Copenhell 2019

author PP date 30/06/19

A decade’s worth of metal is worthy of a moment of somber reflection and look back at how this festival was started: a couple of entrepreneurial spirits, led by Jeppe Nissen at Live Nation, had a crazy idea to start a big rock and metal festival in Denmark, which had a metal scene but no major events revolving around it. Back then, the idea was to make a festival akin to Download, I was told, one where rock and metal seamlessly melt together with big name bands on the bill that fills the void left behind by Roskilde whose morph from a rock festival to weird experimental electro/indie/pop event decimated the hearts and minds of the rock and metal fans in this country. And thus Copenhell was born.

All photos courtesy of Hasan Jensen & Lykke Nielsen (except where otherwise noted)

So how does it look like today?

Ten years later, the festival is bigger than ever. With 28.000 tickets sold to a completely sold-out festival, Copenhell is still a predominantly metal festival, but one which embraces rock bands (and related subgenres) just as well. It’s a theme park for the modern beer drinker who likes to bring out their battle vests, corpse paint, and favorite band t-shirts once a year to a communal drink-and-sing-along fest. Just think about all of the side-events available at the festival: you can go smash a car with giant sledgehammers. You can dine like a Viking in the authentic Viking area. You can go explore the different dimensions of pain in the Purgatory area. Or you can go to what at times feels like High Voltage on steroids, the Biergarten, to sing away your most cliché AC/DC and Motörhead songs on repeat.

But it is also a festival for the more serious music fan. There are enough bands to check out for you to do nothing else but jump from stage to stage nonstop to catch everyone playing and then some. Yes, there are some terrible clichés like Scorpions on the bill, but for every Scorpions there is a Tool, there is a Terror, there is a Heilung, an Uada, or a Whitechapel, just to underline the variety available at the festival.

And it is this combination that makes it a smashing success. Mainstream folks blend in with the hardcore tr00 metallers hand-in-hand, with one of the safest and friendliest environments for females and LGBT+ people from what I’ve been told by those belonging to these groups. It’s simply a massive party where beers flow freely alongside cocktails and Jägermeister shots, without the downsides you see at many other festivals (for example the pant collectors at Roskilde, the fashion-first douchebags at Northside or Tinderbox to name but a few).

This article will take you through some of the experiences available, and of course a multitude of reviews of most, if not all bands playing at this year’s festival. So feel free to scroll down straight for the reviews, or read on for more analysis about this year’s festival experiences. PP

LINEUP

Note: missing from this poster are: Tesseract, Trivium, CABAL, Vltimas, and Uada, who were added later.

FESTIVAL AREA

Although the Copenhell festival area changes year-on-year, last year’s change was the most radical one yet with the extra area of purgatory joining the festival map, and the re-opening on Tutten inside the Wolf, as we lovingly call the B&W halls. Essentially it added all the space Copenhell needed to host a festival for 25.000 people. For this year’s edition, the changes were largely cosmetic, save for the R.I.P. bar and the move of Udgård (the Viking spot) to its own area within the woods.

Changes 2019 vs. 2018

The Biergarten area had been pushed even further back and had a couple of beautiful disco-ball looking like skulls hanging at either entrance, and the Black Church had been moved to the far corner of the festival just below the big hill together with its associated graveyard area. Here, you’d be greeted by two giant statues of Death himself, or buy yourself a 66.6% Copenhell schnapps from the smoky interiors of the church. Speaking of which, if whiskey is your thing, they added a Jameson bar this year, and if you found yourself bored of both whiskey and beer, inside the Wolf building Tutten had expanded to offer a cider-only bar (of the dry sorts!). Good stuff. The latter also offered board games courtesy of Bastard cafe, a cool idea but in practice, who wants to play an extremely complicated game of 4-D strategy whilst at a festival? Most people were playing very basic games as far as I could tell, as well as any party games that were available.

Where is the forest and the bars?

One of the biggest changes you noticed straight away was the lack of a forest on top of the hill. For reasons unknown to us, all vegetation had been removed, leaving the place totally exposed to wind, sun, and other weather conditions. I can’t say I’m a fan of the change, because the cozy trees added a sense of exclusiveness to the festival’s look (and yes, the Udgård Viking area now is literally inside a forest, but still), not to even mention that the renowned Heaven & Hell bars were removed from the top of the hills. The result? Fewer bars near the two main stages, and way, way longer queues at all nearby entry points for concert beers.

Don’t fix what ain’t broken

Most of the classics were still there: if you felt your aggression levels were too high, all you needed to do was to sign your rights away with a photo-ID and go smash some cars with a large variety of tools, hammers, sledges and such at Smadreland.

If you were looking to upgrade your style, you could always visit the metal market at the shopping street. Or maybe you were interested in what kind of art resonates with pain? There was an entire gallery in Purgatory dedicated to that, not to even mention the stage shows showcasing all sorts of mutant-level pain tolerance by the invited guests.

Tutten, as usual, was popular as ever, featuring a variety of solid beers more interesting than the usual Royal Export default at the other bars, as well as much needed shade from the sun this year.

Biergarten is still the walking cliché of rock music. If you are wasted out of your mind, go here and sing along to some AC/DC or maybe some Metallica or Slayer classics. I’ll be damned if you’d hear any new material (think post-2001), but it is what it is, and sometimes that’s all you need when you’ve had a beer or ten too many.

All in all, the festival area this year was a good mix of old and new. At some point the festival will have to start addressing the space issues: this year saw massive queues to just about everything, and bottlenecks at various spots such as the pathway from Helvíti to Pandæmonium in both directions right after concerts. Oh yeah, and the queue system at the door STILL sucks. It took over an hour on Thursday, and even on Saturday afternoon when most had their tickets and wristbands, we stood 40 minutes in the queue outside the festival. This needs to be fixed, one way or another. PP

FOOD REVIEWS - BECAUSE WE CAN

These days most festivals offer a solid food offering, so this section is our way of ensuring everyone keeps up the standards. Each year, our staff are directed to try as wide a variety of food stalls as possible and jot down their thoughts so that we get a picture of what is the standard of food at the festival. So while not directly music related, here are our thoughts from the various dining options available:

  • Gaza Grill, who run a hyped restaurant in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, served up some top-notch dürüm rolls (with a choice of falafel or lamb shawarma) with a thicker and more flavoursome Palestinian-style flatbread than what I’m used to. Really tasty stuff — had at least three of these during the festival. AP
  • 108, a Michelin-star restaurant in the Christianshavn district of Copenhagen, served up KFC (that is: Korean fried chicken) with a side of crispy and fluffy french fries and a couple of romaine salad leaves drizzled with a soy-based dressing. This was probably the best food on offer this year if you ask me, and I’m kind of bummed I only tried it once. AP
  • Oksen, a staple of the festival for many years now, never disappoints. Their simple yet succulent Argentinian-style steak sandwiches doused with chimichurri sauce and an excellent dressing are the perfect festival fodder; fast to make, easy to eat, and bursting with flavour. AP
  • Damned Donuts was just so disappointing. They were dry and tasted of very little — not the coffee companion I was looking for in the early afternoon. AP
  • Kuma, a Japanese style street food stall, dished out a little bit of everything Tempura style. Surprisingly delicious flavors. PP
  • Jakobsen’s Pita had been recommended by at least three different people so I gave their pita a go. Loads of chicken, excellent salads, and good flavor. I don’t think I’ve tasted a festival pita this good in my lifetime (though I didn’t try Gaza grill). PP

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19TH

Chris Brooks of Like A Storm between the didgeridoos

Like A Storm @ 17:00 on Pandæmonium

The opening band of this year’s warm-up day hails all the way from New Zealand and what really sets them apart is that they make use of the traditional didgeridoo instrument in their otherwise run-of-the-mill hard rock. They have it with them front and center as part of a stage prop but disappointingly, it doesn’t see much action apart from at the beginning and towards the end of the concert. Instead, their catchy melodies and heavy riffs fill a set, that is mostly focused on their second full-length, "Catacombs", from 2018. Their didgeridoo-player and their guitarist share vocal duties, and as they get into the memorable single "Complicated - Stitches & Scars", the guitarist’s softer voice gives us a really nice contrast with the rougher post-grunge vocal of their lead vocalist.

Matt Brooks of Like A Storm

The crowd is surprisingly into the show and while the band does a fine job, it honestly seems mostly to be because everyone is so psyched for it to finally be Copenhell time. As the set moves into an overly melodramatic, acoustic cover of Linkin Park’s "Crawling" in honor of Chester Bennington, the energy slows down a bit. It’s a fine gesture but it doesn’t work so well in their setlist. Luckily, their heavy single "The Devil Inside" as well as the older hit "Love the Way You Hate Me" lift us up towards the end as heads get banging again up front. All in all, it is a decent show but it never seems to reach any particular highs for the gathered crowd that is looking to be properly kicked into festival-gear. [5½] LL

1000Mods @ 19:00 on Pandæmonium

Originally, I had intended to be watching Rammstein tonight, but as those plans did not pan out once again, I decided to join in on these warm-up festivities after all, albeit in a quite embittered mood. That changes instantly when 1000Mods launch their concert with “Loose" off their 2016 album “Repeated Exposure to…" and take me back to the shows by Sleep at Roadburn this past Spring. This Grecian quartet has certainly taken notes from their stoner rock heroes, deploying the same sort of endlessly iterating, hazy guitar riffs and effervescent solos that, at times, seem to occupy more than half of their parent song. But while the Corinthians certainly wear their influences on the sleeve, it would be quite belittling to dub 1000Mods a mere copycat act; the soulful vocals of the bass-wielding frontman Dani G., for instance, have far more in common with Stephen Brodsky than with the mantric vocalization of Al Cisneros, and as songs like “Electric Carve" and “Above 179" are aired, it also becomes obvious that this band has a lot more variety to offer than Sleep.

The audience takes some time to opine on the band, but both the pounding energy of “Electric Carve" (which reminds of Kaleidobolt) and the dusty groove of “Above 179" render it so that people can no longer resist what they are witnessing. Shortly thereafter, the four musicians undergo another transformation to resemble Monster Magnet on “Claws" (taken from 2014’s “Vultures"), with Dani G. adopting a twangier vocal style and the instrumentation taking on a more biker-rocking character. There is a strong scent of funny tobacco lingering in the air now, which tends to be a sure sign of enjoyment in a crowd of stoners, but it has to be said that while 1000Mods’ music proves to be (surprisingly) invigorating, the four musicians have a very typical presence on stage as far as the stoner rock genre goes. There is not much by way of movement or personality — just four grizzly dudes looking imposing and slinging some seriously heavy riffs unto us in an unpausing litany. The circle pit operating during many of the songs, including the title track to 2011’s “Super Van Vacation" which rounds off the set, nonetheless shows that 1000Mods have found a winning formula, and they certainly leave a solid impression on me tonight. [7] AP

Jesse Hughes of Eagles Of Death Metal

Eagles Of Death Metal @ 21:00 on Pandæmonium

So, time for some rock’n’roll with plenty of catchy hooks and sweet guitar licks, which is fairly digestible for the sizable crowd and seems appropriate for this timeslot. Digestible is really key for this gig. The music is very easy-listening and even the crowd, maybe with the exception of the first two rows, is basically neutral bystanders. Where I’m standing most people are in fact chatting, which is always sad when attending a concert; at least if it continues without end as is the case here. But to be fair, it actually seems more like background music because of how distant the crowd is. Except when lead singer Jesse Hughes opens his mouth in best rock-fashion between songs and when he ventures into the crowd, but other than that nothing special to be honest. Decent, but nothing more this evening. Alas, the massive party which I personally was hoping for never arrived. The band seemed to deliver musically, even bassist Jennie Vee seemed electrical on stage, but that last very important ingredient crucial to make the experience a truly memorable rock’n’roll moment never came. Some of that special rock-feeling eventually arrived, as when Jesse visited the audience, but the overall feeling was sadly still very bland. [6] RUB

Niklas Sandin of Katatonia in the rain

Katatonia @ 23:00 on Pandæmonium

To me personally, Sweden’s doomy progressive metal group Katatonia is the main attraction of the line-up this day. They are currently touring with a playthrough of their 2009 album "Night Is the New Day" and as vocalist Jonas Renkse sings lines like "The great end is sweeping in / The dark will rise" during the opener, "Forsaker", we are watching the promised thunderstorm and dark clouds of the weather forecast threateningly pull in over the festival area. While the sound mix is not as full and reverberant as one could have wished, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the gloom-filled performance anyway, especially as the superior and beautiful "The Longest Year" makes its appearance in the set. The heavier, as well as the softer songs, seem to enchant the audience that for the most part remain out in the open as the rain sets upon us. Notoriously, they are not a band that will entertain much during their set and it is even unusual for us to be able to see Renkse’s face at all behind his long, black hair. Because of the wind, we do get steady glimpses tonight and he comments briefly on the rain as well, giving just enough attention for us to feel connected.

Jonas Renkse of Katatonia showing a bit of his face

There are many highlights of the set, like the melodious ending of "Onward Into Battle" and the steadily marching riffs of "The Promise of Deceit" surrounding the swirling "Liberation" in the middle, which makes for my own favorite part of the show. As the set moves along and we get soaked, though, the energy of our bodies also lessens along with that of the songs, until of course the epic single "Day and Then the Shade" picks up the pace towards the end. As a farewell gesture, the band has opted to include their Judas Priest cover of "Night Comes Down" with a well-placed solo extending their set. I would have preferred one of their countless own amazing songs but as a rare treat, it gains some cheers from the fans and the band does really succeed in making it their own. The show lives up to my expectations but the sound and the cold end up being distracting enough elements that it ends up as a great but not endlessly amazing experience. [8] LL

Ross Dolan of Immolation

Photo courtesy of Peter Troest

Immolation @ 00:30 on Pandæmonium

Immolation was supposed to go on stage half an hour past midnight, but after waiting for roughly 15 minutes they finally took the stage with much grandeur as one would expect of this very technical death metal act. The sound was lacking the first few songs; nothing out of the ordinary, but still very noticeable as it eventually got a lot better. This didn’t help drummer Steve Shalaty who sounded strangely sloppy from time to time on the double bass. With a repertoire like the one he’s having, I would expect nothing short of perfection. As is evident in my notes, this is actually quite the distraction to me which is pretty disappointing as the other members perform very well. Especially guitarist Robert Vigna with his signature style of playing the axe. The very lively, creative and energetic riffing style is always marvelous to behold. The sound is as brutal as ever, but naturally, the overall experience takes a nod down when only 50% of the band seems to be present and playing well on stage (the other of course being the second remaining original member in lead singer Ross Dolan). The music manages to spark both moshing and circle-pitting in the front, which is still well-deserved. With an atmosphere still reeking of a very heavy, yet now concluded, rain shower and with the natural brutal nature of the thunder in the distant background, Immolation seemed like the obvious choice to close the set of this first day at Copenhell, although this is not the best I’ve seen them.[7] RUB

THURSDAY, JUNE 20TH

Konvent @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium

The honour of opening the proceedings of Copenhell proper has been bestowed on the hyped Konvent — a death/doom metal hybrid out of Copenhagen, whose line-up is 100% female. Not that it matters, as even the most primitive people among us, for whom women in metal is a thorn in their side, are likely to capitulate to the menace of this four-piece in the live setting, if not in awe of the slabs of dense, drop-tuned riffage of guitarist Sara Helena Nørgaard and bassist Heidi Withington Brink, then at least humbled by the savage growls disgorged by vocalist Rikke Emilie List. This is without question one of the most crushing examples of the genre I have ever beheld and just as it all threatens to grow a bit monotonous, the band introduces some nice rhythm changes and funereal melodies to break up the dirge. Without these touches of atmosphere, the music of Konvent would be difficult to find head or tail in, and in honesty, it is when they go foraging in a more stoning style of doom that I find them to be at their most appealing. It is also in these moments that the four musicians give themselves to rocking out the hardest, much to the pleasure of the still-drowsy audience. But with so much saturation in the stoner-doom market, one can certainly understand why Konvent might want to keep their distance from it; there is however a pressing need to introduce some more variety into the death/doom metal fusions before the hype surrounding this band will be justified in my book. [5] AP

Hansi Kürsch of Demons & Wizards

Demons & Wizards @ 14:30 on Hades

Hold on to your armour and swords and let’s charge into battle with the first proper power metal band of the festival. Demons & Wizards has the honour of opening the main festival area and is a combination of two of the masterminds behind renowned bands Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, and even though they play somewhat similar metal, they still manage to combine these two bands into one entity. Prior to the festival, I did my best to listen to most bands I didn’t know beforehand, and all though power isn’t exactly my cup of metal, I was still very much intrigued as it was so easy to hear how impressive this ensemble played their instruments. They take the stage in no grandiose manner but quickly establish a theme worth riding into battle and slaying dragons. And even though that is the case the set still contains plenty of slow-moving ballads yet manages to uphold that special power metal-feeling necessary if you’re going to pull this off live.

The adventurous and dragon-slaying crowd is pretty sizable taking into consideration this gig is still rather early. This, coupled with a band ready, willing and up for the task, it would seem like we could be witness to something somewhat magical. As one would expect we’re of course treated to songs of both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, which should leave no fan of power metal hungry for more. The concert (and hence the review) might be slightly coloured of me not knowing the material aired all too well. That being said, I still know a good band performing well when I see it, and even though this doesn’t make my jaw drop with awe, it was still a very respectable performance paying oath to both bands mentioned already, and of course their own songs. The show itself had plenty going on, and I could definitely see myself ride a dragon off into the sunset, or whatever you’re supposed to do after a performance like this. [7] RUB

Skindred

Skindred @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

My Copenhell 2019 experience starts with Skindred, the UK ‘ragga-metal’ crew known for their riveting dancehall-meets-reggae atmosphere that’s best experienced in a live environment. The hype has clearly reached the Copenhell audience ears as well as the stage is packed early on, providing a perfect platform for singer Benji to exercise his crowd control mechanics. For instance, we’re dealt with a Skindred rendition of 2Pac’s “California Love" in what is purely a crowd control exercise, wasting a full ten minutes of an already short set. The thing is when Skindred are actually playing songs, they are awesome: the reggae-infused metal and particularly Benji’s partially rapped sequences are brilliant, which rubs onto the audience as well that responds with loud cheers all the way through. The problem? Way too many extra stunts that break the flow of their set and makes for a very chaotic experience overall. The one exception is the Newport helicopter where we’re meant to take our shirts off and wave them around during “Warning" (Benji even shouts to someone, "Yeah you! Take it off bitch!". Too few songs, too much extra bs means the show felt anonymous in the end. [6½] PP

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots @ 16:15 on Helvíti

Scott Weiland is one of those charismatic frontmen that is extremely difficult to replace, but Jeff Gutt does a surprisingly good job at both delivering the grungy croons but also by looking the part. Because if there is one man at the festival who looks like he was wrecking hotel rooms throughout the 90s and sports a general rockstar look, it is Jeff Hut. He has an aura that just screams "Yeah, I’m a rock star", especially since he spends time down by the barrier early on. It’s a nostalgia-driven set otherwise, that faithfully delivers good renditions of Stone Temple Pilots classics, though one that never really reaches a spectacular form despite the ideal sunny afternoon conditions available for it. [7] PP

Whitechapel @ 17:15 on Pandæmonium

Those who needed to get some stuff out basically had two options at Copenhell this year: beating cars to a pulp in Smadreland or participating in the moshpit that was certain to erupt from the first beat of Whitechapel’s concert. “Copenhell, are you ready?", roars vocalist Phil Bozeman as an omen of things to come, before he spits out a savaging “URGH!" to begin the onslaught with “Brimstone" (taken from the band’s latest album “The Valley"). If you had never seen this Knoxville, TN-based six-piece live before, then it is highly probable that the shocking extremity of this track takes you completely by surprise, it's stomping rhythm and guitar riffs that drop like anvils signaling that Whitechapel means business. The six musicians also look like they mean business, refusing to smile even once during this one-hour set focusing on their two latest albums (the older of which is 2016’s “Mark of the Blade") and slamming their heads down so low one fears they might hit the floor and get knocked unconscious. Bozeman especially has a menacing air about him, as he commands the audience with his hands folded behind his back and beholds with satisfaction the response he is getting.

There is a constant stream of crowd members surfing toward the stage during the likes of “Forgiveness Is Weakness" and “Black Bear", and the incessant pit faithfully alternates between circling and moshing as the pace of the music changes from the steamrolling blastbeats and shred in “The Void" to the slow and djenty riffage found in “Elitist Ones". Due to a head injury I incurred playing football two days before, the madness in the frontmost segment of the crowd gets too hazardous for me when my personal favourites “Make It Bleed" and “I, Dementia" (both off the group’s self-titled 2012 album are aired, forcing me to take up a vantage point on the platform inside the RIP area, from whence it becomes even clearer how strong Bozeman & his cohorts’ stranglehold on the audience really is. One could have hoped for a more balanced and diverse setlist, but even then it is hard not to be impressed by the domination Whitechapel are able to impose on their crowd here via their invitation into the very heart of heavy. It would be surprising if someone walked out of the Pandæmonium area after the new song “When Demon Defiles a Witch" has concluded the proceedings not shellshocked. [8] AP

Refused going crazy

Refused @ 17:45 on Hades

The punk rockers of Refused from Sweden have been at the forefront of their genre ever since the self-fulfilling prophecy of their 1998 album "The Shape of Punk to Come". Because of the hype which that release is still getting them here 21 years later, the crowd for them at Copenhell seems to be a mixed bag of a few hardcore fans and then a whole bunch of people just out to see what it’s all about. The band are well aware of this as well and deliver a setlist dominated by said album. The audience is into it from the beginning as frontman Dennis Lyxzén kicks the title track into gear. The solid anthem "Elektra" from their 2015 comeback album "Freedom" follows and keeps the tempo high as we generally get a strong setlist with special highlights in the hammering "The Deadly Rhythm" and, one of my own favorites, the more varied "Liberation Frequency".

Dennis Lyxzén of Refused in the crowd

Sadly, the focus on their older material means that we don’t get obvious new bangers like "Servants of Death" or "Françafrique" from their 2015 comeback album "Freedom". We do, however, get a new and unreleased song called "Blood Red Until I’m Dead" that arrives in the set after a 10-minute speech from Lyxzén about feminism and the lack of female artists on the Copenhell line-up. While I imagine it’s hard for anyone here to disagree with the sentiment of equality, it does drag on for just a while too long and results in several walk-outs from the show, but also some solid cheers. The energy in the audience never really returns to form again, though, even as the band energetically performs both the groovy "Refused Are Fucking Dead" and the classic hit "New Noise" towards the end. The latter induces chills down my spine and the audience gives it one final shot at headbanging in recognition of the riffs. It finishes a set that starts and ends strong but takes a dip in the middle, as the band seems to run slightly on auto-pilot there for a while. [7½] LL

Terror

Terror @ 18:30 on Pændemonium

Terror is usually an awesome festival band. Vocalist Scott Vogel is a mastermind at getting people who don’t know the band to get up and moving. Once again, it is the one word or at most one line commands like "DANCE! MOVE! CRAWL ON SOMEONE" that induce activity within the crowd. "Nobody is glued to the floor… MOVE! Get these guys to work!, Vogel continues, as the band tears through classics like “Spit My Rage" and “Keepers Of The Faith", both of which are awesome and get the crowd ignited. Unfortunately, the sound isn’t particularly good for this set with the vocals only coming from the monitors from the sound of it, but otherwise, Terror delivers their trademark, quintessential hardcore show that’s just so easy to like. [8] PP

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators @ 19:15 on Helvíti

In spite of his legendary status, Slash’s career as a solo artist is yet to reach a level where he might be considered a headliner at a festival of this magnitude. The Guns N' Roses guitarist has thus been assigned the early evening slot on the main Helvíti stage, which coincides with the time most people are getting their dinner cravings. I am thus only vaguely surprised by the smallish audience gathered here to watch the hard rock legend, his vocalist Myles Kennedy (of Alter Bridge), and his trusty touring band The Conspirators. Undeserving turnout or not, Slash does not look fazed at all as he riffs and solos his way through the likes of “The Call of the Wild" (off 2018’s “Living the Dream") and “Halo" (from his 2012 album “Apocalyptic Love"), throwing one badass pose after another with his iconic assortment of Les Paul guitars. There is no interaction between him and the audience, but there is a procession of plush toys lining the top of his amp stack that grows longer between each passing song as people pay tribute to him by throwing dolls that look like the band members onto the stage. “I hope these aren’t voodoo dolls!", exclaims a visibly amused Kennedy before passing the toys onto Slash — a silly quirk, but one which nonetheless gives Slash’s performance here a unique character and puts a smile on our faces.

While all eyes are expectedly on Slash for large portions of the concert, it would be a gross injustice to look past the contributions of his session musicians. Kennedy is a fantastic singer and honestly, in both of the big hits “Anastasia" and “World on Fire" that close these proceedings, it is Kennedy’s voice that shines brightest and delivers the fuel needed for the audience to show their appreciation via physical movement. The Conspirators — who comprise rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris, bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz — on the other hand, provide a robust foundation for Slash’s showing off his magic on the six-string, resulting in one of the most professional and tightly played concerts at the festival this year. But therein also lies my main problem with it: is it not a tad too professionally executed, and thereby predictable to leave a truly lasting impression? I think so. [7] AP

Jason Butler and Stephen Harrison of Fever 333

Fever 333 @ 20:45 on Pandæmonium

Now, here’s a group I’ve been looking forward to with excitement at this year’s festival. The American rap metal/trap-core trio Fever 333 is made up of vocalist Jason Butler from the defunct post-hardcore band Letlive, guitarist Stephen Harrison from likewise defunct chaotic hardcore band The Chariot, and drummer Aric Improta from experimental post-rock/progressive metal group Night Verses. What I’m trying to get at with this, is that they are all quality musicians from bands that have a reputation for putting on some insanely wild live shows. And sure enough, they don’t disappoint as their rapcore booms out over the Pandæmonium area and neither of them can really stay still at their posts. Butler and Harrison bang their bodies and pace the stage constantly. Even Improta finds time to do high jumps from his drum chair and even to run out one time and climb the side of the stage to do a few pull-ups all the way up high and climb down again just in time for more drum beats.

Aric Improta of Fever 333 getting some air time

The electronic playback elements in their music take up a lot of space but the wild energy of their live show is convincing enough that it’s not something we really dwell on for more than a second of thinking that it would be excellent if they could get a live member in charge of that as well. They speed through hard-hitting songs that are mostly from their debut full-length "STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS", such as the revolution-starter "BURN IT", the catchy anthem "ONE OF US", and "OUT OF CONTROL" with its subversive layers of riffs. I’m really happy that they find time to include the hard-going "We’re Coming In" as well as the older single "Made An America" from their previous EP early in the set too. The American political climate is all over their angry and hyper-charged lyrics about racism, gun violence, and sexism, and the aggressiveness is contagious as the audience bang their heads in awe at the explosion of energy that is happening in front of us.

Stephen Harrison of Fever 333 spinning around himself

As the final song "Hunting Season" comes to an end, their guitarist climbs up the side of the stage as well, to play a few riffs while banging his head with no regard for safety, finishing by throwing his guitar carelessly onto the very top of the stage. In terms of wildness, this has definitely been a show to see, rivaling last year’s energy-bomb of Crossfaith on the very same stage. In terms of music and diversity, I still feel that there’s a way to go for the group but they certainly go all in on their chosen style with the energy to back it up all the way. They are a band to keep an eye on for sure, and if you’re near their live show sometime, definitely go see them. [8½] LL

Izzy Hale of Halestorm

Halestorm @ 21:00 on Hades

I’ll lay the cards on the table for this one. This band is probably the one I know least about at this year’s bill. I know it’s probably best described as hard rock and that the singer is Izzy Hale. Other than that: nothing. So, this review will solely be based on what is going on stage and the general feeling I was left with when the band left the stage. First impression: man, is Izzy rock’n’roll or what?! The sheer force, confidence, and energy she displays on stage is simply put overwhelming. It is rare that you come across a deliverance like the one she puts on, and if only it had transcended into the crowd and into the music delivered, this could’ve been a massive party. Her magnificent performance alone takes the overall experience one if not two whole grades up because it was just that good. Sadly, though the crowd did not feel it. Because of this, I too was left with a flat feeling as I felt the band deserved more. Perhaps it was the wrong audience because even though the musical performance by the band was a rather safe hard rock display, albeit solid, the way it was delivered spoke a very, very different story. But thanks to Izzy, Halestorm came out on top because the energy displayed by her on stage simply screamed ROCK in all capital letters. [6] RUB

Tool @ 22:30 on Helvíti

13 years of waiting impatiently come to an end at last when the lights are dimmed and “Third Eye (intro)" starts to resonate from the PA, announcing the long due return of Tool to Danish soil. The four musicians enter nonchalantly before the track segues into “Ænema" (taken from its namesake 1996 album) and virtually the entire stage transforms into an LED surface, which renders the band silhouettes for the vast majority of the performance to come. For those of us who have been lucky enough to see Tool live before will remember that it has always been like this: vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who is donning a cyberpunk-style outfit complete with a spiky mohawk, likes to obscure himself in the back of the production with as little light on him as possible, allegedly in order to better immerse himself in the mysterious universe for which this band is renowned. That mystery is upheld by the stunning and often unsettling claymation visuals that comprise most of the eye candy the quartet offers, with “Parabola" (off their 2001 record “Lateralus") in particular succeeding in mesmerizing the audience in this respect. Still, while one’s attention is inevitably drawn toward the strangeness happening on the screens, if one looks closely at the individual musicians, it is nonetheless clear that Keenan and his three cohorts — guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor & drummer Danny Carey — are not exactly static props in their own show either, with Keenan in particular totally losing himself in the moment and delivering an extremely captivating, expressive performance during the likes of “The Pot" (my personal favourite off the band’s latest album “10,000 Days" from 2006).

What that song also sets in stone is that Chancellor is an absolutely phenomenal bassist, often dictating the groove and really asserting himself in the mix — albeit without compromising the gorgeous sound the engineer on duty has bestowed Tool with tonight. The music sounds very heavy, and it is played at a high enough volume to drown all extraneous chatter, allowing me to follow Keenan’s example and submerge myself in this masterclass of progressive rock. One of the intrigues about the show tonight was always going to be the airing of new material taken from Tool’s upcoming fifth album (due in late August), and when these arrive in the respective shapes of “Descending" and “Invincible", it is satisfying to note that this Los Angeles, CA-born outfit is far from finished with cultivating and evolving their sound. Since no animations exist for these songs yet, they are instead accompanied by ominous, almost infernal light shows that complement nicely their dreamy, psychedelic soundscapes. The reaction to them is perhaps a little less enthusiastic than the rest of the setlist, but this was to be expected considering how long people have had to wait before hearing tracks like “Schism" and the deep cut “Sweat" off the quartet’s 1992 EP “Opiate". These two, on the other hand, are a resounding success with the Danish audience, which seems particularly to appreciate the abstract and kind of shroomy visualisations deployed during the former.

If you came to the concert expecting to be addressed in some way by Keenan, let alone any of the other musicians, then you will have left sorely disappointed. Tool seldom interact with their audience directly, preferring their shows to be more than simply concerts; they want them to be experiences, and I believe I speak for most people when I say that once “Forty Six & 2" reaches its grand finale near the end of the set, this is exactly what Tool has given us tonight. It is spectacular, thought-provoking and trippy, one’s mind-warping in tune with the endlessly complex bass riffs of Chancellor and opening doors of perception hitherto unseen when Jones lets his six-string really sing during the likes of “Vicarious". I could watch this stuff through the entire night but alas, when that song gives way to “Stinkfist" after the intermezzo piece “Ions", I am well aware the show is coming to an end. And even though the track earns a magnificent response, when it does eventually ring out, Tool exit just as unceremoniously as they entered, keeping their mystique intact but having earned a whole new generation of fans now eagerly awaiting the next time Tool might grace us with their presence. I’m not holding my breath but damn it, I hope it won’t be another 13 years! [9] AP

David Vincent of VLTIMAS

VLTIMAS @ 00:15 on Hades

Time for the closing band on this second day at the festival, and what a band that is. The debut album of this supergroup was just released and was given high praise by yours truly. So of course, this was one of the absolute highlights for me, and one I will hope I get to see another time around because basically, this couldn’t get much better. This death metal train hammered its way through a weary crowd but that didn’t stop them as they simply destroyed every single one attending. They played ultra-tight as well and really justified how intense and tight the sound is on the album. On top of this, it is no secret that we’re dealing with a seasoned bunch, so obviously they knew very well how to handle a crowd as large as this one. David Vincent commanded the audience with his dominating voice, whilst both Rune Eriksen on the guitar and Flo Mounier on the drums all managed to stay true to the origins of their music while still incorporating the new sound that is VLTIMAS; very impressive. With the intensity and sheer brutal and heavy force they delivered this first visit to Denmark close to perfection, they managed to bring Thursday to a very heavy conclusion. Everyone eager to find out how you manage to stay true to the origins, but also stay fresh and relevant in the extreme metal genre anno 2019 should do themselves a favour and check these guys out both live and on record because they are sure to blow your heads off. [9] RUB

FRIDAY, JUNE 21ST

CABAL @ 12:30 on Pandæmonium

It is a hot and extremely sunny early afternoon and time for some heaviness at the Pandæmonium stage. The weird contrast of this bright summer weather to the dramatic sounds of the orchestral intro of “Rah’ru" is not lost on anyone but nevertheless provides a scenery I have never experienced the band in prior to this, and I sometimes wonder if the band ever sees the daylight due to their pitch black, unforgiving brand of blackened deathcore. But like always, the band seemingly delivers right out the gate. The sound is enormous and punchy, the headbanging from both the band and the impressive audience reaches the floor when one djenty breakdown after the other is delivered in droves. “The Darkest Embrace" continues the punishingly heavy and razor sharp performance with a guest vocalist taking over the spot where Filip Danielsson is found on record, though I never actually figure out who it is. He does a well enough job but has a distinctly more hardcore yell than the brutal growls expected, which does make it somewhat unique.

CABAL has excitedly brought a couple of new witch brews of songs of which we are about to hear the first one. And I have to say, I’m really impressed with what I’m hearing. CABAL is taking on a faster tempo than usual which is great as I was afraid that CABAL might’ve been resting too much on their laurels for this next release, but that is not the case. It definitely still sounds like CABAL, but the black influence is turned up to 11 in one part with proper black metal lead guitar work meeting my ears before an utterly nasty breakdown, causing a sizeable wall this early in the day. Apparently, the hangover has successfully been beaten to a bloody pulp in people, who are engaging in flailing their limbs frantically in front. Another new song also impresses, giving me high hopes for the development of their sound, introducing some really creepy leads to the mix alongside a proper two-step hardcore riff tailored for pit action. During the breakout single “Innocent Blood", the vocals from Andreas Bjulver Paarup do seem a bit strained and tired but for the grand finale of the offbeat banger “False Light" he decides to join the wild crowd with a giant smile on his face. I have to admit that I do find the complete darkness and strobe lights of an indoor venue much more suitable for the guys in CABAL for obvious reasons, but nevertheless, the band came, saw and conquered a mob of tired, dehydrated and hungover metalheads from their alcohol induced slumber to great effect. [8] KW

Lars F. Larsen of Manticora

Manticora @ 13:00 on Hades

Rise and shine, Copenhell. It is time for a new round of power metal. This time with the local band Manticora who is yet to garner more attention in their native land even though they are very popular in various countries abroad. It was to a very scarce crowd they took the stage. I finally got to see this band ever since I first heard their two records “Hyperion" and “Darkness with Tales to Tell" so many years ago. It quickly became clear to yours truly that this time slot may have doomed this gig because of the poor turnout and that people didn’t really know them all that well. It is a shame really because they really gave it a run for their money. Even the theatricals were in order as lead singer Lars F. Larsen dressed in a blue surgical dress, probably related to their latest outing “To Kill to Live to Kill", and he even brought out a real sword towards the end of the set! They clearly tried their best to create that special atmosphere necessary for this genre, just like Demons & Wizards did the day before, but fell short due to how early it was and clearly how few bothered to show up.

Musically the show didn’t lack much. All instruments seemed on point and Larsen hit the high-pitched notes on the spot. Perhaps a few hours later, a few more drinks and more people, this might have been really good. Although I’m pleased to see Copenhell finally pay more attention to this genre, you know for genre diversity and such, this was sadly not the ideal way to display the grandeur that some power metal bands pose; Manticora included.[6] RUB

Matt Heafy of Trivium psyching up the crowd

Trivium @ 14:00 on Helvíti

The Florida heavy metalcore band Trivium with the charismatic Matt Heafy in front have been charged with opening the Helvíti stage this Friday. In many ways a thankless job, although they get decent action from the numerous audience in the pit today. "The Sin and the Sentence" opens the fray with great success, and soon the older "Like Light to the Flies" and "Sever The Hand" get a circle pit going as well. Heafy’s singing is on point and he manages to hit just the right amount of crowd control to activate the dazed crowd in the afternoon sun without alienating anyone. The hit single "Until the World Goes Cold" makes a welcome sing-along-friendly appearance as well, shortly before Heafy takes it upon himself to get the people sitting on the hills to participate in the show as well. To my surprise, almost everyone stands up to groove along to the catchy ballad "The Heart From Your Hate", perhaps egged on by his cheeky comment about Download Festival has been the best crowd for them on the tour so far. Later on, as he asks for and gets several circle pits spinning on the ground for "Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr", and one even forms on the hill as well. Finally, "In Waves" ends their set that has expertly done exactly what it was supposed to do. We’ve been pulled out of an onsetting afternoon slump and feel pumped and ready for the rest of the day after a surprisingly well-working Trivium set. [8] LL

Daniel Tompkins of TesseracT in a serene moment

TesseracT @ 15:15 on Hades

I’ve already seen TesseracT a number of times in Copenhagen over the past few years and as I approach the stage today, I am honestly not expecting this to top any of those experiences. And yet, it doesn’t take long before it’s obvious that this will definitely be the most engaged and active performance I have seen by them ever. Especially frontman Daniel Tompkins is in a great mood, cracking jokes, dancing, and running around the stage as well as down by the crowd while singing his parts beautifully on top of everything. Their set builds up almost entirely chronologically, beginning with the first three heavy parts of "Concealing Fate". The sound is oddly low throughout the show, though, and everything could certainly be sharper in the mix but with Tompkins’ phenomenal attitude and every band member’s nailing their complex parts, it doesn’t become as much of an obstacle as I fear to begin with.

Amos Williams of TesseracT headbanging

"Of Mind - Nocturne" makes an almost obligatory appearance but even though Tompkins is figuring out how to sing it so it fits his style, it will just never be as satisfying as with that track’s original vocalist Ashe O’Hara. Therefore I’m actually happy that they largely leave out tracks from the "Altered State" album and instead leave space for more tracks from the more recent "Polaris" and "Sonder" albums. The high-strung "Survival" and the off-beat "Dystopia" both make great impressions as the sun shines down and Tompkins lifts his microphone stand epically to fit the vibe of the music. But when we get to the comforting "Phoenix", it’s like the set reaches a different level entirely.

Daniel Tompkins of TesseracT in the zone

As the set arrives at the songs from "Sonder", it gets a bit heavier again, and they end with the trinity of "Smile", "King", and "Juno". Contrary to my expectations, there are actually several moshpits happening during the set as well as a whole lot of crowd-surfing, only encouraged by Tompkins. All in all, it is a solid festival set that goes much better than I had anticipated. Still, a better sound mix could have elevated the whole show to really magical levels but we're left with "just" a damn solid prog show. [8] LL

Johnny Hedlund of Unleashed

Unleashed @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

The first of the two Viking-themed acts at this year’s Copenhell the other obviously being Amon Amarth is Unleashed. Just like one has become accustomed to with the former, the music is aggressive and very fast-paced with the latter, and just like so, the show began. Besides this their music is probably best described as a sort of take no prisoner-type music as both musically and vocally was very angry-sounding. Funnily enough, Unleashed is actually the oldest of the two, even though Amon Amarth is without a doubt the biggest. Unleashed looks like they have taken note of the music by Amon Amarth, yet Unleashed manages to be way more aggressive and actually more thrash-orientated, which brings bands such as Kreator to mind. My knowledge is limited to a couple of songs, even I find myself nodding along to several of the unknown songs. Alas, I find that something is missing from the Swedes display on stage. Perhaps I have become too familiar with the enormous stage props the fellow Swedes in Amon Amarth display, I’m not sure, but I still think that something is missing from this concert to make it truly special and memorable, even though one can definitely feel the aggressive nature of the way they portray the various tales and historic battles of the Vikings in their songs.[6] RUB

Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids

Pretty Maids @ 16:30 on Helvíti

Onwards to something familiar to me. I’ve probably seen this next act more than half a dozen times, and yet I find myself returning to their brand of heavy metal every time presented the opportunity. I am talking about the Danes in Pretty Maids which dates back to the early 80s. Ever since I first saw them many years ago, I feel that little has changed both in musical style (obviously) and structure of the concert, but when you’re such a seasoned bunch I don’t really see why you should. They still show how good heavy metal sounded back then, alas not really throwing any big surprises (if any) in their set. However, I must say, I can see why people loathe them. Because they literally haven’t changed for decades expect a few changes in the line-up here and there for so many years, many have dubbed them ancient and pointless on the account they haven’t been relevant for decades. I beg the differ as they once again deliver a solid performance, neither good nor bad, with classics anthems such as “Red Hot and Heavy" and of course the set-closer “Future World". And although lead singer Ronnie Atkins’s vocals might have seen better days, I’d still deem them fine for such a concert as he showcases his classic vocal-anthem “battle" with the audience. They were one of the forerunners of Danish heavy metal, and still, today show why they should be booked for festivals like this, this concert is no different.[6½] RUB

BAEST @ 18:00 on Hades

BAEST is headed one way: up. After signing with Century Media and releasing their lauded début album “Danse Macabre" in 2018, the Århus-based outfit have rapidly established themselves as not just the leading death metal band in Denmark, but also as one of the brightest prospects for the genre internationally as well. As the five musicians make their triumphant entrance onto the Hades stage, they are faced with an enormous audience — one hellbent on rendering the experience unforgettable and writing a new chapter into Danish metal history. After the initial shock and having witnessed the response from the thousands of people gathered before the stage, the band locks into a show that, even by their usual standards, is extremely intense. Vocalist Simon Olsen darts back and forth and from side to side tirelessly as he disgorges the vitriol of tracks such as “Vortex" and “Hecatomb" unto us, whilst his cohorts on the bass and guitars attempt to outdo one another in the speed of their headbanging and windmilling and in the riskiness of their jumps and leaps. BAEST are delivering at the apex of their abilities here not only in terms of the energy of their showmanship but also the tightness of their execution, and as such it is no surprise the crowd reacts by generating circle- and moshpits galore, and doing their utmost to shatter the mythical record of the most crowd surfers received at the fence during a single show at Copenhell.

If it was not obvious already, then it becomes crystal clear tonight that BAEST have found a winning formula with their Stockholm-style death metal — not because tracks like the new single “Gula" or the crowd favourite “Crosswhore" bring anything particularly original to the table, but because this quintet is so adept at conjuring whirlwinds of intensity that seem to be mysteriously out of reach for most other bands of their ilk. But even if the five musicians are aware of their own competencies, it never feels like they grow complacent during their 60-minute set. On the contrary: they seem to be fuelled by the audience to be better than ever, and near the middle of the concert, Olsen shows his gratitude by delivering his vocals right into the frontmost people’s faces from the security barrier. For the final song, I decided to venture up the hill in order to get the full picture of what is happening here, and there it takes me a few minutes to grasp how massive and wild the show actually is. A milestone for Danish metal. [9] AP

Alien Weaponry @ 18:45 on Pandæmonium

It is an impressive sight to behold some 6.000 people greeting Alien Weaponry with a haka in unison, and it certainly bodes well for the show that is the follow by this New Zealander outfit. There has been no dampening the hype that surrounds the band as a result of both their young age and the traditional Maori influences spliced into the likes of “Urutaa" and the brand new single “Ahi Ka", and experiencing these tracks live for the first time, It is easy to understand why some critics have drawn similarities between this band and Sepultura, whose incorporation of Brazilian tribal drumming into their music helped establish them as one of the torchbearers of groove metal during the ‘90s. But at the same time, the way in which Alien Weaponry lay the Maori touches onto their tracks is much less pronounced and a lot of their set tonight is actually dominated by material that struggles to justify the hype; material that is very dime-a-dozen in terms of songwriting. Alien Weaponry is obviously still a band in the making, having only released a single record (2018’s “Tū") thus far, but as the likes of “PC Bro" and “Holding My Breath" in the beginning of the concert proves, there is a lot of work to be done before these Kiwi groove thrashers can really stand out by virtue of their music instead of only their gimmick. In spite of my own dissatisfaction, however, they seem to be getting a strong reaction from a sizeable portion of the audience, with plenty of people happy to headbang and mosh to the tune of especially “The Things That You Know" and the closing track “Rū Ana Te Whenua". So while to me this all smells of Emperor’s New Clothes, at the very least I have to admit that the three musicians — guitarist/vocalist Lewis de Jong, bassist Ethan Trembath & drummer Henry de Jong — have a touch of youthful grit to their showmanship that succeeds in keeping the large audience here entertained for the entire duration of the concert. [5] AP

Lamb Of God @ 19:45 on Helvíti

Some years ago, Lamb of God put on an epic showing at Copenhell by forging one of the largest walls of deaths this festival has seen, alongside an enormous circle pit. They waste no time in getting their rowdy redneck metal going through “Walk With Me In Hell" early on, which turns the crowd into a frenzy right away: people are jumping all around and singing along. A Swedish girl even loses her passport at one point during the show, and yes, there is a big wall of death but one that unfortunately does not match their record (despite the # of crowd-surfers surpassing the Alestorm record from last year).

Lamb Of God

The sound is solid, production is good, and the band is energetic and professional on stage. Yet it feels like another day in the office. There’s simply loads of average material in between the classics, which lack the crowd dynamic created by the aforementioned songs and, say, “Laid To Rest" later on. Here, it feels like the crowd wakes up from a coma of sorts and the entire festival site is morphed into a sea of headbangers all across. Likewise, final song “Redneck" induces a massive circle pit that stretches through both pits and beyond: it’s a wild ending to a show, leaving at least this scribe wishing that the whole show was like this. But alas. [7] PP

Clutch @ 21:30 on Hades

By late Friday evening, it has begun to dawn on me that Copenhell’s 2019 line-up is quite a mixed bag when it comes to performance quality, which is why it is good that there are also a number of trusty warhorses such as Clutch on the bill, bands that always deliver. Vocalist Neil Fallon seems to be in a convivial mood as “Ghoul Wrangler" (off 2018’s “Book of Bad Decisions") gets things underway, entertaining the audience with his booming voice and laid back charisma as funky riffs are slung right and left by lead guitarist Tim Sult. Having seen Clutch live many times by now, it never ceases to amaze me how often and how liberally this gang shuffles the setlist. Amidst all the crowd favourites like “Electric Worry" and “The Mob Goes Wild", the band has found space for a handful of deep cuts as well, giving me first experiences with both “Escape from the Prison Planet" (taken from the band’s eponymous 1995 album) and “Passive Restraints" (featuring on its namesake 1992 EP) and thus providing a window into the early days of this influential outfit. The latter even sees Fallon joined on vocals by Randy Blythe from Lamb of God for a particularly explosive rendition which arouses a riotous response from the audience. There is even time for a cover of “Evil" by the short-lived, yet much-loved Cactus, who garnered some fame in the early ‘70s with their heavy electric blues. The track fits in perfectly with Clutch’s own material, and it would not surprise me if Cactus was indeed listed as one of the key influences behind this Germantown, MD-born outfit.

“They call this Copenhell, but it’s a little slice of heaven for me!", exclaims a visibly excited Fallon after witnessing the response to “Noble Savage" (from 2015’s “Psychic Warfare"), and his show of affection seems to serve as an encouragement for the crowd to deliver an even more enthusiastic reaction — especially to the most beloved of the band’s live staples. He is also not shy about his political views, shouting “2020, people! 2020!" with an ironic smirk before making his own bid to be president with the fantastic “How to Shake Hands" to my great amusement. There is not a single moment during the 60-minute concert that makes me frown; on the contrary, when the time comes for “In Walks Barbarella" to be played, I invite my fiancé for an impromptu dance on the hillside — and I f**king hate dancing! From there I can also observe that many people have had the same idea, resulting in a gloriously heart-warming celebration of rock music that is brought to a conclusion perfectly by “Gimme the Keys". It is no wonder people keep flocking to Clutch’s shows in Denmark in spite of the high frequency with which they pay us visits; there are few artists who are able to consistently deliver shows of such high quality and still manage to pack them with myriad surprises. [8] AP

Olle Bergholz of Slægt

Slægt @ 21:45 on Pandæmonium

I cannot get enough of Slægt. These youngsters are actually not that young anymore, at least not band-wise, but they still manage to sound both fresh and very much relevant in their sound and performance. They sport a brand of blackened heavy metal and have over the past few years managed to make a name for themselves both nationally and finally internationally as well. For this gig they only play for a half-full Pandæmonium stage, which doesn’t do their music any justice. However, they have quickly become a very potent live act as well, so the four-piece delivers yet another monster of a heavy-weight concert. I have said it before, but I’ll gladly say it again: this band is going places. Just like the attitude packed in their music they have so much rock’n’roll attitude on stage as well which makes them shine even in front of a somewhat decimated crowd. These young men will secure the Danish metal heritage for years to come, and when they already have songs like “I Smell Blood" and from their 2018-outing “The Wheel" of the same name as part of their back catalogue, there is little doubt in my mind that they will leave a lasting impression on everyone willing to sacrifice a part of their soul and ears and simply let go, because this is quite frankly very impressive.[8] RUB

Slipknot @ 23:00 on Helvíti

Slipknot is like an institution when it comes to live shows. Larger-than-life stage production and constant action are guaranteed regardless of where they play, and tonight is no exception. The scene has been hidden by a large Slipknot curtain for a while now, which violently explodes off as the first riffs to “People = Shit" blast through the speakers. The crowd? Mental. Energetic movement and sing-alongs throughout the crowd for what feels like the first true community sing-along at this year’s Copenhell. Sure, there have been other bands with small sing-alongs, but none like this.

Behind the band, an absolutely enormous video screen display ensures that even if you’re not busy following what each of the band members is doing on stage, you have something else to look at, not to even mention the occasional pyro effects. Combined with the excellent crowd dynamic, where “Disasterpiece" moves the pits, and “Before I Forget" features the masses maniacally jumping up and down plus singing along, tonight’s Slipknot set has all the right elements for what constitutes an amazing show. This is how the Lamb Of God show should have looked like earlier, is what I’m saying.

That said, the set is not without moments where things could get better. “Psychosocial", for instance, is great, but what follows after is a lull of songs that just aren’t that popular with the crowd. It takes a few songs before Corey Taylor asks us if we want to pick this up, apparently aware of the risk of the crowd going stiff, and thus from “Sulfur" onwards, the crowd wakes up from what feels like a slight coma. “All Out Of Life" sees explosives scare the crowd (bombs these days tend to have that effect on people), and actually highlights just how little fire there has been tonight for the Slipknot show. I was at least expecting fire 90% of the time, but it seems like that honor this year was gifted to Amon Amarth (more about that later).

“Duality" draws a festival-wide sing along once again, before a brief encore splits that moment with the usual Slipknot everyone-sits-down-and-jumps song “Spit It Out". Well executed, as usual. We’re left with “Surfacing" that opens up one of the biggest pits at this year’s festival that stretches well outside the two pits in its diameter. Great stuff. [8½] PP

Belphegor

Belphegor @ 00:45 on Pandæmonium

As one of my primary concerns with the otherwise pretty good line-up was the lack of the truly extreme bands. I know, both The Psyke Project, Uada, VLTIMAS and of course Dimmu Borgir can all subscribe to that label in one way or another. Yet, so far, I felt that something was missing. This was about to change as the Austrian black metallers of Belphegor took the stage a quarter to 1 am. By now the crowd definitely looked tired but apparently, nothing cures weariness and sore necks like some brutal black metal. The band themselves are very tight this evening. I wouldn’t colour me surprised, but as I witnessed with Immolation even the most experienced veterans can have a night off. As is accustomed to these shows the stage is bathed in fire which would make even Rammstein jealous to some extent. In the midst of all the fire and smoke, the menacing grimaces of the members spawned, and when they were done laying the small Pandæmonium stage to waste, they emerged victorious after putting on a very convincing display of power. As so, Belphegor brought some much-needed extremity to the festival, and when performing on the smallest stage even some sort of intimacy and jam-packed intensity.[7½] RUB

Maria Franz of Heilung staring at our photographer with no eyes

Heilung @ 00:45 on Hades

The Danish group known as Heilung (meaning ‘healing’ in German) consists of many people on stage but is centered around three vocalists who also play various instruments: Kai Uwe Faust performs a kind of guttural throat singing, Christopher Juul adds a more whispering touch, and finally Maria Franz is often front and center in her white gown and adorned with antlers, singing with a strong, grounded voice. What they do is hard to describe, genre-wise. They call it amplified history, as every instrument, every strand of clothing they wear, and every lyric they sing has a historic foundation, mainly in the Iron Age, as far as I know. It is certainly a performance but also a ritual, a seance where everyone, even the audience, is taking part all of a sudden.

Skins, drums, and bones as part of Heilung’s performance

It all begins with an opening ceremony where every member is on stage reciting a kind of ritual prayer before some of the choir singers walk out again. The words are about being one with all humans, animals, plants, and stones, and are displayed like an oath on the two screens next to the stage so that the audience feels included in the ritual from the very start. It’s mesmerizing as countless drums and bones being struck against each other begin to create the rhythm along with the several vocals that intertwine and take turns being at the forefront of the music. The whole thing runs seamlessly, almost like one big track, even though it consists of songs from their two albums, "Ofnir" and the at-the-time-not-yet-released "Futha". We get four from each, of varying length between two and fifteen minutes each.

Kai Uwe Faust of Heilung throat-singing in front of the warriors

There are a host of little moments and sounds that make special impressions during the set, but here I’ll just mention two. First, the beautiful "Krigsgaldr" with its warrior poetry in understandable English, as opposed to much of the other songs that are sung mainly in older languages. It chimes and bends as Franz leads us in with a repeated chant before suddenly, some of the layers of the music fall away and we are left with the tragic beauty of the words: "What am I supposed to do / If I want to talk about peace and understanding / But you only understand the language of the sword [...] So my tongue shall become iron / And my words the mighty roar of war". Finally, we are lead back into the same chant as before and slowly taken out of the song again.

Maria Franz of Heilung belting out some impressive high notes

The second one I will mention is the newer song "Othan" with its entrancing choir of many voices, whispers, and guttural sounds. This time, it's Franz who really impresses as she belts out words with exquisite pronunciation and rolling sounds at various instances of the song. Granted, it's not always easy to remain inside the magic trance of the music when at a festival with drunk audience members looking for a more conventional party seem to be all around you at times. Likewise, the sound could use a notch upwards for most of the set but still, we are touched by the immense presence of this group. I can only imagine that it will be even more amazing when experienced in more concentrated surroundings at Amager Bio later this year. [8½] LL

SATURDAY, JUNE 22ND

Photo courtesy of Peter Troest

Demon Head @ 12:30 on Pandæmonium

It is a tough ask to get to Copenhell so early after a long night, but knowing full well what this Copenhagen-based outfit is capable of in the live setting gives me the energy needed to drag myself to Refshaleøen for the fourth and final day’s festivities. It turns out that I am one of only a few, however, as the crowd gathered in front of the Pandæmonium stage is by far the smallest I have seen at the festival this year. The low turnout does nothing to hinder the six musicians on stage from performing their typically wild antics, which involve plenty of hair swirling in the air, instruments brandished and swung, and vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen pouring his soul into every word he sings. In fact it looks a little bit bizarre for there to be such a divide between band and crowd when it comes to how much energy they have to give even during slower songs like “Gallows Omen" (taken from 2017’s “Thunder on the Fields"), which is delivered in a rendition so forlorn one fears it might conjure clouds from the horizon to block out the high sun. But try as they might, the six musicians are unable to stir up much of a reaction from the drowsy audience, not even when Larsen, too, picks up an acoustic guitar to join his axemen for an incredibly rich and melodic piece of doom and gloom to close off the set 45 minutes later. The look to be having the time of their lives but when it falls on blind eyes and deaf ears like today, it does not leave quite the same strong impression as when Demon Head tore through Pumpehuset as the support act for Coven last summer. [6] AP

Kevin Martin of Candlebox rocking the stage

Candlebox @ 13:15 on Hades

The hard rockers of Candlebox hail from Seattle but even though the grunge-label is what dominates their online presence, here they actually present more of a bluesy, old school hard rock style. There isn’t much of a crowd gathered at this early hour of the festival, but the band carry themselves proudly anyway and play through their set in an easy-going manner that, along with their music’s electric live energy, quickly wins over those of us who are here. Now, this is certainly a band that has aged very well. I am continually surprised by how vibrant the songs sound today and by the amounts of energy, the band members put into their playing. They have existed since 1990 but it still seems to be the songs from their self-titled debut album that the audience wants to hear. Thus, it is during songs like "Cover Me" and "You" that the show feels most accomplished, as the audience rocks out along to the music. I was a skeptic on my way here but this certainly turns out to be a fine start to this final day of concerts even as it doesn’t go through the roof in any way. [7] LL

While She Sleeps @ 14:30 on Pandæmonium

As While She Sleeps was originally booked for the 2018 edition of this festival, there are without a doubt many of us amongst the thousands gathered in the Pandæmonium area today, who have been looking forward to welcoming the Sheffield-based outfit here at last. The group thanks us for the invitation with an explosive performance full of jumps, spin kicks and twirls by vocalist Lawrence Taylor, guitarists Sean Long & Mat Welsh, and bassist Aaran McKenzie. It does not take long before a fast and expansive circle pit forms near the front of the stage to signal that the band’s fans, too, are very much in the mood for mayhem when the likes of “Brainwashed" (the title track to the band’s 2015 LP) are unleashed. With both “The Guilty Party" and “Haunt Me" making early appearances, it soon becomes clear that the setlist is dominated by material taken from the group’s latest album “So What?", which, for those of us who had expected to see While She Sleeps here the previous summer, is a quite disappointing turn of events. Those two songs nonetheless prove their worth by inciting mass singalongs, and as Taylor kneels and eventually collapses onto his back during the chorus of “Haunt Me", it is hard to remain sour about the imbalance for very long. Taylor has always struck me as a very passionate vocalist, and based on his antics in these two tracks it is obvious that he has poured his heart and soul into this music and he intends to incorporate that into his antics on stage.

But while the new material certainly works well in the live setting, it is the colossal hit single “Silence Speaks" off off 2017’s “You Are We" which draws the most resounding singalong, and also the most visceral moshpit after Taylor roars, “I think the silence speaks volumes!", and the breakdown drops like a sledgehammer. A brave fan takes a leap of faith off the five-meter platform in the RIP area and proceeds to surf virtually the entire length of the audience to pump Taylor’s fist at the fence, and when “Hurricane" arrives to conclude the festivities, McKenzie inspires himself to deliver his parts for it from the eye of the moshpit. Once the last notes ring out, Taylor then starts destroying the stage (overlooked by an impressive graffiti wall backdrop), throwing platforms around and tearing down the amp stacks one by one much to the enjoyment of his audience. While She Sleeps is sent off to the tune of thunderous applause, but I must admit to being left with mixed feelings about so many fantastic older songs foregone. [7] AP

Some of the many instruments Eluveitie displayed this early afternoon

Eluveitie @ 14:45 on Hades

This early afternoon slot features a pretty packed stage because of the many band members playing various sort of instruments, but also a pretty huge crowd have turned up to witness this Swiss folk metal act. Anyone just vaguely familiar with their sound knows that it consists of everything from your more traditional instruments to both mandolin, violin and of course the , just to name a few. Needless to say, there was plenty of elements to caress your ears if you just pay attention. For this particular gig they didn’t have the bagpipe player with them, but when there’s so much else going on in the magnificent soundscape, there should be enough to bring out the folk-party. The band a convincing effort without venturing into the high-grade area. Fans of both Nightwish, Finntroll and of course Korpiklaani should all be able to find elements they would like about this performance, even though it weren’t particularly memorable. Ending on a very high note with what is perhaps best described as their most popular track “Inis Mona" ends the 9-track setlist in a great manner. So even though it is still somewhat early on this last day of the festival, they still performed ok and even though the true folk-party never really arrived, it was still a decent performance.[6½] RUB

Corey Glover of Living Colour funking it up

Living Colour @ 15:30 on Helvíti

The New York-based hard rock band Living Colour have the tough task of manning the biggest stage in the early afternoon on the final day when a big part of the audience is presumably still reeling from their hangovers. I have been expecting it to turn into a dance-heavy funk party but instead it never really lifts off the ground. It has somehow gone past me that they are here to play their classic debut album "Vivid" in full, so one should think that the foundation for fans to have a good time could not be better. And still, they play through their set with disappointingly little crowd response apart from the ones in the pit. The set itself is solid enough, though. They start in a bluesy manner before kicking off with the old hit "Cult of Personality", where their vocalist makes good use of the stage expansion intended for Scorpions later. This is kind of the main high of the set, though, and the song that most non-fans have shown up to see, so as they extend into several solos, well-played as they are, the audience scatters. A few tracks do stand out for me later on, though. "Open Letter (To a Landlord)" presents a more firm groove than the surrounding songs as well as a stellar vocal performance, while the slap-bass-dominated "Funny Vibe" followed by their Talking Heads cover "Memories Can’t Wait" also gets a good response. At the end, we get their cover of The Clash’s "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" that starts somewhat boring but ends on a double tempo, funk metal note that livens everyone up a bit. By then it is however too little, too late. [6] LL

Glenn Hughes still rocking in front of his spacy backdrop

Glenn Hughes @ 17:00 on Hades

Bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes was a member of Deep Purple between 1973 and 1976, and he’s currently touring with a full Deep Purple set. He handles most lead vocals himself her, impressively so I might add, even as he was originally the backing singer of those years, as far as I know. Those years cover big releases like "Burn" and "Stormbringer" from 1974, and especially the first of those two takes up space in his setlist. There’s a further appeal in that he has two Danes with him in his band, and additionally, the one member who isn’t Danish comes on stage wearing a bright red Christiania shirt. All in all, it almost makes us feel like we are transported to a different reality back in time, where this alternate Deep Purple was grooving along in Denmark in the 1970s. They hit it off with "Stormbringer" but initially, Hughes’ microphone isn’t working so it takes a few minutes before we finally hear his bellowing voice ring out over Copenhell. When we hear him, though, it’s evident that his pipes are still well and working and we get no shortage of falsetto and long vibrating notes all over the set.

Glenn Hughes being all smiles as he plays on Hades

The crowd is especially wild for the bluesy and burning hot "Mistreated" that sees the band spacing out in longer guitar solos, just like it’s supposed to be. It feels like it lasts almost 15 minutes and does get a bit long-winded for me, but after that, we are picked up with the classic "Smoke On The Water" that extends into "Georgia On My Mind", as in classic Deep Purple live sets. The audience is digging it and the groovy "Burn" gets a great response as well. Hughes' high yells do get a bit gimmicky after a while but then again, I suppose that's just a staple of the time as well as the genre. The songs seem to leave more and more space for the musicians to rock out and show off their skills and throughout, it’s just a good old-fashioned rock show. Nothing more, nothing less, although it is, of course, a treat to feature these huge songs live at the festival. [7½] LL

Ben Ward of Orange Goblin keeping hydrated

Orange Goblin @ 17:15 on Pandæmonium

Back to the Pandæmonium stage as it is finally time for some groove, stoner and plenty of melody. Again, a pretty sizeable crowd has gathered to watch these Englishmen as they might deliver a much-needed breather. And I say breather because this could’ve been your standard run-of-the-mill stoner performance, but instead, it actually turned into a definite party-starter which should help the tired crowd work their way through the last bit of hangovers. Orange Goblin visited a total of six different albums during their set and even managed to pack in an incredible rendition of Motörhead’s “No Class" – one of my personal favourites. By this time, I see a lot of people in the audience going at it as seems very normal when a band covers a Motörhead track (or any other larger band for that matter). But usually it is that sloppy or “standard" cover of “Ace of Spades", which isn’t a bad song by any means, it just seems so refreshing that a band finally plays something different, and refreshing is really an important keyword for this concert. Even though I’m not all that familiar with every single track played tonight, I take notice of “Devil’s Whip" off the 2014 album “Back from the Abyss". That track really describes the intensity the band delivered this gig with. And even though it might not have gotten every single crowd member worked up as intended, they still performed well and with much vigour.[7] RUB

Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth @ 18:15 on Helvíti

What some might call toxic masculinity these days, I call fuckin’ awesome. Amon Amarth is the living and breathing example of everything man, exemplified by their monstrous vocalist Johan Hegg who looks every bit like a Viking might have been in the old days while rummaging and pillaging the English villages. Tonight, their drum set is constructed inside a giant Viking helmet, and behind them is an enormous, dramatic banner depicting various battles in the storms and seas across the world. They open with “The Pursuit Of Vikings", the perfect opening to any set as it highlights everything these guys are about: Vikings, roared growls, and melodic, catchy riffs. As such, the crowd roars like we’re celebrating the conquest of a small English village, before “Deceiver Of The Gods" has us all humming the guitar melody: "loooooo-loooooooo-loo-lo-lo-lolooo".

Amon Amarth

Let’s get ready for a big fucking Viking party!", Hegg roars triumphantly before “First Kill", and behind him, two actors dressed up in authentic Viking attire from the furs to wielding a shield and a sword, and start battling it out in the background. Even though it’s a little cliché, it fits perfectly to the battle glory thematics of Amon Amarth so the crowd (including this scribe) eats it up like candy. Every now and then, the banners behind the band drop and switch out to even more dramatic storms or tributes to the Norse Gods, whilst the band goes all out on pyro effects. There’s so much fucking fire, all the time, everywhere, that it’s sometimes to see the band. It’s not limited to just upwards fire, but they seem to have cannons wired in all directions to create a total wall of chaos that creates arguably the greatest display of Viking metal I’ve seen to date. What makes it even better is that tonight is the Scorpions night, so there is a giant catwalk built out of the stage. This is constantly dominated by Hegg & co, whose muscular, masculine appearances take every advantage of the extended stage length to showcase one stunt more ridiculous to the other. Everything from lifting your hand to get the crowd roaring to downing beer from their Viking drinking horns (crowd chanting, chug! Chug! Chug!) to playing in triple or quadruple formation is there. It honestly looks like the catwalk was built for Amon Amarth and not Scorpions!

Amon Amarth - look at that massive dragon, it is moving!

When you didn’t think it was gonna get better, then the band introduce a giant motherfucking dragon/sea creature robot on the background that bops its head and looks like it’s about to eat one of the band members half the time. What a great stage prop! Fire is everywhere, of course, and finally, the set finishes with raining sparks from the top of the stage that looks like the fire is upon us during “Twilight Of The Thunder God". Great energy, amazing action on stage, and the crowd is 110% into this on a sunny afternoon. This is the best show at Copenhell this year, no doubt. [9] PP

Ten Years In Hell @ 19:15 on Hades

In a bid to continue the tradition of offering the attendees something different that began in 2018 with Jakob Stegelmann bringing to life soundtracks from various superhero movies and video games with the Århus symphony orchestra, Copenhell decided to invite no less than 40 Danish rock and metal musicians to jam together on the Hades stage this year. The idea is to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the festival by bringing these musicians together into a number of teams tasked with performing some rock or metal classic together, interspersed by Copenhell stories from the past ten years by conferencier Carsten Holm. It looks like a pretty cool concept on paper, but unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The proceedings do have a number of highs, such as a cover of Gasolin’s “Rabalderstræde" with Casper Roland Popp (of Bersærk) on vocals, and “T.N.T." by AC/DC (sung surprisingly well by Siamese vocalist Mirza Radonjica-Bang, who thus makes his stage début at the festival at last), and a badass rendition of a Death classic (the title of which escapes me) with Bo Summer (of Illdisposed) growling.

But while everybody likes a good ol’ sing-song, problems continue to mount with every passing song. The sound technician is unable to keep up with the constantly alternating cast of musicians on stage, and while Holm’s stories in between the tracks are pretty interesting to listen to, there is often zero relevance to the songs that are then played. Indeed, as Slægt frontman Oskar J. Frederiksen slaughters Motörhead’s iconic “Born to Raise Hell", I realize that the one thing that would make this show success is a red thread — yet no one seems to have thought about the fact. Apart from the chance to spot a couple of legendary faces like Tim Christensen (Dizzy Mizz Lizzy) and Jacob Binzer (D-A-D) on stage, this show does not actually differ all that much from what is happening in the festival’s Biergarten all day, every day: comfortably inebriated attendees toasting loudly and singing along to some well-known classics. And to think this could have been so great… [4] AP

Municipal Waste @ 19:45 on Pændemonium

As you might imagine for a band that centers its very existence around beer and partying, the amount of yellow gold being tossed in the air during their set well exceeds the allowed maximum (which is zero. Drink your beer - nobody wants to get a cold one land on their neck!). But this is Municipal Waste where people also find it perfectly acceptable to shout things at the band on stage - because they expect it. So that’s what we are dealing with here, fueled by a nonstop stream of thrash metal that the band happily announces as "We play fast… in fact, we play music you can rip your face off to". Unsurprisingly, the crowd is in a constant state of circle pit whilst the band tightly thrash away on stage, often in a quadrant formation and any other heavy metal cliché they can come up with. "Bang your fucking fists!", they shout and ask us to have a wave of death (i.e. people crowd surfing). Sure, some of it is funny, but where’s the bodyboard or the beer bong on stage? The stuff that made their concerts hilarious in the past is gone, in its place is mediocre thrash metal that is fast and tight, but that’s about it. [6½] PP

Rob Zombie doing some crowd-pleasing

Rob Zombie @ 20:45 on Helvíti

As Copenhell has branded the recent years, the festival is not only a metal festival, which this last day’s headliner is a proof of. The freak-horror show of Rob Zombie (and band) should speak to the vast majority of hard rock fans present today, as the digestible riffs and easily recognisable hits should ring a bell with almost everyone attending. Having been the guitarist for Rob Zombie for almost 15 years, I would like to quickly highlight John 5. The thing about him is that he is a highly underrated guitarist, as his finesse and imagination when it comes to riffing is simply astonishing. So, if he’s such a great guitarist how come he plays for Rob Zombie, you ask? It could very well have something to do with the image Zombie brands, in which John can identify himself with. Whatever the reason he definitely adds some much needed musically edge to the gig, which didn’t lack anything performance-wise. Much of the reason to this was largely due to Mr. Zombie apparently forgetting he’s 54 years old as he would simply pounce around on the main stage, from side to side and even venture into the crowd on several occasions. This clearly rubs off on the massive crowd as his energy level and intensity is just through the roof today. This, coupled with the remaining members being dressed like some freak-circus outfit just ensures that you always had something to look at whilst enjoying the show; because this is without a doubt a show before anything else.

The sound was very crisp and loud, which simply intensified the experience further. There’s plenty of humourous elements to accompany the show, as he complained about the sun and how he confused a seagull with an owl because of it – hilarious! It is very easy to see and feel how much they own the stage, and with a cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop" they continue to throw hit after hit at the big crowd. Before ending on what is perhaps his biggest hit, a small cameo of both “Enter Sandman" and “School’s Out" is played just to please the crowd even further. Ending on a very high note with the classic “Dracula" Rob Zombie shows that age is really just a number, as he proved that he can still compete with the youngsters. Very impressive![8] RUB

Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir @ 22:15 on Hades

As one of the main headliners for me at this year’s Copenhell, I was really sad to see the Norwegians in Dimmu Borgir clashing with the (apparent) one-off reunion of renowned Danish post-hardcore The Psyke Project on the smaller stage Pandæmonium. However, the timeframe of the bands made it possible to catch enough of both setlists to be able to truly enjoy both concerts. As off Dimmu Borgir, I have seen them only once before and this was at the Wacken festival where they had brought with them the Czech National Symphony Orchestra to make their brand of symphonic black metal truly standout. This was sadly not the case this time around, but I was still eager to see how they would fair with the symphonies coming from a backdrop. Another thing struck me as odd with the backdrop. It might not have been the case, but to me, it sounded like the famous clean vocals originally made by ICS Vortex, who sadly left the band back in 2009, was coming from the backdrop as well. I know it can be very difficult to resemble such a unique voice, but simply resorting to using a backdrop perhaps isn’t the right solution either. Whether the case, it still wasn’t enough to make this a bad concert by any means, and the massive crowd present seemed to agree with me. These Norsemen is still very much a band to behold, as their general sound is still so majestic and grandiose as they power through songs both new and old such as “The Chosen Legacy", “Puritania", “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" and from their latest outing "Eonian" “Council of Wolves and Snakes". For people who seen this band live I cannot stress enough how much you have to, as it is truly unique experience; even without the orchestra. If they ever get to play Copenhell again I simply hope it won’t clash with another extreme act, as that seems rather pointless even though the genres of The Psyke Project and Dimmu Borgir are so far apart. It might be wishful thinking, but perhaps they will do another run of the “orchestral" performance. If it’ll be the case, there’s room to make an even more memorable performance even though this particular one was one of the best this year. [8] RUB

The Psyke Project @ 22:15 on Pandæmonium

Even though Tool’s return to Danish soil on the previous night was unquestionably the most anticipated event at Copenhell this year, it was arguably not the biggest scoop. That honour befell The Psyke Project — one of the most notorious live bands Denmark has ever seen — who were tempted by the festival to deliver an ultra-exclusive, one-off reunion show, which was to be the first and only time the band would return to a stage after their spectacular farewell concert in 2014. Enveloped in a light show that perfectly captures the intensity of the Helsinge-born outfit’s showmanship, the proceedings are kicked off with a crawling yet stupendously heavy rendition of “Partisan" (taken from the band’s final album: 2013’s “Guillotine"), and already from the first note, it is clear the audience here is hellbent on giving their homegrown heroes another unforgettable sendoff. Indeed, when vocalist Martin Nielskov — smeared in warpaint just like the rest of the band and rocking a bandana — lets loose “We scream together ’til we die!" during the fourth song “Stockholm Syndrome" (off the masterful “Dead Storm" LP released in 2009), he could hardly capture the atmosphere that reigns in the Pandæmonium area right now better: this is a homecoming to remember, and everyone is prepared to give everything they have to render this concert just as mental as the infamous club shows The Psyke Project used to play.

A colossal circle pit has been whirling and growing in both size and violence since “Partisan", and at one point Nielskov pauses to catch a breath and exclaim: “I fucking love this!". It is the most genuine expression of awe and gratitude from any artist at this year’s festival, and he puts action behind his words when he proceeds to deliver the full length of “Never Like Judas" (off the group’s 2003 album “Samara") surfing in the hands of the audience. While the personnel on stage is the line-up most people associate with The Psyke Project, guitarist Christian Bonnesen actually joined these masters of chaotic hardcore punk and post-metal some time after “Apnea" was released in 2007, and the band honours this fact by inviting their original guitarist Simon Vadstrup on stage for a three-pronged guitar assault and thus an ungodly heavy version of “Fimbul" (from the group’s 2005 album “Daikini"), in which the bending chords feel like they’re bending your bones into some disgusting, twisted mass of human flesh. The calm, atmospheric passages in “Polaris" offer a welcome respite in “Fimbul"’s wake — but only until the first breakdown, which once again drives the audience and band into a complete frenzy.

After taking us all the way back to their first EP “You’re So Beautiful" and the first song they ever wrote (“Just at the Moment"), Nielskov delivers a heartfelt speech praising the punk and metal scenes in Denmark, earning thunderous applause from the crowd. This pissed off track, which actually sounds pretty similar to Slipknot in places, gets us all into the right mood for the finale, “In the Mist", which draws an absolutely maniacal reaction from the huge audience and culminates with bassist Jeppe Skouv smashing his instrument into pieces and throwing its tangled remains into the moshpit — a nice souvenir for some lucky fan. During the evening, Nielskov has made it very clear that there will be no more shows from The Psyke Project in the future, which makes the experience all the more cathartic for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of it. The band was and again will be sorely missed, but this concert has given us another unforgettable imprint on our memories. [9] AP

Scorpions @ 23:30 on Helvíti

How manyeth time is Scorpions on Copenhell again? I’ve lost count, but that in itself isn’t a problem as long as the band can deliver a performance for the ages day in, day out. That is simply not the case anymore. Sure, the stage has a giant 3D guitar that makes for quite a spectacle. Yes, they have huge video screens. But when the entire audience of Copenhell is waiting for your two hit wonders before reacting in any manner, it’s not a good sign.

Let’s take the band’s singer, Klaus Meine, for instance. The dude is so old he’s not able to sing in the slightest - think Ozzy having a really bad day. He’s also barely able to move, which leaves the rest of the band to do any of that action, such as when they make it to the catwalk together… a far cry from the show of dominance earlier on the same stage prop by Amon Amarth.

At one point of the show, I jot down notes along the lines of: have they even written any other decent songs than “Rock You Like A Hurricane" or “Winds Of Change"? The latter draws the first sing-along of the night and one that doesn’t feel like just background music. But in its essence, Scorpions anno 2019 is basic granddad rock, and tonight they demonstrate it with a pointless set that disappears into the oblivion, or perhaps into the history books, which is where this band belongs today. [3] PP

UADA branding darkness

UADA @ 01:15 on Pandæmonium

What better way to end a metal festival (that’s right, to me Copenhell is still a metal festival) than with a black metal band? This was the case with the Americans in UADA, as I finally got to see them after I was blown away by their sophomore album "Cult of a Dying Sun" from last year. Not a lot of people seemed to share my enthusiasm, or perhaps it was Kvelertak playing the larger Hades stage that simply pulled the bigger crowd, as the front area of Pandæmonium was only half-full. Luckily for the attendees, this didn’t stop the band from putting on a proper atmospheric black metal showcase, which definitely showed what a great band UADA actually is. Dressed in black the band takes the stage. Or, so I would believe they were since it was actually black silhouettes who took the stage. Wearing hoodies to cover their faces, UADA put on a very convincing display of their brand of black metal, and when the atmosphere was so neatly in place it just gave the concert that extra notch upwards. The darkened image was a juxtaposition to the bright lighting which bath the scene, and when it was accompanied with thick smoke the stage was truly set. I cannot think of a better way to end this insanely good 10th edition of the festival, which to many was already a failure before it had even begun. When music like this gets a proper timeslot, the correct atmosphere and of course music as insanely good as UADA shows, you simply know you’re witness to something truly special. What a great booking! [9] RUB

Kvelertak @ 01:15 on Hades

Despite being the ideal candidate for this role, it is a shame that Kvelertak was given one of the two closing slots on the Copenhell programme this year. As soon as “Åpenbaring" (the opening track to 2013’s “Meir") kicks into gear, the Norwegian six-piece looks fired up and ready to raise hell, but to the detriment of this plan, the people that still remain at the festival are dipping into their final energy reserves and as such, the band’s ultra-energetic antics fail to initiate as rowdy a party as they deserve. This is a fresh experience whether one has seen Kvelertak live before or not, as a new vocalist in Ivar Nikolaisen is now fronting the outfit and attempting to fill the shoes of his predecessor Erlend Hjelvik, who managed to become something of a legend during his 11 years with the band. But as the likes of “Bruane Brenn" and “Nekroskop" quickly prove, they could hardly have found a better replacement than Nikolaisen, who, in spite of his hardcore punk past, is not shy about embracing his inner Viking either and thus really embodies the spirit of this band’s unique fusion of AOR, black metal and punk.

Songs like “Berserkr" and “Fossegrim" (the latter off Kvelertak’s self-titled masterpiece from 2010) have always been fun to listen to given the outrageousness of their mixing blastbeats with three-chord guitar drives and solos in triple harmony — but obviously they are also very fun to play. During the latter, the three guitarists (Bjarte Lund Rolland, Maciek Ofstad & Vidar Landa) all congregate around Kjetil Gjermundrød’s drumkit and then proceed to climb all over it when the track reaches peak intensity and then smoothly transitions into the standout “Offernatt". Together with bassist Marvin Nygaard, everyone in the band looks to be having the time of his life; there is so much grinning, so much movement, and so much energy to the performance and when the crowd favourites “Blodtørst" and “Mjød" are aired toward the end of the set, the audience, too, finally loses it. There is not a lot of bulls**t here — just six musicians busting out one infectious metal’n’roll blaster after the other with almost no breathing breaks, and doing so with an intensity that deserves a much bigger and much more engaged reaction. This is an energising end to another fantastic festival thus, albeit it stops just short of transcending into a celebration we won’t soon forget. ‘Till the next time, then! [8] AP

FINAL WORDS

And that’s about it, we successfully suffered and endured through the body-torment and awesome atmosphere that is Copenhell for the tenth time in a row. It’s rare that a festival keeps itself so relevant and fresh over such a long period of time, which is one of the reasons we keep coming back year after year here at Rockfreaks.net. The biggest party of the year for rock/metal fans is no longer just a Nordic phenomenon, by the way, but it is starting to attract people from all over the world who travel here just for this event, which speaks volumes about how well the festival’s organizers and creative minds are faring.

There are a few things that need improvement for next year - primarily related to queues and amount of bars and such given that we’re now approaching 30.000 people at the festival year-on-year, but they are but cosmetic and small issues at a festival that is extremely well-executed both thematically and in terms of the organisation overall. So with that said, let’s finish off this year’s banger with our classic The Good, The Bad & The Ugly section. PP

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR

THE GOOD

  • Once again, Copenhell excelled at creating a unique atmosphere with the huge variety of props and quirks and site shows deployed across the area. Examples include the Copenhell wolf ‘winking’ at night thanks to a clever video feed projected on it, being able to eat a pig’s head in full, having a Copenhell-themed fridge and washing machine for sale for 6666 DKK a piece, the two Death statues outside Graveyard, the glimmering skulls outside Biergarten, and much more.
  • Excellent variety and some very high quality food this year.
  • Excellent craft beers in the R.I.P area.
  • Udgård, the Viking area had moved to the forest and received a much needed facelift as a result!
  • The pant system is still the wonder of the world compared to many other festivals. What a fantastic way of keeping the site clean and nice.
  • Cider bar addition at Tutten. Not everyone wants to drink beer only for three days straight!
  • Fire and more fire! Plus spectacular fireworks in the end.

THE BAD

  • Pant system: Despite being also good, it sucks that there are differences between what each of the booths take in, and how many you are allowed to bring, etc. The rules need to be uniform across the festival site. It doesn’t make sense that Tutten does not take other pant than plastic glasses, and that some booths refuse pant altogether and direct to the pant collection stand instead.
  • Cocktails, what happened here? Now you could only buy tiny 0.3L cocktails as opposed to the half-litre ones from last year. What was good value all of a sudden felt very expensive and small.
  • The trees at the top: festival area felt more exposed. Additionally, because there was no heaven and hell bar this year, it meant huge queues at many bars, plus fewer people sitting up there meant it was basically impossible to go across Helviti when a band was playing.
  • Schedule planning: some pretty nasty clashes. For example why would TTP play at the same time as Dimmu Borgir rather than the Scorpions. Before the festival, Refused was scheduled at the same time as Terror as well: two identical target groups (though this was later changed by chance of Whitechapel’s tour plans changing).
  • Bus 666 now going from central station instead of Christianshavn: so many confused people standing on Christianshavn Torv on Wednesday and Thursday in particular. Why not add a second route altogether?

THE UGLY

  • The beer queues - you sometimes had to wait more than 30 minutes for a drink! With 28.000 people we are in a dire need for more bars.
  • Queues in general, often it took so long to get food that you’d give up.
  • There were far less actual toilets this year, and they were situated at the very extremes of the festival, making toilet trips a big nuisance for the ladies especially.
  • The queue to the festival on Thursday and on other afternoons was just unacceptably long. It must not take that long to check wristbands, seriously!

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