celebration of Motörhead's legacy that it was made out to be, and I suspect this comes down to placing it at the absolute rear end of the program, when the only thing on everyone's mind is sleep and detox. The audience stares at it like a horde of zombies. In honesty, Bömbers should probably have been booked for the Biergarten tent for a Thursday or Friday night performance instead when the attendees were still in festive spirits, as the concert now feels more like a funeral than a party. AP

FINAL WORDS

When all's said and done and we conclude this monolith of an article, this year's edition of Copenhell was a great experience. Although the massive showers of rain yielded some unpleasantness we still downed beers, ate greasy food, listened to a variety of metal and hard rock, acted like idiots and partook in the various activities on the festival grounds. With the festival having sold out for the first time ever, this signifies yet another step in the direction of becoming one of the major Copenhagen events of the year, potentially reaching out to new crowds and eventually becoming (if it isn't already) a scandinavian staple.

Action in the pit!

The thing is, and we've said this before, some new and exciting things are more than welcome at Copenhell now - both in terms of lineup and diversity of activities on the grounds. We partook in the Danish Championship of destruction. Been there, done that. Now let's try a new addition to the grounds so as to not grow stale. However, these are still minor qualms with an otherwise great experience overall and we look forward to immersing ourselves in it once more, same time next year. Until then, we'll conclude with our the good, the bad & the ugly section as is tradition.

See you next year!

You're never too young to experience great music

THE GOOD

  • The new Styx area makes moving between the main area and Pandæmonium easier and faster. It is also great that they have added old posters to the fences, as these became topics of conversation.
  • Many of the main stage shows were very well attended and felt greater because of this. Most shows looked great from the hill as well.
  • Decent amount of food choices. Improvement in added vegetarian options was gigantic.
  • Lots of toilets available - fantastic that the pissoir between Hades and Helviti has returned.
  • Most places now accept credit cards and mobilepay.
  • No massive lines for entrance this year, in spite of increased attendance.
  • The ability to exchange tickets for wristbands at Pumpehuset two days in a row worked amazingly well.
  • More bars = no queues. There were absolutely no difficulties with going to the bar.
  • Genre variety was once again great, although some genres like punk and thrash could use more bands on the bill.

THE BAD

  • No beer cans during the happy hour. Previously coming in early was a bonus since you could stock up for the day via the cheaper bar. Now coming in early had little benefit.
  • Biergarten feels like it has disappeared because of its remote location compared to the main stages.
  • The parking was way too far away and the 20 minute distance as stated on the website did not match up with reality.
  • Very few places to seek shelter from the rain. Although this could be fixed by bringing raincoats, as we realise they can't just build massive tents all around.

THE UGLY

  • Alcohol prices are still extremely high. 50DKK per beer or 45DKK if you buy five at once. This is a bit too much.
  • Due to many people leaving after Black Sabbath's show, the queues for the shuttle buses were extremely long.
  • Warpigs was a ripoff in terms of prices.
  • The pools of urine amassing at several areas of the festival grounds were absolutely appalling.

All photos by: Lykke Nielsen and Marika Hyldmar.

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