Festival Report 2011

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Come hell or high water!
Or maybe it should read; come hell AND high water, at least according to the preliminary weather reports…
This was one weekend which would be completely washed away according to the meteorologists, so hopes and expectations for my first Copenhell visit were not altogether high, I must admit.
Also, knowing that the Danish metal society isn’t the most interesting (or interested for that sake) in Europe (just compare to our closest neighbours in Sweden and Germany), I really wasn’t all that sure of what I was getting myself into, but having a full-blown metal festival so close to home (about thirty minutes by local bus!) just proved irresistible in the end…

Already on my way out there, the heavens opened up for the first time, but luckily someone with a sense for business had opened up a bar/hot dog stand on the way out to the festival area with some large parasols, under which’s safe-keeping I downed my first beer in the company of some friendly people.
As soon as the water moved not long after, it was time to head on over to the entrance which held a nice little line still, even though the place had been open for about two hours at this time. My guess is that most local visitors (yes, we did have a few here and there coming from far away as well) waited to go out there until after work instead of taking a whole day off, much like myself.
Anyway, in we went (I had by this time hooked up with Lunah Lauridsen, our photographer, and one more friend) and I soon learned that the first band on the agenda, and one of the ones I was looking the most forward to, had had to cancel due to some flight problems. The cancelled band was Kyuss Lives!, and they had quickly been replaced by the Danish classic thrash metal band Artillery. Admittedly, I was saddened by this, as I had been looking forward to seeing Kyuss Lives!. I never got around to seeing them back in the day, and now this chance was spoiled as well by forces outside anyone’s grasp.
I’ve never really listened much to Artillery, but must give them props for jumping in at such a late hour, and there was a good group of people up to watch them as well, so I guess someone was happy.

A nice thing was, and here we must give a big credit to the festival organization, that this was the one out of only two changes in the entire program; the other one was not a cancellation though, but the two bands All That Remains and Kvelertak changed times with each other (I’m guessing All That Remains were late in arriving at the festival, as they now had the later of the two times).
To be honest, the organization should be given great credit as a whole, as the festival as such was running very smoothly, and even though we were about 9000 people cramped together it never felt crowded, and there were never any big lines to speak of, no matter if what you were going for was a drink, something to eat, or toilet visits for that matter.
And while we’re on the subject, the hired security really surprised me as well; they were probably the kindest and most considerate group of guards I have ever seen at a festivity such as this (and I have tried quite a few by now). I mean, the guy who got a dildo stuck in his ear during the Anvil show shrugged it off with a smile and a laugh, and the guy catching crowd-surfers during Vanir always lent a shoulder to get them safely out of the pit, and checked if they were feeling ok before sending them back into the fray. Very nice to see such professionalism at work!

But good people only go so far, they don’t make up the entirety of what a festival is. For that you need some form of activities.
Some festivals choose to rely more or less entirely on the music they’ve hired, others choose to have different pass-times where the visitors may indulge in other areas of interest as well, and Copenhell was definitely of the latter category!
The biggest thing they had going was the DOX:HELL cinema (named so because of the cooperation with CPH:DOX), where one could rest ones feet for a while in the company of cult-classics within the horror and metal genres. Films like the Heavy Metal Parking Lot and its follow-up Heavy Metal Picnic, as well as Anvil! The Story of Anvil which was introduced by none other than the members Anvil themselves. This was not the only celebrity guest to introduce a film though; horror legend Gunnar Hansen was also present to introduce the showing of the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre!

Of course, there were more things to do than sit around and watch films, you could also sit around and drink beer!
The biergarten was well stocked and could room quite a lot of people at once, and there were a number of guest-star DJ’s hosting, all bidding in with their own personal taste. One of the more worked through acts came from local party organizer Dennis Luke Graae, who used his theme of choice, pirates, to great extent, playing songs by Running Wild, Alestorm and the like, while having four or five young pirate girl dancing around the place and handing out bandanas.
Now, if that didn’t pick your fancy, there was also a Space Invaders looking game which you controlled by using a guitar! Never got to try that one, but it looked like fun.
My personal favourite though, that was the Scrapyard Blast-o-Rama (my name, I don’t know if there was an official one) which was located opposite the Helvíti Stage (main stage). Basically what it was, was a fenced in area with all sorts of waste, from paintings to flower pots, from computers to cars, where you could go in, pick up a steel pipe, a length of wood, or whatever picked your fancy, and just bash away to your heart’s content! Really, I was smashing an old Volkswagen with an exhaust pipe, while Anvil was playing Metal On Metal on stage, and it felt amazing!

But of course, there was also music to be heard. This was a metal festival after all.
This was possibly, by my standards, where there is the most room for improvements in the future. Ok, so the festival was only on its second year, and most likely lack the same kind of budget as the larger and longer running festivals, but I was missing some of those must-see bands which you always like to have a couple or more of on the billing.
Seeing away from that, the festival had gone to some extent to try and come up with a varied program for us to enjoy. The deadly death squad had bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide to look forward, while the black-hearted ones would probably feel more at home in the presence of Mayhem.
More progressively inclined people would certainly look favourably at the addition of Opeth, and old-school and new-school metalheads could respectively rejoice in seeing Judas Priest and Korn.
For me, there was only one band who stood above the others, and that was GWAR!
In addition to the two larger stages, Helvíti and the slightly smaller Hades, there was something called the talent or upcoming stage, where unsigned or recently signed and released newer bands could pick a fight with the larger names of the billing for the attention of the metal-hungry visitors of the festival.
The first day came and went without me feeling especially blown away by what I had heard. Sure, there had been a few entertaining acts, but nothing major so far… The most impressive stunt was Opeth succeeding in sending 9000 people to sleep all at once! I mean, I know these guys are kind of boring, but come on!
The second day however, that would prove to hold the real nuggets of gold that I was looking for, and it held quite a few of them at that! Anvil kicked the day off in a great way, and thrashed the hangover right out of my skull! Later, both Vanir and Morbid Angel would show a surprisingly seductive face, and in the end the mighty GWAR would close down the festival in a shower of blood…

At the end of the night, the wicker man which had been overseeing the whole festival was lit up, and in the cool of night the furious flames warmed our bodies and souls as this year’s festival came to an end. I stood there and watched it burn to the ground, surrounded by several of my fellow festival goers, and I had an almost melancholic feeling. This was the end, and yet I felt positive and strong in revitalized belief in the Danish metal community. If we can get a festival as good as this one turned out to be up and running, and have as cool an audience as the one I had seen around me for these two days to come and visit it, what can’t we do?
So, with this, there was only one thing left to do. Head on over to the biergarten, and party and drink till the wee hours of the morning! (actually, I’m not sure when the place the closed down, the music was still blasting and drinks were being poured when I had to give up…)

So, highlights and low-points of this year’s Copenhell?
As I’ve mentioned already, a definite low-point for me was the cancellation of Kyuss Lives! and there were some things I would have liked to see but missed because of lack of time. Then again, that is really just a good reason to come back next year I suppose…
The biggest mistake was definitely when GWAR began playing before Morbid Angel was done,this was not good enough dear friends!
Highlights then.
Wow, well there were a number of highlights to be honest.
First and foremost, a big thanks to the weather gods for holding off with the planned drowning of the festival! Sure, it did rain, and it rained hard, but only in very short intervals and there never really came anything during the concerts we had planned to see.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the place for breaking stuff. You have to try it to fully appreciate.
Also, great organization, you don’t know how important this is until you’ve tried a bad one (yeah Magic Circle Festival, I mean you!). Also conferencier Anders Bøtter (host of the radio show Sort Søndag) did a great job firing the audience up before the shows.
In music, GWAR and Vanir delivered top entertaining performances, and Morbid Angel really took me by surprise with a great atmosphere.

Now I guess there isn’t much more to say than, keep up the great work, and hopefully we’ll meet up again someday!

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