Festival Report 2012

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Through the gates of hell
On our way to Slayer
Through the circlepit
Primo Metalia!

Yes, the 15th of June was here, and the gates of hell were once again opening in Copenhagen from another edition of Denmark’s wickedest metal festival – Copenhell!
Second year for us, third year as a whole, how would they keep the heat up and increase the damage to our everlasting souls this time around?
For one thing, they had opened up a new circle of hell for us, thus expanding the festival area somewhat, which made it possible to expand the third stage, the one for the up-and-coming acts. This stage was now named Pandæmonium, adding another chapter to the already fittingly called Hades (2nd stage) and Helvíti (main stage).
The stages weren’t the only thing which had been given a facelift though, the much appreciated beer garden from last year was also expanded into a much larger tent which this year not only had a DJ booth, but also the possibility of a good dose of metal karaoke, where you were backed by a live band! What a great idea, and definitely one that pulled a crowd during the two days of hell...

Well, now I said two days, and that’s technically correct in a way, but in the name of expansion, the good people who run Copenhell had actually generously added a pre-party day Thursday evening with some live music as well for the metal-thirsty masses.
Sadly, Metalmoments was unable to attend this party, but have been informed that Svartsot who opened the show, followed by Mordax and finally Red Warszawa, were all up for the task of breaking the infernal lock on the gates of the beyond.
For our sake, we arrived in the middle of the set of the first band on the main stage on Friday, Skeletonwitch, and by this time the gates of hell were wide open and people were pouring in from all around. As we were adjusting to the new surroundings and constantly bumping into people we were more or less acquainted with, as well as having our debut visit to the bar, the band didn’t get all that much attention from us, but from what little I heard it didn’t really matter as this wasn’t to my liking anyway.
No, the first real concert experience for us was the next band up on Helvíti, Killswitch Engage, a band which I have not seen in many, many a year, and never with their original vocalist in place. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but man they took the festival by storm! Quickly followed by Brutal Truth on Hades, and then back to Helvíti for Anthrax, this was one tour de force of well-performed metal, the one heightening the bar after the other.
In a way it was sad I suppose, that this triplet from hell’s hottest circle was grouped together so early in the festival, as they together formed the musical highlight of the entire thing. That’s not to say that there weren’t great single concerts to follow, but the combination of all these three in a row proved too hard to overcome...

Later in the day, we did have some good experiences together with Gojira and Slayer as well, whereas All Shall Perish and Mastodon had to do without our presence as we were momentarily occupied with checking out the area and the karaoke situation.
Day two of Copenhell brought us both ups and downs in the musical contribution, but at least I must give the festival that it achieved its goal in providing a varied program genre wise. Bands like Dying Fetus, Meshuggah and Marilyn Manson tried to entertain us for a while, and bands like Saxon, Korpiklaani, Immortal and Soulfly succeeded. Other than that, there was a very successful return to the beer garden in the good company of friends, and much of the evening was spent in there singing along to DJ Odin’s selection of folk and power metal songs while swinging the odd beverage down our throats. I can’t say for certain when his playlist was over and done with, but I can say for sure that at the time, there was no stopping our singing and frolicking which went on into the wee hours of the night...

I must admit that on paper, Copenhell lacked a seriously great name in the line-up for my taste. There were a few I’d definitely go and watch since we were at the festival, and then there were even more which were ok to check again since we were there anyway, but the festival lacked a name or two to really grab my attention.
This turned out to be a problem at the festival as well, but certainly not in the way I would have expected it to; the program was simply so packed with music we found little time to do anything else than to watch concerts! As I mentioned, the Killswitch Engage / Brutal Truth / Anthrax triplet was the height of the festival for me, due in part to the fact that they came in direct succession so the energy never let up, but all three of them were bands I didn’t really expect much from going in, but all managed to blow me away with outstanding performances! Other than that, Korpiklaani and Saxon were also favourite shows of mine, but there I did expect greatness so they lacked the element of surprise which would have lifted them to the same level as the previously mentioned bands.
At the other end of the scale were Dying Fetus and Meshuggah, both of them tech-death bands who suffered from the same problem, i.e. being good musicians but forgetting that live music is even parts playing and performing, and finally Marilyn Manson whose attitude seemed more befitting a conceited primadonna than a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, an act which quickly grew tiresome to watch.

The real downside to this years’ festival though, lay in the simple fact that the amount of music, as mentioned above, made us unable to reach many of the other fun activities the festival have to offer. I for one was really looking forward to a trip back into Smadreland (Wrecking Country, or as I called it last year where I hadn’t found an official name for it – Scrapyard Blast-o-Rama) but was sad to miss out on it due to lack of time, just as we also missed out on the DOX:HELL cinema which again this year offered a mix of metal documentaries and horror films, some of which were introduced by the directors themselves! The photo-gallery of the famous black metal photographer Peter Beste was another feature cut because of lack of time on our side.
Well, no use crying over spilt beer as they say; we still managed to check out the new food stands, and even though I for one would have liked to have a cheaper alternative to the new vendors the festival had brought in, there was no denying that the overall quality had improved, and a place selling real-meal pancakes ended up being our food pusher of choice this year.
I feel I have been rather informative of the positive sides of the festival already, but will once again put in a positive word on the great idea of the live-band karaoke, which with its swinging quality of performers entertained the audience as much as the would-be rock heroes on stage.
Also, just like last year, I can only commemorate the effort of the ones making this festival come together, as well as the ones working hard during the festival to keep up the spirit of it all; Anders Bøtter (Sort Søndag) was once again a power-house of an announcer between bands, the pit-guards were constantly smiling no matter how many crowd-surfers fell into their laps, and the organisation behind the curtains deserves a giant hand for keeping this monster running on time the whole way through (except for the Manson show, but I sincerely doubt that it was delayed by anyone working for the festival...). The only real improvements I can think of in retrospect is that it could be nice to have the drinking tickets back again from last year (this way you wouldn’t have to carry so many beers at once while shooting for the cheaper price deals) as well as possibly imposing a deposit on beer cups to lessen the amount of trash lying around (works well in Germany and other countries in my experience).
Also, next year I hope the weather doesn’t prevent the burning of the wicker man, as this felt a bit anti-climactic this year with the rain...

All in all though, Copenhell proved quite capable of kicking in the gates of hell and kneeing the man in red in the groin once again, and even with the increased amount of visitors (about 10K this year) and yet another year of doubtful weather, they still held the steam up through the entire two and a half days of metal mayhem and delivered a high quality festival well worthy of a high position in the already crowded European league.

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