Copenhell 2013

author PP date 19/06/13

In few short years Copenhell has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Scandinavian festival circuit. By catering a genre-specific festival for fans of metal and hard rock, they've been able to chip away from the attendance of other major festivals in the region by each year offering a solid lineup of some of the biggest and the best names in the realm of these two genres.

What's more, the organizers have never intended Copenhell to be just a music festival rather than a celebration of the metal culture as a whole. That's why it is located in a somewhat obscure location at an aging industrial area slightly difficult to reach and out-of-sights from Copenhagen city center, because the surroundings alone give the festival credibility and a feeling of authenticity that's probably unlike any other festival than mighty Wacken Open Air itself. That's why the festival has sold well over 10,000 tickets for this year's edition, and why they continue to expand in both size and innovation each year.

More on that in the next section - if you wish to skip straight to the reviews & photos, feel free to scroll down straight away.

Festival Area

A lengthy path dubbed highway to hell leads from the festival entrance past Camp Burton, a dedicated camping area (which is now on grass instead of asphalt, thumbs up) for those coming from further away, before an opening on the left side shows one of the three stages of the festival, Pandæmonium. This is the small stage of the festival, surrounded by various merchandising booths ranging from metal-inspired clothing lines to accessory stores where you could buy, for example, a drinking horn much akin to the one worn by Amon Amarth vocalist Johan Hegg. It also has a covered seating area next to a burger bar selling surprisingly high quality burgers (some of the food disasters from previous years are still fresh in mind). To top it all off, there's a demon skull shaped smoking area right in the middle of the area. This is CopenHELL, after all.

Axing a cabbage at Asgård. Why not.

If you then turned around and walked away from Pandæmonium, you'd reach the food court area, where Cofoco's pizza stand had an enormous line throughout the festival. Next to it, a stand was selling Risotto and sausages. PP sampled the Risotto and found it excellent, just like the 'death burger' at the second food court near the Viking area.

Yes. The festival had literally constructed a small-ish area called Asgård, inspired by the Viking era, complete with a jacuzzi, a small sauna, 1 Liter beers (because vikings don't drink any smaller beers than that of course), and rather amusingly, an area where you could grab a sword and slice cabbages tied to a rope and a pole if you so wished. All the staff in this area was of course wearing traditional Viking-era clothing for added effect.

Beat the living sh*t out of that car, man!

If you are a more modern person at heart and find all the folk/pagan stuff a little weird, then the festival area of course also featured the classic Jägerbus, as well as a return of the much-loved 'Smadreland', where you could utilize steel bars, sledgehammers and that sort to smash apart old cars, stereos, and office equipment to take revenge for all those times your equipment has failed on you at the worst possible moment. If you just prefer to watch destruction in general, you could wait 'til after King Diamond's set when the wooden Wicker Man / Burning Man structure would be set on fire.

The other two stages are Helviti, which is the main stage of the festival, and Hades, which is found almost right next to it, so that both stages could be comfortably seen from the two hills at the back. Both of course featured giant fire cannons that signaled the starting points of each concert in a temperature that could be felt hundreds of meters away.

But I won't keep you longer. Let's get to the band reviews.

Thursday June 13th

I guess it was too much to ask for; the beautiful weather enjoyed by Copenhagen and Denmark in general in the past few weeks turned into a gray, murky setting just in time for the opening day. But where there is metal there is thunder and storm, at least if you are to believe Kristina Djarling (in Danish) or previous editions of the festival, where each year has brought us thunderstorm-like conditions at least once during the festival. But if there's one crowd that likely won't be thrown off by adverse weather conditions, it's the metal crowd, so despite the drizzle turning into pouring rain during the evening, horns are thrown up in air, fists are pumped, and beer is downed in celebration of Danish metal, the theme for the first day at Copenhell.

Fall of Pantheon

Fall Of Pantheon @ 18:00 on Pandæmonium

Copenhagen metallers Fall Of Pantheon have been bestowed with the honor of opening this year's festivities, and what better way to represent the festival's core foundations than with rapid-fire blast beat fueled death metal to open up the day. There's about 100-150 people in front of the stage early on happy to throw up the horns on every occasion when the band isn't busy delivering their thick, brutal death metal of the technical kind. So much so that the bassist and the lead guitarist look intensely concentrated on their fretboards throughout the set, only taking breaks to headbang in the classic flow-around-your-hair style which I'm sure we'll see 70% of the bands at the festival taking advantage of. While the band could use some more energy on stage, their style of death metal is convincing, and a solid opening to get into a 'metal' mood at the festival, especially given the many evil-sounding solos that they deliver tonight. [7] PP

Deus Otiosus

Deus Otiosus @ 19:30 on Pandæmonium

I've reviewed a couple of Deus Otiosius releases in the past, and I've always thought they are one of the most exciting and innovative death metal bands in Denmark. This evening, they prove why my statement is correct by delivering a thick, groovy expression that's oddly catchy for the death metal genre, with hints of thrash in their soundscape as well. They're here because they won Royal's Tak Rock competition ahead of Cold Night For Alligators, and as much as I like both bands, I have to say that a death metal band is a more appropriate addition to Copenhell. They play with plenty of tempo unlike the occasionally slow form of death metal by Fall Of Pantheon just before, so they get the pit moving, and the crowd into it much quicker. They're still a standard metal band in terms of energy (=stand still in their zones due to complicated riffs and whatnot), but at least they add some (perhaps unintentional) humour in the way they announce their songs in a growled manner, which draws some chuckles from this scribe at least. All in all, another solid set early on at the festival. [7] PP

The Defiled

The Defiled @ 20:45 on Pandæmonium

The Defiled are a strange booking for Copenhell, but considering they've previously had Bullet For My Valentine and Dead By April, I guess every year there's a band that somehow doesn't really fit the bill. This year that band is The Defiled, who are best described as Linkin Park meets Black Veil Brides meets Five Finger Death Punch. Basically, these guys show up on stage wearing face paint, ridiculous haircuts (BVB style), and a sound that's as poppy as you'll hear it at this year's Copenhell despite the screamed/growled verses every now and then. I'm not gonna deny it, it's super catchy, and the keyboardist throwing around his keyboard like it's an ironing board above his head, swinging it around and pushing it forward towards the crowd in weird positions is very entertaining. It's obviously very clear that these guys can put on a show, but it's also more show than it is musical content. Warped tour metal, is what I jotted down in my notes, yet the Copenhell audience are responding surprisingly well despite the obviously synchronized choreography taking place on stage (simultaneous headbangs, jumps, and all the rage). But then again it's a totally different set from two death metal ones earlier, and much-needed variation on a day that otherwise only features heavy/aggressive bands. Still, they are kind of generic and therefore towards the end, the whole keyboard spectacle becomes more of a gimmick and grows old way too fast. Decent and entertaining (the crowd is loving it!), but not exactly of musical value. [7] PP

Hatesphere @ 22:30 on Pandæmonium

Even though Hatesphere are one of the most longevious bands in Danish metal, their line-up has seen so many changes one could be forgiven for having no idea who actually is part of them at present. But one thing has always stood fast: Hatesphere are without a question one of the best live bands this country has to offer. As such, it was only natural that they should appear at Copenhell sooner or later, and bestowing a late night headlining show upon them on the Förhelvede warm-up day was an excellent way to pay tribute to their long and illustrious career which has seen many, or even most of the heavyweight Danish metal musicians play a role in their success.

Hatesphere - derp.

It is no surprise, then, that Hatesphere receive a heroes' welcome as they stoop to the stage and proceed to bash our heads in with a hit parade of sorts, which includes both early work such as "Murderous Intent" and "Deathtrip" and more recent picks like "Resurrect with a Vengeance" - we are even graced with a brand new, previously unaired track in "Fear Me", a heavy piece which most agree could draw some similarities to Gojira. It is a relatively massive audience that has gathered before the stage to engage in what is best described as a festive reunion, band and crowd both dispensing such energy one wonders why it has taken four years for the Copenhell booking team to get their fingers on this band.

Hatesphere are, for all intents and purposes, the Danish equivalent of Slayer: there is little-to-no difference between most of the songs they play tonight, yet each boasts such murderous attitude, technical precision and engaging intensity that in the live setting, one never feels the need to complain, just as one never grows bored. The fivesome - vocalist Esben "Esse" Elnegaard Kjær Hansen, guitarists Peter "Pepe" Lyse Hansen & Jakob Nyholm, bassist Jimmy Nedergaard, and drummer Mike Park Nielsen - are in excellent form tonight, performing a passion and flair that suggests they've been waiting a long time for this opportunity; and the audience responds in kind with the festival's first wall of death, among other things. Concluding their set with the magnificent "Disbeliever" and "Sickness Within", Hatesphere provide a timely reminder why despite touring as often as they can, we should never shy away from the opportunity to experience the tour de force that is their live act. [8] AP

Friday June 14th

By The Patient

By The Patient @ 14:30 on Pandæmonium

Friday at 14:30 is when Danish death metal band By The Patient opens the small stage to welcome home the metal family to the fourth edition of Copenhell. Right from the start, you can tell that the band is giving it all they can through a really energetic performance with smiles on their faces. Due to the early time of day, we are only approximately one or two hundred people who have decided to show up in time to support. However, as the show goes on, more and more people join the crowd, giving the band some extra energy allowing them to turn it up a notch. This affects the otherwise rather stand-still audience who start nodding along, but even though the band is trying hard, the show never really gets exciting, and not until the band asks audience to open the pit during the very last song do we really feel joy and a longing for more. What a shame. [6½] SC

Tommy Rogers of Between The Buried And Me - emerging from smoke

Between The Buried And Me @ 15:30 on Hades

Most people have just stumbled off from work if they haven't taken the day off, yet a sizable crowd has gathered by Hades to witness arguably the greatest progressive metal band in the last decade kick off straight away with the Rush-inspired "Astral Body". The band members concentrate on an intense display of instrumental prowess, where chaotic prog sections meet tranquil atmospheric ones, all woven together by jazzy interludes and glorious melodic sections that almost feel like they are sparkling in the warm sunshine we're currently experiencing. Vocalist Tommy Rogers projects himself as dominantly as ever above the crowd, though these days he spends most of his time adding to the sound through eerie keyboard melodies; the energetic days of "Alaska"-era and before are in the distant past at this stage of their career. Their music is so complex that it triumphs most if not every band at this festival, which leads into a rather static and admittedly stand-still performance, but the wealth of sublime songs enable most people to forgive this, especially when the group's final song is the progressive metal masterpiece "Selkies: The Endless Obsession", which must be one of the greatest songs written in the genre history. The music speaks for itself. [8] PP

Purified In Blood @ 16:00 on Pandæmonium

Admittedly, my thoughts here of the Norwegian metallic hardcore act Purified in Blood are based on the two songs that I managed to watch following my DJ set in the Biergarten earlier, but I feel it does not take much more to form an impression of this band. I faintly recall watching them at Roskilde Festival's Pavilion Jr. warm-up stage in 2006 and being vaguely impressed by their dual vocal assault. Purified in Blood anno 2013, however, have been reduced into a quintet, with Hallgeir Skretting Enokssen now handling the vocals on his own; and it seems their show suffers from it. It's not that they're particularly offensive on the ear - it's that there is nothing of interest here in terms of the performance. Purified in Blood seem content with thrusting their hard-hitting songs through our skulls with a presence that suggests this must be something of a mundane day at the office for them. [5] AP

Amon Amarth & viking ship

Amon Amarth @ 16:30 on Helviti

Moments after BTBAM are done with their set, the crowd moves along to the main stage Helviti, where a huge viking ship has been placed smack down in the middle of the stage in front of the elevated drums. On the sides, we have viking banners depicting stormy seas, and big, hairy Scandinavians spearheaded by vocalist Johan Hegg who might just as well be the reincarnation of Thor himself with his drinking horn and rumbling growls. The band proceed to play groovy, bouncy, and undeniably catchy viking metal that captivates the audience straight away and results into a sea of horns being aired after each and every song. As my fellow scribe AP later put it, if vikings would've had access to instruments in their era, it would almost certainly have sounded like Amon Amarth. "It's great to be back playing with our brothers, the Scandinavian vikings", growls Hegg with his gnarly voice, before joking about playing in the UK as a viking and not exactly getting a great response from the crowd due to the whole pillage-the-village history. It's this type of great interaction that makes it possible to take their intensely viking thematics with a grain of salt and enjoy the pure entertainment that it obviously is. I mean, how can you not like a stage setup which looks like the band are literally sailing towards you across stormy seas with their viking fleet, unafraid of anything except maybe the gods themselves? And so when the banners drop simultaneously to reveal a crazy depiction of an epic sea battle between Norse gods, everyone in the crowd is sold. Amon Amarth - entertainment or not - should have been the headlining band tonight based on performance alone. [8½] PP

Cancer Bats @ 18:00 on Pandæmonium

Somehow the news that Cancer Bats would begin their set 15 minutes early managed to escape me, so I arrive at the intimate Pandæmonium stage to the tune of "Smiling Politely" and swiftly confirm that the Canadian maniacs are still a sight to behold in the live setting. Vocalist Liam Cormier is beaming with frenzy, swathing the audience with his ferocious, yet exuberant personality - and they're lapping it up. The pit looks rather terrifying, so I take up position close to the stage on the right side, and then proceed to bang my head violently as the deep groove of "Lucifer's Rocking Chair" resonates from the PA. What Cancer Bats muster up here is one of those performances where everything clicks: the sound mix is flawless, the level of energy is through the roof, and the band's collective charisma is irresistible.

Cancer Bats

Because Copenhell affords much lengthier set times to bands than most European metal festivals, what we are given is a relentless barrage 16 songs long, nicely balanced between the freshest material from "Dead Set On Living" and older fan favorites such as "Shillelagh", "Sorceress", "Pneumonia Hawk" and "Deathsmarch". As the performance only grows more intense, so does the crowd's enthusiasm gain momentum until the entire area in front of the stage looks like a boiling cauldron of horns, fists and flailing limbs - reaching a climax twice, first in what I feel is one of the best metal covers ever made, Beastie Boys' "Sabotage", and then in the set concluding, absolutely brutal "Hail Destroyer". Drenched in sweat and sporting a wide grin, I head toward the Helviti stage with the sense of unanimous euphoria that has grown customary to Copenhell over the years. [8½] AP

In Flames

In Flames @ 19:00 on Helviti

As In Flames have transformed from melodic death metal pioneers into simply a modern metal band, I have grown increasingly skeptical at the prospect of watching them live. Nuggets from their past glory days have become a rare treat on setlists dominated by post-"Reroute to Remain" (2002) material; stuff that, with the exception of the brilliant "Come Clarity" (2006), in no way measures up to classic In Flames. Bands must evolve to remain relevant, however, so I have braved my preconceptions every time there's been the chance to watch them again and found that whether or not In Flames are... well, on fire live, is a bit of a hit-or-miss conundrum these days.

Sadly, this early evening set belongs in the latter category, with In Flames putting on one of the most bland, disengaged performances I have seen by them yet. True, from a production perspective things are in order, the massive stacks of LED-lit amplifiers and backdrop providing a fearsome setting. But with the exception of lead guitarist Björn Gelotte and his rhythm guitar colleague Niclas Engelin - both of whom wiggle their instruments enthusiastically and throw eager smiles at us - In Flames look vaguely interested in performing at best, and an abundance of material from the latest studio album "Sounds of a Playground Fading" does little to improve my mood, especially as vocalist Anders Fridén flat-out cannot sing well enough live to give songs like "Ropes" the might they boast on record.

In Flames

There are obviously moments that stroke my nostalgia scattered amongst, such as the always excellent crowd pleasers "Trigger" and "System" from "Reroute to Remain" (2002); a blast from the past with "The Hive" off "Whoracle" (1997); and the opening track to "Colony" (1999), "Embody the Invisible". Understandably, it is during these songs that the audience bothers to show any appreciation - yet I am almost dumbstruck by the omission of live staples like "Dead God in Me" ("The Jester Race", 1996), "Colony" ("Colony", 1999), "Only for the Weak" ("Clayman", 2000) and "Crawl Through Knives" ("Come Clarity", 2006); and baffled as always as to why electronica infused pop-metal pieces like "The Quiet Place" and "My Sweet Shadow" are so endearing to so many people. Alas, it is with a sense of deep disappointment that I bid farewell to In Flames once again and make my way to the food and beer stalls to eat and drink my sorrow away. [6] AP

Scarred By Beauty

Scarred By Beauty @ 20:00 on Pandæmonium

Scarred By Beauty have long been one of the brightest hopes in Danish metal, even if their hybrid sound of technical metalcore, mathcore, and progressive hardcore isn't exactly favoured by the aging metal crowd in this country. That being said, what the youngsters display on stage in terms of energy, jumps, and good melodies is nothing short of a spectacle, not least because their technical melodies differ so much from the 'standard' metal we've been seeing at the festival so far. The crowd is totally into it, and why wouldn't the be? It's a convincing song, and given how much the band draws from the hardcore scene energy-wise, it's easy to understand why a huge circle pit takes place towards the end of the show. The vocalist goes on to call Copenhell the most important thing that has happened to the Danish metal scene, and thanks the crowd for supporting it, right before hopping into the audience for some good ol' crowd surfing himself. Still, them being a young band and all, there's still a rather significant divide between their very best songs and the rest, which is exposed more fully in a live environment like tonight. A solid show, and one that should close the mouth on any critics of their more modern (and in many ways more relevant) style. [7½] PP

Ghost - he must be hot in this outfit

Ghost @ 20:30 on Hades

Solemnly, the band walks on Hades stage to the sound of the chanting of “Infestissumam” creating that specific, sort of mysterious atmosphere they are known for, even though the sun is still shining on full strength. Ghost’s rather odd take on the metal genre with its circus-like references is still quite a weird combination. The sound is good from where I stand, allowing the organ to accompany the soft voice of singer Papa Emeritus II at his best while he drifts back and forth on the stage. The “Nameless Ghouls” on the guitars and the bass guitarist seem to enjoy performing under their cloths, and the front of the audience is rocking along. But Ghost is one of those bands you either love or hate, and in the back, people did not seem to enjoy themselves... A few walked away. I personally liked the overall performance, and so did a great part of the crowd, though I do not think the band recruited any new members to their cult. [7] SC

Alice In Chains @ 21:30 on Helviti

With no real knowledge of Glenn Danzig apart from his name, my personal headlining act tonight were always going to be Seattle, WA grunge legends Alice in Chains. Upon their addition to the Copenhell line-up, bickering of course ensued over whether or not such a genre had any place at a metal festival, but such questions are surely swept out of each and every beholder's mind once the gentlemen unleash "Them Bones" and "Dam That River" - the opening duo to 1992's quadruple-platinum LP "Dirt" - upon us. Few adjectives powerful enough exist to describe just how goddamn heavy these sound tonight, the volume cranked well past the health-and-safety limit, if my eardrums are to be believed. It is an absolutely breathtaking start to a performance which climbs toward untouchable grandeur with every passing song; the sheer weight of Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Inez and William DuVall's slow-burning, groove-laden musical concoctions such as "Check My Brain" rattling our bones and displacing our pulse to beat much slower than usual. There are tears glistening in my eyes.

Alice In Chains

So loud and heavy are Alice in Chains tonight, in fact, that a third-way into the monolithic "Stone" off this year's "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" the electrical generator explodes, presumably due to overload, cutting an unfortunate 20-minute pause into the proceedings, and painting visible frustration all over the quartet's faces (not to mention those of the audience). But with the utmost professionalism, once the generator is restored, Alice in Chains continue that track exactly on the chord they stopped on and after only a few seconds there's little to suggest those 20 minutes actually took place.

There is an air of cool arrogance to Alice in Chains on stage, their dim red, green and blue lights, and their bare stage production that gives them an enigmatic feel; the perfect atmosphere for a late evening set which for all intents and purposes deserves to be the closing performance. Despite missing out on those 20 minutes, Alice in Chains still manage to trudge through a quartet of timeless classics toward the end in "Angry Chair", "Man in the Box", "Would?" and "Rooster", leaving the thousands of fans gathered before the Helviti stage struck with awe, at a loss for words for describing how magnificent the performance we have just borne witness to actually was. Here's hoping for a timely return! [9] AP

Celeste @ 22:45 on Pandæmonium

By now it's getting darker, and that's good, because sunlight wouldn't do justice to Celeste's light show, which basically consists of several smoke machines running on full power throughout the show. I'm pretty sure half of the festival's budget was spent on keeping that thing running for the 45 minutes of their set. That's necessary, because Celeste like to veil themselves in a cloud of mystery and secrecy befitting their sludgy and murky brand of post-metal well. The smoke also helps to re-create the immersive soundscape that the band does so well on record, and what's better, it introduces an element of fear in the crowd because each band member is wearing a dual laser head band that looks like something straight off the Terminator franchise in the midst of the smoke effects. I'm telling you, it's an unnerving feeling listening to apocalyptic post-metal with four sets of dual-lasers constantly taking aim at you and your fellow concertgoers through the darkness. This goes on for the whole set, so the idea does get kind of repetitive towards the end, and people are definitely too drunk to appreciate the immersiveness of their set (I can hear laughter and loud discussion left and right), especially since we can't really see anything but red lasers for 45 minutes straight. [7] PP

Parkway Drive @ 23:00 on Hades

The evening is not over yet, however, for there is more excellence to be had - albeit in an entirely different genre. Parkway Drive have never impressed me much on record, but whenever they play live, all of my issues with their music blow right out of the window. Quite simply, Parkway Drive are one of the best metalcore bands in the world to watch in the live setting, and tonight's show of force is no exception. Of course, much of the allure of a PWD performance comes from the enthusiasm with which audiences worldwide like to participate in them, and quite right, already during the first two tracks, "Sparks" and "Old Ghosts / New Regrets", the area in front of the stage transforms into a hellish whirlwind of moshing and slam-dancing that calls to me like a long-lost friend.

Parkway Drive are in fine form tonight, each of the five members - vocalist Winston McCall, guitarists Jeff Ling & Luke Kilpatrick, bassist Jia O'Connor and drummer Ben Gordon - exuding ferocity like a pack of raging bulls and commanding the audience to behave even more recklessly than it already is. In obedience, the pit explodes as "Sleepwalker" rolls in, and for the entire duration of the 14-song set there is no relent to the proceedings neither on stage nor off it. The setlist includes heavy amounts of last year's "Atlas" of course, with "Dark Days" in particular emerging as a definitive highlight. But the real pleasers are naturally songs like "Boneyards", "Idols and Anchors", "Home is for the Heartless", "Romance is Dead" and "Carrion", the first of which, at song number six, proves too irresistible for me to not participate in the moshing frey. Without a doubt, Parkway Drive stage here the most intense and violent performance at Copenhell this year (from the ones I manage to catch at least). [8½] AP

Walter White takes a well-deserved pause from the lab

Danzig @ 00:15 on Helviti

Before the festival I thought of Danzig as a weird choice for a headlining band especially given the fact that In Flames, Amon Amarth, and Alice In Chains were all playing before them. After the festival, I feel even more this way, especially since most people have left long before Danzig even enter the stage. It's a disappointing turnout in front of the main stage for a nearly sold out festival, but then again, I also sympathise with the people who have left because Danzig represents pretty much everything that is just no longer cool in the music industry. It's decent heavy metal, but oh-so generic, and with a stage show that's about as interesting as watching paint dry especially if you compare it to the eclectic shows by Amon Amarth and Alice In Chains earlier. Especially the beginning is almost torturous to anyone who feels like standard heavy metal hasn't evolved at all since the 1970s and 80s, but once we get to the classics things improve slightly. The shitty Danzig songs feel washed out and outdated, a contrast made even more stark as soon as he starts playing Misfits songs. They are more upbeat, have plenty more woo-hoo sections, where people are actually participating and singing along. The band, too, looks refreshed on stage, performing with much more energy and conviction than before. During these, there's an ecstatic party atmosphere with huge sing alongs echoing across the Copenhell crowds, but as soon as he shifts back to his solo material, the crowd basically dies and appears bored. "Mother", the Guitar Hero classic, is of course one that receives a big sing along, but in general my thoughts of Danzig are exactly the same, if not more pronounced than before: a legacy act with few, if any, relevant songs left to play, whereas his main band Misfits' songs are timeless classics in comparison. [6] PP

Saturday June 15th


Impalers @ 12:15 on Pandæmonium

First show of day 2 in Metal Heaven, thrash youngsters Impalers from Aarhus are due to perform to an extremely hangover and sleepy crowd. As the sparsely populated audience approaches the Pandæmonium, the quartet enters the stage with devil horns lifted high and mighty. This band really took me by surprise as they started performing what can be described as seamless thrash metal; brash, unrefined and to-the-bone genuine, all filled with the gorgeous imperfections that good thrash should include. They played with drive, exhilaration and heart, highlighted by the punchy "Death In Fire". The song "Fear" was grated upon the sleepy audience, ultimately waking them from slumber. Upon finishing their admittedly short set, the announcer enters the stage, giving the young quartet from the city of smiles some serious satisfaction because a sneak-a-peaking Jason Newsted had apparently sent his regards and admiration of their music. This show was a great appetizer to a festival that already includes an abundance of thrash metal. [7½] MN


Malrun @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium stage

Following the admirable set of Impalers, the stage is set to receive another band from Jutland by the name of Malrun. Prior to the show, I had no idea who they were, so i had no expectations of what to expect, thus I have a clean slate to witness their performance today. Malrun touch on a vast array of genres, but mainly their sound is an enigmatic blend of metalcore, power metal, and symphonic elements. Today, Malrun is anchored by an ever-present vocalist, Jacob Løbner, who possesses one of the most versatile and searing vocals I have ever heard. Jacob was gleefully bouncing around the entire stage, even into the audience where he delivered a serious wake up call by using a megaphone. Contagious songs like "Bloody Mary" and "The Iron March" are performed powerfully. In my scope, this band played with the best calibrated sound system at this years Copenhell. It was a vicious display of top-notch Danish metal, I predict that these guys will continue to rise exponentially in popularity, I was won over instantly. [8] MN

Accept - in standard heavy metal formation

Accept @ 14:30 on Helviti

In charge of opening the main stage proceedings on this more classically oriented second day are German heavy metal legends Accept, who kicks things off in nostalgic fashion with "Hung, Drawn and Quartered" and "Stalingrad" off last year's "Stalingrad" LP. The band look as enthused as they do the part, with vocalist Mark Tornillo directing the metallic assault with a maestro's finesse, and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann in particular showing off his skills with a youthful flair that belies his 53 years of age. It's a solid, if not amazing showing from a band that refuses to become irrelevant, and the final combo of classics in "Metal Heart", "Teutonic Terror", "Balls to the Wall" and "Fast as a Shark" sounds as rich as gold, setting an excellent precedent for the bands to come later today. [7½] AP


Newsted @ 15:30 on Hades

Bluesy and groovy inspired thrash metal is streaming from the Hades stage as the band starts to play in front of a rather large crowd who instantly throws horns in the air and cheers, even though the hangovers still seem to be a pretty widespread state of being at 15:30 this afternoon. Jason Newsted’s band is touring to support their “Metal” EP to create some attention before releasing their first full-length record, which means that Newsted three or four times during the show shouts the line printed on his t-shirt - “Listen To Metal” - referring to support of the culture as well as the EP. This ends up being a bit annoying towards the end, but the band’s intensity while playing the new songs is welcomed by the audience. However, one cannot say Newsted without saying Metallica and this concert’s greatest reaction from the audience comes when Newsted starts playing a part of “Creeping Death”, and the closing song “Whiplash” by Metallica, causing loads of people to run towards the stage going crazy. Amazing! [8] SC


Saturnus @ 15:45 on Pandæmonium

So far we've experienced a festival with lots of fast music, lots of brutal sounds, and much testosterone driven aggression on all stages. Even Celeste's post-metal had an element of crushing defiance to its soundscape, which is why Danish doom metallers Saturnus are a welcome moment of tranquillity. Their slow, down-trodden songs are synonymous with the very essence of beauty, with creeping tempos and carefully constructed melodies aweing the listener if you're paying attention. That it's more than 20 degrees Celsius outside, the sun is shining, and we're at a festival drinking beer unfortunately also means it's not exactly suited for the occasion (imagine going to a doom metal festival, oh wow), especially because of how static they have to be on stage to properly convey their doom metal. Their music is beautiful on record and in intimate venues, but 10+ minute songs and a lack of reflexive echo across the venue walls also means people are yawning a little and heading to the bar in droves. As much as it pains me, it's hard to give Saturnus more than a 7 today if considering more than just musical qualities alone. [7] PP


Sabaton @ 16:30 on Helviti

Sabaton, like Accept earlier, represent the old school, though here the focus is more on power metal than the classic heavy sort. Dressed in matching camouflage pants and black tops, the Swedish quintet certainly look pretty badass, and it quickly dawns on me that the tales of Sabaton being a fearsome live act that I've been told are true. Vocalist Joakim Brodén in particular is beaming with energy, dashing from one side to the other and thrashing his body like a man possessed whilst delivering his pitch-perfect croons to a bewildered audience. His commands of more crowd-surfing are swiftly obeyed, and from my vista on the hill the whole things looks like a proper heavy metal party as well as a concert. Power metal, however, is not my genre of preference, and my limited knowledge of the band's recorded output (I do recognise "Gott Mit Uns" and "Carolus Rex") quickly gets the best of me, so I decide to grab some grub halfway through their set to provide warmth before the apocalyptic cloudburst that has been promised to grace the festival area in about an hour's time. [7½] AP

Every Time I Die - skills include levitation

Every Time I Die @ 18:00 on Hades

All day we'd been gloomily eyeing our radar app due to a brooding rain front slow making its way towards the festival area; the sky opens right on time for the Every Time I Die show to turn into an enormous puddle on the crowd's side of the fence. This seems to only encourage the band, who aren't ones to care about rain pouring down on them like the fucking monsoon season just started all the while lightning and thunder is happening all around us. Instead, they tune up their already crazy live show and spend their 45 minutes smashing into each other due to ridiculous stage jumps and ripping energy from every member of the crowd, as if to depict a giant FUCK YOU to the weather from the bottom of their hearts. It's a crazy live show that reflects on the audience as well; while those of us without rain boots are scrambling for the elevated surfaces covering the electrical wiring, others are circle pitting through what is quickly turning into a giant lake in front of the Hades stage. Normally people would be cursing their lives and looking like they hate being at a festival right now, but ETID's way of showing that they don't give a fuck about the rain on stage rubs onto the crowd, so the crowd are all smiles and ready to party regardless the weather. Sick show. [8]


Testament @ 19:00 on Helviti Stage

A great burst of rain clouds had just passed over the festival, which made it uncertain how many would stay, and whether the terrible weather would return. Fortunately, most people opted to stay and when Testament walks on stage, many are still joining the more than half full main stage area. The band is smiling and seems to be looking forward to play, even though Testament have to restart “Native Blood” due to unfocused musicianship, which lead singer Chuck Billy points out, laughing. Afterwards, the band almost perfectly delivers hits like “True American Hate” and “Into The Pit”, which instantly affects the audience and gives us back the hope that the rest of the festival will continue to be as fantastic as before the downpours, even though some of the newer tracks that follow just do not work as well. This means that the concert is a broadly enjoyed thrash party despite the drummer and bassist not quite seeming to be as happy as the rest of band, and on top of that the volume was just too low - what a pity. [7½] SC


Bornholm @ 20:00 on Pandæmonium

Despite what their name might suggest (it is a Danish island for our foreign readers), Bornholm aren't actually Danish at all but have travelled here all the way from Hungary. Equipped in blackened body armor, black leather, and spiky accessories, their pagan look gives it immediately away; we're dealing with black metal of some sort. Turns out it's of the melodic kind, where lengthy tremolo sections dominate the sound whilst their vocalist headbangs viciously as the only point of energy on the stage. I get it, usually black metal bands stand still to forge that all-encompassing evil atmosphere, but it's sunny outside again so their static performance doesn't do them many favours despite otherwise decent songs. [6½] PP

Alestorm vocalist is clearly insane

Alestorm @ 20:30 on Hades

Even though the sun has returned, you can still sense the atmosphere feels a little bit, err, dampened across the festival plaza. Perfect timing then for Alestorm to launch their party-starting pirate metal upon both suspecting and unsuspecting fans. They begin with a ridiculous 8-bit dance intro that sounds like it's taken straight off an old Nintendo game. For the next 45 minutes, we hear one outrageous folk metal turned high seas melody after the next, each song depicting a romanticized ideal of pirates, treasure, wenches and the whole Caribbean universe from back in the day. "ONE MORE DRINK", shouts vocalist Christopher Bowes, while wielding a bottle of whiskey high above his head and playing pirate theme-accordion melodies on his keyboard, receiving a thunderous response from the audience. "Do you like QUESTS?", he asks, "Most of our songs are about quests", he shouts with a YARR-like pirate accent, before launching into yet another jolly song about pirates. They are god damn catchy, and totally, entirely unserious and light-hearted, which is a much-needed change after all the serious business metal bands tonight. I mean, there's a god damn horse head on stage! Not a real one either, but one of those plastic ones you can buy on funny gadget shops. "WHO LIKES SONGS?", Bowes shouts, to which the crowd's roar is already deafening, before continuing "WHO LIKES SONGS ABOUT PIRATES?" just before "Pirate Song". It's exactly what Copenhell needed after miserable rainy period, a funny, 100% tongue-in-cheek band that plays catchy, upbeat melodies that are as easy to dance along to as they are to sing along with the choruses. If a single person left this show without a wide smile, then they must really, really hate having fun. Brilliant showmanship through and through. [9] PP

Down @ 21:30 on Helviti

Topping my list of must-sees at this year's festivities alongside Alice in Chains were the mother of all supergroups: Down. It should not be a surprise when a band is fronted by a man as charismatic as Phil Anselmo; but I am nonetheless inspired by awe when the classic "Eyes of the South" blasts the show into motion. If this performance marks the usual standard for Down concerts, then surely Down belong among the most awesome live bands in the world, because fuck, if you do not find this stuff entertaining, something must be wrong with you.


Anselmo is the quintessential caricature man written in colossal letters; a fuming pit bull of a vocalist who despite perhaps not sporting as fine a set of vocal chords as in his Pantera and early Down days, bestows such rage upon us you could be forgiven for thinking he's serious. Songs like "Witchtripper" from last year's "Down IV: The Purple EP", "Ghosts Along the Mississippi" and "New Orleans is a Dying Whore" are delivered with expert precision and backed by a performance one cannot take one's eyes off by remaining members Pepper Keenan, Kirk Windstein, Jimmy Bower and Patrick Bruders, true. But just as much of the entertainment is provided by Anselmo in between them; time he customarily spends delivering various rants, remarks and insults much to our amusement. Among them are gems such as "I don't even fucking care, I'm so fucking drunk...", "This next song is for all the weed smokers. And for the rest of you who don't smoke weed: Start.", as well as an assortment of personal stabs directed at various unfortunate band members, among them "You don't have to fucking cheer after everything I say".

What Down muster up here is a perfect early evening mixture of crushing redneck metal and deep stoning groove, culminating in the classic "Stone the Crow" and naturally also "Bury Me in Smoke", during which various members of Testament, including drummer Gene Hoglan, are invited on stage to participate, and lyrics from "Nothing in Return (Walk Away)" are somehow blended in. Testosterone, and lots of it; this is the essence of Down in the live setting, and as über-macho and ridiculous it must sound, it is something that no man can eventually resist when delivered with such bravado as is the case here. [9] AP

Essence - pride of Danish metal

Essence @ 22:30 on Pandæmonium

For all the thrash metal revivalist bands we've heard about in the past four or five years, it's surprising to see only a couple of bands representing the genre at this year's Copenhell. But what's important is that one of these is Essence, the pride of Danish thrash metal from Aalborg. Not only have they released a few excellent releases of international class within the genre, but their live shows are always fantastic thanks to the eclectic and charismatic frontmanship of vocalist Lasse Skov. He lives and dies by his love for melodic thrash riffs, which you can see from the way he yanks his head back and shakes it in ecstasy every time he is allowed a pause from the vocals to just rock out. The whole band wear their hearts on sleeves throughout the whole performance while also delivering a selection of great songs from all their three albums. Danish bands take note: this is how your live show should look like night in, night out. [8] PP

God Seed - evil as f*ck

God Seed @ 23:00 on Hades

Saturday was to end on an evil note, with King Diamond concluding the festivities, but also the notorious duo God Seed, featuring Gaahl and King ov Hell of Gorgoroth fame, closing the smaller Hades stage. Backed by an assortment of live members in guitarists Sir and Lust Kilman, drummer Kenneth Kapstad and keyboardist Geir Bratland, God Seed deliver the most black of the black metal shows this year (though I must confess to not seeing Bornholm and so I cannot be sure). They appear only as silhouettes from my point of view, immersed in a flood of ominous colours - a simple, yet effective trick that tends to do the trick for shows in this genre; and musically they rest firmly in Norwegian black metal territory, with copious amounts of eerie tremolo, thundering blastbeats and harrowing growls constituting the soundscape. In the pre-midnight darkness God Seed manage to conjure an enthralling performance, which nonetheless does not boast the kind of instant allure that similar bands like 1349 and Taake are able to create. [7] AP

King Diamond @ 00:15 on Helviti

I cannot imagine a more triumphant conclusion to Copenhell '13 than the biggest show ever by the Grammy Award nominated Kim Bendix Petersen, also known as King Diamond - or simply the King. For the occasion, the King has clearly splashed a fair amount of dough on ensuring his performance would bear the hallmarks of a true headline show: the stage includes two stories, a Gregorian iron cemetery fence strewn across the stage which all but obscures Matt Thompson behind the drum kit, and one of the most incredible backdrops I have ever seen, centered on an ominous pentagram glowing in red. Once the setup is revealed from beneath a black curtain that has veiled the stage ever since Down's performance, the level of anticipation is through the roof, as hordes of Danish and foreign fans alike prepare for the moment they'll finally get to see this cult legend again.

King Diamond - all hail the King

And when he enters to the tune of "The Candle", he does so to thunderous applause, with a swagger that befits a legend, and then - almost effortlessly - delivers a tight, professional, and above all, theatrical show that surely melts many a person's heart. It is a set riddled with classics, including two Mercyful Fate covers in "Come to the Sabbath" and "Evil", and gimmicks such as the infamous Grandma, a show so professionally executed that even a non-fan such as myself cannot but stand back in awe. There is much and more to be said of King Diamond's music of course, as especially the King's piercing, high pitch vocal performance is difficult to adjust one's ears to without prior familiarity with his music, but once you can accept that it is, in fact, a highly unique form of delivery that proves the perfect match to King Diamond's horror-themed lyrics and imagery; culminating in the absolutely bone-chilling "Black Horsemen" in his second encore.

What surprises me about the King's performance the most, however, is his warmth and intimacy in between the songs. He is not simply some enigma, a ghost on stage, but a humble individual who has not forgotten his fans, and is not without appraisal for the thousands of us that have braved the torrential rain shower and ensuing drenched garb to watch him. He remembers to thank us, to introduce his songs, and to introduce his backing band (completed by guitarists Andy LaRocque & Mike Wead, bassist Hal Patino and drummer Matt Thompson). His performance is a well-balanced mixture of the dark and obscure, and of the warm and forthcoming - a worthy way to wrap up the best Copenhell yet. All hail the King! [8½] AP

Final Words

Four years now in the running, Copenhell have ironed out most major flaws experienced by all young festivals as they are learning how to organize the perfect festival. Most people I spoke with after the festival about their experiences told me that they had a sense that things were working as they should, and couldn't point out any major flaws in the festival setup overall.

I agree - although there's always room for improvement. Here's our list of the good, the band, and the ugly for a final rundown of Copenhell 2013:

The Good:

* Bus transportation to the festival was excellent. I never had to wait long for a bus, even if they were very packed occasionally.

* Toilet facilities. These were brilliant (for the guys at least). Plenty of pissoirs meant you never had to wander far from the show if you needed to go.

* Bars. No matter what time of the day/night I tried, there seemed to never be a queue to the bars. This is fantastic if you need to re-fill during a show.

* Beer prices. Reasonably priced for a festival especially with the early happy hour and the 5 x for 180kr offer.

* Food. Everything I tasted was delicious or at least very decent. Huge improvement.

* Weather services: it took at most an hour to suck out all the water from the festival area after it stopped raining. Very important for those of us without rainboots.

The Bad:

* The programme booklet distributed for free was otherwise good; but it was missing all of Thursday. Fair enough it was all on one stage, but there wasn't any info on any of the bands either, which I would imagine would be interesting for the foreigners attending.

* Rain jackets sold out almost immediately after it started raining.

* Some bands starter early. Cancer Bats were marked for 18:15, but came on at 18:00 already, so many people missed the first 15 minutes.

* Dankort was accepted at bars to start out with, but then quickly during Friday it stopped working. Nobody likes to carry around cash!

The Ugly:

* Alice In Chains: that kind of sound problems just cannot happen.

* ENORMOUS line to exchange wristbands on Friday meant many people stood for over an hour in queue, missing some key concerts.

I guess there's nothing else left to say than:

All text by PP, except for where indicated otherwise.

Photos by: Julie Decome, Lykke Nielsen, and Kenny Swan

comments powered by Disqus


© Copyright MMXXII