Copenhell 2017

author AP date 28/06/17

No longer a young festival, the eighth edition of Copenhell is sold out for the second year in the row and just keeps growing bigger. New areas, 5.000 extra tickets, bigger bands, unique marketing stunts, and much more together give the festival a sense of momentum that few others have in Europe, let alone in Scandinavia. As one of the few remaining city festivals on the continent and one dedicated to the whole spread of heavy music out there from arena rock through folk to atmospheric black metal, it takes the best of both worlds by removing the dirty camping experience from those that don’t want it, while allowing ample room to do so for those who go for the full experience.

A true celebration of the metal culture, the festival each year offers a meeting point for the whole Danish rock and metal scene, but increasingly so for the rest of Scandinavia and beyond as well. Wandering around the festival you’ll catch glimpses of the classic metalhead with star-studded, patch-laden vests, odd hair colours, but increasingly, also the casual metalheads who don’t necessarily adapt their clothing styles to the black dress code you’re accustomed to at your regular local metal concerts. That’s something that makes Copenhell special: there’s space for everyone and not just the tr00 Norwegian Black Metallers and the kvlt warriors. Want to smash a car wearing a horse mask at Smadreland? People will cheer you on. Want to get a new tattoo or go metal shopping at the various booths available? No problem. Even the hip Vietnamese food chain Lélé is in on it: their booth at the festival is called System Of Saigon in reference to one of the headliners this year.

As usual, a contingent of Rockfreaks.net writers and photographers traveled on-site for full coverage of every band playing at the festival and much more (nope, Red Warszawa still doesn’t count as a real band). Skip ahead if you don’t want to read about what the festival was like, and just want to read the reviews. If you’re not into reading walls of text in general, skip all the way to the bottom for our classic "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" summary of the festival experience. Happy reading! PP

LINEUP

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. That’s how we opened this section last year and the statement still holds. Whether it’s the massive upside down cross made up of blaster stereos at the entrance walkway dubbed "Highway to Hell" blasting metal classics or the car-smashing area of Smadreland, the organizers have basically come up with an extremely wide definition of what is metal and used their imagination creatively to achieve what is basically a metal theme park - just without the cheesy atmosphere that statement might otherwise imply.

The usual suspects returned again, in slightly more improved form. Asgaard, the viking-themed area, for instance, felt more intimate and authentic this year than previously, which is perhaps the reason why its makeshift Viking baths were frequently displays of naked men sitting with their balls bare at the edges with drinking horns purchased from the tent next door. With great food options and chance to dig deep into the Viking culture, the area has become synonymous with pig roast and festivities long into the night away from the two main stages.

The cigar and rum bar Smoke’N’Hell was well attended as usual, and the blackened Copenhell Schnapps church made a welcome return. Nearby, a brand new wine bar offered a slightly more sophisticated way to enjoy the festival from Cava to fine red wines and the like, similar to the fine dining experience of Sort Kro, where this magazine once again ate two course dinner as has become the tradition each year.

With the extra 5.000 tickets sold, the two mains tages Helvíti and Hades had been pushed a little further back to create extra space for bigger pits and the main area, yet the hilltop bars still offered sublime views of both stages (not to even mention the iconic Copenhell wolf painted on the side of the B&W hall) and a chance to relax tired legs from having stood on asphalt all day. More importantly, the festival managed to gain access to the hall itself, thus creating a perfect shelter from the rain and a vastly expanded space for both art installations, and perhaps more importantly, a German Biergarten style Tutten that finally became a cozy place to meet up for drinks if you don’t fancy the deafening rock/metal club like atmosphere of the officia Biergarten tent. Great addition, especially considering the nicer IPA style beers you could buy in here. Can’t wait to see what they do with the space next year. PP

FOOD REVIEWS: BECAUSE WE CAN

Festival cuisine isn’t usually particularly interesting and aside from a few exceptions, that is also the case for Copenhell. However, the fine dining of Sort Kro on real tables with a proper menu, as well as the brand new addition Dining On Wheels offer a restaurant style experience if you’re willing to dish out a few extra shillings, but there were other options available also. Here’s what we thought about this year’s booths:

  • Asgaard: Generally reasonably priced and healthy options. Plus plenty of meat.
  • Churros: One of our recurring favorites at the festival. Warm and nice with soft ice - exactly as it should be. [8] MIN
  • Crispy Sandwich: Chorizo-patty edition was boring and dry, but mayo made it a little better: [5] MIN
  • Grill ‘Em All: The sausage was extremely boring and overpriced, the fries too soft, and sandwich too salty. Just generally among the bad options. [3] PP & MIN
  • Hell Burger: Meat version was excellent but a little pricey. [7½] MIN
  • Lélé: With rapid-fire service of near-gourmet Vietnamese food, this was the best food at the festival other than the restaurants. [8] PP
  • Pancakes from Hell: Decent but not very filling. [6½] PP
  • Sort Kro: Wienerschnitzel delicious, beef with potatoes and gravy also a classic Danish meal, huge portions. The “Copenhell Surprise" dessert was heavy sweetness but everyone was satisfied. [8] MIN & PP
  • Video Video: Vegan option for burgers. Great fries, but we’re just not gonna be vegan anytime soon. [6½] PP

THURSDAY

Inglorious

Inglorious @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium

This year is kicked off by a British hard rock band that should appeal to old school fans of Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. They ease us in with a somewhat soft start to a day of metal, presenting full-on organ and ballsy guitar riffs from the beginning. The sun is high in the sky and the audience are ready to go, so it doesn't take many songs before the band has people throwing up horns and singing along in front. While they last visited Denmark as support for notorious party band Steel Panther, the vibe today is not as all-out silly as that, but rather they play a melodic bunch of rock'n'roll songs that do what they're supposed to do: get the audience to loosen up and begin to rock out. Their vocalist, Nathan James, certainly has some pipes on him and he seems to impress a good part of the audience with his long notes and generally belting singing style. Still, the mood at the show remains casual, even while songs like "Holy Water" and "Until I Die" get approving nods from several people. The sound level remains low throughout and it's not quite enough to really kick us into gear. [5] LF

DevilDriver - Grooves… lots of grooves!

DevilDriver @ 15:00 on Hades

My first review of the day is going to be a relatively short one, as I only saw about twenty minutes of American groove metal band DevilDriver’s set due to a joint mandatory attendance at Every Time I Die’s set over on the Pandæmonium stage among us Rockfreaks-writers (more on just why in the following review). But already during the first few minutes, frontman and original member Dez Fafara gets a pit started during the band’s first song, “End of the Line". The fast grooves function as a firm whip for the crowd, constantly inciting movement and thus creating a nice dynamic between Fafara and his audience. The rest of the band isn’t up to the task of following in the same manner, but when delivering these rhythms, it’s not really an issue. Granting a decent rating for the first twenty minutes that seemed to be a quite entertaining set: [7] MIN

Every Time I Die

Every Time I Die @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

As most ETID fans present today probably already know, vocalist Keith Buckley had to leave the current tour a week ago and ETID's drummer has also had to go home, so today we not only get to experience them with Sam Carter of Architects in front, but also with their older drummer Leg$ on duty. They have a chaotic energy from the start but unfortunately the sound is curiously low and Carter's presence in the mix seems very erratic even though he looks like he's screaming his best throughout. When he is clear in the mix, he screams like a beast though, while the guitarists jump across the stage around him and do their best to start a riot. Guitarist Jordan Buckley screams hoarsely at us between songs to rile everyone up, with friendly commands like "For this next song, I want you to push your best friend into the ground!". It never really spreads more than to a violent pit up front that mostly runs amok for two or three songs but certainly no member of the energetic band can be blamed for the audience not being wilder than they are. Another member of Architects relieves Carter for one song, presumably to spare his voice for Architects' own set at midnight, and for their performance of "Thirst", they ask for an audience member to help them out. By some stroke of appropriate luck, it is the vocalist from the local southern hardcore group Sons of Death Valley who gets picked and screams his way through the song. Overall, the set works surprisingly well for a group missing their front man, and the band, including Carter, shows great enthusiasm. Primarily because of the sketchy sound, it never becomes the kind of once in a lifetime party that it could have been, though, except for in the very front lines of the audience. [7] LF

In Flames @ 16:15 on Helvíti

Past experiences have taught me that these Gothenburg pioneers are capable of the most astounding performances, as long as they are allowed to play after dark. But unlike in their native Sweden and at most other festivals, at Copenhell In Flames seem to be doomed to soaking up the sunshine in late-afternoon sets, performing even earlier this year than in 2013. Said concert scraped the bottom in terms of what the band can be bothered to do, so as you can understand, most of our staff is skeptical at best when the melodeath-turned-arena metallers take to the stage. Our fears are swiftly extinguished by the delight of discovering “Wallflower" — a dark and proggy piece from last year’s “Battles" LP — to be the first track and thus to find In Flames opening with the same supreme confidence as they did at the now-defunct Astoria in London in 2008. Granted, it lacks the characteristics to ‘start with a bang’ so to speak; that honour befalls the following “Alias", a song with massive appeal for people fond of singing along, and as expected, the crowd’s reaction is tremendous.

A band of In Flames’ standing is of course used to admiration but even so, they seem taken aback by an audience in far different spirits than four years ago and respond by carrying out their duties with more enthusiasm and nerve than they have shown us in some time. Singer Anders Fridén and the two guitarists, Björn Gelotte & Niclas Engelin, in particular don wide grins for the duration of the headliner-length set and look energised as they welcome wave after wave of crowd-surfers and absorb the roar of ten thousand voices during classics like “Moonshield", “Only for the Weak" and “Cloud Connected". Even with a couple of missteps dotting the 16-song setlist, In Flames’ showmanship just clicks today and us long-standing fans are given the chance to relive past triumphs via one of the band’s strongest showings in Denmark in this decade. As another welcome aspect of the concert, Fridén seems to have graced his voice with a proper rehearsal this time, with both growling and clean singing leaving nothing to be desired as far as the band’s material on record goes. [8] AP

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes @ 17:30 on Pandæmonium

Despite having released just two albums, Frank Carter has already played enough legendary shows in Denmark to justify his expectant stance in front of the Copenhell audience. Today, he is wearing a ridiculous yellow and black striped shirt as he walks on stage and looks at us in commanding fashion, before the stages morphs into a venue of kick jumps and energetic jumps for “Juggernaut". And what follows is Frank Carter being Frank Carter: "Copenheeeeelll!! I wanna go for a walk!", he shouts, and before long he’s upside down in the crowd screaming his lungs off. Anyone who went to that unforgettable onslaught at BETA last year know’s what’s up, and Frank does, too, dedicating “Wild Flowers" to anyone who attended that show. "Are you ready?", he asks, to which the crowd gives an almost whimpering response. "That was fucking pathetic", Frank continues in his brutally honest fashion. Just to give another example: the crowd engages in a circle pit for “Jackals" but he literally stops the song and tells us he will not restart the song until we listen to him. A commendable circle pit follows but doesn’t quite make it around the sound tent like back at Roskilde last year. Doesn’t matter: the crowd is fully energized at this point. Next up: an only girls allowed crowd surf session, a guitarist in the crowd, and letting us choose the vitriolic “Fangs" from the old album rather than “God Is My Friend" from the new album. For “Devil Inside Me", we’re all sitting down Slipknot style, except a few grumpy old fellows. "Oh, fuck off dad. I’m the one with the microphone", he calls them out to our amusement. And as the set finishes with a huge sing along for “I Hate You", we’ve seen Frank being Frank: a rock solid show characterized by stunts, gimmicks and frenetic energy. What more can you ask, even if likely nothing will eclipse their 10/10 performance at BETA. [8] PP

Carcass @ 17:45 on Hades

Having missed the opportunity to experience Carcass live countless times in the past, even the prospect of a party with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes could not sway me from the witnessing this pivotal band in the evolution of both grindcore and melodic death metal. But even as the early ‘90s staples “Buried Dreams" and “Incarnated Solvent Abuse" make early appearances, it feels like the British extreme metallers have trouble getting their surgical machine into gear. Bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker’s introductory words ("You doing good? Well, we’re here to put a stop to that") in their wake come across as more prophetic than sinister thus, even if there is improvement to be found as the set grows older. During the likes of “No Love Lost" and “Captive Bolt Pistol", the diabolical smiles worn by Walker and the rest of the band — guitarists Bill Steer & Ben Ash plus drummer Daniel Wilding — offer glimpses of former savagery, but while neither the intensity of the music nor its technical execution is lacking, the crowd’s overall reaction (or rather, lack thereof) is telling: Carcass does little more than race through the motions on this occasion. [6] AP

Prophets of Rage @ 19:15 on Helvíti

After listening to Prophets of Rage’s debut EP, "The Party’s Over", I was honestly a little worried about the Rage Against the Machine/Public Enemy/Cypress Hill-collaboration’s show at this year’s Copenhell, but then they suddenly released the song "Unfuck the World", and everything seemed a little brighter. The song felt more like something of its own than it sounded like a weird mash-up, and so does it tonight at the Helvíti Stage. The only problem is that most of the remaining material displayed haven’t gotten a any better: most of the Rage Against the Machine songs are slowed down just a bit to match Chuck D’s heavy flow, and although most people present don’t seem to mind, I can’t help but lack that final sting Zack De La Rocha’s original delivery provides. Ultimately, the Rage songs come off as a nice revisit more than a relevant political outcry, and thus Tom Morello’s “Fuck Trump"-sign on the back of his guitar come off as plain fun instead of a reason to unite against the powers that be.

Prophets of Rage - creating a storm but missing the aesthetics

The best songs aired tonight are, surprisingly, the ones from the Cypress Hill back catalogue. “How I Could Just Kill A Man" and the medley of “Dr. Greenthumb", “Insane in the Brain, “Jump Around" plus the Public Enemy songs “Bring the Noise" and “Can’t Truss It" are surprisingly catchy and provides no less than a party as B-Real gets down to the crowd and start rapping in front of them like a minister preaching to his congregation. The set tonight also features a cover of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone", dedicated to Chris Cornell, but unlike at previous festival’s where System of a Down’s Serj Tankian provided vocals, the rendition this evening is instrumental and features only a relatively small part of the crowd singing the lyrics. But onwards from here, it’s a joyride straight to party town. Classics like “Bulls on Parade" and “Killing in the Name" gets everyone jumping, and although I’m personally disinterested in the band’s overall performance, it’s hard not get excited about the movement and jumping happening all around me in the pit.

Besides the crowd’s craziness, the show ultimately never turns into the clenched, raised fist the band’s logo represents, but more like a loose slap with a glove; the band’s chalked up the battlefield, but it never really feels like an actual fight. [6] MIN

Invocator @ 20:15 on Pandæmonium

Until now, Copenhell has not been renowned for its scoops. But an exclusive show with one of Denmark’s most iconic metal artists does earn the festival some prestige in that regard, especially when the band in question seldom plays live, let alone releases any new material. Invocator’s most recent album, “Through the Flesh to the Soul" traces back to 2003 but judging by the amount of people gathered here to watch them, no one has forgotten about these technical thrashers from Esbjerg. Alas, that may however be the case after their concert, as despite frontman Jacob Hansen’s ceaseless enthusiasm and promises to "play a lot of old s**t!", Invocator’s rigid performance bears exactly the hallmark of a band missing the routine that comes with touring. And the fact that newest member Jesper Kvist’s bass has been estimated to require more presence than any other instrument is not making the task of familiarising yourself with these supposedly legendary songs any easier for those of us with little or no prior experience with Invocator.

The members of the audience who did grow up with the “Excursion Demise", “Weave the Apocalypse" and “Dying to Live" records in their Walkmans are of course lapping up the opportunity to hear the material played live again — neither the sea of horns facing the Pandæmonium stage nor the moshpit can be mistaken for anything else than unconditional love. But although admittedly, the likes of “Astray" (played in medley with “From My Skull It Rains") with its blistering lead melody, “The Afterbirth" with its classic heavy metal riffage and “Through the Nether to the Sun" (the encore piece) do arouse the connoisseur of all things technical, complex and innovative within me as well, it would be a stretch to call any of the songs timeless. It seems to me that Invocator rather feeds off a kind of patriotic pride that Denmark had a pretty good thrash metal band of its own during the genre’s heyday, even if they never quite ‘made it’. [6] AP

Saxon

Saxon @ 21:00 on Hades

Saxon’s problem isn’t so much their songwriting: even those not accustomed to submission at the altar of heavy metal can admit their songs like “Battering Ram" and “Motorcycle Man" are pretty catchy. Nope, their problem is that the scene has long since moved on from the classic/generic (depending on who you ask) heavy metal sound, so their soundscape is hopelessly outdated in 2017. The vibrato vocals and screeching solos are welcomed by the plethora of Judas Priest and Accept fans in attendance, but everyone else’s reaction is anemic at best, probably because of the high degree of saturation within the genre that makes Saxon sound like literally every other band in the genre from the Germany/Austria/Switzerland region in particular that used to populate the AFM / Massacre Records rosters. Plus there’s just something about leather, steel and motorcycles that screams "pleb music" to the undersigned. Nevertheless, hair is flowing on stage, solos go amok, and you can’t fault the band for a lack of grooves, at least. A sea of horns follows each song, the amount of which would no doubt be much higher if this was Wacken. It’s not particularly bad but doesn’t exactly leave an impression other than keeping the original heavy metal spirit alive and breathing…with a breathing machine. [6] PP

System Of A Down @ 22:30 on Helvíti

On paper, the System Of A Down reunion should be a perfect match for Copenhell. The average visitor was in his or her teenage years when the albums were released between 1998 and 2005, and probably used SOAD as a stepping stone band into something a little less mainstream. Think about all of that nostalgia manifesting in a 20.000+ crowd roaring the lyrics on the main stage. Sounds pretty sweet, right? But looking back at the SOAD albums in 2017, and especially their mediocre live energy back then, you have to start questioning whether they were really that good to start out with or if it’s just you with a rosy memory?

System Of A Down

Suffice to say, they are still not able to convert the raw, unadulterated rage on their record into a memorable live performance twelve years later. Serj & co are unforgivably static on stage and casually pace around as if they are on autopilot, regardless of a great setlist that should rank near the ideal for most fans. Behind them, cool visuals compensate somewhat with moving elements creating 3D imagery, doubling as video screens and sparkling strobe lights on occasion. It looks good, and the sing alongs in the crowd are that also. “Aerials", for instance, draws thousands upon thousands of people singing along, “Deer Dance" likewise. “Bounce" and its pogo passages get people moving together with “Psycho", but what surprises me the most is how many songs feel unknown to the crowd. Of course, everyone knows “Chop Suey!" which has a plaza-wide sing along, and “Toxicity" later on, but if the objective was an arm-in-arm shot of nostalgia right into your veins where we’d all share our best moments from our collective youths implicitly, that simply never happens. Probably because the band doesn’t look like they’re particularly enjoying being on stage again even after all those years.

It takes 22 songs before Serj & Co acknowledge the crowd in any fashion. "There’s a certain calmness about Northern Europe… you should spread it to the world", he says, before they close off the concert with another 5 songs that, this time, most of us know (“B.Y.O.B", “Roulette" and “Sugar" among them. But in the end, the experience is underwhelming and certainly not the coming of age, unforgettable community sing along session everyone was expecting. Whether the drizzling rain put a damper on the festivities or the lack of stage presence by the band, I’m not sure about, but in the end, SOAD or their songs don’t age as well as we’d hoped. [7½] PP

Architects

Architects @ 00:15 on Pandæmonium

Sam Carter is on the stage for the second time today, but this time he is luckily much clearer in the sound mix, no doubt helped by the solid backtrack that helps Architects' music sound so heavy. The rainfall that has been forecasted but not appeared all day makes its entrance now and we get soaked quickly. No matter though, as Architects are crushing it with breakdowns and an aggressive attitude that gets the crowd ready to give the rest of energy they have left for the day. After 2 songs however, the PA shuts off, probably due to the heavy rainfall, and the band members stroll around the stage for a while, waiting to get it fixed. It kicks back in after a few minutes and they move on to play a bunch of other songs, including great versions of "These Colors Don't Run" as well as "Broken Cross", before the PA breaks off again ten seconds into a new song. The band is obviously frustrated but they try to put on some funny banter and make the remaining audience step in closer for more intimacy and support. The show never gets going again though, as they try two more times with the exact same result. Carter waits around to greet us one last time through the microphone but as it doesn't get working again, he ends up shushing us and kneeling down to thank everyone for sticking around and showing support despite the, obviously at this point, hopeless situation. It was good while it lasted, but between the way too early ending and the more and more intense and gloomy weather, the energy that we felt quickly dissipates again. A shame indeed, and since it was effectively only half a concert, we're not going to grade the band this time around. LF

Ministry @ 00:15 on Hades

Thursday night’s big names all originate from political discontent and with American industrial metal band Ministry closing down the Hades Stage tonight, a tendency of politics being the day’s topic cements itself as Al Jourgensen and his gang displays animations of Donald Trump, capitalism and politics in general on their big screens. “Psalm 69" sets off the show, and just like that the rain starts pouring down. Luckily, the weather works as the perfect backdrop for tonight’s set as its weight contributes to the heavy bulldozer that Ministry is flattening our bodies with during this final hour of the festival’s first day; not only are we being pummeled down by the music, even the clouds want us to be punished and forced to stare down on the ground more than we gaze upon the stage.

Ministry - look who decided to swing by

Jourgensen himself is good at walking towards the crowd while remaining on-stage, as opposed to the musicians who stand firmly on the ground as they pound their way through the heavy, intense set, bathed in darkness and white lights. Much like the industrial machines that the genre takes its name from, Ministry feels like a well-oiled machine that won’t stop at anything, and if you don’t like the band’s opinions, well then you can just get the hell out of here. The music is insistent, raging and utterly destroying, and it features as the perfect closer tonight; the interplay between electronic sound-bytes and –effects plus the heavy riffing during songs like “Antifa", “N.W.O." and “Just One Fix" carries the show a long way, and the combination of the band’s late night-slot and their defiant drive makes the show one of the best of the festival. [8] MIN

FRIDAY

Seven Thorns @ 12:15 on Pandæmonium

Although I’ve personally never listened much to Copenhagen-based Seven Thorns, it seems that a high percentage of the few people present during these early hours have. Many are wearing shirts with either the band’s name or the slogan “Metal is your destiny", and although I’m not usually into power metal, it already feels like there’s a gathering of dedicated, including fans that want nothing more than to drink a few beers and listen to one of their favorite bands live – thus, the set never gets out of proportion, but there’s constantly a good vibe among the audience. When the three seasoned gentlemen (plus the two younger members, a guitarist and a keyboardist) take the stage, all doubt about their abilities vanish like the clouds in the sky as the sun shines especially bright right now.

Seven Thorns - happiest damn gentlemen on this entire festival!

The first thing that hits me – harder than a freaking sledgehammer, I might add – is the rhythm section. The double bass drums are thundering synchronically to the galloping bass, and both members are all smiles as they throttle their way through the epic songs. Enter stage-right is the band’s vocalist Björn Asking whose delivery is on-par with what I’d expect from a show of this genre, but that doesn’t mean he’s not doing a good job. The younger members are both adding each their flavor to the mix; Asger Nielsen on keys provide background vocals and flourishing sounds, while Gabriel Tuxen deliver surprisingly tasty solos all the way through the band’s set. It’s safe to say that the only thing keeping me from granting these guys a higher grade is my own personal distaste towards the genre, but unfortunately that’s a barrier that’s hard to break through. Alas, songs like “Eye of the Storm" and the new “Last Goodbye" both leave their mark, and I’m honestly impressed by the band’s charismatic performance. [7] MIN

The Interbeing - Dara Toibin taking advantage of all the time he’s got on Hades

The Interbeing @ 13:15 on Hades

Last night’s heavy rain has left relatively big puddles of water around the ground in front of the Hades Stage, and much to The Interbeing’s loss the crowd is thus scattered across the concrete instead of united by the fences. Luckily, few dedicated fans still give it their all during the release show of The Interbeing’s second LP, “Among the Amorphous", and the band doesn’t really seem to mind that the turnout is rather sparse. Interbeing’s influences seem to range between Mnemic, Meshuggah and In Flames, as the djent-ish rhythms and futuristic effects and soundscapes intertwine to create a sound that reflects the band’s ambition of creating something huge while keeping the actual contents intact as well. In contrast to the futuristic and bombastic music, the concert’s setup is very minimalistic and black/white, which honestly feels like a good move as it highlights the precision of the rhythms rather than the overblown sound of the electronic noises. Throughout, the music is executed pretty much perfectly, and vocalist Dara Toibin does a good job at moving around and get the handful of people in front going. The remaining band members can’t keep up to his level of energy, which is honestly understandable relative to the technicality of the music, but I can’t help but think of a band like Gojira for future reference. Although the band doesn’t quite reach that next level, most likely due to the circumstances they’re faced with, they still manage to convince me to read up on their discography and catch an intimate show with them soon enough. [7½] MIN

Slægt - so much more than just a mini-Dave

Slægt @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium

The latest hope for Danish metal is currently Slægt, who famously has been receiving some raving reviews from several webzines, most notably the notorious Thomas Treo. You can tell the hype is real by the large amount of people who’ve shown up to witness the band, but how will they actually do in a live setting? The raging riffs and blackish vocals of “I Smell Blood" feels almost catchy despite its heavy influences, and the epic twin-guitars of “The Tower" underscores how hard Slægt really is to pigeonhole. At first they may sound like a progressive NWOBHM-act until they throw you a curveball that lingers more on death and black. The band members themselves are good at swaying around and playing against each other as the songs unfold, and although they rarely say or do anything special, the intense interplay – both between guitarists and between the rhythm-section – makes the show worthwhile. Once the show wraps up in the lengthy but impressive “Domus Mysterium", I’m convinced to see another Slægt concert the next time I’m able to. I honestly think the set would’ve been more intense and alluring in the darker hours of the day, yet simultaneously it’s impressive that Slægt made the set work despite the sunlight. [7½] MIN

Baroness @ 15:00 on Hades

One has to admire John Baizley’s resolve. Since the fateful bus accident that left Baroness reeling from both physical and psychological trauma, his trusty cohorts have trickled out of the band one by one — the latest being guitarist Pete Adams, who announced his departure in early June leaving Baizley as the sole founding member. Yet on that same day, Baizley had already lined up a replacement, Gina Gleason, mirroring the determination he showed to teach himself to play guitar again after shattering his left arm in the crash, assemble a new line-up and release the band’s “Purple" LP in 2015. Baroness is alive and well and judging by the zeal and ardour of Gleason’s performance here, the band gives us no reason to doubt its future prospects. Not only does she seem completely gelled in already, she has a presence, an aura that Adams never had, which mimics Baizley’s own, intense character on stage.

A hard-hitting trio of “Kerosene", the life-affirming “March to the Sea" and “Morningstar" gets the concert off to a rousing start, Baizley’s eyes and veins bulging with fervour and Gleason looking lost in euphoria. But then, the “Green Theme" intermezzo announces the onset of a softer and slower middle section, which knocks out the momentum and leaves Baroness struggling to keep the audience on board. In leaning so heavily up against the “Purple" album here, the band seems to lose sight of the changing dynamics that have made them so delightful to watch in the past, and by the time “The Sweetest Curse" (off 2009’s “Blue Record") restores the imposing tone, it is too late for recovery. One thus leaves the concert with mixed impressions; at either end the band is as riveting as ever — in the middle it feels like almost like a lullaby. [6] AP

Psychotic Waltz

Psychotic Waltz @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

Even though the progressive metal group Psychotic Waltz is an older band with albums only from the 90's, they're still new to me. Despite that, there's no denying that they have some quality material in their catalogue as they quickly prove today. Their compositions twist and turn mysteriously but once again, the sound is not very loud on the Pandæmonium stage and in combination with the grey sky, the atmosphere slows down to a calm lull for most people around. There's a running exchange in the audience, as people walk to and fro through the set and the space in front of the stage is never quite filled up. Their vocalist, Devon Graves, who moves with flowing movements in a sort of mystic dance is the only one who seems to perform with the audience in mind, while the other members mostly riff away in stationary positions. Songwise they get around their different releases and especially the drumming sounds great to me throughout. Later on, there's a bit of variation when Graves takes out his flute to add another layer of sound to some of the songs. Still, despite the potential in the compositions themselves, the show never lifts off the ground and overall it ends up as an enjoyable but very calm 40 minutes of prog. [6½] LF

Airbourne @ 16:30 on Helvíti

A staple of Copenhell’s booking is to present at least one artist that is applicable for drunk, or at least buzzed watching and this year the choice landed on Airbourne. Although they are scheduled to play a notch too early in the day for most people to be in that state, the Aussie hard rockers have the perfect formula to fill the role of party-starter: loud, rowdy and full of swagger. The band is both renowned and ridiculed for its shameless idolatry of AC/DC, yet on multiple occasions in the past, they have proved themselves to be an even better live act; reckless stage dives, hanging from the rafters, climbing stage scaffolding… you name it. This afternoon we witness a more subdued incarnation of the band, with jumps, rides on a roadie’s shoulders during solos and over-the-top, classic rock poses making up most of the show. On the other hand, the four musicians are backed by a wall of 24 amplifier cabinets that — judging by both the clarity and punch with which the likes of “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast" and “Girls in Black" boom over the plaza — are almost certainly all plugged in (you will recall certain bands using empty cabinets as props!) and help to compensate for the limited set of ideas from which Airbourne’s music gets crafted.

When it comes to the music, Airbourne is not a band one should expect surprises or original ideas from, but they do understand how to cater to large audiences. Unless one considers oneself to be a connoisseur of strutting, AC/DC-esque rock’n’roll, the Aussies’ music thus grows rather monotonous over the course of this 12-track setlist. But honestly, my fist is pumping just as hard as the next as songs like “Rivalry", “Breakin’ Outta Hell" and “Runnin’ Wild" are aired, simply because they are delivered with such an infectiously hellbent and badass attitude. This is not rocket science, but Airbourne serve the genre well and achieve the festival’s objective of roughhousing the audience ahead of the evening concerts. [7] AP

The Dillinger Escape Plan @ 18:15 on Hades

Despite the sadness of today’s circumstances, I’m looking forward to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s last show on Danish soil. Prior to the show – and probably just afterwards, as I was in total bliss from seeing one of my favorite bands for the last time – I’d already decided that out of respect, the show would be granted a high grade. Alas, despite my subjective love for the band, my integrity as a reviewer won’t let me, as tonight wasn’t a perfect set by any means. I’ve been struggling with myself, but I must remain relatively objective, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eye, and it wouldn’t be fair to you, dear reader.

No, tonight is far from perfect; from the get-go, the sound is far from perfect. Despite knowing all the songs, some of the melodies and details in the band’s complex mathcore are hard to hear, and you can tell the frustration on especially vocalist Greg Puciato and guitarist Ben Weinman. During the band’s iconic “Panasonic Youth", Weinman flails his guitar like usually, but its head breaks mid-air, causing the axeman to violently smash the entire thing down to the floor on-stage in rage. Furthermore, during the rare “Happiness is a Smile", Puciato’s microphone doesn’t work properly and he throws it into the ground. While all of this sounds like a pretty awesome Dillinger-show, it’s unfortunate that it’s caused by a seriously lacking sound throughout as it puts a lit on some of the intensity.

Greg and Ben of The Dillinger Escape Plan - limited edition with mint mic and axe

But on to all the things that worked out just the way it’s supposed to. The band’s energy is always incomparable, and Puciato’s way of connecting with the crowd is unbelievable. Although everyone in the first few rows probably feel like this, it’s as if he constantly stares at you, sings for you, jumps with you and connects with you. Songs like the dark, poppy “Milk Lizard" and the intense and insistent “Limerent Death" get sing-alongs, “43% Burnt" and the unbelievably crushing ending of “Sunshine the Werewolf" both obliterates and spawns constant crowd-surfing. Ben Weinman crawls on top of speakers and monitors, while Liam Wilson and Kevin Antreassian thump around like mastodons brought back to life. Like always, drummer Billy Rymer is a beast behind the kit and often shares glares and interplays with the remaining members as they approach him. At one point, Weinman decides to walk out into (read: on top of) the crowd, and Puciato hurls himself unto us during the last songs. Indeed, performance-wise, all is alive and well in The Dillinger Escape Plan and it’s horrible to know that I’ll never see these guys live again. Despite the aforementioned issues, the band once again cement themselves as a live band in a league of their own. Few bands can match their energy, and if you add the fact that Dillinger’s songs are so much more complex and intricate than their contemporaries’, the comparison becomes irrelevant. Hail to The Dillinger Escape Plan, you will be sorely missed. [8] MIN

Motionless In White

Motionless In White @ 18:30 on Pandæmonium

Theatrical horror-metalcore group Motionless In White have recently undergone a radical stylistic change on new album “Graveyard Shift", moving towards Marilyn Manson inspired simplistic shock rock away from their brutal metalcore meets post-hardcore roots. Tonight, the odds are stacked against them as they are competing for time with The Dillinger Escape Plan final show where word reaches us they’ve already smashed a guitar three songs in, yet surprisingly good amount of people have shown up to watch the band. They open their set with an intro from The Walking Dead...which is partially drowned underneath Dillinger’s humongous bass distortion coming from the stage next door, but fortunately the sound is louder today than yesterday so “Rats" sounds pretty good from the new album. With full facial makeup and the whole shebang, the young girls scream at the front of the stage after every synchronous headbang session on stage, whilst the slightly older segment can’t but chuckle at the absolutely pathetic attempt by their guitarist to climb slowly on top of the amp, stand casually on it, and basically fall down in the most ironic moment of the festival considering their timeslot against Dillinger. Antithesis of energy if anything. Anyway, 25 minutes into the set, not much is happening on stage aside from the on-cue headbangs for each breakdown. Lots of new songs are aired, which echo Marilyn Manson’s industrial horror rock. These are okay, but the contrast to an older track like “Immaculate Misconception" or “Devil’s Night" is immense. Here, the dramatic synth finally gets the crowd moving, and they make it abundantly clear which style of Motionless In White is their preference. Too bad we didn’t get to hear more of that, because just as they get the crowd going, the show basically finishes. [6] PP

Alter Bridge - charming Myles Kennedy

Alter Bridge @ 19:45 on Helvíti

From a songwriting perspective, Alter Bridge are one of the absolute best bands at the festival. Their sublime fretwork and the far-reaching voice of Myles Kennedy need no extra gimmicks to leave a lasting impression, which is perfectly on display during a song like “White Knuckles". The band are almost totally static on stage, but the majestic song spreads like a wildfire throughout the festival, leaving behind back chills for anyone that’s paying attention. And here’s the thing: Alter Bridge are also not a very compatible band with the Copenhell audience because you can’t just be downing beers and chatting with your friends like you can do to a Saxon concert, for instance. Here, your mind must be absolutely sharp, paying attention to the minute detail in their progressive soundscape that unravels itself only to those willing to give it a proper shot. Arena-sized rock songs haven’t sounded this good in a long time at Copenhell, and the band’s experience of playing to huge audience shows as they casually exchange positions on stage while letting Myles Kennedy’s charming vocals take care of the rest. There’s a moment where he gets everyone to sit down Slipknot-style, without ever saying a word to the crowd. There’s an eerie air of respect within the crowd for him that makes us do it, and the reason is simple: his unique, breathtaking voice is what makes or breaks Alter Bridge in the end, which is at its very best during the beautifully majestic songs “Ties That Bind", “Rise Today" and “Show Me A Leader". [8] PP

Black Star Riders

Black Star Riders @ 21:30 on Hades

Probably the biggest surprise of the festival for the this writer is Black Star Riders, which consists of Thin Lizzy members wishing to record new music just without the Thin Lizzy moniker. They’re still playing classic 70s rock as if time stood still, but they do it with such class and charm it’s impossible to not be impressed. "Catchy and easy-listening dad music", I jot down in my notes, as I realize you need not have heard a single song by the band to have a great time. The feel good atmosphere of the show is just too convincing, manifesting itself with the singer dancing on stage with the microphone stand and moving around in a cheerful manner. A couple of Thin Lizzy originals are squeezed into the set also, drawing a solid reaction from the crowd, but it says a lot when these aren’t even the best songs on offer tonight. Many Celtic inspired melodies seamlessly merge with their 70s style, flavored with impressive showmanship ranging from quadruple solo stance on stage to dance pits in the crowd. If you didn’t leave this show with a smile on your face, there’s something wrong with you. [8] PP

Candlemass @ 21:30 on Pandæmonium

As the progenitor of epic doom metal, Candlemass has the unlikely honour of being one of the best-selling Swedish artists to date, alongside the likes of ABBA, Avicii and Roxette. No wonder that the plaza in front of the festival’s smallest stage is nigh impenetrable and the air thick with anticipation — this is a phenomenal booking and not only for doom aficionados; their innovation on, and aggrandisement of Black Sabbath’s ideas has earned them universal appeal among metalheads of every variety. Of course, the band’s electrifying live performances are part of the story, too, and one does not need to endure many minutes of “Mirror Mirror" (off their 1988-album “Ancient Dreams") to realise that Leif Edling & co. have no intention of denting their reputation here. Candlemass plays with the confidence of demigods, harnessing light, sound and atmosphere into something pure and transcendental. One would think that energy has no business in this genre; all that is needed are sombre expressions and unmoving stances. But as the vocalist, Mats Levén begs to differ; classic doom does not always move at a glacial pace so why should he be statuesque? While his colleagues — guitarists Lars Johansson & Mats Björkman, drummer Jan Lindh, and Edling on the bass — adopt the more traditional, severe poses fans of doom are used to seeing, Levén enlists the full repertoire of action, be it the incessant headbanging or the way his passion seems to command his movements like a puppeteer. And for a 52 year-old, his pipes are in a pretty astounding condition, too.

The setlist consists entirely of Candlemass’ first four LPs — the style-defining “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" from 1986, its successor, 1987’s “Nightfall", the aforementioned “Ancient Dreams" of 1988 and 1989’s “Tales of Creation" — which is a remarkable gesture to all of the faithful disciples in attendance tonight and an opportunity for the rest of us to experience the birth of a genre in retrospect. Ordinarily, I would never consider myself one to shun the new in favour of the old but when the outcome is this convincing, this magical, it would almost feel like pollution to include pieces from any of the later eight records. Indeed, Candlemass has us in a state of mass hypnosis and when the classic “Solitude" snaps us out of it amidst sheets of smoke and the lingering scent of weed, it is honestly hard to let go and move onto other performances, knowing that most likely, no other band still to play at this festival can conjure majesty on par with this doom metal mass. [9] AP

Five Finger Death Punch @ 23:00 on Helvíti

When it was announced that Ivan Moody would be in rehab instead of playing this tour, and his replacement would be Tommy Vext of the unknown Bad Wolves, most weren’t expecting much from the show. After all, Moody’s dominant macho vocals are what has catapulted 5FDP to the forefront of the arena metal scene. Little did we know, Vext swallowed an energy pill or a dozen before the show and would be frantically running around the stage for the entire show, not to mention the few moments he’s even in the crowd. Maybe his vocals are a little rougher and he can’t reach the high notes the same way as Moody can during “Never Enough" or “Wash It All Away", but he does an indisputably good job and filling in for one of the biggest personalities this scene has seen in years. And he’s getting some help from the audience: the knucklehead metal songs “Jekyll And Hide" and “Burn MF" are lustily sung along by the crowd, and for the latter, he actually jumps down to the barrier and leaps into the crowd in what looks like an epic moment on the video montage. In contrast to the stand still performance by SOAD last night, Five Finger Death Punch look like a hungry band that’s ready to conquer the world with a modern and upbeat sound.

Five Finger Death Punch - would you look at that spirit!

As such, the crowd might not be singing along as loudly to the songs but they sure as hell look more animated from my vantage point. And as we plow through songs like “Hard To See" and “The Bleeding", the argument against 5FDP becomes more and more difficult: this is an excellent, high-energy performance without their original singer. You can say what you want about their music - most of it is mind numbingly dumb - but watching them wave their fists around on stage and focus on fueling the crowd’s energy in every possible fashion from the lit cellphone moments to the big sing alongs, this is exactly what arena metal should be all about. With Moody, this could’ve been one of the best at this year’s festival. [8] PP

Powerwolf - Just look at that setup!

Powerwolf @ 00:45 on Hades

Holy shit. What a setup! When going to the show, I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as I take a glance at the stage, Powerwolf lay bands like Ghost to waste. A huge post-apocalyptic city in ruins painted on a huge curtain that covers the entire back of the stage, eagle-shaped podiums with keyboards and a book of psalms, plus robes and corpse-paint that would make any gothic/power metal band with a flair for the dramatic envious. I have no real knowledge of Powerwolf, but plus points already for the most over-the-top stage equipment of the festival. Kicking off with the pounding “Blessed & Possessed", things are off to a fast and epic start. The following songs feature chants of “Hallelujah!" and sentences in latin, and I have respect for the band doing their thing without ever looking back. Hell, one of the keyboardists even function as a traditional “hype man" (sorry for the hip-hop lingo) as he runs out towards the impressively large crowd to get them going – and it works! Fists and horns are everywhere around me, and although I couldn’t care less about the genre, I’m in awe of what the hell is going on. I leave after 20-30 minutes to see Batushka, but this was quite the experience. From what I saw, I’d rate it a [7½] MIN, although I could understand why hardcore fans would be more generous.

Batushka @ 01:15 on Pandæmonium

According to Copenhell’s chief booker, Batushka was selected for the festival purely on the basis of hype; no one had seen the Polish mystics live, nor does anyone, to this day, have a clue as to who the musicians involved are. The band itself admits that its line-up comprises artists from a variety of respected Polish extreme metal acts though and as a result, most people suspect that, at the very least, Behemoth-guitarist NAME is likely to be involved. The air of mystery that surrounds the project is only amplified by the production setup: Pandæmonium has been reconfigured to resemble a satanic church more than any stage, with myriad candles and banners, an altar and a podium arranged into a semi circle around the vocalist and guitarist. Probably the best way to describe the spectacle is that Batushka introduces the visual aesthetic of Ghost to black metal and taking it further; all cloaked and hooded, the ensemble looks like a less ridiculous and actually frightening take on Papa Emeritus and his Nameless Ghouls.

Batushka plays a messianic sort of black metal with lots of grandeur, but while the genre’s most puritanical elements are likely to disagree, the band’s ambition and penchant for epic, transcendental melodies is not at the expense of conviction. There is an eerie, ritualistic feel about the proceedings and the total lack of movement, the demonic chanting by the choir, as well as the vocalist’s dangling a smoking chalice full of incense behind his podium all serve to make the performance feel more like a black mass than an actual concert. And theatrical though it of course is, Batushka’s music is the antithesis of pop (the similarities with Ghost start and stop at the visual component). It has its clean guitar segments but by-and-large, the songs are built around the black metal doctrine. The show is spellbinding to watch but alas, the fact that Batushka has released just one album to date (2015’s “Litourgiya”), also makes it extremely short, concluding after some 40-to-45 minutes. I could watch this sermon for hours. [8] AP

SATURDAY

The Raven Age

The Raven Age @ 12:15 on Pandæmonium

The Raven Age are probably more known for the fact that their lineup boasts the son of Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) and the opportunity that creates more than anything else, but they sure as hell are hellbent in proving otherwise. Stylistically, we’re in guitar-heavy, solo-driven melodic heavy metal where fretwork and solos are the name of the game. What they lack in originality they bring forth in personality, though, where singer Michael Burrough’s thick UK accent and down-to-earth attitude is charming enough to warrant a few extra looks. And sure enough, the band improve from a boring beginning of basically dime-a-dozen, generic heavy metal into something mildly better by the end. The thrashy riffs start waking up the crowd and drawing some interest from the onlookers, but the early slot definitely isn’t helping. Other than throwing up the horns on multiple occasions and a couple of interesting riffs (one of which sounds distinctly like something Maiden would write), not much else to report on. [6] PP

Ghost Iris

Ghost Iris @ 13:15 on Hades

Not fazed by the completely erratic weather with stop-start rain, quite a sizable portion of the Copenhell audience has turned up early to witness local djent-sters Ghost Iris to see what the buzz is all about. After a few technical issues with sound practically exploding and crackling out are sorted out, Ghost Iris sound nearly as good as on record in a festival format, which is impressive, but partially thanks to the backing track that gives the cleans a little extra kick. The melodic sections of their piercingly heavy, bass-driven djent are fantastic, but it’s the awe-inspiring songwriting that has really begun separating these guys from their peers. Not content at just another mindless breakdown, their heavy passages are intelligently placed and feel like they belong into the songs rather than the copy/paste mentality many Rise Records bands have in this department, for instance. Mie Sørensen’s (Run Before Grace) guest appearance during “Detached" is a nice touch given her infectious energy running across and rocking out the stage to singer Jesper’s growled sections. So is the crab costume guy tossing merch and beach balls into the crowd during “Save Yourself". The vocals are spot on, and the band handle themselves very well on the big stage, displaying both energy and instrumental prowess, but also humility by multiple times thanking the crowd for coming out early and supporting a young band, because the metal scene needs a constant supply of bands to renew itself. Rock solid. [8] PP

Bæst

Bæst @ 14:00 on Pandæmonium

And just as Bæst are scheduled to start on Pandæmonium, the wrath of satan hits Refshaleøen with people running for cover from the pouring rain. Death metal isn’t sunshine music anyway, right folks? When the worst rain finally stops the show is briefly paused by a "BÆST, BÆST, BÆST" chant in the crowd, but where it’s coming from I’m not sure, because at least on first listen, Bæst offer little else than standard death metal from the blast beats to the serpentine riffs and monotonous growls. Sure, there’s a huge wall of death and on stage, circular headbangs ensure, but otherwise it’s difficult to see what the hype is all about. [5½] PP

Rising - Bjarke Lassen on bass gets ready for another onslaught

Rising @ 15:00 on Hades

As depicted in my review of Rising’s performance at last year’s Roskilde Festival, I have a hard time coming to terms with the band’s vocalist Morten Grønnegaard. The rest of the band play a heavy, sludgy breed of metal – much akin to the early years of Mastodon – and I honestly don't think that Grønnegaard’s voice is suited for the rest of the band. Instead, he sounds more like someone who should rather be performing with Seven Thorns or Inglorious. However, I would like to emphasize that his voice sounds a lot better today than it did a year ago, and he actually does a great job at reaching the farthest corners of Hades. The sound this afternoon is turned way up (a pleasant surprise), and the band’s sludge thus tears open the concrete like an earthquake. Rising’s music has a tendency of becoming a tad monotonous after a few songs, which unfortunately also is the case today, but the band do their best at moving around, especially the bassist Bjarke Lassen who deserves much credit. Unfortunately, it’s never enough to stir up the relatively large but drowsy crowd, and after 20-30 minutes many people start to lose interest. However, this is one of the better shows I’ve seen by Rising in recent years, and I hope that they continue to get better every time I see them. [6] MIN

Hatesphere @ 16:00 on Helvíti

Danish groove/thrash metal band Hatesphere had the honor of taking on Copenhell’s largest stage, and they did so in an overly charismatic and humorous matter. In addition to playing some excellent mosh-friendly rhythms, you could tell they enjoyed the opportunity, which they took advantage of by adding some huge steam cannons that burst out streams all the way from the bottom to the top of the stage. The first few songs I’d confined myself outside the pit where the music honestly had a difficulty of really breaking through, but once I went inside the barriers, the sound became much larger and more intense – but it’s a shame that the people confined to the outer reaches will have to do with a second rate experience.

Hatesphere - Esse giving it his all on the festival’s largest stage

Vocalist Esse’s vigor is at its highest today as he constantly makes bad (read: hilarious) jokes and puns, including one time where he said (I’ll translate from Danish): "This next one is from our newest record. Well, it’s not really new, but it’s still really good!", making the entire crowd laugh aloud. Towards the end of the set, The Black Dahlia Murder-frontman Trevor Strnad takes the stage to join Hatesphere on their song “Iconoclast", but oy vey, the microphone is dead and we can’t hear a single word he rasps before it’s too late. This could’ve been such a high thrill during the show, but due to circumstances beyond the band’s control, the experience was an utter disappointment that was painted across the crowd’s faces. But the show must go on, and so it did during the set’s last two songs, “Disbeliever" and “Sickness Within", in which all the troubles were forgotten and people started moshing again. Hatesphere played an excellent show only hindered by technical issues – luckily, the set featured plenty of locked-in grooves and impressive rhythms (especially courtesy of the drummer) to keep all of us warm in the rain. Through the years, Hatesphere have earned the big stage, and today they proved that they belong there. [7] MIN

Lost Society - lots of hair and guitars!

Lost Society @ 17:15 on Pandæmonium

After a one-two punch of Danish heavy metal, it’s a nice change of pace to hear the fast guitars of the Finnish crossover-thrash band Lost Society. Although I personally quickly grew tired of their studio material on the band’s latest album "Braindead", the band proves to be entertaining live with much quick movement and shredding while also managing to rile up the crowd. Still, it feels like something is off in the sound mix; the guitars are loud and feel like a storm of swords, yet the rhythm section seems to be gone and thus the songs lose the anchor that creates the foundation. Instead of piercing us with deep wounds, Lost Society only manages to slash and cause minor cuts due to a lack of direction. After about twenty minutes I realize that it’s time to go due to a joint Rockfreaks meeting, and I find myself unconcerned with leaving the performance which has just as quickly evaporated from my consciousness as the riffs the band was shredding. [6½] MIN

Huldre @ 17:30 on Hades

For Huldre’s concert, the Hades stage has been converted into a leafy forest (one shudders at the thought of so much greenery wasted for aesthetic reasons!) in keeping with the folk-metallers’ signature gimmick. Summer solstice may have been two days earlier, but even so, it is hard to imagine a more midsummer-appropriate band than this Danish sextet, donning traditional garb and whose armament includes a violin (wielded by Laura Emilie Beck), flute and Hurdy Gurdy (both played by Troels Nørgaard). The band does not play ‘folk-metal’ in the classic sense, which typically involves either melodic black or death metal as well; Huldre places more emphasis on the Scandinavian folk influence and as such, their music is never what you would extreme. The benefit of this lighter approach, a lot which rests on the irresistible, traditional singing and storytelling of Nanna Barslev, is that it invites plenty of chain-dancing and sing-songs from the audience. The area in front of Hades transforms into a kind of village banquet and it is hard to imagine someone not having a cozy time. But at the same time, there is so little bite in Huldre’s music that it has trouble crossing over from ‘hyggelig’ to poignant. [6] AP

Europe

Europe @ 18:45 on Helvíti

Is there a more pointless booking at Copenhell 2017 than Europe this year? With exactly one, maybe two decent songs if you really stretch it, their generic brand of hard rock with big hair most of all echoes the musical atmosphere of High Voltage. Cliché and tired songs like “Rock The Night" are the definition of washed out rock, and judging by the crowd around me, everyone seems to agree. We’re all waiting for “The Final Countdown", everything else is met by stone-faced facial expressions, despite the lead singer’s best efforts to wave around the mic stand while walking around. Can’t blame the man for trying, but when you’ve struck gold once or twice in your career, you can’t expect the audience to be into it. You’d imagine a band like them to at least have some production - interesting visuals, light effects, or anything, really - but there’s literally nothing at all happening. So the end result is as predictable as it was in advance: generic hard rock with nothing but placeholder value while people are waiting for the better names later on. So despite everyone singing along for “The Final Countdown", it was virtually the only moment worth mentioning in this review. [4] PP

Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie @ 18:45 on Helvíti

Oh Rob, where do I start. You might want to fucking party as you so eloquently put it, but aside from the few front rows of faithfuls, not much is happening in the crowd. Perhaps it’s the generic industrial rock/metal that hasn’t exactly been relevant since we exited the 90s, despite Ministry’s best efforts to keep it as such. Usually the Zombie shows are at least packed with production gimmicks like moving robots and whatnot to keep things somewhat interesting, but tonight we’re stuck with a few green aliens flying in the crowd and multicolored balloons being tossed around. Songs like “Superbeast", “Scub Of The Earth" and others are decent but not great, so without anything else, Rob Zzzzzombie just isn’t very interesting live. Not this time nor when he played “White Zombie" back at Riot Fest last year. Despite his dance moves and costumes on stagae, it doesn’t look like there are many actual fans present: that the largest reaction to your set is to your covers of “Blitzkrieg Pop" (Ramones) and “School’s Out" (Alice Cooper) says more than a thousand words. "In 1989 we played with Slayer. In 2017 we’re playing before Slayer". So yeah, not much has changed in three decades, huh? [6] PP

Memoriam - an admirable visit by Karl Willets and the gang

Memoriam @ 20:15 on Pandæmonium

While Overkill is overthrowing the Hades Stage, Memoriam’s up next here on Pandæmonium. Former members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction created the band after the death of Martin Kearns (the drummer in Bolt Thrower), hence the name Memoriam. Therefore, it’s almost in the cards that Memoriam will play a Bolt Thrower song or two, and when Dave Ingram (formerly of Bolt Thrower, too) suddenly takes the stage to join Karl Willets on vocals during “Inside the Wire", the crowd gets truly excited. Unfortunately for Willets, whose vocals throughout sound a bit uninspired despite his obvious enthusiasm towards playing here, Ingram sounds a lot better, which emphasizes the lackluster vocals from Willets through the rest of the set. This isn’t helped by the fact that although Memoriam’s music in general sound good, it also has a tendency of blending too much, making a lot of the audience leave before the show’s end. The band does a decent job at delivering, but it honestly never manages to get the crowd truly going nor impress the people around me, and therefore I can’t help but think to myself that I should’ve gone to the show on the Hades Stage. This set isn’t bad by any means, it’s just plain boring. [5] MIN

Overkill @ 20:30 on Hades

In some way, it is unfair to Overkill that Slayer was brought in to headline this third and final day of the festival, thus robbing the Jersey-veterans of their chance to be the thrash metal band to see today. The group nonetheless handles the task professionally, delivering a tight and intense barrage of old-school thrash with a seasoned hand, albeit without going the extra mile to make the occasion special. "Copenhell! You’re making me feel like I’m 55 again!", screams vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth after a searing rendition of “Rotten to the Core" off the band’s 1985-début, “Feel the Fire" — and indeed, although the man is really only 3 years older, one must commend him for his youthful energy. Contrary to the standard-fare demeanour of most of his compatriots Blitz shows no lack of enthusiasm as he runs, jumps and grins his way through the 10-song set. Indeed, the concert is all about the charismatic showmanship of Blitz and lead guitarist Dave Linsk, who shoulder virtually all of the weight on their own. This dichotomy between the musicians means that Overkill never manage to truly woo me, and the miniature length of what could surely have been a longer setlist makes it nigh impossible for the band to deliver the climaxes necessary to be one of the standout acts today. [7] AP

Opeth

Opeth @ 22:45 on Hades

As a longtime fan of Opeth's music, whether prog rock or melodic death, this show is one I have looked forward to for some time – especially since it was announced that they would get to play at this late hour in the dark. From the moment they get going with "Sorceress", they seem to play as flawlessly as always even though the bass is a little dominant near the stage. Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt proceeds to speak to us in Swedish as has been his habit the many times I've seen the band in Denmark. It doesn't do wonders for the communication though and I keep hearing people around me asking others what he's saying. The sound keeps on muddling the most technical pieces but considering the outdoor conditions, the band does their very best and it's still a great experience. The dark does wonders for the mighty and long songs and of course the impressive "Ghost of Perdition" and "Deliverance" get great crowd reactions. Not the most talkative band, they don't make the show feel special at any point but as a fan I'm of course happy as long as they just show up and play seamlessly through their amazing music. We get a total of six songs, including the new "Era" and the much older "Heir Apparent" as well as "Cusp of Eternity". With so many solid compositions in their catalogue, it's a decent selection and the audience also seem appreciative throughout especially the older heavier tracks. A longer set would have been welcome but on the other hand, they certainly make the most of the time they have available to them. [8] LF

Myrkur @ 23:30 on Pandæmonium

Myrkur has had to endure plenty of flak during her short career — most of it for the simple sake of being a woman and intruding on a genre notorious for its purism, and some of it for the technical difficulties that plagued her earliest shows. Yet she has pushed on, undeterred by the naysayers and trolls and if her midnight mass here proves anything, it is that she has matured into a formidable live act. With a new album, “Mareridt", on the horizon, Myrkur appears to have been honing her visual aesthetic as well; she now wears what looks almost like corpse paint — a pale, dusty face with blackened eyes — with her white gown, and has banished most of the lighting in favour of a dim, silhouette effect. The production elements are thus perfectly set to complement the Nordic mythology and mysterious paganism inherent to Myrkur’s music — something that vows to become an even stronger element in the future, if the two brand new tracks, “Mareridt" and “Serpent", are to set an example.

A far cry from the raw and atavistic nature of the last show that I saw with Myrkur, the performance here elegant, understated and feels more complete. The focus is solely on Myrkur’s own material, with neither her cover of Bathory’s “Song to Hall Up High" nor her take on the Scandinavian folk piece “Två Konungabarn" making an appearance. There is nothing wrong with the two interpretations, but it is the unique fusion of black, folk, pagan and post-metal in her original songs like “Hævnen" and “Nattens barn" that makes Myrkur such an interesting artist. Defiantly, she keeps the shrill growling to a minimum, instead showcasing her clean pipes for most of the concert, which is no doubt a cause for ire and butthurt for a certain minority. Listening to her sing the likes of “Onde børn" and “Mordet" live in key with the melodies really begs the question though: are there really still people that denounce Myrkur as garbage? She is not ‘trve’ (except to herself) but I, at least, would much rather listen to music with edge and daring than some fusspot’s idea of what a genre should sound like. [8] AP

Slayer @ 00:15 on Helvíti

All hail Slayer. There isn’t a better booking for Copenhell than the kings of thrash metal closing the festival main stage in a midnight sermon consisting almost exclusively of their late 80s classics from “Reign In Blood", “South Of Heaven", and “Seasons In The Abyss", flavored with precisely selected additional picks from “God Hates Us All" among others. The volume is cranked up to eleven to maximize the evil atmosphere and thunderous roars by Tom Araya & co, and by God Satan, is the audience loving it. Wild air guitars and an ocean of horns follow every piercing riff by Kerry King, with evil-sounding hums following along the riffs to the likes of “Mandatory Suicide".

Slayer

Araya’s gruesome yell hasn’t sounded this fresh in years, and that’s because he knows exactly what’s up: at the end of the set he stands nodding in silence on stage with a satisfied smile on his face, demonstrating his full approval of what’s just been taking place in the crowd. But don’t take my word for it: check out their dominance during "Raining Blood" as an example. Can’t get much better and clearer sound than that out of a festival main stage, I’ll tell you that much. The raw thrash metal of Slayer was like made for this stage, especially when played as tightly as the band does tonight. No bullshit, just plain awesome thrash metal, brutalized backdrops, plenty of Satan-coloured lights in the darkness, and an audience that’s essentially worshiping at the altars of metal right now. Hands down the best show at this year’s Copenhell. [9] PP

The Black Dahlia Murder @ 01:45-02:30 on Pandæmonium

Thank you, Copenhell. After the horrendous incident earlier at Hatesphere’s show, we finally get to hear Trevor Strnad’s voice, and it is just what we need! To say that the crowd gathered in front of the Pandæmonium Stage this late at night is big would be an overstatement, but still it’s a decent handful of people who’ve managed to make it this far. As soon as Trevor takes the stage, he demands the crowd – however large or small – to make mosh pits, and the people obey. “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" rips the cold air wide open and gets the first few meters from the fences moving, and Trevor conducts us and graces us with several pirouettes. His rasping is fast and precise, sounding much like the melodeath embodiment of a velociraptor, and the tempo-changes and many different riffs keep things alive and people moving.

The Black Dahlia Murder - Trevor Strnad finishing off another pirouette

Through the short but highly effective set we’re treated to “Receipt", “Everything Went Black", “Deathmask Divine" and several other menacing melodies. As we draw closer to the final few tracks, Trevor asks for two mosh pits in the front at the same time, and once again the people deliver. Although the music is somewhat frightening when further examined, there’s a constant sense of fun throughout the band’s performance, and the energy between them and us is life affirming. Drenched in gorgeous lighting on the coldest, darkest night of the festival, The Black Dahlia Murder prove how melodic death metal is able to exist somewhere between the borders of pure carnage and hellish entertainment while also being delivered convincingly and masterfully. After 45 intense minutes, I keep thinking to myself how happy I am that The Black Dahlia Murder is already returning to our capital in less than three weeks! [8] MIN

FINAL WORDS

As we tend to conclude each year, Copenhell was once again a fantastic experience, as I’m sure you’ll agree after having read our mammoth article in full word-by-word. Just kidding. Even though there were a number of disappointing performances, the festival did not have a shortage of good shows, a testament to its ability to book interesting bands across all of the different sub- and related genres of rock and metal.

Last year we also mentioned that it would be great with some innovation at Copenhell: the addition of the B&W hall is exactly that and a much needed refresher that the festival isn’t just about repetition year-on-year. More of this going forward, please!

See you next year! PP

THE GOOD:

  • Walkways survived the rain - excellent job.
  • B&W Hallen is a fantastic addition. Tutten now feels way more cozy and the new area was a great place to chill out, plus its variation for new beers and extra dining facilities was much needed.
  • Wine Bar was a cool addition - not everyone wants to drink beer’n’cocktails all festival long.
  • Copenhell is still full of totally random stuff like the all-girl marching band going around the festival site: this is what makes this festival cool and different.
  • Great, diverse lineup once again.

THE BAD:

  • The height of the Pandæmonium state kills the feel of a smaller intimate show that allows more of a feel between band and crowd, at least close up.
  • Beers were sold out on hill bars late into day 1 just before headliners.
  • Bus chaos on day 1 - fair enough a bus driver had a little accident, but too few signs and instructions for the drunken crowds.
  • Still way too long lines for festival check-in on day 1. It HAS to be solved for next year.
  • What happened to the iconic wooden structure that gets burned each year at the end of the festival?
  • The merch market shouldn’t get any bigger: too much superfluous crap on sale.

THE UGLY:

  • Not enough trash cans resulting in piles of trash on the festival site
  • Pandæmonium still susceptible to total failure in rain with sound cutting out for some bands.
  • Lack of security for SOAD at the back of the pit fences: some were climbing and jumping onto unsuspecting people by the fences. Where was security? This could’ve been dangerous.

All photos by: Lykke Nielsen and Philip B. Hansen

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