Copenhell 2018

author PP date 28/06/18

After stagnating on the creative front for a couple of years, the ninth edition of Copenhell saw the festival renew itself in a wonderfully refreshing manner, with a look and feel far different to what long-time attendees are accustomed to. Although all your favorites from previous years returned - Smadreland, Asgard, Biergarten, etc. — the festival area was otherwise redesigned in a dramatic fashion to allow for an even greater number of metal fans from around the world to travel to what is still the metal mecca of Scandinavia; a festival, whose very heart and soul lives and breathes metal and all its absurdities and quirks. To call it a ’Satanic Legoland’, as another magazine put it, is exactly right, but more importantly its atmosphere is that of community; where heavy music fans of all kinds and breeds feel welcome in one collective feeling of positivity and beer-laden metal atmosphere.

As usual, Rockfreaks.net sent a contingent of writers and photographers to this ‘theme park’ to experience just about everything possible and report back on it in writing and pictures. So what this article does is document all of the features of the festival as we saw it, felt it, and drank it, staying true to our original slogan of Music from a fan’s point of view — a true by the fans, for the fans kind of medium. So, for the next few paragraphs you’ll find us writing about the festival area, discussing our food experiences, and all the other weirdo stuff you can do at Copenhell that’s not about the music itself, but rather relates to the metal subculture or other aspects of the festival experience. If that’s not your thing, do skip below to the reviews section longer down, where you’ll find our opinion of nearly every artist’s performance at this year’s festival. PP

Photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen, Stefan Frank thor Straten & Peter Troest

LINEUP

FESTIVAL AREA

What do you do when your crowd keeps growing year-on-year but new stuff has been scarce lately? You completely revamp the festival area to make space for all sorts of new experiences that simply weren’t possible in the past given the layout constraints. You also do your best to solve any issues that people have highlighted in the past, such as the horrific queue experience on the first day of the festival that has previously seen people stand in line for hours to get in, or the ridiculous amounts of trash in the form of plastic beer cups on the ground after every concert.

THE QUEUE ISSUES? FIXED.

This year, the queueing system was great. Clearly marked lanes for those entering camping, those with RIP tickets, those with wristbands on already from Pumpehuset earlier on during the week, and those exchanging tickets to wristbands at the door meant that no matter what time you arrived, the process was smooth and probably as quick as it’s ever going to be. It was one of the key issues that needed solving and Copenhell did a marvellous job at just that.

GENIUS PANT SYSTEM

But what’s even better is the absolutely genius pant system that was devised in the days leading up to the festival, where it was announced that every plastic cup, beer can, Jägermeister shot-tube, and cardboard 6-pack beer holder would from now on carry a 5 DKK pant (5 times more than at a regular store). These could be exchanged for a maximum of 11 pieces in total at literally every bar stand, but never more than eleven cups. In practice, if you returned three pieces, your new beer cost only 40 DKK instead of 55 DKK. If you returned eleven shot-tubes, you could exchange them for a new beverage for free. If you wanted 55 DKK in cash, you could return 11 objects at one of the two recycling spots at the festival. And now for the best part: because you can never return more than 11 objects at once, you avoid all of the aggressive professional pant collectors of other festivals because it’s not worth their time to collect only eleven at once before having to travel far for the money.

Everybody wins. The festival saves in cleanup costs, because the festival place is massively cleaner with everyone picking up their own trash after them. Those who can’t be bothered to can still toss their mug away and pay the more expensive price. Students, or even just those who wanted cheaper beer, could simply pick up a few en-route to the bar and get great discounts on their beer. I can’t believe nobody has thought of this before! 10/10 awesome system that should be immediately replicated across all festivals around the world.

CLASSICS, NEW AREAS, MORE SPACE

The entrance to Copenhell is still intact: the traditional Highway to Hell leads you straight to the Pandæmonium area entrance, where you’ll find the Viking themed Asgård, and near the Biergarten. That’s about where the similarities stop, however.

This year, the Helvíti main stage had been pushed back a good 25 meters to make space for an even larger audience than before. The Biergarten itself had gained another entrance and an area of its own, and the food districts towards the right had been split into two sections, with Smadreland pushed even further north to its own, container-surrounded smashing area.

The giant old Shipyard building, the B&W hall decorated by the iconic Fenris wolf, had also been transformed inside. The Tutten bodega was now a proper, Germanic style Biergarten, supplemented by a fine-dining spot, a winery where you could tap your own wines, an area to watch World Cup football, and a few other food spots. Together, the atmosphere here was far cosier than in the past at Copenhell, and with the ‘Death Slide’ zip-line concept rising far above us, the experience was a great mix of extreme sports, quality brews, and sing along music.

Outside, the R.I.P bar had been opened at an extra cost for regular festival folks, which meant it wasn’t just a boring press/VIP party any longer. It was located in the massively expanded Styx area, full of booths selling metal memorabilia, black clothes, piercings, and much else. The iconic Satanic church had also moved here, standing at the center of the area with two brand new additions: Acheron and Purgatory.

ACHERON

Acheron was a cool combination of fine-dining, classy drinking, exotic foods and the cigar lounge that had moved to this part of the festival. Here you’d find a Peruvian fast-food joint, Dining on Wheels concept with a proper multi-course menu, a craft beer bar (Kissmeyer and Schiøtz by Royal Unibrew), and a surprisingly solid Wine offering (although some of the bottles priced at 1200 DKK, really? This isn’t Smukfest).

PURGATORY

Purgatory was an area that basically was a constant source of ’WTF is happening’ moments. Armed with a tiny stage designed for side-shows, you could watch artists devouring themselves in the most disgusting forms of self-mutilation (all for show, of course), look at dark and gruesome art inspired by death and metal, get a new tattoo, or test your pain threshold. The latter would happen by submerging your hands into a bucket of ice water and measuring how many seconds you could take, or by holding onto a small device designed to slowly increase electric current to your fingers until you’d be screaming in pain. Very interesting and bizarre concept overall. PP

FOOD REVIEWS: BECAUSE WE CAN

Everyone’s gotta eat, right? That’s why we always put focus on the food offering at the festivals we attend, because after all you’re eating there at least once, probably two or three times a day. A good selection of options is important for those wanting to hold a healthy diet, but equally important for those wanting to eat something else than the usual burgers and kebabs that are standard fare at most festivals. Here’s what we thought of this year’s offering:

  • Taj Ma-Hell by B’india: Great Chicken Curry, tasted well and you were full after. 80 DKK was a decent price.
  • Sing’s Indian, on the other hand, was totally tasteless and boring near Pandæmonium.
  • Lêlê, who are usually the kings of Vietnamese street food, had a surprisingly dull and tasteless offering this year compared to its hefty 100 DKK price tag.
  • Rest in Pizza had good pizza for the price of 55 DKK that left you full, even though their fries weren’t all that great. AP had the pizza bianco variant with potato, garlic, onion and “some green leaves", as the girl at the counter apparently calls rosemary, and managed two bites before a drunkard knocked it out of his hand.
  • Death Metal Diner: Burger with Gravy was probably the most cardiac arrest inducing burger in the history of burgers, drenched in black gravy, making it look like a proper metal burger. As AP put it, it was a black beast.
  • Santa Maria near Styx had great nachos with well seasoned chicken, the guacamole and warm cheese gravy tasted great as well. The chilli con carne had a perfect level of spiciness, guacamole, cheese, yoghurt, and coriander with a flavourful sauce.
  • Jakobsens Pita: There were not many food options to choose between during the warm-up festivities on Wednesday, so the choice for me fell on a trusty pita kebab filled with marinated, grilled tenderloin and all the usual greenery. It tasted fine and had a decent spiciness about it, but other than that… it’s just a pita kebab. And also, who the f**k puts canned feta cubes in a kebab? Or was this supposed to be Greek, as AP asks?
  • Meaty Sozzages: Sausages are always a hit at a metal festival, perhaps because there is nothing that fits a watery, lukewarm lager better. But here’s the thing, If I’m going to eat a hot dog, it needs to be made of meat, and only meat — not the soft, disgusting, floury variant found at the ultra-commercial Grill ‘Em All booth. Meaty Sozzages appears to have replaced the excellent Butcher Boy this year, and especially the XXL chilli sausage in a homemade French baguette was worthy of the honour. AP had three.
  • Casey’s Fish & Chips: Another new addition to Copenhell’s food repertoire, this booth branded itself as Irish street food. AP was too much of a coward to try a pickled egg or pickled onion, but the fish’n’chips was an instant winner. The fish was encased in a Guinness-infused batter and fried to perfection, while the thick, rough-cut potato fries were dosed with copious amounts of sea salt flakes and vinegar and served with a creamy tartar dip, to deliver an explosion of deep-fried wellness to his taste buds.
  • Oksen was once again a staple amongst the festival’s food fare, and though it lacks ingenuity in both name and offering, this different take on a beef sandwich was once again a pleasant surprise. The Oksen sandwich, with its succulent pieces of actual beef, is a welcome surprise at a festival overladen with subpar and sometimes even insulting attempts at burgers.
  • PMY: With their exotic yet simple menu of Arepas, one with pulled beef and cheddar cheese another with beans, but expectations did not live up to reality, not even if you drenched the taco-like item in chilli sauce for an extra 15 DKK.
  • Churros, need we say more? The ice-cream and chocolate sauce covered waffles were heaven.
  • Green Burger was a great choice for vegetarians. Fast delivery despite queues at all times when LL was there. Nice selection between three different kinds of burgers as well as chilli fries and sweet potato fries!
  • REVIEWS: WEDNESDAY

Turnstile - full of energy

Turnstile @ 17:00 on Pandæmonium

The 2018 edition of Copenhell is opened by Turnstile, and what a way to open the festival it is. Renowned for their unconventional blend of indie, shoegaze, and hardcore, they do not disappoint with an experimental show that’s characterized by high-energy jumps, circle spins, and funky dance moves by their vocalist Brendan Yates. With songs like “Bomb", “Canned Heat", “Big Smile", “Pushing Me Away", and “Moon" among many others, the band showcase just what is possible when you think outside of the box in hardcore. And when your vocalist is busting out all kinds of moves sort of like a bastard son of Zach De La Rocha and Cedric Bixler, you’re guaranteed to be entertained. One of the most energetic and fascinating sets of Copenhell that has the whole crowd hypnotized to their smooth grooves by the time they finish off with “Keep It Moving". [8] PP

Donita Sparks of L7 rocking out some riffs

L7 @ 18:30 on Pandæmonium

The grungy hard rock band L7 from Los Angeles, originally active from 1985 to 2001, has been doing reunion touring since 2014 to much excitement among older fans. They have also recently begun releasing new singles, cementing that they're not back just for the live playing, and tonight we get both old and new songs. They start out with the rumbling "Andres", and initially, the crowd is with them, raising horns and cheering but despite their reputation as an energetic live band considering their age, it's not really coming through at Copenhell. The sound is not quite loud enough and the changing vocals between Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, and Jennifer Finch don't come through with nearly as much punch as it should to keep the energy alive. They go through some planned banter and songs like "Fast and Frightening", "Monster", "One More Thing", and "Shove", on a setlist that is especially revisiting their hard-rocking album "Bricks Are Heavy" from 1992. Through it all, their attitude is as punk as they can muster, further underlined by their lackluster banner that looks super homemade and small up there behind them, considering the place they do have in music history. They look the part with heavy make-up, bitchy grimaces, and colourful hair, but their attitude doesn't burn through in the music, and the crowd reactions are reserved for the ending two-punch of the somewhat dreamy "Pretend We're Dead" and the harder "Shitlist" as well as the two newer singles "I Came Back To Bitch" and "Dispatch From Mar-a-Lago". These new singles do showcase a bit more presence and energy from the group and perhaps that's also why the crowd so readily bang their heads and cheer even though they don't seem to know the words. All in all, the show is less than expected and we'll have to wait and see another time if the band really do still live up to their reputation and this was just a one-time easy-going performance. [5] LL

Mustasch

Mustasch @ 20:15 on Pandæmonium

I have spent long and patient hours trying to decipher what it is that makes Mustasch so appealing to so many people, and their concert on this warm-up day is yet another step in my quest to do so. Once again though, my efforts are undermined by the prosaic lyrics of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ralf Gyllenhammar, which employ end rhyme at every opportunity and in general offer nothing in terms of actual substance to me. There is no question that the Swedish four-piece plays tightly and even delivers a pair of genuinely ripping new songs with “Libertà" and “Barrage", both of which are among the densest and heaviest output from the band yet. But when the majority of the set is characterised by the sort of dime-a-dozen hard rock that you would expect to hear at a biker meet, it really is difficult to appreciate even these standout moments. The band throws a bone at the (mostly) Danish audience by whipping out a rock version of Hasse Anderson’s cover of Teddy Edelmann’s pop song “Himmelhunden" near the end, and expectedly, it is well-received. But it does not change the fact that Mustasch’s show tonight is so riddled with clichés, from the screaming of “Copen-?" in between virtually every song in order to elicit a “-HELL!" reply from us, through the cheesy lyrics, and to the lack of anything inspiring happening in the instrumental department. And as such, I continue to be mystified as to where Mustasch’s popularity actually stems from. [5] AP

Neurosis @ 22:15 on Pandæmonium

Neurosis is without a doubt the most prominent name on the warm-up day’s bill and as it happens, also one of the band that I have been looking forward to watching the most, despite having played at Roskilde Festival as recently as last summer. With the exception of the third song, “A Shadow Memory" (off the post-metal veterans’ most recent studio album, 2016’s “Fires Within Fires"), however, it is a completely different setlist we are treated to this evening, so nothing about the show feels repeated. Bathed in mysterious shades of lighting, the group looks and sounds as grim as ever, with the veins on the two frontmen’s heads looking like they might pop any second as they shout and growl through the likes of “Given to the Rising" (the title track to Neurosis’ 2007 outing) and “Burn" (taken from 2004’s “The Eye of Every Storm"). Indeed, one needs to look far and wide to find artists who pour more emotion into their performance than Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till, and while it would be a stretch to call the band an energetic lot, it feels quite special somehow to headbang to such crushing, esoteric, and at times downright phenomenal music.

Neurosis’ performance is thus very much governed by atmosphere and the imposing presence of the constituent musicians — at least until the final song, “Through Silver in Blood" (off its namesake 1996 record), when Kelly and Von Till acquire drumsticks and apply them to the outside of Jason Roeder’s kit, while keyboardist Noah Landis picks up his instrument and swings it around wildly as though it were a guitar or bass. This is an excellent climax and finale to yet another convincing showing from the legendary band. One only wishes that the entire audience would realise it and shut their mouths during some of the quieter bits that also live within Neurosis’ songs. [8] AP

Red Warszawa @ 00:00 on Pandæmonium

I am what you would call a fan of Danish metal-humorist in Red Warszawa. That’s somewhat different from the opinions of the other writers at Rockfreaks; both past and present. I find their music both funny and obviously very retarded, but I really do like both their humor and their style of music, whether that makes you think I have no musical taste whatsoever. You obviously have to have a pretty thorough knowledge of the Danish language and the ironic and sarcastic sense of humor and even then, you might not like it. For this show they upped their setlist. Most of the songs of tonight’s last show almost entirely consist of cover tracks of both 80s, 90s and later what you could call classic tracks. Again, some might say Red Warszawa were trashing many of these classics, but when you add the style of the band to them and mixes it with some insane and humorous stage presence, you actually have a good show. Enter is lead singer Lækre Jens (Hot/Beautiful Jens) wearing a see-through cape to supplement his normal attire: something best described as a live role-play outfit worn to fight orcs or whatever (see the photo for better view). With songs like “Kids of America", “Poker Face" and Sabrina’s “Boys", there is plenty of singalong by the audience, and people really seems to dig it.

"Lækre Jens" of Red Warszawa looking smashing as always

This show is clearly not for everyone. You probably have to like the usual style Red Warszawa plays, but when the band visit Madonna’s “Like a Virgin" and even Danish pop idol Medina’s “Ensom" (“Lonely"), it just brings a smile to my face. It probably helps to enjoy it if you are fairly intoxicated, but that’s just fine. The entire audience dances, laughs and are having a great time on the first day of the festival, although some of them would perhaps prefer their own tracks instead. I for one enjoyed the show, since it was different from what you’re used to, and when you have seen this band as many times as I have, change is good. Thumbs up, you crazy Danes! [7½] RUB

THURSDAY

Nyt Liv @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium

For this first concert of the day, things start out hard, fast and macho. The style is very heavy with hardcore beats. The energy level is at a maximum right from the first track, and they clearly want to make an impression on the tired Copenhell crowd. The music is quite mosh-friendly and with easy, yet hard-hitting beats, but the pits are still nowhere to be seen. The band keeps the fast pounding level high throughout the concert, and rarely utters a word; just like punk and hardcore of this intense level should be like in my opinion. In an attempt to get the crowd going the vocalist Michael Aagesen jumps down into the audience, but it only sparks a few cheers and fists in the air at the front. A fast set of around 15 blistering minutes are over before it began, but set the stage neatly up for the next act of this grind/hardcore/punk-band-trio. [6] RUB

UxDxS

UxDxS @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium

Up next is UxDxS. After a very quick changeover it’s away from the hardcore and into blasting grindcore. The music is still very intense, but now the songs are also short and precise. This band finally manages to spark a pit, which must be due to the very aggressive nature of their music. Grind this early in the day works really well, and actually manages to awaken the tiresome midday audience. A funny gimmick towards the end marks just how short this band’s, and grindcore in general, tracks are. With roughly 4 minutes left of the set, the front man Peter states that they have three songs left – to some scares laughs throughout the crowd. They managed to kickstart the tired crowd in a very satisfying way, so it would be interesting to see if the next and final band can keep up the pace. [7½] RUB

Smertegrænsens Toldere @ 13:30 on Pandæmonium

And now a mixture of all the genres: both grindcore, hardcore and punk. Having seen this band previously I know that we’re dealing with a no bulls**t-kind of music. There is no interaction with the crowd, and no time to breath between each track. It is basically just 1-2-3-GO! The music is therefore played with high intensity and aggression, and they are clearly pissed off and angry, well, at least music-wise, because guitarist Jacob Bredahl sparks a clear-cut smile.

Smertegrænsens Toldere

The vocals could’ve been higher, but the energy and raw passion was clear as daylight, which is underlined by one of their most known tracks “Dolker Dit Ansigt" (“Stabbing Your Face"). It would be more fitting in a smaller venue, which is where I have seen them several times before, but it is still impressive how they manage to play such an angry, compact and intense set. They play slightly longer than the other two bands, and ends on a high note, which marks how good this time slot actually worked for the trio of bands. All three bands have drawn a pretty sizeable crowd at the festival’s smallest stage, and I too am pretty satisfied with these first bands, which ends just a little time after Denmark kicked off their football match against Australia. Thursday will be a good day! [7½] RUB

Edgey Pires of The Last Internationale doing his thing

The Last Internationale @ 15:15 on Pandæmonium

The alternative blues rock of the socially-conscious and political duo The Last Internationale from New York City arrives this afternoon at the Pandæmonium stage, playing to grounds that are not quite filled up by festival guests just yet. Like the three stars on their huge red-and-black banner, the three live members stand sharply on the stage, though, and play their music with conviction. Guitarist Edgey Pires jumps around and tries to fill out the stage, while vocalist and bassist Delila Paz stands more still to let her impressive voice ring out for some spot-on renditions of their songs. Especially "Killing Fields", "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Indian Blood", as well as the musically more down-turned "Wanted Man" make great impressions as her vibrato envelops the Pandæmonium area. Despite having existed since 2008, they have only released one studio album in 2014 as well as an EP before they parted ways with their record label to keep in control of their political lyrics. The new single "Hard Times" from their recently self-released second record does point to some classic blues references but fails to engage the assembled crowd much. For the duration of their show, the audience is generally too calm and it seems they have a bit of a hard time getting through to us with in-between talk and instead just focus on rocking out their music. While that does sound good and they play well, then, the show never gets close to lifting off the ground despite Pires' efforts at being wild or Paz' nailing her notes. [6] LL

Parkway Drive's Winston McCall singing out to the moshers

Parkway Drive @ 16:15 on Helvíti

Last time the Australian metalcore group Parkway Drive played Copenhell, it was on the Hades stage to an adequately sized crowd late at night - an excellent show I might add. That was in 2013 and now, with the releases of the more and more heavy metal-focused albums "Reverence" and "Ire", they're all ready to migrate to the biggest stage instead. Their push to a wider audience has certainly paid off as there's a solid crowd waiting for them as they open the Helvíti stage on the festival this year. The catchy riff of "Prey" really gets the audience going after the introductory "Wishing Wells", and in general it's these two newest albums that fill up the setlist the most. The amazing "Vice Grip" makes an early appearance as well as older catchy songs "Carrion" and "Idols and Anchors", a personal favorite, further down the line. There's a steady flow of smoke embracing the band members that play solidly this afternoon, mixed heavily with dust raised by a more or less constantly moshing crowd. Especially during the older song "Karma" late in the set and "Wild Eyes" that appears before the encore, the dust is almost impossible to see through, as a kind of testament to the fact that while they have attracted a host of new fans with their shift towards more standard heavy metal, their older metalcore fans still stick around. To support their set, they have the infamous "ego boxes" of the metalcore genre somewhat hilariously placed all along the front of the stage as platforms to jump off of for good effect during their many breakdowns, and a horde of beach balls are let loose early on as well as well but are quickly drowned in the pit action. Their attempts at more demonstratively slow or dark-sounding songs like "Writings on the Wall", "Absolute Power", or the encore-starting "Crushed" are oddly bundled together towards the end, only further exposing the similarity in the band's newer songwriting. Still, the heavy and rhythmic repetitions of "The truth drops like a bomb!" or "Crushed by the fist of god!" are hard to not bang your head to and as they end for today with "Bottom Feeder", it's the end to a solidly successful metal show where the group had no trouble whatsoever filling and activating the Helvíti crowd just as well if not better than bands much older than them. [8½] LL

Zeal & Ardor @ 17:30 on Pandæmonium

Given the absence of headliners that spoke to me this year, the honour of being my most anticipated concert was instead bestowed on one of the least known artists on the bill. Zeal & Ardor have been rippling across the metal scene in recent years, and after the release of their third studio album, “Stranger Fruit", earlier this month, the band also became a critics’ darling. Led by the charismatic Manuel Gagneux, the Swiss-American outfit without a doubt offers the most unique take on metal at Copenhell ’18, blending post-black metal with heavy touches of afro-blues, soul and gospel music, and once the audience has accustomed itself to the style via the opening duo, “Sacrilegium I" and “In Ashes" (both of which appear on the group’s sophomore outing, 2016’s “Devil is Fine"), it becomes obvious that Zeal & Ardor’s performance is going to be a resounding success. The music sounds a lot more imposing and heavier in the live setting as the voices of both Gagneux and the two backing vocalists — Denix Wagner & Marc Obrist — gain more strain and roar and the rhythm section gets an extra injection of thunder. The interplay between the extreme and the soulful also works beautifully now the band has perfected it on the aforementioned “Stranger Fruit", as reflected by the crowd’s reaction; bouts of headbanging, moshing and windmilling seamlessly transform into segments of rhythmic clapping and suavely moving hips during the likes of “Blood in the River" (also off “Devil is Fine"), “You Ain’t Coming Back", and of course the stupendously catchy “Row Row".

Gagneux and his gang have the audience in their palm then, despite the fact that by a conventional measure, their performance is actually very static. But when imagined in correct context — a gospel choir singing about the Antichrist, essentially — the band’s style of showmanship is quite stunning, drawing on subtleties that you would also expect to see from an actual gospel choir; impassioned expressions, understated dance moves, and grateful smiles in between the tracks. Seldom has black metal at this festival succeeded in sounding so extreme, original, and yet so infectious all at once that no one seems to be ready to let go when the set draws to a close with the excellent pairing of “Don’t You Dare" and “Baphomet" at no less than 16 tracks in all. Now we must look forward to this spellbinding performance getting tested in a dark and intimate setting when Zeal & Ardor returns to Denmark late in November. [9] AP

Returned vocalist Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria

Asking Alexandria @ 17:45 on Hades

The somewhat infamous metalcore group Asking Alexandria from York, England have been through some trying times these past few years. First, they mixed in hard rock in their songwriting on 2013's "From Death To Destiny" only to have lead singer Danny Worsnop leave shortly after. This prompted a stint with the very young Ukrainian fan and singer Denis Stoff with whom they made a new album, "The Black", that took them way back towards their dramatic metalcore roots. It was thus also with Stoff that they last visited Copenhell in 2015 but since then, the band had a falling out with him and, lo and behold, Worsnop returned, further pushing the hard rock turn on their latest 2017 self-titled release. So with that background in order, the main reason I'm curious to see them this year is to experience Worsnop's singing as he has evolved into quite a lot more than just a melodramatic electronicore guy over the years. There's both depth and vibrato in his grown voice now, which is especially showing tonight in the soaring songs "Into the Fire", "Run Free", and "The Death of Me". The new songs "Under Denver", "When The Lights Come On", and "Eve" underline the group's new flirt with a more modern electronic sound instead of their old electronicore-leanings but are otherwise somewhat uneventful tonight as the crowd just mellows out as the minutes pass. It's with the group's acoustic versions of the new "Vultures" and the much older "Someone, Somewhere" that we wake up again, as Worsnop really gets to show off his completely effortless singing. In general, the band members and not least founder and guitarist Ben Bruce get a lot of space to engage with the audience as Worsnop mostly just prances about, smiling and seeming almost too easy-going for their standard performances of the very oldest melodramatic songs, especially "The Final Episode (Let's Change Channel" with it's infamous/cringy "OH MY GOD" breakdown. Instead of ending traditionally on old hits, they finish their set with two more new songs that highlight yet another new genre-flirt with the focus this time on R'n'B-flows in the verses. Overall, then, the band's transformation into more than just a teenage-core-infatuation is evident with a well-played performance like this, but their demeanor on stage is almost too casual to really bring their discography together like they attempt to do. [7] LL

Nightwish @ 19:15 on Helvíti

Nightwish’s previous concert in Denmark, which took place at Falconer Salen in Frederiksberg in 2015 in conjunction with their latest release, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful", was a triumphant show of force from one of symphonic metal’s top purveyors, and as a result, there has been plenty of buzz surrounding their booking for Copenhell long at last. And the fact that this time, the Dutch/Finnish sextet would be playing an anthological set in celebration of “Decades" — a compilation of remasters spanning the entire breadth of their discography that was issued this past Spring — made the buzz even louder. Surely the band would be able to replicate, or even surpass the grandeur of their most recent showing in this city, when armed with a litany of classics like “Gethsemane" (off 1998’s “Oceanborn") and “Come Cover Me" (taken from its successor, 2000’s “Wishmaster")?

There is certainly plenty of bombast to the opening track, “End of All Hope", which after “Nemo" is perhaps the most widely recognised song by Nightwish — so much, in fact, that Floor Jansen’s less operatic vocals (compared to those of former singer Tarja Turunen) have trouble penetrating the mix at all. The sheer magnitude of this track nonetheless bodes well for the rest of the show, and the following “Wish I Had an Angel" (off 2004’s “Once") does nothing to shatter that initial impression. But just as quickly it becomes obvious that most of these older compositions simply do not lend themselves to any other style of singing than opera, and Jansen’s futile grasping at the highest notes in the likes of “Nemo" and “Slaying the Dreamer" starts to make my skin crawl. She has a beautiful voice, but there is a reason why keyboardist and principal composer Tuomas Holopainen has rearranged Nightwish’s music to better suit her style of singing, and why both “Élan" and “The Greatest Show on Earth" sound the best tonight (as far as Jansen’s voice goes at least).

In truth, the performance is not as terrible as the above paragraph would have it though. All six musicians showcase confidence and spirit — none more so than bassist Marco Hietala, whose energy, grin and maniacal eyes paint him as an almost exact replica of one of Santa’s little helpers in the Finnish Christmas horror-comedy, “Rare Exports". Each track is also accompanied by customised visuals that fill the backdrop and sometimes even spill onto the various fixtures on stage that double as screens, culminating in a breathtaking display for “Ghost Love Score" (another piece off “Once") at the end. But the failure of the show to live up to the theatrics witnessed at their last concert in this city, not to mention the unnecessary choreography of musicians entering and leaving the stage over and over again during this an the previous song, nonetheless manages to deflate the experience for me enough that it goes down merely as a decent showing from this iconic band. [6] AP

Thy Art Is Murder @ 20:30 on Pandæmonium

A textbook deathcore band is what you get with Thy Art Is Murder. But where this band really excels is that they are tight as f**k. With well-placed breakdowns they also manage to keep it both heavy and fresh in sound. This aggression of course ensures plenty of moshing and pitting, because it is well on into the evening people should be well on their way to the next booze-induced metal party. Vocalist CJ McMahon does his best to entice the crowd with both his insanely deep growls, but also some strange in-between song banter: “Shut the fuck up or fuck the fuck off he screams just before hurling himself into yet another very brutal track. This speaks to every metalhead attending this concert, and even a guy wearing crutches dares to enter the caring hands of the crowd as he challenges the sea of arms during a crowd surf.

Thy Art Is Murder

The overall energy and sheer brutality ensures a surprisingly well-performed and intense gig. Both audience and band seems up for the task and in some ways, outshines their counterparts in the core-department and national compadres in Parkway Drive in both intensity and of course brutality; at least in my opinion. This will not be my last TAIM concert that’s for sure. They end in an unusual manner by covering Rammstein’s “Du Hast" which they manage to make so much more pounding and brutal than the original. What a pleasant surprise – both to me and the rest of the large crowd! [7½] RUB

Arch Enemy

Arch Enemy @ 21:00 on Hades

If Nightwish’s performance was anaemic just moments before on the main stage, then Arch Enemy’s set is best described as revitalizing. The crowd wakes up instantly as their vocalist Alissa White-Gluz dances around the stage shaking her mic stand around in violent fashion, whilst the remainder of Arch Enemy engage in piercing Swedish melodeath of the classic Gothenburg variety. She brings out a huge flag to wave around, which only adds to the high-energy vibe of their performance. Imagine this with fire? The twin-guitar onslaught had potential to be a festival-defining set of sheer dominance if it wasn’t for the fire ban. For now, it’s just rock solid melodeath, nothing more, nothing less. [7½] PP

Avenged Sevenfold @ 22:30 on Helvíti

The career of Avenged Sevenfold has been a rocky one, at least from a critic’s perspective. From the wild metalcore classics of their early days to the bubblegum pop rock of their middle era to the magnificence of “The Stage", they completed their transformation into an arena headliner through a spectacular Royal Arena live performance that showcased the progressive wizardry of their new album in perfect fashion. Tonight is, if not a direct antidote to that night, at least a hugely disappointing one, where the fire restrictions expose the band’s pop rock laid bare.

Avenged Sevenfold

All the elements are otherwise there: a giant, illuminated bat, a very elaborate video screen behind them illustrating a real-life puppet show, and opening with the title track from the aforementioned “The Stage", which suffers from the heavy winds pushing the sound away to the side. From here onwards, it’s as if the band are afraid of airing out the ir more complex material, instead offering us the dime-a-dozen, poppy mainstream arena ‘core’ from “Hail To The King" and “Nightmare". Sure, the huge production rescues their set, for instance via the giant skeleton king figure whose mouth moves up-and-down in spectacular fashion, but the selected material is just weak and disappointing compared to what they could be playing. It says a lot that the first real sing along doesn’t arrive until the eighth song, “Nightmare", despite the band’s best efforts at utilizing the runway to get the crowd going. Loads of cool effects, but if this show was supposed to collect us all as the headlining set of Thursday, it certainly failed at doing just that. [7] PP

møl @ 00:00 on Pandæmonium

I don’t think I can get tired of watching this band live. Having seen this rising star in Danish shoegaze/black metal several times by now, they never seize to amaze me. For that reason, I wasn’t disappointed when they were announced as a replacement for Skindred who had to cancel. Of course, their reggae metal is a far cry from that of Møl, but it is still a well-deserved booking. They capture the audience on the Pandæmonium stage very well with their atmospheric tunes, and lure them into a vortex of tremolo and pounding drums without sacrificing any of their melodies.

Møl

The spot they have been given fits the genre perfectly well, and the band really makes full use of the space on the stage. Lead singer Kim Song Sternkopf manages, as he normally does, to get in the face of the audience and screams with every fiber of his body, and the rest of the band seems very stoked to be here too. The show is played with flare and stamina, which might have drawn in some unsuspecting spectators. Whether it is curious bystanders and Skindred fans wanted to check out what all the fuzz was about, or fans of the Danish band eager to witness yet another display of power, people enjoyed this. And so did I. Although some of the intensity is lost when one compares it to one of their indoor venue concerts, they still showcase just how ready they are for the international stage. [8] RUB

Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet For My Valentine @ 00:15 on Hades

There was a time when Bullet For My Valentine were one of the most promising metalcore bands out there. Their debut EP and the subsequent album “The Poison" are genre classics, but since then their music has taken a turn for the worse, not to even mention how badly these songs have aged. The old classics like “4 Words (To Choke Upon)" still sound solid as ever, but the material from their albums since then has been mediocre at best, cringe-worthy at worst (see: “Scream Aim Fire"). So tonight when the band are still tearing through the same tired emo-laden songs, without the slightest hint of passion or drive for them, it’s hard to take the band seriously. The crowd interaction is minimal and the band are just standing still, so by the time they reach the drum solo (name one time you rather wanted to see a drum solo than an actual song?), I decide I’ve seen enough and call it an early night, mostly because their boring stage show was basically putting me asleep. [5½] PP

Soulfly @ 01:30 on Pandæmonium

Like Crowbar, sometimes it feels like Max Cavalera’s Soulfly visits Denmark too often for a band not too keen on innovating on its style. But looking back, almost three years have actually passed since the Brazilian samba thrashers last graced its capital city with a concert, while their previous appearance at this festival took place at the legendary 2012 edition. And even if that were not the case, Cavalera and his shifting companions — guitarist Marc Rizzo, bassist Mike Leon and drummer Zyon Cavalera (Max’s son) — always receive a heroes’ welcome from their disciples here. As the final band to play on this second day, they have all the time in the world to repay their fans’ adoration with one of the lengthiest setlists witnessed at the festival this year, and quite surprisingly, there is not a single track by Sepultura on it, with only Nailbomb’s “Wasting Away" near the end of the set showcasing Max’s other projects in the past. By the time the concert draws to a close with the usual medley of “Jumpdafuckup" and “Eye for an Eye" (respectively off 2000’s “Primitive" and 1998’s “Soulfly") then, no less than 18 songs have been drilled into our ear canals, including all of the classics à la “Prophecy", “Tribe" and “Back to the Primitive" from what many consider to be the quartet’s golden era between 1998 and 2004.

No time is wasted in this intense barrage and as ever, it is Zyon — who has certainly inherited his uncle Iggor Cavalera’s penchant for tribal rhythms — and the virtuosic Rizzo, who carry most of the show on their shoulders with their unquenchable energy. Years of hard touring have left a noticeable mark on Max, who no longer sounds quite as vitriolic, nor manages to come across as quite as menacing during the likes of “No" as he did in his younger days, but even so, the darkness, ominous lighting and amount of moshing taking place do suggest that his legendary status in the metal community is still enough to keep this boat afloat. The audience plays along dutifully in order to create a cosy, yet aggressive atmosphere, but at the same time, it is so obvious that Soulfly never did and never shall emerge from the shadow of Sepultura, even as that band itself remains but a shadow of its former glory these days. We came, we saw and we headbanged — no more, no less. [6] AP

FRIDAY

Exodus @ 14:00 on Helvíti

In with the old and out with the new. One can say this about the lead singer Steve “Zetro" Souza who rejoined the band for yet another round on the vocals, or you can say it about this legendary band showcased just how thrash should be played live anno 2018. Even though they had an early slot, they didn’t look like some who just wanted to do a standard concert on auto-play, as they enter the stage with full force and thrash power. This makes for a round of early mosh pits and plenty of horns, that truly kick-started this Friday at Copenhell. The music stays fast yet both old school and aggressive.

Exodus shows the crowd they still got it

Zetro seduces this early afternoon metal audience with the words “Are you ready for some Exodus-styled violence?!" which sounds the alarm for some old school thrash which brings to mind perhaps their most legendary album “Bounded by Blood" from 1985 with “A Lesson in Violence" – but we have to wait a little longer for that one. The pit grows in size and keeps on growing throughout the rest of the set; very impressive. He also announces that they haven’t played “Parasite" of the 1987 release “Pleasures of the Flesh" for a very long time. To huge cheers the band whip it out at Copenhell. Although the majority of the crowd is somewhat silent bystanders, at least those not in the pit, the gig still manages to keep a high level of intensity and energy, largely due to both the energy of the band, but also the growing pit.

Finally, is “A Lesson in Violence" aired, which sparks yet another huge pit, and just adds to the fact that this was a pretty god damned good concert at an otherwise difficult early slot. “Strike of the Beast" even marks the appearance of a wall of death. They end on yet another positive note with: “And remember: heavy metal forever!!, which ends the surprisingly good show. With the intensity and sheer brutal thrashing force this won’t be the last time I see this legendary band! [8] RUB

Auðn @ 13:15 on Hades

Icelandic black metal quintet Auðn opens what is, for me, the best of Copenhell’s four days this year due to the greater focus on the classic and extreme forms of metal rather than an overload of -core, as well as the Prince of Darkness headlining of course. The stylishly dressed band invites their crowd into a false sense of security with the calm and melancholy, almost post-rock-ish opening segment of “Veröld Hulin", which quite resembles the music of Sólstafir, until vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson strides into the spotlight and greets us in his native tongue. It takes some confidence to do that, and as the track opens up into blastbeats and cascades of icy, droning melodies, it also becomes clear that the cool arrogance is an important aspect of Sveinsson’s showmanship. When the remaining musicians — guitarists Andri Björn Birgisson & Aðalsteinn Magnússon, bassist Hjálmar Gylfason and drummer Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson — spiral into one of the countless instrumental passages that make Auðn’s style of atmospheric black metal sound so monolithic, Sveinsson stands completely still at the centre of the stage, presiding over the headbanging crowd with his hands crossed in front of him, with a look of utter satisfaction adorning his face. It’s arrogance in the best possible way.

What truly makes Auðn’s performance so spellbinding, however, is the music itself. Like the majority of their metallic countrymen, the quintet captures the mood and atmosphere of their home country perfectly in songs such as “Skuggar", encapsulating all of the volcanic violence and barren grandeur that Iceland has to offer qua thundering rhythms and long-drawn, wistful melodies. The weather tries to be warm and sunny, but it seems like with each passing song, Auðn manages to conjure the wind and clouds so as to make everything seem grimmer, and by the time the windblown “Feigð" (off the band’s eponymous 2014 début) is aired, it feels like winter itself is conspiring to arrive ahead of time. All of this sounds a bit dramatic, but it really is no use trying to describe a concert by Auðn without some reference to the harsher aspects of nature. When it comes to atmospheric black metal, it is absolutely vital that the melodies involved are evocative, and preferably also cathartic — and in this respect, Auðn achieves the highest accolades. It is no surprise then, that the five-piece has the audience in their palm from beginning to end, getting the second day off to a fantastic start. [8] AP

Natjager @ 14:15 on Pandæmonium

It's been about a year since I last saw the Danish post-hardcore phenomenon Natjager that have divided metal fans only because of their use of heavily auto-tuned vocals. To me, the effect serves a clear purpose as it fits the melancholic larger-than-life lyrics with a certain coldness that adds its own emotional quality to the music, opposite to what you might think when hearing about the concept for the first time. While it has earlier been a problem for them to find a good balance for it in live situations, today provides a perfect mix that allows for the music to really shine and not push away curious on-the-fence metal-fans needlessly. Their circling riffs and atmospheric synthesizer layers flesh out the sound as they bang through everything from their two EP's plus three new songs as well and each song with its emotional and somewhat poetic story-telling makes an impact here. At first we get "Historier" and "Blå" before their oldest hit "Tyler Durden" gets the crowd going after a humorous introduction where vocalist Sluzh Kirkhoff (also a member of hip-hop group Specktors) highlights his similarity to famous children's TV character Onkel Reje. Soon he continues to break out his insanely high level of energetic jumping and general throwing himself about the stage. He goes for a run down by the front line of the crowd here as well, underlining the growing love for the group as fans support him and throw their horns up.

Sluzh Kirkhoff of Natjager in one of his constant jumps

The three new songs appear one after the other in the middle of the set with the first one being "Konkylie" with a firmly winding riff, further underlined by Kirkhoff's unhinged spinning around. The highlight here, though, is definitely the following "Diamant" that breaks out a faster pace which is refreshing and sees the audience singing along and moshing even as they don't know it beforehand. The third one, dubbed something like "Bjerget", returns to their usual style in a slightly more boring shift, although its heaviness does get some solid headbanging going in the pit. Towards the end, the Linkin Park-reminiscent "Ingenting" and the intense "Rejser" especially make great impressions and serve to activate the crowd a few last times, interspersed with "Feberdrøm" and its more mellow piano-riff. Still, due to the early set-time, there are not as many audience members here as one could have wished and thus it could definitely have been a crazier experience down in the pit - a thing that I certainly hope to see happen in the future as more and more people notice them. This is definitely the best show I've seen by the band so far and a performance that affirms that they're rising up from the underground and expanding their fanbase despite the amount of hate they also get for renewing and mixing genre-elements. [8] LL

At The Gates @ 15:15 on Hades

Over a decade has passed since At the Gates first returned from a lengthy hiatus in 2007, yet with two new albums out since then — 2014’s “At War with Reality" and the brand new “To Drink from the Night Itself" — it is sometimes easy to forget that the Swedish melodic death metal veterans were ever missing. That latter outing claims to pick up from where “The Red in the Sky is Ours" left off in 1992, yet at least on the basis of the title track, the band rather continues to milk the success of their breakthrough record, “Slaughter of the Soul", which soon led to their decimation and, some might argue, the birth of the metalcore genre. To add some weight to that argument, there is no representation whatsoever for At the Gates’ first three efforts (which came out in quick succession in 1992, 1993 and 1994) on the setlist. And above all, the rhythm, riffing style and tone of the song is so similar to what became the band’s swan song at the time in 1995 that had “Slaughter of the Soul" not been so successful as to become engrained in the memory of every metalhead, we might be none the wiser about what era “To Drink from the Night Itself" actually represents. But for the seasoned ear, it is actually quite simple to discern the subtle differences that lift the “Slaughter"’ material above “To Drink…"’s ditto; it is more intense and seems to have more purpose to it, whereas the latter often sounds like b-sides.

Be that as it may, there are plenty of classics here to feast on, with “Cold" and “Under a Serpent Sun" in particular sending the audience into a frenzy. If only the five musicians had even a fraction of that frenzy, it would be so much easier to resist the call of the nearest bar, but alas! At the Gates remain one of the least engaging artists melodic death metal has to offer — in a festival setting at least. With the exception of vocalist Tomas Lindberg’s intermittent bursts of energy, the performance is a woefully still affair, and it strikes me that only Bloodbath have been more successful in desecrating their proud legacy with an anaemic concert than At the Gates tonight. The Gothenburg-born group should consider themselves fortunate to have composed such excellent, headbang-inducing tracks as “The Circular Ruins", “Nausea" and the staple “Blinded by Fear" — if this was a playthrough of the brand new material, chances are that At the Gates would be shedding spectators at an alarming rate. Despite Linberg & co.’s unwillingness to bridge the gap between stage and audience, however, the tightness with which these crowd favourites are delivered still ensures plenty of circlepit action and, at the very least, offers an opportunity to rekindle one’s affection for one of the most important metal albums of all time. [6] AP

ORM @ 15:45 on Pandæmonium

I’ve grown into a pretty huge fan of Danish ORM (meaning “Worm"), just like I was (and actually still am) of their earlier band By The Patient. They keep impressing me live, and although the band by age is a fairly young band, the musicians have both experience and talent, mainly due to the fact that they have been in “the game" for quite some time now. Being somewhat different than their previous band, ORM still manage to keep the extreme metal edge which By The Patient also were quite revered for.

ORM waiting for Thor to strike

Onto the concert, a fair amount of people has shown up. Although it clashes a bit with At The Gates, the turnout is definitely acceptable. With the rain starting to show, ORM sets the mood with their aggressive yet melodic and atmospheric take on the black metal genre. It’s extreme in a way that fits this particular weather nicely, also because of the Norse theme they have both on stage and in the lyrics. And guess who, or rather what, they got their name from. They deliver with grandeur as is accustom by now, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. Their Norse mythology inspired music works so well with the lurking thunder clouds above, and gives a slight nod to the god of thunder Thor above, and he should send a lightning bolt back in approval because this was really just that good! [8½] RUB

Deftones @ 16:30 on Helvíti

Deftones is one of those great bands that you can slot in at any time of the day or night, at any kind of festival, and they just kill it every time. That’s because their sound is so unique: the dreamy, far-reaching croons of Chino Moreno, and the badass, crunchy nu-metal riffs that have a dark, experimental twist to them. While their best shows are in the dark, the early afternoon slot suits them just fine as it allows us to pay more attention to Moreno’s high-energy performance. When he’s not busy jumping off stage props or circling around in crazed fashion, he’s leaning back, kneeling to scream or just delivering some of the most back-chilling vocals around in the music scene.

Deftones

Tonight is an extra special show for many in the crowd, because as rumour has it, the band are about to delve deep into their back catalogue and play lots of old material from their “Around The Fur", “Adrenaline" and “White Pony" era. And sure enough, it’s basically like a classic after classic in short order. “Headup" from “Around The Fur" announces the band means business, and then it’s basically “My Own Summer (Shove It)", “Around The Fur", “Elite", “Digital Bath", and “Knife Prty" in a row, interrupted only by “Swerve City" from what I consider their best modern album, “Koi No Yokan".

Chino is all over the place, even throwing himself down to the barrier to scream together with the fans close-up. "We’re gonna play some real old shit", he announces when they return from a brief encore, and we’re even treated to “7 Words" and “Nosebleed" from their debut album. So while the set slowed down a bit towards the end, where many newer songs were played, the band took extreme care to inject a song like “Change (In The House of Flies)" to keep the oldest fans involved. A great display of power, as usual. [8½] PP

Crossfaith's Kenta Koie ravaging the Pandæmonium stage

Crossfaith @ 18:00 on Pandæmonium

The Japanese industrial metalcore band Crossfaith has only appeared on my radar this very year with their EP "Wipeout" and since first listening to them, I have been wondering how their absolutely massive sound will even be contained as they play on the festival's smallest stage. As it turns out, the answer is "Barely!" as the six members put on a full-on energetic show from start to finish. Especially their synthesizer player is crazy as he changes between standing on top of his instruments while hyping the crowd, and jumping down while slamming new keys. There is a maximum focus from their lead singer to get the pit properly going and the absolutely crammed Pandæmonium area readily obeys with several circle pits. Their attitude is relentless as they yell at us "I just wanna see you get fucked up!", further underlining their intense focus on creating the craziest onslaught they can. As expected, then, they completely slay the smaller stage sound-wise with music where the enhanced oomph of added air-pushing bass drops actually just flows seamlessly into the music instead of creating a stark contrast as is most often the case. The barrage reaches a high with the shenanigans of "Jägerbomb" that, of course, sees their synth player come to the front of the stage to down a bit of Jägermeister directly from a full bottle. Afterward, a cover of The Prodigy's "Omen" gets the headbanging and dancing going all over the area where it wasn't already, further enhanced by the old sit-down-jump-up-gimmick that, again, has pretty much the entire area complying. For their final couple of songs, a big wall of death is successfully instigated and a short and to-the-point drum solo gets a little space but without pulling a shred of energy from the set. The group has just announced the release of their new album on August 3rd, and here's to hoping that they come back for a European tour in celebration of that at some point. They are sure to have made a bunch of new Danish fans here tonight at least, as they put on one of the very best shows of the festival this year. [9] LL

Graveyard

Graveyard @ 18:15 on Hades

It was fantastic news when Graveyard announced their return from a hiatus with a revamped line-up in early 2017, and initial listens to the Swedish ’70s rock revivalists’ comeback album, “Peace", have eased some of my skepticism about their ability to deliver another record of “Hisingen Blues"’ or “Lights Out"’s quality ever again. But as their languid efforts during this early evening concert once again underline, there seems to be a curse haunting the band when it comes to festival performances. Our writer in charge of reviewing them at the time may have disagreed with the general consensus, but when Graveyard last appeared at Copenhell in 2014, it was an altogether dismal showing from a band renowned for its energetic and heartfelt showmanship when seen at club venues — and they make a mockery of it again tonight. There is nothing wrong with the tightness with which the music is played, with new songs like “Please Don’t" and “The Fox" finding a comfortable place amongst the title track to 2011’s “Hisingen Blues" and “Ain’t Fit to Live Here" and sounding as raw and retro as ever. But there is just no passion to be had from the four musicians, for whom this opportunity to redeem themselves seems to be little more than a stop along the way to some more preferable concerts; something to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible. It is an insult to the large and loyal following that the Swedes command in Denmark to play with such glaring indifference, and it would not surprise me if their next indoor concert here was a slow seller. [4] AP

Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains @ 19:45 on Helvíti

Here’s the thing about Alice in Chains and many other grunge bands: it’s not about activity on stage. They are simply never going to be the band that tears down the walls and burns the stage down Dillinger Escape Plan or The Chariot style. Instead, their set is all about nostalgia and the sheer, undeniable quality of craft in their songwriting. That’s why a song like “Check My Brain" is so deeply ingrained in our collective brains that we all break out into a “California, I’m fine!" sing along early on. That’s why “Them Bones" induces back chills for its riffs and dirty sound. It’s atmospheric, relaxing, and a welcome break from the heavy tunes we’ve been listening to all weekend long. The stoned atmosphere coupled with the solid material ensures that even the new songs are well received. And let’s be honest: William DuVall is the greatest replacement one could hope for an iconic singer as Layne Staley, which becomes clearer and clearer every time we see Alice In Chains play in Denmark. [8] PP

Casper Roland Popp of Bersærk

Bersærk @ 21:15 on Pandæmonium

The Aarhus-based stoner metal group Bersærk have previously played an intense and energetic set on this very stage in 2016 and the main difference from then to now is a few line-up changes as well as their release of "Jernbyrd" earlier this year. It adds a host of darker and more atmospheric parts to their music meaning that their mixed set tonight extends further than "just" the relentless party of last time. Casper Roland Popp is still in front with his grandiose voice and just like last time, the area is packed with party-ready fans. New songs like "Skyggeland" and "Fimbuls Børn" point even more to their focus on their Nordic heritage along with containing good dynamics between moshpit-inducing force and more mysterious layers that really let their music weave its dark web around us even though the sun is still lighting up the sky in part. The more mellow songs, like especially "Mørke" from their previous album, receive singalongs even in the back, and when the tempo is way up in other songs, half-empty beer cups are flying here and there out of the active pit area and thus everyone up front seems to be having a grand time throughout. It does get a bit too slow and moody for my tastes sometimes but luckily the setlist never rests too long before a shot of energy is provided, not least with the solid "Nordenvind", "De glemte", or the classic set-ender "Dæmring". The band's Aarhus-attitude is front and center in Popp's stage banter and while a fellow Jutlander can enjoy snarky comments about the differences between the rock-focused Escobar in Copenhagen and Aarhus respectively,  it's also very harmless to listen to considering the building seriousness shown in their music and lyrics. It would be nice to see them somehow rise with that for an even more interesting set. Still, a good performance and a party up front for sure. [7½] LL

Kreator @ 21:30 on Hades

Quite possibly, Kreator may be the most entertaining festival band in existence — as far as metal goes at least. Three years ago, the Teutonic thrashers from Essen delivered one of the best concerts in the history of this festival, uniting the old and young, the trve and untrve in a glorious celebration of the genre. And while the Teutons have been downgraded from Helvíti to Hades this year, nothing has changed in that respect; the band still commands an enormous audience and summons some of the biggest sing-songs heard during these four days. “Hail to the Hordes" — one of the standout tracks off Kreator’s latest offering, 2017’s “Gods of Violence" — is especially effective in eliciting such a response, while “Pleasure to Kill" — off its namesake 1986 record — is met with an enormous circle pit as plumes of glitter and confetti are fired into the audience in lieu of the pyrotechnics that would otherwise have been deployed were it not for the total ban on open fire imposed by the Copenhagen authorities due to persistent drought. It’s theatrical and pompous as f**k, but wonderfully so. At the same time, the quartet has so much energy to expend that it is sometimes hard to believe that both Mille Petrozza (on guitar and vocals) and Jürgen Reil (on drums) have been pushing the band forward for more than 34 years now.

Herein also lies my only point of critique: why, with so many years and so much classic material behind them, is the setlist so heavily focused on the aforementioned “Gods of Violence" and its predecessor, 2012’s “Phantom Antichrist", fine albums though both of them are? Out of the eleven tracks aired, more than half reside on said records, while the final track, “Pleasure to Kill", is the only piece of what many consider to be Kreator’s heyday between 1985 and 1990, that we get to hear. The inclusion of a handful more classic tracks might have transformed this beer-fuelled thrash metal fiesta into one for the ages, but alas! Kreator must make do with ‘merely’ another rock solid addition to its growing repertoire of Danish concerts. [8] AP

Ozzy Osbourne @ 23:00 on Helvíti

Everyone probably has their say on the living legend and persona that is Ozzy Osbourne; whether it is positive or negative. I for one am a huge Ozzy and ‘Sabbath fan, and although his old drug abuse and age have become more and more visible over the years, I still hope for the best at this supposedly last concert in Denmark. With the Zack Wylde, whom you probably also have a love/hate relationship for, back behind the axe, you either love or hate his guitar wankery, which by all means can get a bit too much at times, I still like his playing style and presence on stage.

They start out strong with “Bark at the Moon", which is strangely fitting, because the sky is now clear and the moon shines clearly above. Onto “Mr. Crowley" the tempo is taken down a bit, but it already looks a lot like the Ozzman is in surprisingly good shape and is doing his best entertaining the crowd, despite his trouble of walking. A massive blue cross is visible at the back of the stage, and it would show that it changes colors throughout the show, so it fits both the song and mood of it; it looks quite impressive to say the least. Also, an astonishing laser show is brought to this show, and it even glimmers at the trees way in the back, and looks so remarkable. Wylde as well is in gear, and looks to really enjoy being back behind the strings.

Ozzy showing off his laser show

An Ozzy Osbourne show without any Black Sabbath would feel flat and strange, so of course we get a visit back to the legends with “Fairies Wear Boots", with the massive cross changing color into some trippy looking figure. The show in general is delivered with both flare and passion. Even though the aging singer might have troubles getting as much about the stage as he used to, he still manages to deliver a concert worthy of his name and legacy, and I might go as far as to say it is the best I’ve seen him, perhaps even ever. His voice is even great for classics such as “Road to Nowhere" and of course “War Pigs". For the latter one the entire stage is bathed in red lights as the characteristic intro starts, and the massive cross is then set on fire (sadly, not literally). Wylde is given plenty of space for a lengthy solo towards the end, which seems appropriate as he has given the concert some much needed energy. With both his guitar behind the neck and plenty of pleasing the crowd he secures a full-on outro and perhaps even some much-needed rest for Ozzy, as he left the stage prior to it. It dragged on a bit too much perhaps, but hey, who doesn’t like a guitar solo, right? It also transcends into a drum solo, which was good, but perhaps unnecessary at this point, just before Ozzy returns.

Massive audience for Ozzy’s last show on Danish soil

As the set nears the end, “Shot in the Dark" is aired, which is just another classic amidst the many this night. But everything completely erupts when “Crazy Train" is played. People are jumping up and down, and just losing it to the iconic riff. Things are turned down again as “Mama I’m Coming Home" makes the entire crowd sing along, and the insane laser show once again ignites the trees way in front of the large stage. By virtue of perhaps being the most iconic ‘Sabbath song, the set ends with “Paranoid", and it just underlines what a great show this actually was. Could I have wished for a different set list? Sure. Was I missing some of the more rarer songs to be played? Of course. But what many people dreaded to be an embarrassing snooze fest was put to shame by Ozzy and co., as they delivered a show over expectations, with both strength and showmanship. Even though the first couple of rows wasn’t drenched in water, it still goes to show that the Prince of Darkness is still alive and well, and I can only hope to see him an extra time, because he is still quite the madman!! [8] RUB

Enslaved @ 00:45 on Hades

Last show for me this Friday was Norwegian black metallers Enslaved. Having just reviewed their latest outing, I was eager to see how well they would perform it at this late-night slot. Hopefully the sound would not be an issue this time around, since last time I saw them, the entire experience was infected by a terrible sound mix. But since this is Copenhell and the sound have been great so far, I had high hopes for this gig. Not a lot of people have showed up in front of Hades, but a band and genre of this caliber should, if possible, be playing this late, because it really does set the mood. The ones who bothered to show up though were treated to some absolutely slaying tracks; both old and new. “Storm Son" from the latest album “E" sets the tone for the gig, and truly brings out the progressive nature of that particular album.

Enslaved

Front man Grutle Kjellson even realizes how late it is, and states that he is impressed that we’re still alive this late. Even though the band play their set very tightly, people still seem tired and/or drunk, so the interactions from the crowd stays at a minimum. Luckily though is the band both experienced and good enough to make a lasting and vivid performance. And the songs they play are just that good that it never gets tedious or dull, so you can just stand still and soak in the impressive show. The band however doesn’t seem tired at all and even though the crowd is small they still keep on rocking out. With more people or at least a more awake audience this would have had the potential to be a legendary concert. The sound was crisp, the band was tight, but one can’t help but feel something is missing; perhaps a more varied setlist, as it did contain many tracks from the latest record. That being said it is still a very solid deliverance and without much fanfare they end a very good day of metal. [8½] RUB

Danko Jones

Danko Jones @ 01:15 on Pandæmonium

After such a memorable and charismatic showing at Roskilde Festival two years ago, not even the late night slot was enough to damp the high expectations yours truly had for the Danko Jones set to close off Friday night. What kind of jokes would Danko come up with this time? What about his seemingly infinite facial expressions, how many of these would we see tonight? Turns out the answer to both was not too many. Other than the huge sing alongs to “First Date" and “Code Of the Road" among a couple of others, tonight was arguably one of the most anonymous showings of Danko Jones we’ve seen to date. Not sure if the band were tired from jet-lag or just feeling challenged about following up to Ozzy Osbourne’s set, but either way the band’s renowned energy and feel-good rock’n’roll didn’t match expectations and lacked too many memorable highlights. If anything, it felt like another day in the office, which is basically polar opposite to the Roskilde show two years ago. [6] PP

SATURDAY

Jakob Stegelmann & Aarhus Symfoniorkester @ 14:15 on Helvíti

No doubt the booking that has raised most eyebrows this year is this combination of Aarhus Symphony Orchestra with Troldspejlet host Jakob Stegelmann, every Danish nerd's own superhero. Since 1989, he has been reviewing comics, video games, books, and movies in his own Danish TV-program and he has been a big part of shaping what I will call the growing nerd culture in our country. Today, he acts as the conferencier for a session of classical music from various superhero movies and video games with a few outliers that nonetheless make sense in this context. All of this is as you can see not really related to metal or rock in any way but nevertheless, there seems to be a huge overlap in metal fans and comic book fans at Copenhell as proved by the massive chants of "Jakob! Jakob! Jakob!" that arise even before the show has begun. The orchestra leads with "Also Sprach Zarathustra", afterward presented by Stegelmann as "Early symphonic metal by Strauss" to much laughter. Throughout the show, there's an endless amount of goodwill among the audience and it's this willingness to go along with the whole concept that really lets the experience become special. We move on to a DC vs. Marvel stint that leads to performances of a medley of Batman themes from 1989 and 1966, followed by the newer theme from 2008's "The Dark Knight". The conductor of the orchestra, Peter Ettrup-Larsen, becomes a performer in his own right as he sometimes turns to us to "conduct" the spontaneous singing or yelling along that arises, not least during the classic '66 Batman theme.

Jakob Stegelmann himself acting as conferencier and nerd-superhero

Throughout the set, funny highlight upon highlight appears like crowd-surfers posing as Superman during that classic 1978 theme, devil horns converted into Spider-Man web-casting horns, massive singing along for the Indiana Jones theme from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and the following Super Mario medley. What stands as the most epic triumph of the set, though, is the constantly expanding whirlpool of a circle pit that gets going during Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King" from 1875 - the only requirement to the setlist from the Copenhell booking department. Later we delve into the violent cartoon world of Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry, with added effects of smashing plates, screaming, and little mountains of cans being knocked over by percussion players who seem to be having the time of their life as they act out all this. Finally, we arrive at the Star Wars theme and the "Imperial March", the latter presented as the most evil music ever created since it is the soundtrack to everyone's favorite evil character, Darth Vader. This, of course, spurs a wall of death to add to the list of moshing and circle pitting that has been going on at various point during the set.

Peter Ettrup-Larsen energetically conducting the audience's singalongs

Stegelmann has been referring to his own status as somewhat of an icon or superhero himself, and as the last song, we, therefore, get the theme from Troldspejlet itself - in reality, "The Gremlin Rag" from Gremlins. This gets endless clapping along going across the numerous audience that shouts out so much for an encore that we get the Star Wars theme one more time. Overall, Stegelmann is very good at showcasing his own knowledge while tying everything up to the fact that they're playing all this at a metal festival, thus highlighting the darkness, evil and violence present in the pieces they have chosen. It's a huge accomplishment in itself that this booking draws such a massive audience this early on the last day of the festival where pretty much everyone is sure to be dealing with hangovers and basically the only minus concerns the windy conditions that make the subtleties in the music blur out, not least also since our ears have been battered by loud metal the past few days. The finer details in the music are obviously not the point of this booking, though, and I'm sure everyone present will agree that it was one of the best shows this year and one that paradoxically really brought out the communal heavy metal spirit in the audience. [9] LL

Nothing More @ 15:30 on Pandæmonium

The alternative/progressive rock of Texas-band Nothing More has a reputation for shining especially radiant at their intense live shows that are always something to behold for several reasons. First of all, the musicians really give it their all, lead by the charismatic vocalist Jonny Hawkins in front who nails every note in his impressive register. Another important reason is the inclusion in their live show of contraptions that they weld themselves that work as gimmicky instruments at specific times in their set. To begin with, Hawkins rally the crowd from on top of his specially made drums that add power sound-wise from the very start of their set. "Do You Really Want It" gets the setlist going and the crowd up front are ready and jumping around already. The sharp yells of the vocals cut into the microphone and get muffled somewhat but it only serves to further enhance the cold, industrial qualities of their music. It's with a great rendition of the rough-sounding and firm "Don't Stop" that the moshpit really gets going, though. This is followed by one of their regular gimmicks where the bass guitar is locked into one of the aforementioned contraptions to allow them to play at it three people simultaneously with tapping and slapping fingers, guitar slide, and drumsticks. It's quickly obvious how great of a singer Hawkins is but it's especially during the contrast-filled "Go To War" that he really burns through as he goes seamlessly from the very soft verses to a simply unhinged chorus.

The chiseled Jonny Hawkins of Nothing More letting out all his power

As many bands on this day, they dedicate a song to recently deceased Vinnie Paul of Pantera - in this case the mellow and emotional "Fade In / Fade Out" from their most recent album "The Stories We Tell Ourselves". Towards the end we get equally solid playthroughs of the hits "Jenny" and "This Is The Time (Ballast)" before Hawkins' drums from before turn out to be able to tilt upwards to make a platform for him to stand tall upon while playing through their metal cover of Skrillex' "First of the Year (Equinox)" to great dancing in the pit. The machinal vibe of their music really surrounds everything about them, not only in these homebuilt contraptions but also just in the way they carry themselves on stage, especially Hawkins with his chiseled body looking more cyborg than man. Finally, they end with the older song "Salem (Burn The Witch)", getting as many as possible in front of the Pandæmonium stage to sing along. Overall, an impressive showing as always, although there's not quite space at a festival set like this for the more subtle layers that also exist in their music to come through as clearly as would be perfect. [8½] LL

Steel Panther @ 16:15 on Helvíti

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon and I don’t think a better band exists at this time slot than Steel Panther. An absolutely ridiculous combo of stand-up and heavy metal, the band’s outrageous takes on a tired genre breathe new life into it and make other similar bands look and feel miserable in comparison (W.A.S.P, I’m looking at you). An encore after a mere two songs highlights what this band is all about, as they seamlessly bridge songs about ’going in the backdoor’, glory holes, and Asian hookers together with laugh-out-loud stage banter that puts most comedians to shame. "I know there’s a concert going on with Jay-Z and Beyonce today in Copenhagen… so I just wanted to say, FUCK YOU, BITCHES!, they say, and that’s about the least funny part of their set tonight. For instance, we have a ’LILLE PIK, LILLE PIK’ sing along (small dick in Danish), they ask to find the hottest girl in the crowd (and none of the ugly ones, please) in a total anti political correctness move, and then casually mention that age of consent is 15 in Denmark according to Wikipedia.

Steel Panther: outrageous as usual

As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, they bring on a small blonde girl on stage that can’t have been a day over 18, first joke about that she now has to show her boobs to the entire crowd, and then tell her they’re gonna sing a ballad to her. It so turns out this ballad is about the lead singer wanting to shave her genitals in the van or something along the lines of that, after which they give her a ‘slut parade’ sign that someone was wearing in the crowd. This girl is getting absolutely roasted on stage while the crowd is basically crying in laughter.

Much like Anvil at an earlier version of the festival, Steel Panther are exactly what heavy metal needs: hilariously awesome, tongue-in-cheek, and infectiously catchy, like a better version of the tired bands trying to re-hash Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs 40 years later without realizing it’s not possible to do that without sounding dated and cliché. Can’t remember the last time a band has blown me away as much as Steel Panther, nor the last time I was laughing so much I felt like my intestines were about to burst by the end of their set. Nothing short of brilliant, and a proper ‘fuck you’ to the genre textbook. [9] PP

Suffocation @ 17:15 on Pandæmonium

After witnessing the atrocity yet very un-PC and hilarious show of Steel Panther, I venture to yet another blast of a concert. Suffocation has proven themselves time and time again that they can put on an intense and brutal show of old school death metal. It is impressive that this legendary band still manage to hold anything against some of their younger counterparts – both in energy and extremity, but with a back catalogue as solid as theirs, one can understand why. The band, still without Frank Mullen on vocals, still slay the death metal brand in the most brutal and technical of ways. Having just seen the band a few months back, I can say without a doubt they still got it. The entire band still has both banging heads and pounding guitars. Ricky Myers still man the vocal duties, although his vocal sound a bit strained today, more than usually in my ears. Maybe he has a slightly sore throat, but as it gets warmed up during the set it is of much less importance. Apparently, it’s bass player Derek Boyer’s birthday today, we’re told, so I guess both him and I had a blast of a birthday with plenty of metal.

Suffocation’s Terrance Hobbs showing his skill with a guitar

Sadly though, is the audience rather quiet. No noticeable moshing or pitting is going on, which is somewhat disappointing taken the music – and the legacy of these New Yorkers – into account. Even when “Infecting the Crypts" off the brilliant “Effigy of the Forgotten" rounds off the show, I still have a feeling that the Americans can do so much better, but of course has the audience’s energy also been lacking. The band still manage to keep the show both technical, extreme and brutal as they normally tend to, and one doesn’t miss any of it after witnessing a Suffo’ show. Hopefully every fan of extreme metal is as satisfied with this, as I am. [7] RUB

Kellermensch @ 17:30 on Hades

The Danish dark alternative rock group Kellermensch with the always existential and depressing lyrics is introduced today as one of our very best local live bands and certainly, the massive crowd that has turned up to watch them perform at Hades is in for a treat. I have previously latched on to the emotional, simple song "How To Get By" and today it opens the proceedings with vocalist/guitarist Sebastian Wolff alone on stage, sending off Johnny Cash vibes with his special tone of voice. The lyrics that end it, "You will know this when you fall / That when you're tired of living / It's best to be afraid to die / So for now, that's how I'll get by", stand as a perfect lead-in to the group's love-sick universe filled with existential torment, and just like that it serves its purpose well here. The full band count eight members that collectively and different times cover drums, bass, three guitars, synthesizers, organ, violin, and upright bass, as well as regular singing and growling. It's a tightly wound soundscape they create even though their performances always seem so chaotic, and today is no different. Their bassist paces around eerily with his instrument tightly set to his chest while Wolff constantly throws around not just his microphone stand and the mic itself but even tambourines and guitars even in the middle of the show. A hard-working roadie is thus also constantly on stage to pick things up, while Wolff just seems completely in the zone to the point that he looks blankly through this person, so focused on the music.

Light shining through behind Sebastian Wolff to the otherwise gloomy sounds of Kellermensch

It's very artistically pure, so to speak, to witness Kellermensch break out their songs like this, and sure enough, the audience is also quick to get into it. Heads are banging steadily from the moment the upbeat "Mediocre Man" makes an appearance, followed by a personal favorite in the more symphonic-sounding "Remainder". Their growler/organ player Christian Sindermann gets to shine here, as on the next song "The Day You Walked" from their first album. This song midway through the set also seems to signify a change in the sound mix that seems extra heavy and loud from this point on, only further enhancing our ability to merge with the music. "Pain of Salvation" is also worth mentioning here, as its hypnotic end riff is repeated over and over before "Lost At Sea" takes it way down and we're ready for an encore. We get not just one but three extra songs here, as Wolff like a sort of madman keeps yelling "Uno mas!" after each one. The encore then consists of the three strong songs "Bad Sign", "Army Ants", and "Moribund Town", the last of which sees Wolff somehow entangling his microphone in his guitar so that he ends up swinging it wildly around him. And yet, it's like the wildness doesn't quite lift the show to the last heights that I know it could. Still, as introduced Kellermensch are indeed one of our very best live bands in Denmark right now, and it doesn't seem like that is going to change anytime soon. [8½] LL

W.A.S.P. @ 18.45 on Helvíti

On to the heavy metal in the most literal sense. This old school band haven’t changed much over the years (well, apart from lead singer Blackie Lawless who’s now a born-again Christian, and vows never to play their smash-hit “I F**k Like a Beast" again). They still brand the heavy and high-pitched style of metal. The audience is very quiet and not really moving much; it’s like they don’t really feel the music. I can’t brag about knowing many of their songs, but I still know them by name. That taken into, I’m not really impressed by what’s going on. It is pretty generic heavy metal with plenty of lengthy and somewhat unnecessary guitar solos; for several songs actually.

W.A.S.P.

The crowd is a far cry from that of Exodus yesterday, and even that of the classical spectacular of Stegelmann and co. who played earlier, which is really strange since many seemed to have a problem with them playing here in the first place. You would figure that they would want to show their support to some true metal. I for one find this a very lukewarm experience and I am not entertained. And by the looks on the smallish crowd gathered in front of the stage, I’m not alone. To be franc, if you can’t do better than this, it might be time to call it a day and throw in the towel. The show lacked both the edge which Blackie used to have, and a feeling that they wanted to be here. [5] RUB

Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion Of Conformity @ 19:45 on Hades

I have always maintained that stoner rock and metal is one of the few subgenres of heavy music that are actually well-suited for a sunny afternoon or early evening concert. These are also the conditions under which Raleigh, NC’s Corrosion of Conformity is to perform, and as the dense sludgy grooves of the classic “Broken Man" (off 1994’s “Deliverance") roll over us in track two, nothing suggests that this shouldn’t be the case tonight as well. Ever since Pepper Keenan returned to the Corrosion’ ranks and reassumed the place of frontman, the southern fried stoner metallers have sounded much more in their element than was the case when bassist Mike Dean filled that role. Keenan’s burly singing is, without a doubt, the better fit for this kind of music, and as he confirms again today during the likes of “Vote with a Bullet" and “Albatross", he has the unmistakable authority and charisma of a leading figure — both in terms of his demeanour and his voice. At the same time, Dean is free to rock out and roam around the stage with an energy that defies his 54 years of age. Of course, Corrosion of Conformity has never been the wildest of live acts, but even so, their convincing showmanship and neverending torrent of scorching riffs keeps the sizeable audience in place throughout the concert, which, regrettably, turns out be quite short. The show concludes in beautiful fashion first with a take on “Clean My Wounds" (another revered piece off “Deliverance") that extends into a lengthy segment of psychedelic jamming and guitar solo’ing, and then with a heartfelt tribute to Vinnie Paul, news of whose sudden passing has hit Copenhell like a sledgehammer earlier in the day. As the group bows out to the tune of Pantera’s “I’m Broken", they promise that they intend to return to Denmark “with friends" later this year, so that even though their show today is a rather short affair, it ends up feeling like a fantastic appetiser for a more full-fledged concert to come. [8] AP

Laurent Lunoir adding vocals and theatricality to the musical universe of Igorrr

Igorrr @ 20:00 on Pandæmonium

By chance, I encountered the madness of French breakcore act Igorrr way back in high school as a curiosity I would certainly never have expected to see live in Denmark. However, with his most recent release, "Savage Sinusoid" from 2017, it seems that the wider world has really latched onto this experimental mindfuck of a musical act. Mixing things like death and black metal, opera, and general baroque classical music on a constant backing of breakcore beats, the electronic artist Gautier Serre has been creating some of the weirdest metal I have ever heard for many years. Live, he is joined by the absolutely insane drummer Sylvain Bouvier, the opera singer Laure Le Prunenec who somehow has the energy to dance and jump around the stage dramatically while nailing her notes, and finally the singer and growler Laurent Lunoir who performs in black metal body paint. The funny thing about the music, as eclectic as it is, is that it has a lot of catchy elements in there as well, which is probably why surprisingly many people actually hang around tonight for the entirety of their set. While Le Prunenec's opera delivery sits comfortably in the sound mix, Lunoir's darker singing is too low in the mix most of the time which is a bit of a shame although it is remedied later in the set. The two singers are in charge of delivering theatrical grimacing and atmosphere around their contributions while Serre himself more actively underlines his breakcore beats up from his elevated laptop-station in the back. It can be hard to identify singular songs if not intensely familiar with the group's collected output but at least I'm happy to recognize the heavily chugging "Viande" with its rabid screams, the waltz-induced "Cheval", and the single "ueiD" - all from the newest album. Overall the theatrical delivery suits the music although it's hard to really decide, still, whether it is actually a good performance or just insanity. Judging by the crowd reactions, some people intensely love the craziness while others just stick around in disbelief to accompany that one friend in their group who can't stop banging his head intensely throughout. Personally, I find myself drifting in and out of the music depending on the level of crazy but mostly being picked up again by a catchy riff or solid rhythm for just long enough to get back into it. In conclusion, it is an entertaining set that draws more crowd members than I would expect but the aforementioned issue with the sound-mixing seems to me like an even more spot on Igorrr show is still for me to experience in the future. [7½] LL

Helloween @ 21:00 on Helvíti

Power metal legends Helloween were one of the bands I had looked forward to since seeing their triumphant, tongue-in-cheek set at Hellfest a few years ago. Tonight, the ingredients are present for an excellent showing: their stage looks like something from Angry Birds to start out with, and the big video screen seems setup for some excellent theatrical effects, and original vocalist Kai Hansen is back for the first time since 1989 (since rejoining in 2016). On that front, the band does not disappoint: the audiovisual experience is fantastic, ranging from a slowly enlarging ring to eagles flying during “If I Could Fly". In the meantime, the band fully embrace the heavy/power metal clichés and are often found in quad formation, wielding their respective axes just like we expect from bands originating in the 80s and beyond.

Helloween

And that’s primarily what we’re listening to today: the newest song that the band plays is from 18 years ago, the next newest from 1996, and otherwise we’re firmly planted in their 80s era. Great for their oldest fans, not so for the rest of us. Most of their set is power metal by the books, with the last songs rescuing it from forgettable into something a little better. Still, with the hilarious Steel Panther memory still in mind, I can’t help but think that these guys, even with Kai Hansen, just don’t match up in terms of the entertainment value. Cool video show, though. [7] PP

Alestorm - a hell of a party!

Alestorm @ 22:45 on Hades

Hades is absolutely rammed for pirate metallers Alestorm, despite the concert taking place at the same time as the Satyricon set. On stage is a giant rubber duck of epic proportions, which seems promising, and then we’re off to giant ho-ho-ho and beer, beer, beer sing alongs for the rest of the night. The crowd dynamic is one of the best I’ve seen: it’s basically a giant fucking party with hundreds upon hundreds of crowd surfers (758 in total, breaking the festival record by over 300 surfers!) all dancing and singing their lungs off. The likes of “Keelhauled", “Sunken Norwegian", “Shipwrecked", “Drink", and “Fucked With An Anchor" round up what is simply a brilliant energy and atmosphere in the crowd. Pirate flags are being waved around, sailors with costumes are sent flying above our hands, and beer is spilled in all directions as the last bits of energy from Copenhell are unleashed. Finally, the giant rubber duck’s purpose is revealed as it is tossed into the crowd and starts making its rounds during the final moments of the song. Thunderous sing alongs, energetic pits all the way down beyond the sound tent, and a fantastic stage show that is one hundred percent in character combine for one of the absolutely best shows Copenhell has had to date. [9] PP

Satyricon @ 22:45 on Pandæmonium

Entering the stage in a very demeaning fashion, the Norsemen seems to be taking no prisoners with tonight’s concert! A good amount of people has showed up even though the concert clashes with the party train that is Alestorm. Having seen the band last year in a packed venue of Train in Århus, I hoped they could keep that intense level on an open-air stage. Just like several other bands today Satyricon cherish and commemorate the memory of Vinnie Paul who sadly passed away on Friday. People cheer loudly in his memory just before they air “Deep Calleth Upon Deep" from the latest record. The music is so tight and a sentence springs to mind: “Hel norsk svart metal, because this is really just so mesmerizingly good music.

Satyr looking very displeased with the audience


As the band airs “Now, Diabolical", main man Satyr looks somewhat displeased as the audience isn’t screaming loud enough, but continues the barge of black metal. As the show progress this gets much, much better, and the audience heeds the call of Satyr. So much, that a handful of security staff has to intervene in the crowd, because some relatively large mosh and circle pits form in front of the stage. This makes Satyr send his approval to the audience by banging his chest and giving a huge thumb up to the crowd; the call was heard!

Satyricon


This just gets better and better, and one can really talk about a show getting better as it progress. For “The Pentagram Burns" Satyr grabs the axe, and people just lose it. Everyone in the band are simply so tight; plenty of headbanging and Frost with some insane headspin behind the kit – this is really something! Towards the end Satyr asks for a massive pit – all the way from one end to the other – and he gets it. Having seen this band a few times by now I can say with quite some certainty that they just can’t play a bad concert nowadays. What this concert might have lacked in intensity compared to a venue concert, we got back with plenty of massive moshing, because they simply just slay a very tight and impressive gig by playing some prober Norwegian black metal. [9] RUB

Ghost @ 00:00 on Helvíti

The hugely popular Swedish heavy metal/hard rock band Ghost is a constellation that has always perplexed me as I have had a hard time understanding simply what's so cool about singing about Satan in such a cozy manner. Sure, it's fun for a while but if the music and performance aren't up to par, then what's the point? Tonight, then, I have decided to give them a final, dedicated shot and located myself in the pit for the entirety of their set. To begin with, their simple yet stunning stage setup works really well. It does seem like we have entered the church of Ghost, led this time around by the character Cardinal Copia who is however underneath the latex mask still the same old Tobias Forge who has been fronting the band through four different characters so far, coinciding with the band's four different album releases. In spite of this being the tour for their most recent album, "Prequelle", it's the previous album "Meliora" that takes up most space on the setlist with solid cuts like "Absolution", the classic "He Is", the darker "From the Pinnacle to the Pit", and not least the dissonant "Cirice". And granted, most of the songs that are being played tonight are very, very catchy and the Nameless Ghouls of the band play tightly and to-the-point.

Cardinal Copia leading the ritual proceedings for Ghost

During the new song "Miasma", the character Papa Nil even makes a humorous appearance playing a tenor saxophone and escorted like the fossil he is supposed to be by two helpers. Older songs like the super catchy "Ritual" and "Year Zero" also make welcome appearances tonight and spur, like many of the other songs, communal sing-a-longs that do feel quite religious in an eerie way. As the show moves on, though, it seems more and more like Copia is just not a very compelling front figure. He speaks to us at length in between songs of Satan and sexual relations, taking on the role of a somewhat old fart with a lot of swagger but not really funny or capable of drawing great crowd reactions. It becomes especially painful for an extended section of 10-15 minutes towards the end, where he takes time to present to us each Nameless Ghoul separately with descriptions that take forever and fall flat because we can't know who they really are anyway. As such, his preaching gets tiresome very quickly and he feels it as well, especially when it comes to the point where people would normally go crazy for an encore. Blaming our tiredness on their status as the closer of the last day of the festival doesn't seem like the only explanation but nevertheless, "Dance Macabre", "Square Hammer", and the encore of "Monstrance Clock" gets the crowd a bit more active again for a final stint with danceable heavy metal Satan. While this midnight mass of Ghost’s has convinced me more than before of the older songs musical qualities, it doesn’t seem that they quite have the ability as a live band to function on a stage as big as this. [6½] LL

Tsjuder @ 01:30 on Pandæmonium

Having not yet had the chance to catch this other Norwegian black metal band live before, I was eager to see if my expectations would be met. I have little knowledge about them, apart from the fact that I know it’s black metal. The music is fast and brutal, and I’m wondering to myself how in the world they can keep this level of intensity so late. The man behind the kit, Christian “AntiChristian" Håpnes Svendsen, is an absolute machine, and because his kit isn’t as big as, say, Frost’s, you can actually see what’s going on, and that’s just so impressive. The trio manages to play a blistering show at this last spot at Pandæmonium, but the small crowd is showing severe signs of sleep depraved festival syndrome, or perhaps they just wanted the last bit of alcohol before the final band of the festival, Sodom, would take the stage. Whether the case the crowd isn’t as impressive as one could’ve hoped for at a black metal concert; even when it is as late at this particular one.

Tsjuder

The first row still shows plenty of horns and headbanging, but it’s still so obvious that the festival is close to be over. The band however does not take notice of this and continues to smash their way through various killer tracks. I can only encourage you to check out this band, as I should do as well, because this is some seriously tight and impressive showmanship. I would as well encourage any bookers at the many venues around Denmark to get this band, because I must say I believe an intense club show of this magnitude could be incredible. For now, however, I must say my body and mind are tired. Not because the show isn’t intense and good, but because it has really been a long day and weekend. It was a good way to end this impressive 9th edition of the festival, and I must say there has been a lot of insanely good concerts this year. Until next time, we’ll see you in ‘Hell! [7½] RUB

Sodom @ 01:45 on Hades

As the very last concert at this ninth edition of Copenhell, Sodom is both blessed and cursed. For a band so blasphemous and vitriolic as this one pillar of The Big Teutonic Four, darkness is the perfect companion, while it is probably also for the best that small children will not subjected to it because of the late hour. But at the same time, four days of drinking and headbanging have taken a hard toll on the festival audience, leaving only a fraction of people staying behind to bear witness to one of the most infamous forces in thrash metal. Although this is not the original line-up (both guitarist Yorck Segatz and drummer Stefan Hüskens only joined this year, while the other guitarist Frank Godzik was only briefly part of Sodom’s history between 1987 and 1989 before tagging along again this year), there is nonetheless a nostalgic atmosphere in the air as the onslaught begins — after all, founding bassist Thomas Such (aka. Tom Angelripper) is a living legend, and miraculously, his raspy growls seem to have lost none of their venom since he became the vocalist of Sodom no less than 34 years ago. The man still seethes with rage as the band tears through the likes of “Nuclear Winter", “Christ Passion" (both off their sophomore album, 1987’s “Persecution Mania") and of course the revered “Ausgebombt" (taken from the follow-up, 1989’s “Agent Orange"), his silhouette imposing itself upon us like some terrifying ghoul.

Although the other musicians take a second seat in the performance, the band nonetheless operates as a sort of military unit: merciless, precise and with zero bulls**t factor. Anyone with an affinity for thrash metal surely agrees that this is exactly how it should be: free of frills, with maximum focus on attitude, riffs, speed and atmosphere. Sodom’s no-prisoners-taken approach to showmanship is thus unsurprisingly met with moshing and circlepits aplenty, culminating when one fan in a wheelchair immortalises himself as the very last crowd-surfer at Copenhell ’18 during the explosive “Bombenhagel" (another important relic off the aforementioned “Persecution Mania"). With Ghost having fallen short of the grandeur expected of the final headliner once again, there is solace to be had for those who choose to remain until the early hours, from Sodom’s old-school black, speed and thrash metal assault. [8] AP

FINAL WORDS

If you made it this far, congratulations! That’s a lot of text to read through, so let’s keep this part short. This year’s Copenhell was a particularly impressive event, not just because it was the biggest Copenhell to date, but because of the way the festival managed to renew and revitalize itself. In many ways, the experience felt fresh and the atmosphere more spirited than in the past, with fewer clichés and more innovation than in the past couple of years. This is fantastic and it bodes well for the 10 year anniversary edition next year.

Most of the issues that we’ve highlighted in previous years were fixed, resulting in great sound and more importantly, great concerts. Lots of memorable moments and highly rated shows, as our reviews noted above, and a clean, upbeat vibe throughout the festival.

On that note, let’s finish off with our classic "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" section where we summarize what we thought about the festival in bullet point form. See you next year! PP

THE GOOD

  • The new layout of the festival! Looks like they made everything a bit better + more choices for food and sugar.
  • The pant system: the festival area was incredibly clean due to it. Simply genius, and as long as we don’t see an influx of aggressive pant collectors next year, this is a keeper!
  • Jakob Stegelmann: a very unique concept and very well received. Nobody will forget the slow circle pit, nor the walls of death to classical music. Hilarious.
  • Queue system: FINALLY fixed! No major lines any of the days despite arriving at a time that usually meant an hour long queue.
  • Great sound for most shows
  • No queues to report on for food or bars either
  • New food areas like Dining On Wheels delivered delicious new entrants
  • Cash-free festival: working credit card system 100% of the time.
  • Copenhell is still full of totally random stuff like the all-girl marching band going around the festival site, the pissoirs decorated with devil horns, a caged zombie in the middle of Styx, the giant fist structures, the ‘Death metal diner’ with its pitch-black burger, etc. this is what makes this festival cool and different.
  • Solid lineup with lots of variety

THE BAD

  • Inconsistent service at booths especially on Saturday. Sometimes the same booth would accept and not accept different kinds of pant (“that was bought at Tutten, you can’t return it here" - the next open cashier would take the exact same can.
  • Camping area controls were bad: plenty of reports of stolen stuff and people saying their camping armband wasn’t even checked as long as they looked like metalheads.
  • No fire or other pyrotechnics… but not really the festival’s fault.
  • Headliners underwhelming: A7X and Ghost not comparable to Ozzy Osbourne. Sub-liners like Alestorm and Steel Panther stole the show
  • Biergarten felt totally pointless with a concert-like volume this time around that required shouting if you wanted to speak to the person next to you.

THE UGLY

  • Pissoirs by Pandæmonium, left the stage with an almost constant pee smell, plus a pee lake at some point. Pretty disgusting, and I’m sure this can be made better in the future.

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