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LIVE REVIEW: Copenhell Festival, 20-23.06.2018

in Live Reviews by
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Beneath the swathes of denim jackets, bullet belts and Iron Maiden back-patches, Copenhell is a pleasingly diverse gem of an alternative musical festival that refuses to cater solely to the metal old guard. Of course, some of this year’s big names are cornerstones of the heavy world — from Avenged Sevenfold to W.A.S.P. and Ozzy — but the meaty line-up is pitted with artists that draw on everything from EDM to opera.

Even before the festival kicks off in earnest — on the inadequately titled ‘warm-up’ night — Copenhell makes a bruising statement of intent by hosting the grandfathers of post-metal, Neurosis. With only the festival’s smallest stage open to them, Neurosis work through a set made up of swaggering slabs of riffs and passages that wind to dead ends. The band’s tone is thick and cloying, almost claustrophobic — the sort usually reserved for small sweatboxes— but sounding satisfyingly heavy outdoors thanks to some deft sound-work.

In the harsh light of the festival’s official first day, Copenhell reveals its true bounty. The standard festival fare of food and merch stalls and bizarre sideshows are well put-together, but it’s Refshaleøen’s harsh industrial backdrop that really sets the mood. The 2000 metre2 unfaltering gaze of Fenrisulven — the Copenhagen wolf — watches over the weekend’s proceedings as 23,000 alternative music fans flood into the festival.

On paper, the opening day looks the weakest. The business end of Thursday hosts the likes of symphonic stalwarts Nightwish and bro-metallers Avenged Sevenfold, big crowd-pleasing acts that lack something in the way of nuance.

Lower down the bill, buried in the line-up, there’s much more to be had if the in-your-face stuff isn’t really your bag. While Parkway Drive are hardly subtle, their eco-metal manages both aggression and poignance. As the opening act on the main stage, Helviti, they have the dubious honour of setting the pace for the rest of the weekend and they do so with fiery aplomb.

Over on the smaller stage, gospel-cum-black metal act Zeal & Ardor are a different beast altogether. Their records have created a bit of a stir, so it’s gratifying to see their mix of spiritual chants from slave-era America and frosty screams land so well in the middle of the day. In less able hands, their Satan-fuelled ritualistic chants might seem trite or forced but a few songs in, the band have the crowd caught up in their thrall and chanting along.

Another black metal act, Danish born Møl, don’t quite summon the same trance-like state. As last minute replacements for bottled energy merchants Skindred, something gets lost in the mix. Their sensational new album, Jord, relies so much on high-end guitar to offset the grinding backdrop but it’s far too quiet and loses the flourishes that sets them apart from less by-the-book black metal acts.

Friday is an absolutely creaking with the prowess of its line-up so after inhaling all the caffeine and painkillers, we dive in.

Copenhell’s tendency to open the main stage with brutally high-energy acts continues. Nu-metal darlings Deftones could be a bit of an odd fit for this fairly traditional crowd, but they whip up a chaotic whirlpool in front of the stage with the likes of ‘Shove It’, ‘Rocket Skates’ and dripping-with-groove ‘Swerve City’. Chino is on masterly form, flinging himself around the stage and genuinely seeming to enjoy his crowd’s frenetic reception.

Yet more displays of kineticism comes from Japanese electronicore outfit Crossfaith. In front of a hard-drinking Danish crowd, their weird mash-up of EDM, blast beats and songs called things like ‘Jagerbomb’ goes off like a bomb.

After two back-to-back sweat-sets, Alice in Chains bring a pleasing and much-needed change of pace. The endless debates over Will Duvall’s suitability to replace deceased vocalist Layne Staley have finally — thankfully — seemed to abated. Duvall is a gold-standard frontman, easily as comfortable getting the crowd to bounce along to pulsing classic ‘Man in a Box’, wrenching heartstrings with the stripped-back ‘Nutshell’ or calling on the crowd to sing-along to new-era favourites like ‘Stone’.

The focal point of the weekend, Ozzy Osbourne, easily draws the biggest crowd. The man himself is on fantastic form, thundering around the stage and looking far more lively than he has in years, his live performances tempered to perfection by Black Sabbath’s wide-ranging The End tour last year.

Perhaps the biggest joy of the weekend comes from the addition of Zakk Wylde to Ozzy’s line-up. Wylde is a decidedly unsubtle guitarist, inserting pinch-harmonics into the least likely — and sometimes least appropriate — riffs and always on the cusp of dropping into a roaring solo. A big presence on stage, he isn’t eclipsed by the main man and intermittently steps forward and let’s rip.

The set is pretty close to spot on too, with three Black Sabbath covers — including the unexpected ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ — and packed with fist-pumping, cheesy classics that have defined Ozzy’s career.

Saturday is no less eclectic in its variety, and caters to all manner of tastes; whether you’re into experimental French avant-garde breakcore (Igorrr), cock-rock (Steel Panther) or even swashbuckling pirate metal (Alestorm), the final day of the festival is a veritable smorgasbord of heaviness.

The anticipation of the festival’s main stage closing act, Ghost, has built to fever pitch by the time frontman Cardinal Copia and his unnamed ghouls and ghulehs take to the stage, which is mocked up, fittingly, like a cathedral.

When Ghost started out they were a bit of sideshow, with fans as interested in the band’s Satanic garb as their music. Recent albums have completely overturned this misconception; Copia is undoubtedly theatrical but their musical content is bold and has hooks for days.

Songs like ‘Square Hammer’, ‘He Is’ and ‘Faith’ could comfortably be delivered by globe-straddling pop stars were the lyrics not about giving souls over to Satan. But when you think they are at risk of taking themselves too seriously, they escort out some geriatric black mass bishop to deliver the sax solo in ‘Miasma’.

The whole set is uplifting, amusing and mesmerising, in a way that only these Swedish rockers can be. A fitting end to a festival that refuses to be painted into a box.

Festival report: Copenhell

in Live Reviews by
Copenhell crowd

Photos by Alexander Brandel. Text by Oliver Brandel

Placed at the old facilities of B&W. A Modern waste land in central Copenhagen. Just 50 meters

from the old metal foundry, we find Copenhell. The biggest metal/rock in Denmark( and probably

the only one worth mentioning.) The festival saw the day of light in 2010, and have now grown

quite big over the last 5 years.

Before arrival I heard that the tickets for thursday and friday was sold out. The expectations were

high. After entering the gate to Copenhell I was mildly disappointed. So much space, so few

guests. I stood in the food area, where every kitchen was given a cliché name, like “Hell Burger”

and “Devil’s Thai Corner”. From there I could spot all 3 scenes at the Copenhell. Helviti, Hades and

Pandæmonium. No music, just people walking around, laying down on the hill, that surrounds and

the area, and enjoying the sun, just like the rest of Copenhagen.

Gojira live at Copenhell
Gojira live at Copenhell

All in all, the surroundings didn’t really impress and I thought that this was going to be a very long

festival. Yeah sure, you had all the vital stuff a true metal festival needs. Viking land, pop-up tattoo

shop, patch shops, beers and pork barbecue. But all that couldn’t counter the the fact that it felt

deserted and some how half finished.

Suddenly, the warmth of a thousand suns (It felt that way) blasted through the area. Copenhell

used a very clever technique to tell the audience, that a new band was entering a stage. BIG A**

FIREBALLS. Now we were talking!

I was soon to realize the real nature of Copenhell.

The strength of the festival wasn’t this half-finished apocalyptic waste land. It was amazing bands,

amazing audience and an amazing vibe of love, not just for the music, but for all fellow metal

heads gathered at the end of world, or at least Copenhagen.

 

Solbrud live at Copenhell
Solbrud live at Copenhell

Solbrud

Solbrud went on stage and gave the audience what they asked for. Uncompromised black metal,

just as it should be. With the debut album “Jærtegn”, Solbrud really made something special. An

album that made all the critics bow down to the new heroes of black metal.

The frontman Ole Luk screamed like he was possessed by Satan himself. The quartet from

Denmark showed everybody why the hype was so big and very real. For the first time in my life, I

actually enjoyed black metal. An demonstration of brutal force and big talents.

Primus live at Copenhell
Primus live at Copenhell

Primus

Big mushrooms on the stage, funny smelling tobacco in the air. Primus was about to enter Helviti.

With Les Claypool in front, slapping the bass to pieces, Primus took us to their psychedelic world.

the cartoonish and wierd music that makes the band who they are, doesn’t really work at a venue

like this. Slow beats and a lot of funny noises didn’t make the crowd go crazy. They tried, they

really did. I don’t blame the band, I blame the bookers. It was not a bad concert at all, it just

seemed misplaced, especially when 80% of crowd only know the for their contribution to the South

Park intro.

Turbonegro live at Copenhell
Turbonegro live at Copenhell

Turbonegro

The Norwegian band Turbonegro is mostly known for their parody of rock n roll and Pride worthy

outfits. It was stupid and funny, just like you want Turbonegro to be. Who dosen’t love Hank von

Helvete, the chubby frontman in hot pants and face paint. They gave everything they had and the

audience enjoyed every second of the musical comedy on stage. Always funny to watch. If you

don’t like music, just bring your best earplugs and have a laugh!

Gojira

The best concert at Copenhell. Period. No one stood a chance. No friendly chit-chat with fans, no

funny comment, just pure evil death and technique. The French band Gojira dominated the stage

and spanked the ears of the audience. Hypnotizing death mixed with the sounds of djent makes a

perfect cocktail, just ask your bartender. Especially the L’Enfant Sauvage gives a perfect picture of

what modern death should sound like. There is nothing more to say. The came, they saw, the

conquered.

Crowd at Copenhell
Crowd at Copenhell
Marduk live at Roskilde Festival
Marduk live at Roskilde Festival

Marduk

Probably the most evil and satanic band on the bill this year. The devil frontman, Mortuus, screams

out “are you fucking with us tonight?!”. The responds was silence. People just stood there, liked

they were nailed to the pavement. I’ve got the feeling, that this concert was going to fall directly to

the ground. Sure it was last day and people were drunk and tired, but still, there was almost no

response for the 2/3 parts of the concert. At last! Marduk succeeded with getting the crowd going,

but it wasn’t enough to save the concert, although they play quite well.

Asking Alexandria live at Copenhell
Asking Alexandria live at Copenhell

Asking Alexandria

The pretty boys from Great Britain went on stage and first pit was filled with women, waiting for

their One Direction of metal. Mixing metal with electronic music from Sonar festival, is not best

combination, but the ladies didn’t care, because the band is cute. It was quite obvious to see, that

a lot of the crowd only bought their ticket to see AA, and didn’t come for the “real” metal. But what

can you say. Their music is catchy and the hardcore fans loved it. No great technique or lyrics, but

a hell of energy and presence. It was actually not as bad, as I would have thought.

The Darkness live at Copenhell
The Darkness live at Copenhell

The Darkness

Wasn’t this supposed to be a metal festival? Sure, all the people at Copenhell knows “I Belive In A

Thing Called Love” and can probably sing the most of it, but aren’t these guy like 60 years old by

now? It is clear from the get-go that this is going to be one hell of a tough crowd as the audience is

filled with conservative metal heads. But the guys from The Darkness actually did it! With their 70s

rock and roll attitude, funny performance and well mastered instrument, it was possible to conquer

the audience. They gave a good show, but it was possible to tell that the band was a bit road-worn

after the last 15 years. Especially when singer, Justin Hawkins, couldn’t hit his signature high

notes. Very funny, but not amazing.

 

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