Copenhell 2022

author PP date 26/06/22

Lots has happened since 2019, the last time the Copenhell wolf welcomed us on the barren industrial grounds outside of B&W Halls. Two years were wasted in Corona lockdowns of various kinds, most of the custom-built artwork of the festival burned down in an accidental container fire, and bands postponed and changed their touring plans. Yet somehow it feels like the festival has come back stronger than ever before, resulting in arguably the best Copenhell edition yet.

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

Now expanded to a capacity of 35.000 people and four full days of bands, Copenhell features the kind of lineup and atmosphere that, just a few short years ago, you'd have to travel abroad to experience at a festival like Hellfest or Rock Am Ring. Oh, how the tables have turned: now we have people traveling from all around the world to what is arguably the most creatively themed festival, a true metal and rock wonderland that leaves firstcomers breathless and even seasoned veterans like the writers of this very magazine impressed over the scope of it all. No wonder people are selling their Roskilde Festival tickets so actively; everyone wanted to get a piece of Copenhell this year.

This article will attempt to capture the atmosphere, the surroundings, the amenities, and the overall vibes of Copenhell ‘22, while also including over 50 live reviews from the festival at the same time. Should you want to skip straight to those, feel free to scroll right down past the festival area sections. PP

LINEUP

Suffice to say, the 2022 lineup is the best one in Copenhell history. The sheer amount of giant international headliners from KISS and Iron Maiden to Judas Priest and, get this, Metallica, whom Copenhell only a few short years ago publicly said would be impossible to book at a festival of their side.

The headliners speak for themselves, but looking down deeper in the lineup we find gems like Alestorm, KoRn, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, Suicidal Tendencies, Death To All, Down, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Bad Religion, Agnostic Front, Mastodon, Dog Eat Dog, and countless other bands with a high name-recognition value. Rock and metal, as well as their more specialized subgenres, are all extremely well-represented in this lineup, which makes you wonder: how can they top this in 2023?

FESTIVAL AREA

We've been covering Copenhell since its inaugural year, so we're accustomed to gradual change year on year. Usually, it has been minor, from a slight expansion of a stage to another one changing location, perhaps a small-ish new area or so. Not this year. The 2022 edition of Copenhell sees the most radical adjustment to the festival area since its inception. Forget everything you remember about the festival save for the main stage and Hades - it has changed.

New look - starting from the gates of hell

Let's start with the entrance. It's been pushed way back towards the road, creating more space for an area now dominated by the satanic wooden church serving the usual Copenhell-branded schnaps, plus a few food trucks, a (way too small) cloakroom, and a few other smaller things. The highway to hell walk path used to be around here in the past; it no longer exists. Towards the right used to be where Biergarten was located, it is now a pathway to perhaps the best addition to Copenhell since its origins: the Gehenna area.

Gehenna & Udgård

Hidden amongst the woods is now a brand new stage area purpose-built for a new stage, Gehenna. The grounds are covered in wood chop and soil, which feels awesome underneath your feet, especially on days 2,3, and 4 of the festival. Here, you'll also find a two-story vintage Cider bar and a Monster-themed sidebar for the regular beers and energy drinks. The atmosphere in this area is exceptionally cozy and welcoming -- peaceful even -- and feels like a reimagination of what metal can also be if we get in touch with our inner Nordic nature.

Nearby is an interesting art piece, a tunnel of sorts illuminated by red lights, and of course the Udgård Viking area that feels more convincing and exclusive given its relatively hidden location this year.

The whole area is exactly what you are looking for if you need a moment's calm (unless a band is on Gehenna, of course).

R.I.P.

I used to tell my friends it's not worth it shelling extra money for the R.I.P ticket that gives you exclusive access to your own area with a bar, extra seating, and such. That argument has now turned on its head. The R.I.P. area this year has expanded dramatically and features more wood chop-paved flooring, multiple bars, food, plenty of shade from the sun, and even hammocks suspended between the trees. The whole area felt like a VIP version of the Gehenna area, which says a lot about why you should buy a ticket here next year. The atmosphere here was far more relaxed and laid-back, almost like a backstage area to some extent, so if you felt tired or just wanted a brief pause from everything, nothing this year could beat the R.I.P area. Well done, Copenhell!

Pandæmonium reimagined & Copenhell Con

Pandæmonium used to be behind the two main stages of the festival. This year, it has moved to an expanded area of the festival on the right side, which wasn't in use before. It's a gravelly, dusty industrial spot that arguably feels the least developed thus far, but perhaps that'll change in years to come.

If you walked through the left side of the stage to the somewhat hidden corridor, you'd walk right into Copenhell Con, a new concept that houses nerd culture from board games and comics to Bip Bip Bar (arcade machines) and a photobooth for movie costumes and such. It also features a small scene for meet and greets, as well as a bar area and much more. One of the days it was guarded by Darth Vader and two stormtroopers at the door, which says it all. It's like entering another dimension from the Copenhell beer-fueled Alestorm (see what I did there?).

Smadreland, Monster Energy

The smadreland area, where you can choose your weapon to smash and destroy cars into tiny pieces to the tunes of death metal, has moved down to the furthest corner of the festival. It's hidden, but still draws a reliable crowd of people who enjoy nothing more than flipping a car upside down after first using a sledgehammer to disintegrate every part of it possible.

Next to it was the new Monster Energy area, where they had parked a special purpose truck that opens into a stunt zone for motorbikes and mountain bikes. Looks cool, but I don't know if anyone ever knew what time the events were on here? At least I didn't find any noticeable schedules anywhere, so it was a wasted opportunity in my opinion.

Brooklyn Brewery & Food Areas

Brooklyn Brewery had also set up shop at the festival. They had a small hangar with plenty of indoor space, as well as outdoor tables in tree shades, serving the official Blodrød Red Lager that was specially brewed for the festival among the usual Brooklyn classics. No Brooklyn Lager though, sadly, but the interior decor was fascinating and added yet another flavor to this year's Copenhell grounds.

Nearby was where most food trucks were concentrated. As usual, they are some of the most consistently themed parts of Copenhell with restaurants renamed to sound as evil as possible: Deadly Churros, Falafhell, Grill ‘Em All, The Great Balls Of Fire (Timm Vladimir's Køkken), Big Easy Woodoo Kitchen, Crepes Of The Beast, and much more. Best of all? Every food stall was unique, allowing an incredible amount of choice from street food vendors like Tommi's Burger Joint to classics you remember from Roskilde Festival like Kristinedal Burgers, to fully vegetarian spots like Naturli'. Oh, and did I mention Pigs From Hell offered an entire pig head (literally, the entire head including eyes, nostrils, etc) if you timed your order right?

Of course, if you're more into fine dining, Copenhell has you covered. Sorte Kro dishes gourmet-style portions for less-than-gourmet prices.

Tutten & Biergarten

Tutten has now expanded to cover the entirety of the B&W hall. Massive wooden benches and tables with red-white squared tablecloths create an atmosphere that's akin to Oktoberfest. This is where you could party with your friends away from stage noise, especially if it would've been raining. What's more, they even arranged a crayfish celebration here one of the days.

Biergarten was moved to be behind B&W hall (as seen from Hades stage's perspective). A guaranteed party, especially late at night with people dancing on the tables, but also during the Openhell karaoke sets. Sure, it's cliché music and you'll probably never want to hear Holy Diver and Breaking The Law ever again, but nothing beats hanging out here after a stupendous amount of beer and singing along with your friends.

Helvíti & Hades

Not much to report here. Helvíti has grown to be comparable to the main stage at any other international festival, but otherwise, this area has been largely left as you remember it. The trees atop the hill have returned to give a more exclusive look, and unfortunately, what used to be the awesome Heaven & Hell bar for those sitting up on the hill has now turned into some sort of corporate box. None of my wristbands allowed me in there (RIP, Press), so it appears a partner's only sort of a spot with VIP boxes and the like. Thumbs down - this isn't what Copenhell is about, or at least shouldn't be. Leave that for the backstage.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

There's simply so much detail to the festival that it is impossible to describe it all here in detail. For instance, the numerous pieces of artwork from hanging loops and skeletons to depictions of Death himself spread across the festival. Or the official beer - the 7.5% Tuborg ‘Fine Festival' brewed specifically for Copenhell. Or the Rum & Whiskey tastings that took place during the festival. Or how Movia supplied shuttle buses tagged as ‘666 - Have a hell of a day' and other slogans as they passed by. You get the point: Copenhell is a brilliant experience that must be explored, felt, and understood on your own. PP

PANT SYSTEM - IS IT WORKING?

The pant system works brilliantly and is completely broken at the same time. The festival takes 5 DKK pant on every plastic beer cup, can, shot tube of Jägermeister, and even the 6-pack beer carton. This creates an awesome incentive for those who want to enjoy a discounted experience of Copenhell by picking up cups from those who don't care about the 5kr excess charge. Imagine a student who can't afford to spend 600 DKK a day on beer (the cost of buying 12 beers as six-packs), but can instead choose to spend 100 DKK or even less by exchanging collected items for fresh beverages. This part is brilliant because it also ensures the festival site is exceptionally clean.

However, there are several problems.

One, not all bars understood that if you returned 12 items, you should receive 1 beer for free. Some allowed only one item, some allowed 2, some six, some as many as you like as long as you didn't go over your purchase amount limit. It felt completely arbitrary where it was accepted and where it wasn't, even though the festival itself said it should work everywhere. Some bars did not respect this rule: The Gin Palace, I am looking at you specifically.

Two, because you were allowed to return as much pant as possible, the organized pant collectors arrived at the festival and started wading through crowds - even the pit - with their giant plastic bags full of pant. This behaviour is anti-social and needs to be weeded out, especially because there were several cases where they would steal people's pant without asking. They are also effectively taking a ticket away from someone who wanted to come to see the music.

There is an easy fix for the second problem: allow returning pant to the bars against the purchase of new beverages down to 0,- (making it free to buy a beer, or a six pack), but set a maximum of 30 items per return, per person to the spot where you can get money back from your pant. This approach would still allow for people to get their money back from their pant, but as nobody buys more than 30 drinks in a day for themselves, it would immediately destroy the income source for the organized collectors, who are showing up with thousands of items at once and passing the same credit card from one collector to the next in the queue.

This needs to happen.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 on the various dining options available:

  • Gaza Grill still delivers an awesome dürüm shawarma with just the right amount of chili. [8]
  • Big Easy Woodoo Kitchen, the much-talked-about Southern soul food spot offering gumbo, was almost completely tasteless in the end. [5]
  • Jikogu Ramen (Ramen To Biiru) might not have their classic Miso Ramens, but the flavor is still top-notch for a festival version. Great to warm yourself up late at night. [8]
  • Tommi's Burger Joint is a favorite at Kødbyen, and their flame-grilled burgers are very good here as well. [7½]
  • Roadkill Grill's Angus roast beef bearnaise burger was one of the best festival burgers I've tried. [8½]
  • Pigs From Hell served a real-life edible pig head that was all sorts of frightening and spectacular at the same time
  • Baconbixen - Reign in Bacon Who doesn't like bacon? Their ‘brændende kærlighed' did a great job at filling you up and felt fair when it came to the price. The ‘Bacon horn' however felt a bit pricey and they seemed to be behind most of the time. [8]
  • Copenhell Milkshakes Late-night cravings for Milkshakes turned out to be a huge disappointment. Too much milk was used which left it with the consistency of milk rather than a nice fat milkshake. Not only that but my Chocolate milkshake tasted more like a bamboo straw than chocolate. [2]
  • One night in Bangkok If you’re a fan of thai food, this was a great addition. The Panang red curry was great. The rice were slightly undercooked but no deal breaker. Good size portion. [7½]
  • Singh’s In Hell Butter chicken with rice should’ve been a very solid dinner. It was. But at the price of 90 DKR, I won’t be returning, as it was really not anything special. [5]
  • NATURLI’ I’ve grown quite fond of chili sin carne, so of course, I had to give it a go. At the price of 75 DKR, and a completely packed bowl, I’m more than satisfied! [9]

WEDNESDAY

Wargasm @ 13:45 Wednesday on Gehenna

London-based Wargasm has taken the prestigious mantle of opening this year's Copenhell on the new Gehenna stage located in the small forest part of the site. With song titles like “D.R.I.L.D.O." you know we're in for some edginess - Milkie Way walks on stage with little clothes on and bass in hand, Sam Matlock sporting orange punky hair and a guitar. The attitude oozes out of them instantly as they jump around to a sound that can best be described as a crossover of 2000s nu-metal and 90s electropunk ala The Prodigy, Milkie Way sassily rapping and singing, Matlock with impressive throat-shredding screaming. Pit action is everywhere, with pyrotechnics and a brief “Break Stuff" reference while their DJ does cartwheels on stage. It is pure carnage and while the sound might not be perfect, the spectacle makes up for it. It is wholly ridiculous but entertainingly so, especially as they come back on stage for the shortest encore I've ever seen - basically a 10-second cover of “Fuel" by Metallica, who's of course playing later this evening. I must admit I did not anticipate this debut show in Denmark to be this good, but Wargasm brought the fire to burn down the forest and its audience completely. [8] KW


Angstskrig

Angstskríg @ 14:30 on Pandæmonium

The hour is early, but quite a large crowd has nonetheless amassed in front of the Pandæmonium stage, keen on taking in this live début by the mysterious black metal duo Angstskríg. But despite the special premise, there are no frills to be seen or heard here; stationed in front of a blank white square on either side of the stage, the two veiled musicians start things off bluntly, unleashing “Knæfald" off their first and only album thus far, last year's “Skyggespil", without any warning or build-up. If you've heard that record, you'll know it features a very raw and crackling production, but here in the live setting, the band breathes new life into their music, rendering it denser, fuller, and at times even quite grandiose. To help the duo achieve this, they are often joined by an additional guitarist (anonymized by a black medical mask and sunglasses), who rips one blazing solo after another out of his headless instrument as plumes of fire erupt across the stage front. Neither daylight nor the absence of a strong visual aspect is doing Angstskríg any favours, but luckily tracks like the scorching, black'n'roll-ing “Lucifer Kalder" and especially the titular closing piece “Skyggespil" boast the kind of quality needed to sustain the interest of the audience throughout. The soaring tremolo leads, effect-laden squeals, and frequent tempo shifts in that last song bring about a triumphant finale to what has been a decent, albeit far from a breathtaking concert from these debutants. No doubt this would have worked far better in the dark of night or, even better, in the intimate confines of some club venue. [6] AP


LLNN

LLNN @ 15:15 Wednesday on Gehenna

We're back in the forest and now we're going to see if Danish post-metal heavyweights in LLNN are here to deforest the Gehenna stage. The turnout isn't the best and the foreboding, hollow sci-fi synths seem a little out of place in the burning sun. Even though the seismic chugs and rumbling bass are still as punishing as ever, the vibe is just not completely here in the audience - it seems like people don't really “get it" yet as not a lot of movement is seen. When the start-stop pummeling of “Parallels" the energy starts to change, the sound becomes tighter and the band more involved and to the bass-heavy “Scion", guitarist and frontman Christian Bonnesen puts his guitar aside to join the audience up close and personal, seemingly becoming red in the face from screaming so hard. And it only goes up from here. The melodic sensibilities of “Interloper" are equally effective while the creepy yet catchy (or I guess as catchy as LLNN can be) “Obsidian" properly blows me away. “Vi tæller til 4 og så smadrer I hinanden!" - Bonnesen commands and he shall receive. This rendition of “Desecrator" is absolutely soul-crushing and the audience responds with the wildest moshpit thus far as none other than Jacob Bredahl joins the stage with disgusting vocals to this cacophony of down-tuned noise. If only the whole show had been like this, holy shit. LLNN brought the heaviness in droves though perhaps I am a little biased after witnessing their masterclass show at this year's Roadburn Festival - their sound is just that more effective to me when played in a void as dark as the music itself. [7½] KW


Suicidal Tendencies

Suicidal Tendencies @ 15:30 on Helvíti

“SUICIDAAAAAAL", vocalist ‘Cyco Miko' screams as he storms directly onto the triangular Metallica platform extending deep into the middle of the pit, immediately engaging in his signature-style up-down hand movements as he seeks to rile up the crowd right away. "I wanna hear it… I wanna feel it….", he continues during “You Can't Bring Me Down", pulling pages from the Terror crowd-control playbook. With simply awesome energy, the entire band makes full use of the platforms, with the bassist up front next, slowly stomping around the pit areas while swinging his instrument around. "S! T! S! T! S! T!", we all chant as requested by Cyco Miko, where the entire set feels like a long band-induced chant for "SUICIDAAAAAAL" in between tight crossover thrash/hardcore anthems. Multiple motivational speeches later, with songs like “War Inside My Head" and “Freedumb" played faithfully yet extended to festival editions for a full crowd-control extravaganza, Suicidal Tendencies feel like a breath of fresh air even this many decades into their career. Awesome energy throughout. [8] PP


VOLA

VOLA @ 16:45 Wednesday on Pandæmonium

I have seen a fair amount of VOLA gigs but not a festival show of this scale. The modern, larger-than-life progressive metal of the band seems apt for the high spirits of this first day on Copenhell and the opener “24 Light-Years" stuns this reviewer right out of the gate. Adam Janzi's angular, wholly unique drumming style, Asger Mygind's grandiose yet fragile voice, Nicolai Mogensen's tight groovy basslines, Martin Werner's trance synths - the band comes together as one powerful unit backed by some of the best sound I have heard at the festival… ever. “Head Mounted Sideways" turns the intensity up with its mechanical Meshuggah grooves and the crowd responds in kind with movement in the pit while the rap part to the Korn-worshiping “These Black Claws", normally performed by Shahmen on record, sees a young rapper jump on stage, performing his own lyrics, absolutely elated to have the opportunity. I very much appreciate this decision over the often slightly awkward use of backing-track, it makes it a whole lot more engaging.

Everything so far has been off their newest effort “Witness" but old fans such as myself are not left in the dust either. The singalong-inducing “Stray the Skies" and “Starburn" are performed with unbelievable tightness and a hypnotic light show while the Devin Townsend-esque, the earth-shaking chugging of “Whaler" sounds like it's shaking the very ground I'm standing on. Ending things off with the audience singing loudly along to their newest hit “Straight Lines" further cements VOLA as the best prog export this country has produced in ages. They completely and utterly owned the stage from start to finish and it ended up possibly being the very best show I have seen them play. Masterful. [9] KW


Ugly Kid Joe

Ugly Kid Joe @ 17:15 on Hades

Ugly Kid Joe is a relic from the classic rock era, which means they have exactly two memorable songs and so much generic drivel to offer as filler in between. Within fifteen minutes of their set, it's hard to keep your attention focused because it's exactly as cliché and boring as you would expect. "Ladies and gentlemen, do exactly as I say", vocalist Whitfield Crane says multiple times during the set, which results in nothing more than having the crowd either clap along or wave their hands left and right. Thirty minutes pass by and their set feels like you've just been playing Guitar Hero for an hour. Finally, "Cats In The Cradle" arrives and feels like the first good song in forever - and certainly, the first one that people sitting up on the hills know as well. Ditto for “Everything About You" a little bit later. There's a segment where the crowd is invited to sing back the guitarist's riffs, which is, in fact, more entertaining than their own songs. That the band opts to finish their set by covering Motörhead's “Ace Of Spades" says a lot about how pointless and mediocre a band like Ugly Kid Joe is in 2022. Zzzz. [5] PP


Dizzy Mizz Lizzy

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy @ 18:15 on Helvíti

Contrary to their headlining show at Copenhagen's Royal Arena this past spring, frontman Tim Christensen & co. have opted for a more festival-friendly order in their setlist, kicking things off not with four parts of the progressive epic “Amelia", but rather with the respective hit singles from their two latest albums. “In the Blood" and “I Would I Could but I Can't" feature the same heavy, yet crystal clear sound that impressed me so at that aforementioned concert, and while there are some technical difficulties marking the following “Brainless", one can't but admire Christensen's ability to amass and unite people of all ages in front of the main stage. His singing today sounds absolutely breathtaking. He admits the three musicians have been attending Copenhell many times, watching, hoping one day to be invited to perform on this stage, and it is easy to see they are repaying their dreams coming true at last by playing their hearts out. “Amelia" does eventually manifest itself again in the middle — but even though this is where Christensen, bassist Martin Nielsen, and drummer Søren Friis can really unleash their propensity for some good jamming, it is nice to hear that most of the classics like “Glory" and “67 Seas in Your Eyes" are also laced with new fills, licks and extended solo action breathing new life into them.

Many people do seem perplexed by “Amelia" this time as well, but I'm glad the trio did not shy away from showing off their heavier and darker side at a metal festival after all. “Some people are probably thinking, ‘will they play anything old?'", Christensen asks rhetorically before the concert is finished off with a stream of well-known, much-loved classics like “Waterline", “Thorn in My Pride" and of course “Silverflame", which induces a thunderous sing-along echoing off the concrete ground. It is chilling to hear, but in honesty, Dizzy' should probably have been given a later set time instead of playing to a crowd that surely is mostly here to secure a good vantage point for Metallica in a couple of hours. The show has its moments but I'd still take that spectacular performance at the Royal Arena any day over an afternoon set played to people well on their way to inebriation. [7] AP


Red Fang @ 19:45 Wednesday on Pandæmonium

Time for some beer-drinking music in the form of Red Fang from Portland, Oregon. I enjoy a fair few songs from these stoner rockers but it is my first time seeing how they fare in the live setting. And unfortunately, I am not sure I will be returning to one if this is the energy level the band normally produces. Don't get me wrong, the playing here is tight and groovy, the sound mix crunchy from the stack of Orange amps behind them, but there is next to no movement from the members themselves.

For a band that has such outrageous and fun music videos, building armour suits out of beer cans and demolishing random shit with their cars, they just are not very interesting to watch. The energy gets better the further we get in, and I appreciate some more complex, Mastodon-sounding songs here. People are visibly having fun in front but back here a little in the back it feels pretty standard. “Prehistoric Dog" is albeit an awesome track that gets my neck going and a frenzy in the pit, I just hoped for so much more. Not a bad show, just a fairly boring one. [6] KW


Gloryhammer

Gloryhammer @ 20:00 on Hades

Power metallers Gloryhammer are currently on the Interdimensional Hammer Quest Tour across Europe, which sees them land a much-anticipated performance at Copenhell. Given that the band is founded by Alestorm's vocalist Christopher Bowes, the hype has spread across the festival area about their overblown, theatrical power metal in advance of the show. Today, they jump on stage wearing body armour and some kind of wizard costumes and start running around waving a huge Thor's hammer that they chase an on-stage goblin with for a while. The songs are about wanting to fly away on a unicorn (“Fly Away"), or about being “Masters Of The Galaxy", but in reality, it's way less funny than advertised even if it is a very well-executed joke on power metal in general. It's obviously idiotic - they feature a 20th Century Fox movie theme while they re-enter the stage - but it feels like they should way far more props than the costumes and the odd Thor's hammer to go with them. Decent, but nowhere near the party atmosphere of Alestorm, for example. [7½] PP


Eyes

Eyes @ 20:30 on Gehenna

Local boys Eyes are well on their way as I arrive slightly delayed to Gehenna from the Gloryhammer set. On stage, total chaos and some of the rawest, aggression-laden urgency I've seen at a festival for a while. Vocalist Victor Kass is thrashing across the scene in violent eruptions of pure energy, orchestrating the crowd's action as he sees fit. "Give it all you have over there… and over here… and over there", he instructs, as Jacob Bredahl joins during their last song of the set. During the 25 minutes that I caught, Eyes demonstrated the kind of explosive chaos we've come to expect from them. That it was in the relative darkness of the forest stade made it all the more intimate and their murky belligerence all the more catchy. [8] PP


Metallica

Metallica @ 21:30 on Helvíti

It doesn't get much bigger than for Copenhell to be able to present Metallica as part of their line-up, given, of course, that a certain drummer of theirs was born in the Danish capital city. Naturally, the area facing the Helvíti stage is completely and utterly swarmed when the Bay Area legends emerge from backstage and frontman James Hetfield rather unceremoniously roars “En, to, tre, fire!" to initiate the festivities. And from the onset with “Whiplash" off Metallica's 1983 début record “Kill ‘Em All", it is clear this is going to be a set for the metalheads first and foremost. It is frustrating that the volume is not higher though, enabling some people to casually and loudly chat whilst watching this tour de force, pausing only momentarily to engage in the obligatory sing-along for the smash hit “Enter Sandman". From their station in the middle of the front pit, the four musicians are playing with zeal and ardor and look to be having the time of their lives — especially so lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, whose face is pure ecstasy during his countless, blazing guitar solos. For their initial five-track salvo, drummer Lars Ulrich has additionally selected “Creeping Death", “Harvester of Sorrow" and, as something of a rarity, the storming, balls-to-the-wall “Trapped Under Ice" from the band's 1984 sophomore offering “Ride the Lightning". It is hard to imagine a better beginning to a Metallica concert than this, and you can tell all the old-school fans in attendance are savouring it in full.

Metallica

As another unexpected touch, the audience is then treated to the doom- and prog-ridden “Bleeding Me", a song the band has only sporadically aired live since it first came out with the “Load" album in 1996. It offers an elegant breather after the initial onslaught but is once again disturbed by endless chattering that no shaming look from the rest of us can subdue. What bliss for the musicians themselves to have their monitors drowning it out… “We're celebrating 40 years of being a band and five years of being a good band. Sad but true", Hetfield jokingly laments before that iconic track gets a well-worn airing, giving the talking heads something else to focus on for five minutes. But it is the following, deep-ish cut “Dirty Window" from no one's favourite Metallica album, 2003's “St. Anger'', that delivers another surprising highlight, perhaps because Ulrich actually uses drums rather than what sounds like steel barrels when playing this stuff live. One can tell that especially Hetfield is stoked about unearthing such tracks, smiling and grimacing in turns as he screams the catchwords “Projector! Protector! Rejector! Infector! Projector! Rejector! Infector! Injector! Defector! Rejector!" in the chorus.

Metallica

As the sky is dimming, the time has once again come to hear some tried and tested fan favourites, now with plumes of fire blasting all around us for extra effect. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" brings some balladry to the table, while “For Whom the Bell Tolls" is accentuated by plumes of fire blasting around the crowd, giving its signature gang shouts additional oomph. And “Moth into Flame" — the only new song to have made it onto the setlist — is backed with stunning Chinatown visuals that make it easy to forget about the fact that 2016's “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct" just cannot hold a candle to this group's classic material. Heads bang politely of course, but it is the scintillating guitar work in “Fade to Black" that earns the oohs and aahs, and the iconic lead melody in the 1983 piece “Seek & Destroy" that everyone hums in unison. “Keep singing it!", Hetfield encourages as the band exits for the inevitable encore, which starts with my absolute number one personal favourite, the high-velocity thrash assault of “Damage Inc.". I am getting teary, and briefly even forget about the low volume thanks to a tightly rendered version of this stormer, and as “One" and “Master of Puppet" bring the festivities to a conclusion after some two hours amidst explosions of fireworks, it is hard to imagine anyone going home from this disappointed. Certainly, it has been one of the better Metallica sets yours truly has seen to date, thanks in no small part to an excellent setlist and energetic showmanship from all four musicians. [8] AP


Uffe Lorenzen & LydSyn - photo courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Uffe Lorenzen & LydSyn @ 23:45 on Pandæmonium

Tasked with closing the festival's first day is one of the lighter, if not the lightest bands on the line-up this year: Uffe Lorenzen & LydSyn. Lorenzen is something of a Danish rock darling and has lots of projects to his name — not least the psych outfit Spids Nøgenhat — and tonight he is here in the capacity of a classic power trio, ripping out riffs and guitar solos galore, and singing catchy and uplifting tunes to brighten the darkness that has enveloped the festival area. For their recent single “To syge skud", the band is joined by the singer-songwriter Trine Trash, who plays in Fastpåholmen and is a dear friend of Lorenzen's, resulting in pleasant vocal harmonies that, if you speak Danish, render the group's songs almost ridiculously infectious. This is even though in the live setting, there is a lot more jamming and instrumental segues than on record, bestowing upon it a kind of busker atmosphere and making it feel like everyone here is part of a big group of friends or even a family. “Vi er altid ikke OK" provides another highlight later on, with the metallic rattle of a tambourine played by a session backup singer rendering it into an irresistible jingle, and judging by the grins on Lorenzen & co.'s faces, the band is loving playing it for us. Their début album is set to arrive in September, but we are given lots of samples of it in advance here, and I for one am stoked about hearing these trippy, yet accessible tracks on the record as well. The show would perhaps have been even better had it not been played to a metal audience at the very latest hour, but even so, there is enough in it to keep my weary eyes from shutting and my body from forcing me to sleep. It has been a long day, but LydSyn has made it worth it to stay awake. [7] AP


Soen

Soen @ 23:45 Wednesday on Gehenna

Unfortunately for the Swedes in Soen, the audience is fairly thin at this late-night showing on the Gehenna stage. I wonder if that is why they are running a little late, to leave more time for people to stumble drunkenly over from Metallica's show. Though as it turns out, people are really missing out here. Soen combines a lot of sounds I adore with pristine sound and emotional weight. The Tool-worshiping “Savia" just sounds fantastic with added bongos to give it a tribalistic feel. But especially the vocals from Joel Ekelöf are chills-inducing, pitch-perfect at every turn which the groovy Opeth-ish “Martyrs" is also a testament to. The light show is equally mesmerizing to the laid-back slow jam “Lucidity" which breaks up the intensity nicely as I am mentally transported away to the clouds with the stunning vocal harmonies. Yet the best is yet to come as the ballad “Lotus" is played with stunning fragility and a David Gilmour-worthy guitar solo. Just… wow. Soen delivered a spellbinding show of older school progressive metal - it was just a shame that there weren't more people here to witness it. [8½] KW

THURSDAY

Ivy Crown @ 13:45 on Gehenna

I'm scratching my head as Ivy Crown takes the stage with not four, but six members, including three guitarists. I always thought this was a quartet — that'll teach me to do my research. The next thing I am struck by is how much heavier the all-female alternative metal group sounds than I remember from listening to their 2019 début album “Echo", with their drummer Sara Gacic laying down savage growls and the rest of the five musicians stomping the stage like primates during the breakdown. A lot of people have turned up early to watch these ladies, and when they unleash one of their radio hits, “Lonesome and Cold", some of those people feel compelled to kick up a moshpit, much to the band's visible satisfaction. It is not a song I ever liked much; however, the following track, with its modern, djent-style riffs and powerful, strained singing by Katrine, is more up my alley. Her voice in this song (the name of which escapes me) is deserving of permanent member status in the band — and it seems like the crowd approves. “I-vy-crown! I-vy-crown!", people are chanting, before a strong rendition of “That's What You Do" is unleashed, with Jesper Gün of Ghost Iris joining what is starting to look like a proper party on stage to take care of the growling parts. Indeed, both the audience and the band are in a festive mood, with crowd surfers and even someone straight up standing on top of the people in the front and middle. “Let's see a lot of girls and women crowd surfing in this last song!", Gacic yells from behind her kit, and the audience is happy to oblige her — even if it is mostly men doing so. This is another decent track to close things off with, though as with the rest of the concert, for me very little of it is mature enough to keep my mind engaged throughout. There is a generic alt metal air about it — but perhaps Ivy Crown's eventual sophomore album will bring the absent hooks? [5] AP


Myrkur

Myrkur @ 14:15 on Hades

If you came here today expecting the black metal Myrkur, you might have been confused to start with. On stage, all the microphone stands are covered in leafy tree branches, there's a cello, contrabass, violin, and various other string instruments. Vocalist Amalie Bruun even plays a Nyckelharpa at one point, which is a traditional harp-like instrument from the Nordics. As she enters casually wearing a white folksy dress and begins her ethereal, high-pitched songs, it quickly becomes clear we're gonna be focused on “Folkesange", the last Myrkur album which reaches deep into Nordic heritage from Norse mythology to traditional Scandinavian folk music. She has brief issues with her keyboard not working, but the remaining band members entertain us with casual, muted folk instrumentation primarily using string instruments and traditional percussion. Once fixed, she continues to display her incredible vocals and the chilling nature of Nordic folk music. It's atmospheric but feels a little long on Hades so people start losing interest towards the end. One wonders whether this might not have been much better in the depths of the forestry Gehenna stage. [7½] PP


Midnight

Midnight @ 15:00 on Pandæmonium

Leather, denim, spikes, bullet belts, and executioner's hoods — these are the garbs preferred by Cleveland's black and speed metal trio Midnight, who was brought in at the last minute to replace Sacred Reich. The three musicians look irreverently metallic and make for a fine replacement for the thrash veterans, unleashing one of the most intense and uncompromising performances of the festival yet. Horns are being flashed galore and a constant moshpit raging before the stage, as guitarist Matt ‘Sorg of Satan' Sorg makes mad dashes across the stage whilst ripping badass riffs and guitar solos out of his instrument, and bassist, vocalist & lone official member Jamie ‘Athenar' Walters not so much picks as beats the axe to a crowd in his complete thrall. Many have described Midnight as black metal's answer to Motörhead, and there is plenty of evidence here to support that argument; the trio blasts one balls-to-the-walls piece of pitch black speed metal after the other without almost ever pausing for breath. Songs like “Fucking Speed and Darkness", “Lust, Filth and Sleaze" and “Who Gives a Fuck?" Speak for themselves — this band does not take itself too seriously, and the (smallish) audience absolutely loves them for it. “Satanic Royalty" off its namesake 2011 effort sees Athenar throwing himself off an amp stack, while in the climax of the final track “Unholy and Rotten" Sorg of Satan continues his tradition of avoiding guitar picks and uses his teeth instead. Everything about Midnight's concert today exudes coolness and they deserved a bigger audience. [8] AP


NyreDolk

NyreDolk @ 15:30 on Gehenna

From one leather-wearing hooded menace to the next. After catching the first bit of Midnight, I rushed quickly to see the powerhouse that is NyreDolk. The Danes – all wearing hoods – sport a blazing mix of pogo-punk elements and crusted black, hell, they even venture into straight-up black territory at times, which is quite good, to be honest. Sadly, it quickly becomes apparent that the three guitarists – along with the bass and drums – are almost playing instrumentally at times as the vocals are either too muddy in the mix or beyond audible (guess the hood and the wind didn’t do much good here, either). This, however, has some positive sides to it as it makes the entire experience just that more chaotic.

NyreDolk

The snarls, grunts, and animals-like screams are all completely out of this world but don’t even begin to compare to his presence on stage. Leaving the other band members on the stage, he hurls himself into the very sizeable crowd, falls to his back at the very front of the stage, and generally acts like a complete lunatic. The punk elements of chaos and never knowing quite what to expect aren’t lost on these guys, and that at the very least should get some credit. But I do find it rather strange that even when the other members engage in growls or harsh singing, the sound is much, much better – it might be a stylistic choice, as it is my first time seeing these guys. Nevertheless, the crowd clearly digs it starting several pits – with the lead singer doing his utmost to get it even more intense, and I dig it as well. Especially in the way they ended it all by actually ending it all! Smashing everything on stage, which is their thing. Still, it wasn’t really how I expected an early afternoon gig to go down, but massive props despite the issues (?) with the vocals. [7] RUB


KoRn

KoRn @ 16:00 on Helvíti

Nu-metal pioneers koRn have been a band for a long time, but they are still excellent every time they play live. Their discography is consistently good (at least for the first fifteen years), which allows them to explore the early albums at will with songs like “Here To Stay", “Falling Away From Me", “Somebody Someone", “Got The Life", “Blind", “Clown", “A.D.I.D.A.S." alongside many others. On stage, their production is minimalist, albeit the propeller-style lights must look fascinating in a darker environment than the Copenhell afternoon. Jonathan Davis still knows how to look cool on stage, ranging from his visceral microphone stand to walking about with bagpipes to get the crowd going. Unsurprisingly, Copenhell is a sea of horns (and apparently, corn cobs :D) as well as loud sing-alongs for most songs, but that is to be expected when a band displays a stage presence this commanding. Despite a pointless drum solo and a medley in mid-set, the signature style vocals and pioneering nu-metal riffs show that koRn still got it after all these years. [8] PP


Knocked Loose

Knocked Loose @ 17:30 Thursday on Pandæmonium

The newest EP from Knocked Loose quickly became one of my favourite hardcore releases of all time, so it is with a huge grin that I venture to the outskirts of the pit (fuck going in the middle to take notes, this is gonna get rowdy) as “Where Light Divides the Holler" blasts out from the Pandæmonium stage from these 5 pissed off Americans. And my god is it brutal. The sound is pummeling and it takes about 2 seconds before the most intense moshpit I've seen in a while breaks out, conjuring up a whirlwind of dust and flailing arms and legs to the high-pitched, throat-shredding screams of Bryan Garris. “God Knows" keeps the insanity going with its death metal-infused hardcore and absolutely disgusting resulting breakdown. “Keep that shit up, keep moving!" Garris commands, ruling the stage with an iron fist as he paced back and forth with furrowed brows and an attitude set to smash everyone to pieces here and so far he's succeeding in his mission. I am floored with the heaviness and the powerful low growls from Isaac Hale are just insane as well. The pit literally never stops and the groovy, stomping chugs of “Forget Your Name" punishes just as hard. It seems you are not allowed to catch a breath at a Knocked Loose show, and as the iconic barks from Garris “ARF ARF" set people off in one last breakdown in “Counting Worms", Knocked Loose leaves the stage after 30 minutes of no bullshit. I am not entirely sure I didn't get a concussion from this battering but I am begging for more nonetheless. Holy. Fucking. Shit. [9] KW


Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth

Opeth @ 17:45 on Hades

Finally. Despite it being a somewhat public secret that Opeth usually is below average when playing open-air concerts, I had been dying to catch these guys again for quite some time. Knowing how wind usually screws with their soundscape, I make sure I’m fairly close to the stage too. Starting out new and proggy with “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör", I’m stricken with just how great Åkerfeldt’s voice sounds. His cleans are clearly in tip-top shape after years of focusing his energies on the proggier Opeth they’re revered for these days, but sadly the same cannot be said for the growls. Because when “Ghost of Perdition" is aired next, the growls sound harsh but dull, and even when my mind tells me this part and that line should be more strained and prolonged, the growl is simply cut short.

Luckily, my move to get close to the stage paid off in the instrumental department instead. Every instrument is super-crisp from where I’m standing, so the wind is not a factor this time around. The usual banter from Åkerfeldt sounds fresh, even though some of the jokes have been told many times before. Lines like “Vi heter Opeth. Från Stockholm. The capital of Scandinavia" and “The cocaine if finally kicking in" send laughs throughout the audience in front of Hades, and with good reason. Because as the concert progressed, I think the growls got better, and although they never truly reached the high peak of former glory, the combination of all of it combined should leave any fan of the band fairly satisfied.

And when prog-tracks like “The Devil’s Orchard" and “Sorceress" along with the more extreme tracks like “The Drapery Falls" and “Demon of the Fall" are aired before ending on a high note with “Deliverance", it’s hard not to feel entertained with this respectable showcase of a very wide pallet of their back catalogue. [7½] RUB


Blood Incantation

Blood Incantation @ 18:15 on Gehenna

Although the Swedish progressive metal maestros of Opeth are overlapping with Blood Incantation, the Gehenna zone is brimming with people eager to watch this Colorado death metal four-piece. And the massive crowd is rewarded with a performance for the ages, one in which the lo-fi production of their studio material is rendered far denser, heavier, and more precise. The band opens the proceedings with “Obfuscating the Linear Threshold" from their 2016 EP “Interdimensional Extinction", instantly enveloping the area in an unsettling, cosmic atmosphere riddled with sudden tempo shifts and guitar leads that sound like malicious signals from outer space. It is a marvel the four musicians are even able to pull such dizzyingly technical music off live, let alone do so and still have the capacity for intense windmilling and headbanging, as demonstrated by their guitarist and vocalist Paul Riedl. At one point, he tells us that most of the music was written by drummer Isaac Faulk and that it was initially too difficult for the other musicians to play. But watching the quartet here, it is difficult to imagine that having been the case; they play with so much conviction, so tightly, and with such unyielding ferocity it looks like second nature for them. Spontaneous walls of death form during the likes of “The Giza Power Plant" from the group's 2019 effort “Hidden History of the Human Race", while moshpits rage in at least two different locations when the ludicrously titled “Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)" is aired. There is nothing else to do than stand and watch in stupefied wonder as this outfit tears a hole in the fabric of the universe and leaves the 2.000+ people here gasping for breath once “Hovering Lifeless" has finished us all off. A terrifying, yet spectacular show! [9] AP


Richie Faulkner and Rob Halford of Judas Priest

Judas Priest @ 19:15 on Helvíti

What can you say about the legends in Judas Priest that haven't been said many, many times before? That they’re still going strong after 52 of playing together? That they managed to release one of the greatest albums of 2018, despite celebrating 48 years of existence? Not to mention the man and metal god in front - Rob Halford soon celebrating his 71st birthday? Several parts in the story could spell disaster here at Copenhell, but the metal god himself wasn’t going to let that happen. Entering the stage in his recent moniker: bald as ever, massive grey beard, and a nose ring that could be seen from the back, Halford quickly put the doubt of every attendee to shame. And then some.

For obvious reason, I didn’t see Priest when they were in their prime, but tonight’s demonstration in playing classic heavy metal gives me a pretty good idea of how it was. Without losing his breath or voice, Halford leads the rest of the priests into a fierce battle. Even the newest addition in Richie Faulkner with his recent heart surgery looks lit, and even the rest of the legendary artists around or even older than Halford is just playing flawlessly.

Rob Halford of Judas Priest

Like the set in general, the setlist sports one smash-hit after another. On top of my head, I can’t seem to think about any obvious ones missing, and when “Painkiller" ends the set, just before they return for an encore of four of maybe their most iconic songs, it’s truly hard not to get carried away. By now, if anyone still had doubts, Halford revisits the age-old live trick of the vocal test and guides the throngs in the audience through the various octaves before “Living After Midnight" finally ends the concert in style. And of course, he didn’t forget his massive Harley Davidson either. For people not in attendance, it might be hard to grasp, but mark my words: this band still has what it takes to deliver a memorable gig so many years after their formation. [9] RUB


Martin Furia of Destruction

Destruction @ 20:30 on Pandæmonium

Still trying to wrap my head around the powerhouse of Judas Priest I just witness, I rush towards the Pandæmonium stage to watch something slightly different. The Teutonic thrashers in Destruction are also equally going strong, and although they don’t have 50 years in the bag, they’re still about to celebrate 40 years, how about that. Plain and simple: it’s classic thrash. Slightly disappointed though, the huge area in front of Pandæmonium is only about half full. This doesn’t stop the people in the front to give their best. Quickly, a pit is formed to “Curse the Gods".

What used to be a trio has now transformed into a four-piece after founding member Mike Sifringer quite surprisingly decided to quit last year. This has left some sort of band-dynamic behind, which is sort of strange since the two newest additions on guitar and lead guitar still played to the best of their abilities. This is reflected in the aggression and furious nature of these late evening pits, and people simply lose themselves to classics like “Mad Butcher", “Release From Agony", “Thrash Till Death" and of course “Bestial Invasion" to close out the set. What surely seemed to be the gig of the festival to the few hundred people up front, was much more ordinary to the people further in the back. [7] RUB


Down

Down @ 21:00 on Hades

In 2013, Down played one of the best shows ever to have graced this festival, so needless to say, expectations were high for their long-awaited return to Refshaleøen. Today the sludge metal icons have been placed on the smaller Hades stage, from whence they unleash the murk and haze of “Lysergik Funeral Procession" off their 2002 sophomore outing “Down II" as the opener. From the get-go, vocalist Philip H. Anselmo assumes a much less confrontational (and perhaps less inebriated?) persona than nine years ago, almost coming across as quite… chilled out? His southern drawl banter in between the tracks remains intact, but it seems like the focus is very much on the music this time, and not on pounding his forehead to blood with a microphone. As “Hail the Leaf" follows, a certain familiar scent propagates through the audience, in recognition that as far as stoner music goes, few others have nailed it quite as Down did on their legendary 1995 début “NOLA".

Down

That record is also the focus of Down's set tonight — a late celebration of the supergroup's 25th anniversary, which was supposed to happen here in the lamentable summer of 2020 — and it feels nostalgic to watch the veterans riff and rock through some of these pillars of the sludge metal genre. Guitarists Kirk Windstein (of Crowbar) and Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity) look particularly enthusiastic, though admittedly, I had been hoping for more from all of the members, and especially Anselmo. The fantastic “Ghosts Along the Mississippi" and “Swan Song" are well received by a moshing crowd, but I cannot shake the feeling that by not being on a marijuana high myself, none of this comes across as particularly inspired tonight. The quintet is far from dominating this stage, which is only exacerbated by their lumping together in the centre and the pathetically tiny banner that serves as the only visual aspect of their set. Bored was not a word I could dream of using to describe my mood during Down's concert in 2013, but we're getting close tonight. The heavy blues-inspired sludge riffs in “Bury Me in Smoke" do deliver an ending worthy of the group's status, but it's too little, too late to lift the entire performance to par with my experience with Down last time. [6] AP


KISS @ 22:30 on Helvíti

"ALRIGHT COPENHAGEN! YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST, THE HOTTEST ROCK BAND IN THE WORLD", an announcement echoes across the Copenhell plains, as KISS prepare to enter the stage in arguably the most dramatic fashion out of any band at Copenhell this year behind a giant KISS Curtain. Yes, they descend on stage on falling platforms of fire while fireworks go off for “Detroit Rock City", while the stage is surrounded by humongous statues representing the band members. Above them, enormous screens, and all-around them, a seemingly never-ending amount of explosives and fireworks, alongside some kind of panther (or dog) statues with green eyes.

KISS

For what feels like every single guitar solo, the band unites next to each other in classic three/foursome formation wearing their outrageous glam costumes. But that's is what KISS is all about: they are entertainers at heart and were some of the first to bring out many of the things that today are considered rock'n'roll clichés. The songs themselves are largely average and derivative, save for a few hit songs, so they mask their anonymity with a few giga tonnes of production value instead. We're talking about drums elevating to the skies during a drum solo. Gene Simmonds is breathing fire, spitting blood, and flying over the crowd to the top of one of the two sound tents on a zip line. There's so much fire and other pyrotechnics at the same time that it's difficult to keep track of what's going on, but finally, he plays "I was made for lovin' you" on top of the platform whilst the crowd sings along before zipping back to the stage.

KISS

But despite all the production, a seasoned music reviewer like yours truly has to ask this question: imagine watching this show without any of the props or other production? Would it still be good? With so much anonymous filler in between, my instincts say no. But then again, does it matter? Doesn't everyone want to end a night in a monsoon's worth of confetti raining on top of us while singing “Rock And Roll All Nite" in a drunken fashion? [7½] PP


Raised Fist @ 00:30 on Pandæmonium

These late-night concerts are kryptonite for me, and honestly, I only stay to watch them if I think the artist in question has the potential to deliver something special. Raised Fist from Luleå in Sweden is a notoriously good live band, and their take on metallic hardcore spanning nearly two decades of discography has yielded a veritable treasure chest of fist pumping, moshing, circle pitting anthems. No wonder they decided to call their latest album from 2019 just that: “Anthems". Considering what a misfire that record turned out to be, it is, however, fortunate that the onus of their concert tonight is on older material, with 2006's “Sound of the Republic", in particular, enjoying a heavy presence. The opener “Perfectly Broken" is featured on that one, and inspires people to create a moshpit from the very beginning — a decision approved by the Swedish five-piece and reciprocated with an ultra-energetic and confrontational performance. Raised Fist is a fiercely independent and fierily political outfit, as seen during the bomb of DIY energy that is “Flow", and especially the subsequent “Man & Earth" (both off the band's masterful 2015 outing “From the North"), which offers nothing but spite for the indifference that most people show toward the climate emergency. I, along with many others, are singing along to vocalist Alexander ‘Alle' Hagman's high-pitch voice with our fists appropriately raised, and jumping around like a bunch of primitive brutes to the infectious grooves laid down by drummer Robert Wiiand. But somehow it all feels a bit deflated.

Raised Fist

Before “Murder", taken from “Anthems", Alle passionately recounts the hardships of his upbringing, and how his late mother would be proud of him for, having listened to KISS and learned their songs on a guitar he found in an abandoned building, now coming full circle and playing at the same time as the glam rock legends. It is one of many heartfelt moments during Raised Fist's midnight mass, which, despite the group's best efforts, never gets to be as magical as I had hoped. Considering the scant turnout here, it would have served their brand of music better to play earlier on the Gehenna stage before most people became drunk and just wanted to party (with KISS). Give me a club show with these icons any day over this. [6] AP


Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend @ 00:30 Thursday on Hades

A smiling Devin Townsend walks on stage and immediately starts cracking jokes. “We're known as the band with 100% less pyrotechnics than Kiss", giving a nod to the extravagant show that just finished on the neighbouring stage. Townsend's charisma is what makes every show of his such an entertaining ordeal but of course, his writing in the progressive metal sphere is just as impressive - not to talk about his one-of-a-kind voice. “Failure" showcases the talent at play here clearly - it's dramatic and epic and Townsend's voice soars to the heavens in overwhelming majesty. He just never misses when it comes to vocals and once again showcases why he's one of the best voices metal has ever and the, in his own words, Canadian love song “Kingdom" is another one of numerous examples where his voice completely stuns me with its range and power while he makes the audience audibly laugh as he winks and kisses at the camera while the heavy music blasts out over Hades.

“By Your Command" is where things go to the wackier end of his discography and I honestly think the addition is a little awkward. Devin is playing with a fairly stripped-back stage setup this time around, with no video and only 4 people on stage, so the ramblings from the titular Ziltoid character seem a little weird on the backing track with no visual element to support it in this very narrative driven, proggy cut. The session musicians Devin has brought with him are technically extremely proficient but aren't the most interesting presence-wise, but then again, this is a Devin Townsend show and he is more than able to fill the stage himself with his never ending charm. But the lighter mood is set aside for the chilling melancholy of “Deadhead" that brings a tear to my eye with the ethereal atmosphere and Townsend's godlike vocals. When you think he cannot go any higher - he goes higher. A razor-sharp rendition of “Love?" from the Strapping Young Lad days finishes off this fantastic show in earthquake-like, heavy style. I will never grow tired of watching this man do his thing and I have so far never seen him miss. Today was not that day either. [8½] KW


Katla @ 00:30 on Gehenna

Filling out this late-night slot on the smallest stage is ultra doom stalwarts in Katla. The spot in itself is quite difficult in its own right, but when you have to compete with the mastermind in Devin Townsend and the aggression of Raised Fist on the same time slot, it just becomes that more difficult. Still, the people who chose Katla over the two former acts were treated to huge amounts of dissonance, heavy rhythms, and loads and loads of fire.

They call themselves “ultra doom" with good reason. My God, it’s heavy and slow, but still carries fierce aggression. I’m not sure why this surprises me, but I have to admit this is my first time seeing these guys. I have heard stories about their live show, though, and although I was looking slightly more forward to seeing Denial of God, who had to cancel their show last minute, Katla proved themselves worthy of the booking. The fires kept burning throughout the set, but the appearance was sort of hampered by the time slot and maybe even the other two bands. [7] RUB

FRIDAY

Henrik Levahn of Horndal

Horndal @ 13:30 on Gehenna

Bright and early – at least when you’re a festival-goer, the Swedes in Horndal had the honours of opening the Gehenna stage Saturday. With a blend of dirty, slow, and heavy sludge, they enter the stage in style. As is accustomed in this genre, playing loud is the name of the game, and I cannot stress enough how loud it actually was. Their melodies soar high above the stage and give the attendees a proper wake-up to start off this Friday.

People are properly banging their heads so that every neck should feel slightly less sore after two full days of metal. But the crowd is scarce. This doesn’t seem to bother the band that much, as they plow through one song after another in high spirits. It might be a tired crowd they’re trying to kick-start, or it might be the suffocating heat already peaking, or even the very early time slot. Whether the case, a single mosh pit during the last song didn’t quite do the job, but definitely a worthy effort. [6] RUB


Bad Religion

Bad Religion @ 14:00 on Helvíti

One of the most legendary bands in punk rock is Bad Religion. Their best years in terms of energetic live performances might be behind them due to their old age, but man they've got a lot of great songs to make up that deficit and then some. Today, we're treated to an excellent mix of deep cuts like “Along The Way", “End Of History" and “Struck A Nerve" alongside the usual time-tested fan favorites like “Infected", “Punk Rock Song", “21st Century (Digital Boy)", “Sorrow" and so many more. They even give us a rendition of “Los Angeles Is Burning" at one point. It's melodic, upbeat, and full of classic riffs, and draws a few solid sing-alongs within the pit for the highlight tracks. In between, Greg Graffin casually drops a few lines about climate change and offers some background on the albums that the various songs come from, and that sort of thing. Nothing out of the ordinary, but the band is always so irresistibly solid live with this kind of back catalogue that it's difficult to argue for anything below a good rating. [7½] PP


Urne @ 15:00 on Pandæmonium

The struggle is real for this sludge metal trio from London; they are playing simultaneously with the hugely popular local metalcore band Ghost Iris, and it shows. The three musicians face one of the scantest audiences yet at this festival, and as a relatively unknown act around these parts, it seems they'll need to pull a rabbit out of the hat in order to succeed. Starting with the title track from their 2021 début album “Serpent & Spirit", their progressive take on the genre does get heads bobbing at first, but as the show thunders on with statue-sque showmanship, more and more patrons take their leave and head toward the Hades stage to watch their Danish heroes instead. I find said début album to be quite good and thus approve of the brutally heavy renditions of songs like “The Palace of Devils & Wolves", in which the bass groove of frontman Joe Nally and the punchy rhythm of drummer Richard Harris deserve a better reaction from those still left in the Pandæmonium area. To underline just how few people there are: during a brand new song that seems to encompass the word betrayal in its title, someone decides to ‘crowd surf' in the sense that four people carry him through the audience like a coffin and place him down at the fence. It is an amusing, but also sad sight, and Nally's desperate attempt to humorously appeal to the Danish folks by thanking Lars Ulrich's grandparents for having sex and producing him does not fare much better. Urne's music is interesting enough, but one thing it does not have is hooks — and this is where a more animated performance would help tremendously. In the end, though, I must admit that the Britons' show does next to nothing for me, and once “Desolate Heart" has concluded things, I walk away unimpressed. [4] AP


Ghost Iris

Ghost Iris @ 15:15 on Hades

Ghost Iris waste no time in grabbing the crowd's attention as they send a guitarist crowd surfing right from the first notes of their set, delivering crushing djent-laden metalcore riffs from atop the crowd. Meanwhile, vocalist Jesper Gün demonstrates his range ability by drawing from guttural depths for monstrous growls all the way up to high-pitched, emotionally-charged cleans. “Coma", in particular, sticks out in this regard, but so does “Final Tale". The contrast between infectious clean choruses and aggressive growls works exceptionally well on a large stage, especially since the band takes good care to display solid energy on stage at the same time. No surprise then that they induce an enormous pit and a wall of death in the crowd, which adds to the good impression most onlookers are getting right here. Still, way too much of their music comes as playback: a few growls and cleans are helped with a very obvious backing track, and it feels disappointing every single time you spot it. Why can't the band drop the backing track and give those extra sections to someone else in the band despite them being guest appearances? It would lift them on a whole another level. But that's a discussion for another time as the band close down their set with “Desert Dread" and its ultra catchy "the choiiiice is yours" clean choruses. [8] PP


Lifesick @ 16:00 Friday on Gehenna

There's a surprising amount of people ready to be subject to a beating by Fredericia's own Lifesick here at the Gehenna stage. Frontman Simon Shoshan and co. do their best to hype up everyone with their heavy metallic hardcore and by all means, it's seeing some good energy but perhaps not as brutal as I had hoped. Shoshan seems to notice as he asks: “Er I vågne?!" in a great rendition of “Suicide Spells" that sees Jacob Bredahl return for a feature on the Gehenna stage. The sound is serviceable thus far but not as impactful as I've heard them before.

Lifesick

The band and the audience were just getting warm though. “Så skal der være fucking slåskamp," Shoshan commands and the front audience obeys. This seems to be the turning point where the show goes from good to fucking fantastic. The sound gets sharper and more punishing. Pyrotechnics burst on stage as a wild circle pit erupts to the fast blast beats of “Necessary Evil" before a subdued folk-like break sees the band holding gas grenades in their hands with loads of red smoke filling the stage as the pummeling breakdown hits the audience like an angry truck. Next, a gigantic wall of death forms splitting most of the audience in the forest in half. Now Andreas Bjulver from CABAL joins the fray, laying down some nasty vocals before crowd surfing. It is complete carnage everywhere. And it seems Lifesick has brought every big frontman in the Danish heavy scene, cause now Simon Olsen from BAEST also appears as Shoshan asks “Kan I holde til mere?"; I am actually not entirely sure I can handle much more of this intensity. Bare chested Simon Olsen roars beastly (hehe) to finish off this awesome set, which struggled a little to connect properly at first but quickly became one of the most memorable of this year's Copenhell. [8½] KW


Alestorm

Alestorm @ 16.30 on Helvíti

The last time Alestorm played at Copenhell, it was the best set of the festival. It was on Hades - and given their enormous success, they've now been upgraded to play the main stage of the festival. It makes perfect sense why: their brand of instantly catchy sing-along pirate metal, giant rubber ducks, and funny stage antics feel like they're made for a beer-laden festival like Copenhell. They kick off right away with “Keelhauled" and the pit immediately turns into pure chaos. "Let's break the crowd surfing record", their singer eggs us on, to which the crowd gladly complies. A crazy amount of crowd surfers sail through the thunderous pit seas over the fence with a final count of 1755 people, more than double the previous record by Lamb Of God some years ago.

Alestorm

While those people are flying over the fence, the band shows no signs of stopping. They introduce a special guest on stage - the beer guy - whose only job is to down beer on stage. The pit turns into a pirate rowboat before another special guest - Captain Tortuga (or as they call him, Captain Yarrface) - arrives on stage for more antics. The sing-alongs are massive in the meantime: “Shipwrecked" draws some, but “Drink" and its "we are here to drink your beer" chants are probably heard all the way down at the Opera house. And here's the thing: it's ridiculous throughout. The songs are about plundering and rum drinking and such. The melodies are simply irresistible, and in the afternoon sun, it makes for an absolutely incredible party in the pits and those nearby the sound tents. If you don't like this, you probably don't like having fun. The amount of great accordion-sounding keytar riffs combined with heavy guitars and a yarr-ing vocalist is brilliant - it just doesn't get any better than this. They are the ultimate Copenhell band, capturing the festival atmosphere in near-perfect fashion. It's the best show again at this year's festival and one that suggests perhaps a headliner slot - or at least the slot right before the headliners - is appropriate. [9] PP


Agnostic Front

Agnostic Front @ 17:30 on Pandæmonium

"We are Agnostic Front… show me you are with me in the back!! BOUNCE WITH ME", Roger Miret shouts, as the band resolves their initial sound issues and demonstrates exemplary crossover thrash/old-school New York Hardcore. It's tight, it's ferocious, and it's aggressive, which incites one of the biggest walls of deaths I've seen on this stage to date, which resolves into a giant circle pit moments later. “Crucified" sounds great, but it is “Gotta Go" that captures the audience's imagination and results in a surprisingly loud chant-along from the crowd's side. "FUCK YOU, CIRCLE PIT!!", Miret yelps, which naturally ignites the crowd even further. Sure, it's difficult to adjust to serious music with a serious message after the party that was Alestorm, but after the initial culture shock of sorts, the veterans prove that despite this many years in the mix, they still have it. The final twenty minutes or so to the set is simply a textbook display of what new york hardcore is at its best when a crowd dynamic meets hand-in-hand with a vocalist and a band that can draw even more energy out of that connection. [8] PP


Siamese

Siamese @ 18:15 on Hades

Curiously, the presenter at Hades introduces Siamese as one of Denmark's best metalcore bands — perhaps there aren't too many good ones in the country then? Be that as it may, this is the first ever festival show for this Copenhagen post-hardcore outfit, and their excitement is palpable. “What are we fighting for?", asks vocalist Mirza Radonjica in the opener “Heights Above" (off their latest studio album, 2021's “Home"), and then answers his own question with a hyper-energetic performance. Huge shows like this, clearly, are what he and his bandmates have been fighting for. Radonjica is an absolute menace on stage, racing from side to side, jumping up and down, trading vocals with Daze of June's Benjamin Ganzhorn in the titular “Home", and even hugging a couple of planned stage invaders dressed in banana costumes for their party anthem “B.A.N.A.N.A.S." (taken from 2019's “Super Human"). Not even an ominous drizzle that begins during “Numb" can deter the sheer willpower this five-piece is exuding from the stage, and judging by the resounding sing-alongs and mad dancing in the pit, their audience is loving every bit of it. Those strained, powerfully sung refrains of “Why don't you love me? Why don't you need me?" in the chorus of “Ablaze" from the group's 2017 outing “Shameless" sound more heartfelt than ever, and with the crowd joining in as well, the arena potential of this band is laid bare for everyone to see.

Indeed, the knobs and dials on the mixer board have been tuned just right to render the music into a stupendously heavy, yet also an anthemic version of itself, allowing the band to justify their presence on a metal festival poster without question. “We've never played for so many people before!", Radonjica exclaims after admiring another thunderous sing-along for their radio hit “Can't Force the Love", and looking around, the turnout is quite impressive. Not long after, “Soul & Chemicals" splits the crowd into a spontaneous wall of death, before Radonjica dedicates their penultimate track “Sloboda" — sung entirely in his native Serbian — to “[…] the most courageous band in the world right now: Jinjer!". The entire band bristles with energy during this song, but it is the set closing “Ocean Bed" that delivers the ultimate climax for the audience and the band both. Radonjica starts the song from the barrier, screaming right into his fans' faces, and spends its last chorus crowd surfing toward the farthest spectators, never missing a word of lyrics or a note of melody whilst doing so. This is exactly the sort of ending Siamese's long-due festival début deserved, and even if one were not a fan of the band's pop- and R&B-infused brand of post-hardcore, it is impossible not to be impressed by their efforts here tonight. [8] AP


Alexander Moraitis of Hällas

Hällas @ 19:30 on Gehenna

Much later I was back on reviewing duties. This time around it was with a different set of Swedes in Hällas. The genre of choice was retro rock, and my knowledge was somewhat decent when it comes to their songs, so I knew what to expect. What I didn’t quite expect, however, was the raw energy and straight-up authentic glare they branded coming on stage. The guitarists were wearing capes and a very classic looking style in general – just like Kadvar is known to do. On top of this, they play tight. Plain and simple. A lot of people even showed up, which to my knowledge is somewhat of a hit-and-miss when it comes to the softer and more obscure bands of the festival. The crowd even looked quite ecstatic and thrilled with their performance, and I couldn’t agree more. Their organ-laced 70s rock was just what the crowd needed, and towards the end, they mix it with more of an 80s vibe, which aligned neatly with the rather low-key aura the band carried with them for the entire gig. And speaking of carried, when they aired “Carry On", it seemed as if they hit the peak of the show; man, it just sounded so crisp and clean. A perfect song to end it all, and truly reminds everyone in attendance how actual rock is supposed to sound like. [8] RUB


BAEST

BAEST @ 19:45 Friday on Helvíti

The journey to death metal stardom has been a wildly fast-paced one for BAEST. Since 2017 they have been steadily climbing the stages at Copenhell, starting at Pandæmonium, ascending to Hades in 2019… and now the final beast, the Helvíti stage, stands before them. It is a much bigger band we are dealing with now. A colossal flag with their logo hangs in front of the stage and a massive audience greets them as they burst into their gnarly death metal to the boom of glitter cannons and pyrotechnics. The sound is powerful and impactful (though could use a little more clarity in the high end), with strobe lights and pinch harmonics galore, like this kinda old-school death metal should be. The band moves constantly around on stage - it is pretty evident that the fear that it would be too big for them is laid to rest pretty much instantly. “Jeg står bare ikke heroppe og I står bare ikke dernede!" - frontman Simon Olsen can barely believe it but watching them down here it is not hard to understand why. I might not listen to the band regularly, but this show is simply so convincing that it is impossible not to headbang along to this brutality - especially during the insanely heavy rendition of the slow caveman chugging of “Gula", whirl-winding long hair everywhere, which incidentally also leads to one of several backdrops dropping down, revealing one album art after the other. BAEST is treating this as a victory lap, understandably so.

What I didn't expect was to be emotionally touched to this degree at a BAEST gig but Simon Olsen gives a heartfelt plea before “Gargoyles" - a track from their newest EP which featured the one and only Trevor Strnad who unfortunately passed away recently. A passing that hit me hard and Olsen too as his genuineness is heard in his voice when he begs: “Søg hjælp. Gør mig den tjeneste. Tak." BAEST came, saw, conquered, and proved that they are ready to take over the world. [8½] KW


Emperor

Emperor @ 21:30 on Hades

Despite forming some 31 years ago in 1991, these Norwegian black metal legends are making their Danish live début on the Hades stage tonight, and already from their opening track, “In the Wordless Chamber" off their 2001 album “Prometheus - The Disciple of Fire and Demise", it is obvious there is some pent up excitement to be unleashed as a result. All three original members (frontman Ihsahn, rhythm guitarist Samoth, and drummer Trym Thorson) are engaged in other projects than Emperor, but they regularly meet up to jam together and rehearse — and it shows. Their delivery, backed by a troop of three session musicians manning an additional guitar, bass, and keyboards, is as convincing and magisterial as ever, resulting in an intense and dominating performance during which the band and the crowd seem to be equally ecstatic about this long-awaited opportunity. And as I remember it from their show at Hellfest in 2014, storming tracks like “Thus Spake the Nightspirit" from 1997's legendary “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" are backed by spectacular lighting that always seems to capture the atmosphere perfectly — in this case with flickering strobe lights embodying the energy of this particular song.

Emperor

Although, to an extent, Emperor might be considered a so-called ‘thinking man's band', not all of the audience members remain in the classic arms-crossed pose; “The Acclamation of Bonds" inspires quite a few people to crowd surf during its transcendental chorus, while timeless cuts like “I Am the Black Wizards" off the group's 1994 début full-length “In the Nightside Eclipse" draw an enraptured reaction by virtue of the myriad dynamics shifts and cascading guitar melodies they unleash. One is completely and utterly blown over by the majesty of not only Emperor's music, but also the imposing showmanship that each of the six musicians on stage is displaying, and when the penultimate “Inno A Satana" arrives, the entire audience is, without question, in Ihsahn & co.'s total thrall. It is not often one gets to experience so much intimacy from a black metal frontman as this, with Ihsahn regularly demanding circle- and moshpits, and feeling his presence, people happily oblige as the icy grandeur of “Ye Entrancemperium" brings the proceedings to an all too early conclusion. I could have watched this phenomenal performance for another hour at least! [9] AP


Vreid @ 22:30 on Gehenna

Norwegian black metallers Vreid are playing probably at the most appropriate time at the most appropriate stage possible at Copenhell. The darkness in the Gehenna forest makes their black metal set ethereal, gives the fire pillars extra oomph, and once the band reveals to us they're about to pay tribute to the Windir album “1184" by bringing on numerous musicians on stage from that era, it feels like we're treated to something extra special today. But first, they play a black metal version of Rolling Stones' “Paint It Black" to give a slightly humorous twist to their otherwise serious Norwegian black metal set. At one point, I count four guitarists on stage who have joined their ceremonious monk-like keyboardist as they go through some classic Windir material that sounds pitch black with a cheeky rock'n'roll element attached to it from time to time. There are lots and lots of pyrotechnics to highlight the blackened vibes of it all, and listening to the songs from this era one can only conclude that it just works. [8] PP


D-A-D (By Request) @ 23:00 on Helvíti

For this headlining spot, the Danes in D-A-D left one very important detail to their fanbase at Copenhell: You choose – we play! With that in mind, the band had put together a setlist of hits and hard-hitters for a massive crowd on the main stage. Things were off to a very good start with “Isn’t That Wild" off “Draws A Circle", so we’re already treated to some old classics. The band looks filled with energy, and during the first few songs, they truly utilize the entire stage to their advantage.

The crowd is ready as well. Loud roars fill the night, as one classic is aired after the next. A single newer song is aired (chosen by the band), but other than that it’s all tracks from the first seven albums, ending with “Everything Glows" from 2000. It is very clear that the crowd opted for some of their heavier material, but of course also some fan favorites here and there. With “Jihad", “I Won’t Cut My Hair", “Call of the Wild" and even “Marlboro Man", I have a hard time thinking of a better setlist that isn’t much longer than the 18 tracks played tonight. And when the band performs convincingly too, it’s hard to find many flaws with the show.

Of course, the obvious hits are played as well. “Grow Or Pay", “Reconstrucdead", “Bad Craziness", “Sleeping My Day Away" and ending with “It’s After Dark", the crowd stayed frantic through the entire set, even though it’s well past midnight as the set concludes. With only a single song chosen by the band (“A Prayer For The Loud"), this was probably as good as it gets.

Nevertheless, D-A-D clearly still got it, and with a setlist like this (if you, like me, think their latest albums are somewhat below average), it’s just nice to see them do something like this. If only they would’ve played some true rarities like “Counting The Cattle" or absolute carnage with “Sad Sad X-mas", though. But I’ll take what I can get, and this was really good. [8½] RUB


Redwood Hill - photo courtesy of Peter Troest

Redwood Hill @ 00:30 on Pandæmonium

Another unforgiving late-night slot has befallen the blackened post-metal group Redwood Hill, whom I'll be watching live for the tenth time. Given that the local icons in D-A-D are still putting the finishing touches on their headlining performance, there are only very few people facing the Pandæmonium stage when a lone violinist, Frederik Thybo of the folk band Cody, enters and strokes a despondent melody out of his classic instrument. Little by little, the silhouettes of five musicians appear around him, before the entire weight of “Microgravity", taken from the group's 2014 album “Collider", crashes down onto us. Thybo takes the spotlight in the middle of the song with a beautiful solo, which seems to stop more than a few homebound people in their step and turn toward the Pandæmonium stage, only to be met by frontman Marco Stæhr Hill's hovering around the stage like a wraith, stretching his arms out wide as if to envelop the audience and consume it with the suffocating force of Redwood Hill's music. This power is especially felt in the third song, “Polar" off 2020's “Ender", in which the pitch black tone, punishing breakdown, and Stæhr Hill's snarling growls leave us all shaken to the core. It may well be that the attendance would have been higher had Redwood Hill played in an earlier slot, but songs like these underscore why it is vital they get to play in total darkness.

Redwood Hill - photo courtesy of Peter Troest

As ever, the band's expressive showmanship is supplemented by a scintillating light show mimicking the thoughts and emotions that reside in the glum soundscape of songs like “Poseidon" (taken from 2013's “Descender"), which renders their show into a visually, as well as musically arresting spectacle. Everything feels deliberate, everything feels vital. By the time that song winds to a conclusion, my body is starting to complain about three days' worth of physical abuse, but I resist the temptation to head home — rightfully, it turns out, as Redwood Hill then unleashes my personal favourite “Dybbuk" off that record and send me into a trancelike state, quietly and solitarily muttering the words “Like rocks into rivers / Like trails in the dust…" in the track's muted central passage… only to be awakened from it when the five musicians erupt into a possessed rage as the track erupts into its distorted crescendo. Indeed, I'm glad I decided to stay and experience the finale, “The Passage", a song as dark as the night itself, with a vast and doomy final passage that seems to grow slower with every note. The applause is as loud as it is long when the band bows out, and deservedly so. Redwood Hill remains one of the finest live acts in Denmark. [8] AP


Thor Bager of Svartsot

Svartsot @ 00:30 on Gehenna

Making my way towards the Gehenna stage, I arrive a few tracks into Danish folk metal stalwarts in Svartsot. And I mean, who doesn’t like fucking folk metal? When you’re nearing the end of a hectic and very warm day, it seems like the perfect fit to end the day. The band in question even seems to bring the necessary energy to close out the day, with their jolly-sounding, flute-filled yet hard-hitting folk metal, the crowd in the front quickly engages in dancing and moshing.

Their performance did a number on the crowd too. They seem to revitalize a tired audience, who wants to give the band their last bit of energy, to end the day in style. The mood in front of Gehenna is definitely in very high gear, and when they air songs like “Dødedansen", “Skovens Kælling" and perhaps my personal favourite “Jotunheimsfærden", it’s hard to not feel entertained, although slightly tired by now. This was shortly forgotten as a piece of masculine-looking eye candy (or… something like that) had decided to strip naked and take to the stage during the latter, to some surprise – even to a few of the band members. Hats off to the crowd in front, though, that continued to party and dance, and eventually ended Friday in style. [7½] RUB


Bersærk

Bersærk @ 00:45 Friday on Hades

I feel it is getting ungodly late but Bersærk's heavy stoner metal should be able to keep me awake just a little longer. Casper Popp's powerful yelling is as impactful as always as the old cut “Dæmring" envelops the Hades stage but the sound is off at first, everything is completely overpowered by the sludgy tones of the guitars. It takes a few tracks before it gets properly under control but luckily as the groovy Queens of the Stone Age-sque riffs of “Skyggeland" blast out into the night, the gig rises to the high level I usually associate the live shows of this band with. The menacing “Balders Bål" fittingly references “ulven iblandt os" as the eyes of the giant “Copenhell wolf" light up right next to the stage - a very poignant, memorable moment of this year's Copenhell. “Tordensol" brings a clear highlight with its insanely catchy riffs and yell-along friendly chorus: “Fra fjende til ven, jeg kommer kuuuuuun igeeeeen!" while the almost disco-like drumming from Simon Gleerup Meiner in the c-section makes you wanna move your feet before a powerful breakdown smashes the audience into the ground. “Fimbuls børn" keeps the singalong party going but the real surprise comes in a chillingly heavy rendition of Gasolin's “Langebro" as the closer for today's ritual. Popp's voice seems perfectly fit for this moment, commandingly channeling a heavier Kim Larsen to stunning effect. Bersærk once again delivered a heavy stoner set that stumbled at first but found its footing like the warrior spirit they reference so heavily in their songs. [8] KW

SATURDAY

Junkyard Drive

Junkyard Drive @ 15:30 on Gehenna

Junkyard Drive has long been hyped as a great rock'n'roll band, but particularly so in a live environment. I disagree about their albums, I find their music to be uninspiring, boring, and generic overall. One song at a time, it's enjoyable rock'n'roll despite being a blatant derivation from AC/DC and the like. This sunny afternoon in the shades of the Gehenna trees, that summary holds up almost to the letter. “Mr. Rock N' Roll" is delivered in a spirited fashion with their vocalist attempting to get the crowd singing along to the "Mr. Rock N' Roll, who are youuuu" passages. He's surprisingly successful at this point, but it doesn't take many songs until we get to the cold hard fact that their songs just don't stand out in any noteworthy way from dead on mediocre, even if they add in a couple of balladesque songs for variety. The band showcases decent energy, where particularly their guitarists show a nice amount of attitude while rocking out to their own riffs. But the music just isn't interesting enough - it's like going out for a nice steak and ending up at Jensen's Bøfhus instead. Mass produced, generic AC/DC wannabe rock'n'roll for the High Voltage crowd, with a couple of decent grooves, but overall not enough to hold anyone's interest but the front two rows over the course of an entire set. [5] PP


The Hellacopters

The Hellacopters @ 16:00 on Helvíti

A mid-afternoon slot tends to be perfect for a rock'n'roll band like The Hellacopters, as people will be hitting the sweet spot between sober and inebriated around this time, and will be looking for a party. Unfortunately, the Swedish veterans are plagued by persistent sound issues, starting with a muddy and much too low sound mix, continuing with the PA failing catastrophically twice, and ending with the entire system being shut down and reset, stealing two minutes of everyone's time after the band has finished playing “Reap a Hurricane" off their latest album “Eyes of Oblivion", which arrived earlier this year. The worst part is that, except for the most enthusiastic fans in the pit, no one in the audience seems to notice or care… which seems disrespectful, considering that the five musicians are playing their hearts out. Guitarist Andreas Tyrone Svensson (also known as ‘Dregen') is wearing an air-cast around his right leg, yet he is still stomping the ground, doing flying kicks, and spinning around as though his injury did not even exist. Things improve after the PA is restored to full function, and especially the sizzling blues rock ballad “So Sorry I Could Die" seems perfect for the afternoon sun, blazing as intensely as Dregen's myriad guitar solos. The sound is still rather low, however, taking some of the punch out of Nicke Andersson's vocals and Dolf DeBorst's bass guitar, albeit none of this stops the quintet from madly rocking out during tracks like “Soulseller" and the fantastic “(Gotta Get Some Action) Now" off their 1996 début album “Supershitty to the Max!", which ends the encore. It feels unfair for the band to have fallen victim to a failing sound system, but alas, as a result, their performance will not go down in the annals of Copenhell history. [6] AP


Dave Ingram of Benediction

Benediction @ 17:00 on Pandæmonium

Yet another band, yet another one of the grand old ones. Just like the others I already watched, Benediction has several decades to their belt. What might separate them from several of their counterparts, is that they’re still staying relevant by putting out well-above-average albums. As so, as they enter the stage, they carry with them great energy and feel as if they’re ready to put on a proper show. Sporting a fluffy hat displaying a big 'DENMARK' the local resident and lead singer of these death metallers Dave Ingram sure seems to be in high spirit.

His harsh vocals instantly fill the air, as the tight instrumentation chime in. Although my knowledge of the band isn’t exactly on a level where I can namedrop one track after another, they still strike me as being able to utilize variation to their advantage. Furthermore, several jokes fly left and right perhaps not on the level of one Mikael Åkerfeldt, but still sending plenty of laughs and grin down the rows of the crowd, and truly ensuring that this is not just another dime-a-dozen death metal gig. Once again these guys, some well-above 50, still seem as if they’re not about to stop. Despite a few issues with the wind, the mid-sized crowd sure seemed ready for some classic death metal, just like I was. [7] RUB


Jinjer @ 17:15 Saturday on Hades

A big peace sign in Ukrainian colours fills the backdrop. Jinjer from the war-ridden Ukrain have come as ambassadors for their country and spread the word of the atrocities happening at this moment. The band attracts the most impressive crowd I think I have ever seen at the Hades stage, both the ground and the hill behind are absolutely packed.

The sound is good if a little muddy and the grooves and blast beats come in wave after wave. Tatiana Shmailyuk's powerful presence and vocals are a sight to behold, effortlessly switching between Randy Blythe-sounding growls and grunts and soaring clean vocals. “We are here to stand against the horrors in our country. Fuck the war!" she exclaims as another groovy progressive metalcore track continues. The front of the audience is loving the shit of it evidently, crowd surfers and moshpits breaking out constantly.

The band has all the technical aspects of their performance down to a tee. It is all very impressive and proficient. But the songs themselves are just not very interesting and give merit to the old farts proclaiming modern progressive music is nothing but riff salad with no real connection between parts.

In this instance, I kinda have to agree. Their beautiful breakthrough hit “Pisces" and the djenty atmospheres of “I Speak Astronomy" is about the only songs that leave an impact on me while the rest just kinda jumble together in technical riffery with no real direction. So while I applaud the band for their efforts in spreading awareness and their technical prowess, the songwriting isn't impactful enough to leave a lasting mark on this reviewer. [6½] KW


Kevin Fitzgerald of High Command

High Command @ 17:45 on Gehenna

Testosterone fills the air as the Americans in High Command take to the stage. Not only is thrash and crossover the name of the game, but even more so is their inspiration derived from none other than the Conan universe. The songs are fast-paced and angry, and a nice kick to the head at this time of the day. To be completely honest, when I signed up for this gig, I thought it was a different band. But pleasantly surprised how it turned out. It strikes me how they remind me of Skeletonwitch, just without the black metal. On top of this, the crowd seemed to dig it as well. Equally so, the lead singer ventures into the crowd towards the end, and proves how this relatively new band sets the tone for the bands following them. In fact, up to this gig, crossover seemed to be dead and forgotten – at least to my knowledge, but my oh my, did I get to eat my words. The quintet from the states delivers and shows how the genre is still to be taken very much seriously in 2022. [7½] RUB


Mastodon @ 18:30 Saturday on Helvíti

It seems a little disrespectful to have Iron Maiden's theatre props hiding behind these progressive sludge metal titans for this show on the main stage of Copenhell. It makes them seem downgraded to some support band and I could have done without it. Annoyances with logistics aside, Brann Dailor starts things off with an impressive fast tom groove to introduce the atmospheric “Pain with an Anchor" and quickly impresses with his ever-improving clean vocals, made all the more impressive when you take his insane drumming into account. Mastodon has seemingly added a temporary 5th member on keys for this show, something I believe I haven't seen them do before, but he adds some nice synth depth to the soundscape with his 5 different keyboards.

Mastodon

A heavy rendition of “Crystal Skull" has bassist Troy Sanders provide some powerful yelling and generally, all the vocal chops are pretty spot on - not something that happens all the time at a Mastodon show to be frank. He might not be the most technically gifted singer in the world but “The Crux" shows that he more than makes up for it with grit and attitude. “Teardrinker" makes me wonder just how many tracks from their newest effort “Hushed and Grim" they're gonna play. Not that they are badly performed at all, but for a festival set it seems more fan favourites would be welcome. And as it turns out in the end, not a single song from their, in my opinion, best album “Crack the Skye" is played. I would be lying if I said this didn't disappoint me greatly, so while the sound mix is big and the performance itself is pretty great on most fronts, the setlist just seems misplaced when they end up playing for under an hour. Dailor's awesome singing in the hook of “Pushing the Tides" and the obligatory classic “Blood and Thunder", which they luckily weren't stupid enough to forget too, make up for it, but as a long-time fan, the setlist seemed a little tone-deaf for a festival set. Having this many new tracks wouldn't be as bad in a headlining, one-and-a-half-hour headlining show, but here, it left this reviewer with a little bit of disappointment. [7½] KW


Xenoblight @ 19:45 on Pandæmonium

Xenoblight vocalist Marika Hyldmar used to photograph for this very magazine at Copenhell during the early years of the festival. Today she's on the other side of the fence delivering her brutalized, monstrous growls in our direction alongside some classic Jutland charm in between the songs. She refers to the audience as her friends, which is a nice contrast to the extreme metal that the band is pummeling on stage. With elements of technical death and other niche genres, the band's music is challenging and uncompromising, but nonetheless a fresh example of Danish metal at its most brutal.

Their drummer smashes his snare early on to the crowd's delight, who erupt into a massive "Xenoblight! Xenoblight! Xenoblight!" chant. Later, a huge wall of death is orchestrated by Marika Hyldmar that turns into an enormous pit despite the thinning crowd who are making their way towards Death To All, but when those who are here are going this mental, it doesn't really matter. Marika jumps down to the barrier to growl in the faces of the front row, before launching herself over to crowd surf during the end of their set. Metal this extreme isn't for the faint-hearted in a live environment, but Xenoblight delivers a solid set overall. [7½] PP


Steve Di Giorgio of Death To All

Death To All @ 20:00 on Hades

The importance of Death should not be underestimated, just like the legacy of Chuck Schuldiner must not be forgotten. Whether you’re a fan or not, the legendary status of the band, and to that extent, the writing prowess and innovative abilities of the late frontman have been celebrated worldwide ever since his untimely death in 2001. What was meant to be a sort of one-off, if I’m not mistaken, has turned into a recurring event for Death To All; luckily for the people sadly too young to have witnessed the actual Death, like yours truly. For this edition, the line-up consists of Bobby Koelble on guitar, Gene “The Atomic Clock" Hoglan on the drums, legendary bassist Steve Di Giorgio and Max Phelps fronting to round off the quintet. The latter wasn’t even born when Death originally formed, which just makes his performance that more impressive. The band has enough great songs to pick from, but since this is still a celebratory cover band, surely, they’ll stick to the hits. As a gaze at the setlist, it sure seems like it, although this is quite a contested area amongst the fans. Nevertheless, with most songs off the magnificent “Symbolic" from 1995, they switch back and forth between every single album, so most needs should be met.

Max Phelps of Death To All

Every member compliments the others, as they play in complete unison. This is, of course, due to most of them actually used to play in the band, with only Phelps, for obvious reason, “playing the role of Chuck. Truth be told: he does a stellar job, actually looking and sounding like him, and simply elevates this gig to even further greatness. Airing tracks like “Zero Tolerance", “Suicide Machine", “The Philosopher", “Pull the Plug", “Crystal Mountain" and the godlike “Symbolic", I could simply go on about how good this is; and by the looks of it, the crowd agrees wholeheartedly. Pits spawned left and right as they shine through 11 tracks, and even though the band wasn’t that engaged, there was an aura of brilliance surrounding the band, so everything seemed to align regardless. At the end of the day, the legacy of Chuck was definitely preserved in absolute greatness. The overall resemblance was striking in every way, and I’m sure he would be very pleased with how they’re sounding this afternoon – and I couldn’t agree more. [9] RUB


Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden @ 21:30 on Helvíti

As both Iron Maiden’s 1980 classic “Transylvania" and UFO’s “Doctor Doctor" are played from track, the Helvíti audience is presented with a stage clad in an ancient Japanese theme, in keeping with the artwork of the band’s latest opus “Senjutsu". It features a number of pagodas, but otherwise the setup is actually somewhat minimalistic compared to the other times I have seen ‘Maiden live — at first. What is not minimalistic in the slightest though, is Nicko McBrain’s gigantic drumkit, which seems to have enough cymbals to cater to the needs of a full marching band. He puts it to good use in the titular opener “Senjutsu", which sees vocalist Bruce Dickinson — brimming with enthusiasm as ever — emerge on stage in thematically sound clothing, joined by a robot Samurai swinging a katana. Dickinson’s voice, most say, has seen its best day, but in honesty, there is little to complain about in terms of its power and reach still here tonight. Although the crowd seems a bit reserved to start out with (perhaps due to not having internalised the newest songs yet?), but once the hit single “Writing on the Wall" erupts from the PA, those thunderous sing-alongs that are a staple of ‘Maiden’s performances finally start resounding across the festival area. “Ca-aaan’t you see the writi-iiing on the wa-aaall?", Dickinson and his fans sing in unison, as guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers rip out one blazing lead and guitar solo after the other.

Iron Maiden

That song is the last we get to hear from “Senjutsu", with the rest of the setlist focusing on the group’s long and illustrious repertoire, starting with “Revelations" off 1983’s “Piece of Mind" album. Amidst a cathedral aesthetic now, it seems like the entire audience is pumping its fists and shouting “Hey! Hey! Hey!", making me forget about the world outside and become fully engrossed in what still remains one of the best live shows on the planet. It is not just the transforming and often animated visuals that makes it so, it is also the undying love of playing heavy f**king metal exuding from each of the six musicians’ faces, and the energy with which they all deliver these songs. And above all, it is the dedication of this 30.000-strong audience, so willingly — and loudly — singing every word in classics like “Blood Brothers" off 2000’s “Brave New World" and my personal favourite one “Flight of Icarus". Indeed, the atmosphere that reigns over the Helvíti stage is hair raising, especially when the timeless intro melody to the legendary title track from the band’s 1992 album “Fear of the Dark" is played and gets effectively drowned out by the crowd’s mimicking “whoa-ohh oh-ohh ohh ohh oh-ohh" chants. Like so many others, I see this as my cue to crowd surf for the first time in years.

Iron Maiden

Once again, Iron Maiden are absolutely owning the festival here, though if I had to criticise one thing, it would be that the setlist is not nearly as strong as at the 2014 edition. Must-have classics like “Hallowed Be Thy Name", “The Number of the Beast" and “Iron Maiden" are all included, but it does feel like their previous Copenhell show dug quite a bit deeper into their back catalog; see for yourself. In fact, yours truly would have been most impressed had ‘Maiden opted for simply playing “Senjutsu" in full and dropping a couple of staple tracks in the encore. Be that as it may, however, it is hard to argue with the band’s reputation as the best live band in the world. These six musicians are not exactly young, yet the level of energy displayed by every single one of them puts most younglings of the metal scene to shame. And although I am usually against excessive frills, the ludicrously theatrical stage props — including a full-size Spitfire airplane hovering above the band during “Aces High" — provide endless visual entertainment. Once again, I must bow my head in respect. [8] AP


Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog @ 23:30 on Pandæmonium

Saxophone, nu-metal, hip-hop, and a party atmosphere. There's no better way to end Copenhell than in the company of Dog Eat Dog. "DOG EAT DOG!!! Who's the king, who's the king, who's the king, who?", John Connor shouts from the scene, and the crowd is dancing and moving in unison while shouting the same lyrics back at the man. From hardcore punk to Beastie Boys-style hip hop, the band swims through genres like baby changes diapers, displaying great energy on stage and drawing the crowd along every step of the way. “Rocky", for instance, features so many guest vocalists who enter the stage from seemingly nowhere that in my notes I simply jotted down: wtf is happening? With the saxophone adding smooth jazz vibes to their crunchy music, this genre cocktail is perfect for the late hour, last day Copenhell. "Fuck, we need fire at all gigs", Connor muses, as he attempts to orchestrate pyrotechnic blasts with his hands left and right in what feels like a genuine moment where the band is surprised about the Copenhell surroundings. "DOG EAT DOG", we hear countless times during the set as the band instigates chants for themselves in a hilarious fashion, adding to the humorous, upbeat mood that encompasses their set from start to finish. A tad more serious than Alestorm, for example, but a fantastic party band to imprint a great memory of the festival in everyone's mind who watched this set. [8½] PP


Mercyful Fate @ 23:45 on Hades

23 years. That’s how long it has been since the legendary Danish satanic heavy metallers in Mercyful Fate last played a show (when disregarding the few shows, they just played as part of this tour, of course), and I never thought this day would come. I’ve been a fan of the band for ages, and I treasure especially their début Melissa very dearly, so when they were announced years ago, I knew I just had to witness this midnight mass.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Kicking things off with “The Oath", King Diamond brands a new head-gear (no more of the iconic hat, it would seem), looking like the actual devil known from the cover of “Breaking The Oath" – that is just badass. The setup on stage with a massive upside-down cross, satanic imagery, and icons, the stage is set – of course with his iconic bone micro stand as well. Already on the second track, a new track is aired, which sounds surprisingly good on this, my first listen. But they’re not just about done with the surprises. The king changes into a second new headdress, this time an actual crown – fitted for a king – magnificent. And what may be even more impressive, is the sound of the band altogether. Sadly, it’s without Michael Denner on the guitars and of course, the late bassist Timi “Grabber" Hansen, who sadly passed away from cancer after they just reunited. But still, the ominous sound coming out of the speakers speaks volumes of a band formed so many years ago. Especially the vocals of King Diamond are something worthy of praise and highlight. Just like it was the case with Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Diamond, five years younger, sounds as he did the last time they played together.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Besides the new song, they only play songs from the early years. This seemed like the safer way to re-enter the stage, and might also be due to “Melissa" and “Don’t Break The Oath" being their most popular releases. But when the songs are played as flawlessly as they are, it is simply just hard to disagree with their choices. Ending with “Curse of the Pharaohs", “Evil", “Come to the Sabbath" and “Satan’s Fall" as an encore, I have very little negative to say about this performance. Even the classic hat makes a return during the latter of the set, and with none other than James Hetfield watching from the sideline, this should spell just how incredible this gig is to the fans and heavy metal in general. The people attending this midnight mass are left in awe and disbelief of what we’ve just witnessed. This sounds like a band just getting started, and with the new track aired, yours truly have high hopes for the years to come. [9] RUB


Orm

ORM @ 01:15 on Gehenna

The honour of closing the festivities of Copenhell 2022 has been bestowed upon ORM, a band that, in my opinion, represents the very best of Danish metal. Thus it is not surprising to find the Gehenna area bristling with people, dimly lit by the atmospheric red lighting that dominates the forested stage. I have seen ORM live enough times by now to know the black metal quartet always has an imposing air about them, but as “Klippens lyse hal" — the 23-minute opener from their 2019 masterpiece “Ir" — picks up the pace and volume, I have to admit that I have never seen the four musicians play with so much confidence or fervour before. And for a band that virtually never speaks during their concerts, it is quite telling that one of the guitar-wielding frontmen, Theis Wilmer Poulsen, ecstatically roars “COPENHELL!" in its wake: ORM is just as ecstatic to be playing this show as the audience is to be watching them.

Orm

The treetop silhouettes, plumes of smoke and fire, all-consuming volume, and sheer magnitude of that composition combine to render the show into a borderline spiritual experience and without a doubt the best fit yet for this new stage environment, where the aroma of the freshly made wood chips on the ground becomes a kind of incense perfectly suited for ORM's mysterious and earthly take on atmospheric black metal. “This next one's a new song. It is also our last song. Thank you and good night!", announces Poulsen nigh 24 minutes into the set, suggesting that the material ORM has been working on since the aforementioned “Ir" is going to be their most expansive material to date. It is a vast and powerful track that includes stylish saxophone melodies, myriad rhythm shifts, and, in my opinion, the group's most breathtaking dual lead cascades yet, clocking in at least 30 minutes of runtime according to my calculations. And yet, despite the astonishing length of this piece, the four musicians (completed by second frontman Simon Sonne Andersen, drummer Adam Schønemann, and, I think, bassist Troels Cort Nielsen playing his final show with the band), course through it seamlessly, headbanging and windmilling tirelessly with their bedazzled audience. I could not have imagined a more suitable and epic finale to one of the best Copenhells yet. [9] AP

FINAL WORDS

And there you have it. Some 50-odd music reviews, thoughts on food, and the festival area later, we salute you if you've made it this far. Copenhell's friendly, welcoming atmosphere is unmatched by other Danish festivals save for maybe Roskilde.

This year's edition has proven to be not just the biggest yet, and not just a celebration of all things metal and rock, but also the festival in which Copenhell has entered a coveted International class of festivals. People are actively selecting this festival over others in Europe when thinking about their metal needs.

Considering the festival is just over a decade old, such an achievement is a resounding success. There's a sense of buzz and vibrant energy surrounding every facet of the festival from its food stalls to its art, from its bookings to its pre-and after-parties. It has become the go-to event here in Denmark where tickets are almost impossible to acquire. We here at Rockfreaks.net gladly admit it is our favorite festival in the country, and one of our favorite ones across Europe.

And on that note, let's finish off this article in our classic ‘The Good', ‘The Bad', and ‘The Ugly' segment on what worked great, and what should definitely be improved. PP

THE GOOD

  • Gehenna stage and its surrounding areas like Udgård are amazingly cozy.
  • Art pieces, theming of food stalls, and drink names were the best in Copenhell history
  • Great variety of small street food vendors, many of them offering excellent grub
  • The first time where a R.I.P. wristband was worth the money: a great place to relax and hang out in quieter Gehenna-like surroundings.
  • Tutten massively expanded with lots more seating available inside “The Wolf" (B&W Hall)
  • Pant system allows you to save money and keeps the festival grounds very clean
  • The main stage is bigger than ever
  • The best lineup in Denmark
  • Real toilets - and they were plentiful and clean most of the time
  • Copenhell Con is a cool new area
  • Smadreland is still a hit
  • Still the safest festival in Denmark
  • Wristband exchange arrangements were very cozy in advance of the festival

THE BAD

  • Pandæmonium area feels a little industrial and “empty". Perhaps something more can be added here? Same for the Smadreland/Monster Energy corner
  • What happened to Heaven & Hell at the top of the hill? It's some sort of partners-only corporate box now - not a good look.
  • Hills could have been mowed before - a small detail but the first day required sitting on knee-height spiky weeds at Hades in particular.
  • Monster Energy area: no clear information on what was happening here and when.
  • Not all bars are in agreement: some bars you could return 1 glass only (The Gin Palace), others 2, others 6, others 10 for a discount on new beers. Should be enforced to be the same at all bars throughout the festival: you can deliver as many as you want to a maximum of your new purchase.
  • The queue is still up to 40 minutes around 2-4 pm with wristbands. Perhaps a second line for bag-holders only?
  • Merch tents need to be spread out more. You had to sacrifice a headliner to avoid a half an hour queue.
  • Everything is very expensive from beers to food to sodas.

THE UGLY

  • Professional pant collectors wading through tight crowds with giant bags - haven't seen that here before. Set a maximum of 30 items per person, which would cover half of a six-pack of beer allowing 2 people to combine for one, but prevents pant collectors from harvesting thousands of cups at a time.
  • No pissoirs on Hades side next to the fence: we all know what happens then even if the toilet is RIGHT next to B&W Hall
  • Public transport is still chaotic at night: enormous waits for buses and roads blocked by people. It can take 1.5 hours to get to Christianshavn after a headliner.
  • The network was completely dead during Metallica. We've now reached a capacity that requires an additional cell tower like Roskilde Festival.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR

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