When Copenhell Freezes Over 2015

support Förtress + Night Fever + Fossils + Hexis + Deus Otiosus + Paceshifters
author PP date 24/01/15 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

For the second year in a row, the organizers behind Copenhell in collaboration with Music Export Denmark organized a winter version of Copenhell of sorts, When Copenhell Freezes Over. It's a full showcase of upcoming talent from within the Danish underground rock and metal scene with five prominent names on the lineup: Deus Otiosus, Hexis, Fossils, Night Fever and Förtress. A series of high-profile journalists, promoters and agents were invited from across Europe to attend, alongside a breadth of local media and of course a few hundred Danish music fans as well, presenting an excellent opportunity for the selected bands to give their best arguments for why they should deserve a shot at international fame. The whole evening was presented by Sort Søndag radio profile Anders Bøtter, whose enthusiastic presentation of each band was sure to get the crowd riled up into a frenzy of activity throughout the evening.

That wasn't his only involvement tonight, though, for those yearning for a more in-depth look into the inner workings of the music scene were invited for a free debate panel down at Ideal bar earlier that evening between three prominent metal producers in Denmark, Jacob Hansen, Tue Madsen and Jacob Bredahl. More on that in a separate article next week.

As usual, beer prices had been reduced from the ridiculous 60 DKK a pint to a more reasonable (though still pricey) 40 DKK a piece, a nice detail from Copenhell and Vega's side that usually ensures way more will be consumed. As we know from other Danish shows with cheaper bar prices, the more intoxicated the crowd gets, the better the participation usually is, which certainly held true tonight especially towards the end of the evening.

Tonight, the venue is divided into two stages. The traditional Lille Vega room serves as one of the scenes, but the more interesting addition is the upstairs lounge from here, which is extremely rarely used for concerts so for many people here including the undersigned, this represented the first opportunity to take a look at what we find hiding over here. Tonight, it is apparently a dutch band called Paceshifters, who have been invited to open tonight's festivities as a part of a band-exchange deal between Music Export Denmark and Dutch equivalent 'Buma ROCKS!', which will see a Danish band travel to Holland later on this year.

Paceshifters

Paceshifters

My first impression of Paceshifters? Looking around the venue I saw people rolling their eyes and staring in apparent surprise. Given the attached Copenhell brand to the event, most were expecting a metal band or at least a heavy hitting rock band in line with the rest of the bill. So when Paceshifters open with emo-style vocals that recall a mixture between Coheed & Cambria and alternative rock legends Our Lady Peace, it's certainly different. Luckily for us, Paceshifters' album "Breach" is a depth-laden piece of awesome progressively tuned alternative rock that recalls a more complex version of Our Lady Peace (think The Red Paintings style art rock here), so it takes but a couple of songs to convince the crowd they're the real deal. This happens especially given the crazed energy of their guitarist and bassist, who spend every instrumental opportunity away from the mics, crashing into the drum set and sometimes into each other as they rock out passionately to their music. The songs, as complex as they are, offer thick and impressive melodies that nonetheless are catchy enough to get into on first listen, so in the end the at first skeptical crowd is pretty much ready to buy it. The art rock vibe combined with a showcase feel overall, and a solid display of energy on stage means Paceshifters are a positive surprise tonight despite their very young age.

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Deus Otiosus

Deus Otiosus

Familiar faces here on Rockfreaks.net, Deus Otiosus have the honor of opening the standard Lille Vega stage tonight. Their brand of thick, rumbling death metal has been the subject of consistent praise on our pages, with yours truly suggesting they are one of the best death metal bands this country has to offer with their traditional and old school approach to the genre. Second song "Don't Fuck With The Dead" demonstrates just that by being a relatively catchy track despite the prevalent extreme ideals of their music, as is "Stand Up And Fight" that follows straight after, both aired from their excellent 2014 album "Rise". Known for their productivity, they air a new track tonight as well called "Greater Horror", so the band certainly aren't resting on their laurels despite having already released three albums in the last four years. As for their stage show, well, this could certainly use significant improvement from what we're seeing tonight. Their vocalist is practically glued to his spot in the middle, which creates a very stand still operation that isn't helped by the uniformity of their death metal expression. Aside from standard headbanging from their axe-wielding members, their set quickly descends into a state of nothing is really happening despite it's short 30 minute duration. Sure, "Iron Rule" closes the performance on a positive note, but overall the band fail to capture the crowd's imagination tonight. Shame, they are solid on record. While certainly not bad, it's difficult to get excited over their performance tonight.

Hexis

Hexis

128 shows in 2014. That's a statistic no other Danish band is able to top, and that wealth of live experience is starting to show as Hexis are truly coming into their own as a devastating live band in 2015. The room is encompassed in thick layers of smoke as the band enter stage accompanied by massive amounts of strobe lighting. To say that the atmosphere is creepy and evil is an understatement; the band's menacing performance equally much so. With a level of aggression that rapidly descends the crowd into utter chaos as vocalist Filip Andersen vaults himself against the crowd shaking like he's experiencing a seizure starts a session of pure insanity that is only rivaled by The Psyke Project's legendary performances. It doesn't take long before he's crowd surfing while delivering his mortifying shrieks simultaneously. At the same time, crowd is headbanging in unison whilst the band members strike back-and-forth in wave-like movements ending up high above the crowd using the monitors as platforms to project their rage. Filip launches himself into the crowd again; the band engages in explosive movement on stage that is as energetic as TPP ever was, and equally brooding and blackened atmosphere wise. Three months ago I posed a question to the scene in my farewell article to The Psyke Project of the throne is up for taking - it'll be exciting to see who, if any, will take it?. As far as I'm concerned, it has been claimed by Hexis tonight. Their performance was a pure power demonstration that displayed the band's immense talent in atmospherics. Not just musically, but also visually and in terms of creating a very distinct and specifically pitch black mood. Simply incredible energy on display tonight.

Fossils

Fossils

Back downstairs we find groovy instrumental rock duo Fossils ready to hop on stage with matching shirts of their own band. I'll readily admit not thinking much of their debut album primarily because the lack of vocals means it felt like it was missing a key element to keep things interesting, but that's not the case with their performance tonight. Showing formidable energy and noise for a two piece, the bass guitar vibrates throughout our collective bodies as the down-tuned distortion makes anyone not wearing earplugs feel sorry for not doing so. The dynamic on stage between the bassist and the drummer is intriguing, as they appear somewhat shy at times, yet exchange knowing looks during brief pauses in their instrumental onslaught that act as break points to get the crowd going crazy. After a few songs, I concede to having second thoughts about their album, but then again, groovy and rhythmic experiments such as theirs always work so much better live than alone in your living room with your headphones on. Crowd interaction is limited to announcing songs and brief stabs at humour, such as when the band announce a slightly more melodic piece as being as close as they get to emo. The dedicated crowd up front readily swings their heads back and forth to the rhythmic pulsations of the music, but the highlight of the set is when Jacob Bredahl (ex-Hatesphere) joins on vocals for a song. It's an interesting contrast to how their regular songs would be with a vocalist, and based on this single appearance, I'm inclined to think: better. There's only so much you can get out of purely instrumental music before noting that by adding in another element in terms of vocals, it could get so much better. Still, Fossils' performance was solid.

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Night Fever

Night Fever

Celebrated as one of the very best hardcore punk bands in Copenhagen, Night Fever have been quietly gathering a sizable following in our local scene, which is very evident based on the crowd reaction tonight. An enormous mosh pit opens pretty much immediately as the band get on stage, thanks to lightning speed cuts of hardcore that are ideal for frenetic pit activity. Unfortunately, there are severe sound issues at play throughout their set; the vocals appear to only be coming through the monitors meaning that if you're standing anywhere else than in the pit, the only thing you're hearing are the tight riffs and rest of the instrumentals with vocals being way too faint in the mix to be enjoyed properly. The result is monotonous songs played at a fast and aggressive stance with little regard to interesting song structures, so despite the drunk crowd going absolutely crazy up front and the band dumping their shirts for a bare-chested performance early on, the show leaves much to be desired musically. There's no denying in how much passion and energy the band puts into their display, but the lack of variety in their music overall and bad sound simply works against them tonight. Besides: loud, fast, and aggressive as the sole points of interest just isn't going to cut it in today's hardcore scene. For some reason this approach to songwriting seems symptomatic to the Danish scene - also seen in the metal scene in many cases - which is why we're still waiting for a Verse, a Comeback Kid, a Paint It Black, a Modern Life Is War or an equivalent genre-defining hardcore band to surface from this country.

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Förtress

Förtress

If there's one thing Förtress know how to do very well, it is image. Leather jackets, no shirt on underneath, the band look as sleazy and dirty as a classic rock'n'roll band should do in order to convey the same rowdy expression visually as they do through their music. Songs like "Year Of The Witch" and "Electric Mountain" are instant charmers with their classic 70s and 80s approach to rock'n'roll, especially when they are accompanied by synchronous head bangs and tri guitar moves on stage. Yes, the band definitely know how to use cheese to their advantage; the tongue-in-cheek attitude is what really separates Förtress from the all too serious cock rock imitators out there. As a result, Förtress both look and feel like they belong to a much bigger stage: this is what rocking out with your cock out expression was basically invented for. You need but to look at their lead guitarist and his facial expressions as he lives through his retro rock solos through his whole body to be convinced that this band is the real deal. The songs are extremely tight and well executed, the band displays prominent energy on the stage, and the attitude of their vocalist is absolutely in the right place. It's no wonder Anders Bøtter is found on stage during the last song with a few crowd members headbanging relentlessly as the band finish their set that mostly consisted of songs from "Legends" EP - it is a defining symbol of the rock and roll status Förtress enjoy in the underground. Excellent finish to an excellent night of varied music from the Danish underground. This is what the Copenhell experience is all about.

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Photos by: Philip B. Hansen

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