Copenhagen Metal Fest 2019

author TK date 16/10/19

This is the inaugural edition of Copenhagen Metal Fest — a new indoor event envisioned by the Danish webzine, focusing on domestic artists.The venue for it is the recently refurbished Amager Bio, which now has a new entrance and lobby area, with better and bigger toilets, and a more convenient cloak room situated right next to the front door. There is a large open area outside as well, filled with food trucks, a merch stand, tables, as well as a stand selling all manner of trinkets (…I guess is the best word). However, there is very little here to indicate what the event actually is about — of course, the battle vests and beards on the people milling back and forth outside gives us some indication of what is happening, but hopefully there will be more focus on the visual aspects of the festival at next year’s edition (the taking place of which was confirmed just before the final headliner went on later in the weekend). Some banners and posters in particular would be an awesome and easy way to promote the festivities to a greater extent.

The festival is divided onto three stages collectively known as Amager Kulturpunkt. Amager Bio contains the largest stage in the main building, but there is also the much more intimate confines of ZeBu. And in the adjacent building, there is the small stage of BETA, which has hosted many legendary bands in the past. The walk from the main building to BETA takes about 25 seconds, so it is extremely easy to get around.

There are three food trucks stationed outside. One is Mjødgård, selling ‘manly’ food in the shape of gourmet hotdogs with a wide selection of toppings and condiments, as well an assortment of other similar foods. I had one of the hotdogs with thick slices of fried bacon on the side. Next to it is the green veggie food truck, Green Burger, which I didn’t try, but which only seemed to generate very little traction by the looks of it. Still, it is an admirable concept and I hope the festival invites Green Burger back next year for the sake of diversity. The third option was an excellent Mexican food truck, Pakomex, which was manned by a couple of big guys selling amazing Mexican food. There was also a coffee truck from Sweet Street, but as I am not a coffee drinker, I did not get to try this one out.

One thing I dislike about Amager Bio and the other venues is the beer selection; there is only one beer worth drinking in my opinion, and it would become them to get with the times and expand their line-up in this regard. People are drinking craft beer left, right and center these days, after all. One of my friends tried the red wine from the bar, and judging by his facial expression and refusal to talk about it, I gather it was a horrific experience.

Aside from these ‘additional features’, Copenhagen Metal Fest is still very much in an early stage, so there is not a whole lot else than the music itself going on — which, of course, brings us to the reviews.



Billy Boy In Poison @ 17:30 at Amager Bio

Billy Boy in Poison go full throttle and command the stage right out of the gates. It is late Friday afternoon and the crowd is very small, but the band seems unfazed by the lackluster turnout and is hellbent on kicking some heavy metal ass. The Copenhagen-based outfit has long been heralded as one of the great underground bands Denmark has to offer, both internationally and nationally. There is no doubt they are influenced heavily by other artists — but then, who isn’t? Like good wine, there are layers and nuances that are reminiscent of other bands, yes, yet Billy Boy in Poison have nonetheless developed a sound and style that is very much their own.

It is hard getting the small and somewhat sober crowd going. There are a few misguided attempts at getting a circle pit going, but the crowd is just not there yet. At one point, a few guys get a feeble circle pit going but in an utterly surreal moment, I see someone walking straight through the circle pit with a full beer in their hand, without spilling a drop. Early gigs at a festival such as this one, can be a tough assignment, but with a consummate frontman like Hjalte Sejr Bertelsen, who is performing like there is no tomorrow, it is a joy to behold all the same. The set consists of several strong tracks, but especially the last two songs are stunning and leave me rattled. And towards the end of the show, more people have found the way into this, the largest venue of the festival, but they really should have gotten their asses in there earlier. They missed one hell of a show. [7]

Spitanger @ 19:15 at Amager Bio

Next up is Spitanger, whom I have been hearing about for some time. There was the age debate about whether 40+-year school teachers could play metal and there has just been a good buzz going around about a good and competent live-band. They take the stage with confidence and hit it off hard with decent songs built up like a classic ‘90s metal tracks. There is no doubt as to what the band grew up with musically, and they love it. Mario Giovanni is the ever-present front man, who is often seen showing off his impressive vocal range and flair for showmanship. This is a great show for an early time slot on the first day of a two-festival, as people have had a few beers by now and are enjoying themselves. There are even quite a few people in the ever-increasing crowd wearing Spitanger t-shirts. On stage, the ‘90s throwback continues and it is all good. Yours truly thoroughly enjoys himself throughout the show! [6]

Sinnrs @ 20:30 at ZeBu

Sinnrs is my first show at the miniscule ZeBu-stage located in the back of the building that houses the main stage Amager Bio. It is a room normally used for children’s theater, but more about that later. Coming from two uptempo shows with classic, ever-present front men, Sinnrs are a completely different kettle of fish. Their music is dark, somber, and there is nothing funny about their appearance or their music. Sinnrs are a duo consisting of a guitarist and a drummer, but they sound like there are more members hidden behind the Sinnrs banners spanning both sides of the stage. There is so much happening in the guitar arrangements and in the drum patterns that it almost takes your attention away from the music as a whole. But as you settle into the atmosphere of the little dark room, their particular brand of atmospheric black metal encompasses you and sucks you in. I find myself transfixed and engrossed in the soundscape they create with so few means. It is complex and loud — and it is very good, as they crank out some of their strongest tracks like “The Storm of I” and the aptly named “No Promise for Mankind”. This is just what I needed after a long work week and it puts me in the right mood for a metal festival. It also puts me in the mood for more beer. Onwards to the bar! [7]

Artillery @ 23:15 at Amager Bio

I have always said my tombstone should read “Alive and well and kickin’ it in Kansas”, but maybe it should in fact read: “I never got thrash metal.” The last show of the night for me is with the legendary Artillery. Legendary, you say? Artillery was formed in 19-fucking-82! I was 8 years old and probably in the 3rd grade, and a large portion of the audience here wasn’t even born then. Okay, so I am not a huge fan of the genre, but my anticipation for this band is still high. They are true legends on the metal scene and yet, I have never gotten around to catching them live due to hiatuses in both recording and touring. Few members exist from the original line-up today, but the sound is quintessential Artillery, so nothing much has changed. Artillery remain true to their guns; this is classic technical thrash at its best.

Even a non-fan of the genre such as myself cannot help being enthralled by the group’s sound and performance. The ‘new’ lead singer Michael Bastholm Dahl is all over the stage, headbanging and grooving like there’s now tomorrow. But sadly, the crowd shrinks to almost nothing during the show. I estimate that there are only a few hundred people left inside the large venue, and many appear to be sleeping on their feet. I doubt this is a reflection on the band and their performance, but rather a result of it being Friday, and too many beers and the promise of a long day ahead tomorrow for many of us. After this last show, it is on to Stout where we beat the old horse about how I don’t like thrash (but maybe I do and just don’t know it). It is a conversation we’ve had numerous times and probably will have many times in the future. Sigh. [7]


Grusom @ 16:45 at Amager Bio

Another first for me is Grusom. I don’t know much about the band beforehand, but I have given them a few quick spins on Spotify during the week leading up to the festival and liked it. But I couldn’t help but wonder what they are doing on the bill of a heavy metal festival. From the get-go, I am still wondering what they are doing here, but holy smokes is it good. Their pure joy of playing in front of the large crowd already gathered in Amager Bio is evident, and it rubs off on the crowd. It is more acid rock than anything, and the organ is a perfect instrument in this set-up. It is always there, sometimes discreet, at other times it is right in your face and taking center-stage musically. One word that really defines Grusom, however, is groovy. Another way to describe it would be ‘foot-tappingly good’, to coin a new expression! I just couldn’t help tapping my foot, bobbing my head, and smiling at lead singer Nicolaj Hoffmann’s shenanigans on stage. When not singing, he is prancing about on stage and sometimes doing a wonderfully strange, hippie-like dance.

After the excellent “Vågn op”, there is a moment of quiet on the stage, and the guy right in front of me yells “Play it again!”, which elicits much laughter from crowd and band alike. “I don’t think we can remember it again” is the quick retort from Hoffmann. This is just turning into an excellent show; it is funny, it is intense, there are solos that are not too long but just right, and lead singer Nikolaj Hoffmann is doing his best Bruce Dickinson impression and climbing onto one of the rather diminutive speakers and to gaze out over the crowd from his new vantage point. Looking at my watch, I realize the show must be coming to an end soon, and I just don’t want it to end. It is just such an enjoyable experience. Grusom finish strong with “Evil”, which gives me honest-to-god goosebumps when Hoffmann starts singing. GOOSEBUMPS! That doesn’t happen too often, I tells ya! [8]

Defacing God @ 17:45 at ZeBu

I had stepped outside for a quick break and was going to miss the start of Defacing God, but it turns out that the show has come to a grinding halt anyway, when the fog machine sets off the smoke detector at the ZeBu scene. The ZeBu stage is, as previously mentioned, normally used as a children’s theater and therefor the smoke detector is a lot more sensible. Because of this the building housing the main stage and ZeBu has to be evacuated after just two songs into the group’s set, and the show is never resumed. Fortunately, the BETA stage is located in another building so we walk in there to catch a glimpse of the excellent Sunken instead.

Ethereal Kingdoms @ 19:45 at ZeBu

This is going to be the review-equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me”. This is the hardest review I have ever had to write in my short stint at I do not like Ethereal Kingdoms at all, and I am — at least I hope I am — really a nice guy, but this stuff is just not to my liking. I am sure they are competent musicians and that the band is clearly a project near and dear to their hearts, and while normally I don’t mind theatrics in music, in this case it just rubs me the wrong way. The lead singer has a voice befitting what the band is doing and has an obvious flair for the dramatic, acting her heart out both while singing and dancing. But I am still left with the feeling that I was watching a strange Kate Bush impersonator wanting to be Myrkur and failing at it. I have nonetheless argued long and hard with myself and come to the conclusion that I must go see Ethereal Kingdoms again at some point to give them a second chance, and try to understand where the hype surrounding this symphonic metal outfit comes from.

Livløs @ 20:45 at Amager Bio

The talk preceding Livløs’ performance inevitably turns to whether the new lead singer Niklas Lykke can fill the big shoes of Simon Olsen, their former vocalist, who was, until last year, the lead singer in both BAEST and Livløs, but has since chosen BAEST as his one and only focus. Having never seen either of these bands live, I don’t have dog in this fight, so it is not something I am bothered with during the show. Actually, I am not bothered by anything during the show. Livløs’ approach to ball-to-walls groove metal is a joy to behold. It is loud and highly energetic, and Niklas Lykke is all over the place, thoroughly rocking out at every opportunity. The music is blastbeats and great riffs galore, and solos that never seem to go on for too long. The light show is perfectly set for the show as well, and used to emphasize the energy coming off the band. And there is a lot of that. This is a show that is consistently great from the get-go.

Danish music magazine Gaffa once remarked that it was hard to imagine Livløs without their former singer, Simon Olsen. Today, I feel it is hard to imagine anyone but Niklas Lykke as the frontman for Livløs. He owns the stage, the lyrics and the crowd, and does a truly remarkable job throughout of being ever-present and aware of his audience — all the while running around the stage and growling his heart out. Towards the end of the set, there is a guest performance from Bersærk-vocalist, Casper Roland Popp, which elicits a great reaction from the crowd. As will be evident later, many in the audience are in fact here for Bersærk, so this was to be expected. Overall, this is an impressive performance from a confident band playing in a venue that is the perfect size for them. Their wall-of-sound approach comes across well in this setting. [7]

Psy:code @ 21:45 at ZeBu

Psy:code is yet another first for me. The ZeBu stage seems to be the perfect size for this band; there are lots of people in the small room, but not too many. I’m not sure what to expect, but I am immediately blown away by this, for all intents and purposes, hardcore band. From the moment, they take the stage there is instant head-bopping from pretty much everybody in the audience. I am especially loving the vocals of the lead singer — stylistically a great mix of proper hardcore and some metal thrown in for good measure.

And when, at some point, the song structure gets somewhat repetitive, they start throwing in songs from their latest album, which is characterized by much more varied song structures. There is even a little light banter every now and again. Psy:code is turning out to be a consummate live band, with a lot on their minds and great musicianship to back it up. Indeed, the beauty of going to a festival like this is that you are almost certain to be pleasantly surprised every so often and Psy:code is one of these pleasant surprises. One thing that really strikes me is that there is no discernible song pattern; sometimes you can recognize a traditional construct, but more often than not it seems like there is just order and chaos, chaos and order in this music.

They seem to have a loyal fan following and the guy in front of me shaking his fist in the air, wearing nothing but jeans and a battle vest is really the epitome of everything this band is all about: metallic hardcore and rocking out. Psy:code made a fan out of me tonight. [7]

Bersærk @ 23:15 at Amager Bio

I had the (mis)fortune of covering Bersærk’s now semi-legendary performance at Pumpehuset back in April. Misfortune, you say? Yes, because it was one of those performances that will forever be hard to top. Bersærk’s is the last show of the festival this inaugural year, and unlike yesterday’s closer, the place is packed and buzzing with anticipation. Wisely, we have forsaken the talking and cigarettes outside and positioned ourselves front and center early on. Bersærk take the stage to great applause precisely on time and kick off with little preamble. They play their ‘classics’ like “Dæmring” and “Fimbuls børn”, and both of these both look and sound great. Lead singer Casper Roland Popp is in form as usual, with a commanding presence on stage, and his vocals unrivalled in Denmark. Once again, you can always hear the lyrics, and a large portion of the crowd obviously know most, if not all of the lyrics by heart and happily indulge in singing along.

This is a great performance. But I am left with the feeling that it isn’t nearly as good as the aforementioned show at Pumpehuset, and I think it may have to do with the fact that not everyone is here exclusively to see Bersærk, but have merely shown up to see the last band on the bill. That is of course not a reflection of the band, who play their hearts out and leave us genuine fans departing the venue with light hearts and wide smiles. If you are not leaving a Bersærk concert with a smile there is something seriously wrong with you. Just saying! [7]

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