Metallica

support Aphyxion
author PP date 02/09/17 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

Back in February, we celebrated the inauguration of Royal Arena in Copenhagen, a brand new 15000 capacity multi purpose venue, through four Metallica performances. All four nights were sold out within days thanks to hype and buzz by the promoters, who indicated that Metallica would make each night special setlist-wise, not to even mention that the scene would be placed right in the middle of the floor for a 360-degree performance. Unfortunately, the band fell ill just before the first concert but decided to go through with it anyway with rather miserable results, so they decided to cancel show #2 to ensure a triumphant return to form four days later. It didn't take long for the band to announce a makeup date for all fans who had purchased tickets, although refunds were available to anyone who couldn't make it, which resulted in a small batch of tickets being released on the day of the concert. A class act, if you ask me.

Aphyxion

For each of the four shows, a Danish support band had been selected, which didn't turn out so well any of the four nights, this one included. While it's sure an opportunity of a lifetime for bands like Hatesphere, I'll Be Damned, Aphyxion and Defecto to be opening up one of the biggest stages in Copenhagen for the biggest metal band in the world, the problem is none of these bands are particularly good on record and certainly without arena-friendly soundscapes save for maybe Defecto's heavy metal.

Aphyxion

So as you might imagine, the result tonight was fairly predictable for melodic death metallers Aphyxion: the enthusiasm of the band on stage was palpable with especially vocalist Michael Vahl wandering across the stage with a grin on his face despite the ugly nature of his guttural death metal growls, whereas the crowd was mostly unimpressed. Who can blame them? The sound was atrocious at this point with the bass drums drowning any melodies underneath steady, ear-blistering vibrations and oomphs. "Hvad så, København!? ", shouts Vahl to open the set, showcasing some of the world renowned Jylland-charm on stage. The cozy chatter continues throughout where at one point he tells an anecdote about Aphyxion starting ten years ago playing covers of Guns 'N Roses, AC/DC and, yes, Metallica. "Do you know how insane it is to stand on this stage in front of so many people playing before Metallica?", he continues in a spirited manner that says a lot about what a huge moment this is for him and the band.

Fair enough, and the band certainly do their best, but unaccustomed to a 360-degree stage their scene show is rather dull and nondescript and combined with the muddy sound, they don't exactly excite the Metallica audience aside from the few rows up front. The last few tracks are solid, but not enough to leave us with a memorable impression.

Metallica

About an hour later, the arena is starting to look packed aside from the no-shows who probably missed out on the refund opportunity back in February. The stage is ready in the middle - this time with a few extra props compared to the shows seven months ago, more on that later. As usual, the familiar tones of "The Ecstacy of Gold" whip the crowd into a frenzy right away. It's oddly bewildering how closely we've all begun to associate the Ennio Morricone song with the introduction to Metallica shows over the years, but such dark and metallic undertones does it carry. And then: time for that special set list we've been promised. The arena explodes into a roar when Metallica starts shredding to "Hardwired", the aggressive opening track from their latest album "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct" from last year, which merges right into its successor "Atlas, Rise!".

Metallica

Let's get the new stuff out of the way first, we think, especially after Hetfield's proud "Hey, welcome back Copenhagen to the show that never was... here's some old stuff for you" comments lead us into huge sing alongs for "Kill 'Em All" classic "Seek & Destroy" from 1983. At this point, the cubic video screens high above the stage begin dropping down in different formations, creating a cool and a much-needed effect for something else than the derided One Man Concert Experience that the 360-degree stage often results in with band members shifting stations in what feels like pre-agreed times. For "Through The Never", another oldie off The Black Album, the cubes begin vibrantly changing color, creating a unique look on stage that's a big improvement from the straight up metal show that we experienced in February, for instance.

Metallica

But that's about it for old glory, for now at least. The next 45 minutes or so are spent in an anonymous territory as the band play through an unusually modern and anonymous setlist consisting of primarily material from "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct". No wonder they have to resort to awkward stunts like all band members smashing giant electronic drum boxes for an alternative drum solo during "Now That We're Dead", for instance, or the bass vs guitar battle on "Halo On Fire", because while these songs are decent, they are not exactly crowd pleasers. Of course, "The Day That Never Comes", the best song off "Death Magnetic", sounds great and draws impressive sing alongs for a newer Metallica song, but for instance, the cover of Budgie's "Breadfan" is totally lost on the crowd and feels rather pointless in the setlist.

Metallica

It says a lot that the biggest sing alongs during the middle section of the set come from "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and "Fuel", which is accompanied by pyro effects on stage. Otherwise, the setlist choices result in a rather uneventful and unexciting first half of the concert. You know how I can tell from the floor? A quick glance over at the crowd on my left has most people sitting down, where they were all standing and upping the irons for songs like "Seek & Destroy" and "Through The Never" earlier.

But from "Fuel" onwards, Metallica does what Metallica does best: play some of the greatest songs in metal history and the atmosphere quickly rises from decent to ecstatic. "Moth Into Flame" proves once again that it is by far the best song off "Hardwired..." with dynamic riffs and a proper thrash metal sound. The song is accompanied by what are quite possibly the coolest light effects I've seen at a concert to date: individually controlled mini drones with lights on that look like fist-sized moths or tiny UFOs flying in different patterns above and around the band members on stage.

Metallica

The lights turn on because Hetfield & co want to take a better look at the crowd. They spot Alexander, a nine-year-old fan to whom "Sad But True" is dedicated as they ask the crowd who is at their first Metallica show ever tonight. Nice touch. Here, the sing along is enormous, but nothing compared to "One" and especially "Master Of Puppets" straight after. The former has the venue literally shaking from the bass-effects by the bombs in its intro, and it's fretwork and melodies are as back-chilling as they come in metal. For the latter, the "Master...Master" chants are nothing short of epic in the 15000-strong audience - I can just imagine what that must feel like for the band, who are grouped around Ulrich's drum kit in the middle to thrash the last part of the song out. In contrast to the newer material, these songs are what people pay 725 DKK to hear live.

Metallica

A quick encore and the band returns for more old material: "Fight Fire With Fire", "Nothing Else Matters", and of course, the audience favorite "Enter Sandman". The latter two feature thunderous, arena-wide echoing sing alongs from the crowd, with fireworks going off at the end of "Enter Sandman" from the middle of the stage for good measure. They close out a legendary 45-minute segment that rescues the boring first half of the show through decades worth of metal classics and experience in driving arena shows home. Had the entire concert been at this level, we'd be in the high 9's on our scale no doubt. But alas, the part never really started until "Fuel" (some might even argue "Sad But True"), and one can't but help but think that the promised 'special set' from February didn't originally look like this, because the band has been playing the exact same setlist in August in preparation for their upcoming European tour. It's a shame, especially because the band was otherwise on fire tonight. With Ulrich actively rising off his chair to enthusiastically gesture at the crowd, and the rest of the band consistently moving around the stage looking like they're having a great time, the potential was there for the best show of the four Copenhagen concerts. Instead, the Thursday show from February eclipses this one by a solid measure.

7

Setlist:

  • 1. The Ecstacy Of Gold + Hardwired Intro
  • 2. Hardwired
  • 3. Atlas, Rise!
  • 4. Seek & Destroy
  • 5. Through The Never
  • 6. The Day That Never Comes
  • 7. Now That We're Dead
  • 8. Dream No More
  • 9. For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • 10. Halo On Fire
  • 11. Breadfan (Budgie cover)
  • 12. Fuel
  • 13. Moth Into Flame
  • 14. Sad But True
  • 15. One
  • 16. Master Of Puppets
  • --Encore--
  • 17. Fight Fire With Fire
  • 18. Nothing Else Matters
  • 19. Enter Sandman

Photos by: Stefan Straten

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVII Rockfreaks.net.