Festival Report 2013

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

They say third time’s the charm, but as I had already been plenty charmed by Copenhell the first two times around I wondered what was left in store for me now as we once again returned through the gates of Hell leading to Denmark’s wickedest festival out there on Refshaleøen…

Well, for one thing the festival management had teased our appetite with sending one of the strongest line-up’s so far onto the field – for a while there it looked like I wasn’t necessarily the target audience, but there’s no denying that acts such as King Diamond, Alice In Chains, Amon Amarth and Accept cater for a wide audience with a taste for quality!
As for another good reason, the festival has proven time and again in the past that they are perfectly capable of handling an undertaking of this magnitude, and they make it look like no effort at all – if there is one point I always bring up when describing the festival to someone, it is how well planned and executed it is, everything just seems to run so smoothly that you have to wonder why everyone doesn’t do it like this!
The good people behind Copenhell had also done theirs for keeping us on the rim of hell outside of the festival days – back in early February they held the When Copenhell Freezes Over indoor event, in early May there was the Copenhell Metal Cruise, and finally on the day before the festival there was Forhelvede, the pre-party where only the area in front of the Pandæmonium stage was open and saw four bands play. Apparently, there is someone working with Copenhell who enjoys puns as much as the rest of us, or at least as much as I do – the When Copenhell Freezes Over is quite self-explanatory, whereas Forhelvede is not only the word by word translation of Pre-Hell, but also a very common Danish curse word.

Out of all these events, we partook only in Forhelvede, and even there we didn’t manage to catch any of the bands I’m sad to say. We had had a plan of at least watching Hatesphere, the headliner of the day, but the rainy weather and general fatigue had the consequence that a single beer and a quick walk round the place, looking into some of the merchandise stands was all we got around to – better to get some sleep and energy for the days to come, as the program promised of concerts from opening to closing time both days!
Because of this, we were in great shape for Amon Amarth who opened Helvíti, the main stage, on the first day, and from there the only way to travel was the highway to hell, ending in a burning and blistering encounter with the devil himself, King Diamond, who was closing down the festival the day after.
It wasn’t that we hadn’t been warned of the consequences of going to Copenhell, a couple of Christian zealots had gone public in the days and weeks before the festival about the dangers of heavy metal, living your dreams and in general just having a good time. One was too afraid to make a personal appearance on site, whereas the other promised of several Christians standing around the festival to save our souls, and more than this they also held prayer meetings leading up to the festival, wishing that God would let it rain over the festival to wash away the demons or some such...
Well, what can I say? 2013 saw the most dry Copenhell to date (fail number one), and as far as I could see, only one guy was standing preaching, close to the shuttle-bus station. He told us he wanted a life without cancer or disease, without sin, a life in peace, and then he went on to ask us what we wanted to which one guy was sharp enough to shout; ”I wanna rock!”, which brings the score to Metalheads : 2, Fanatics : 0.
Why am I spending time on this you ask? Well, for one thing I am shocked that this sort of behaviour still exist in modern day Denmark, a country more or less bereft of belief in general, but more so actually because I simply loved the 'I wanna rock' reply, the timing was impeccable!

As I mentioned above, Copenhell didn’t have its usual moist (putting it kindly) weather, but rather a terrific blue sky and a warm sun stared down at us for the entire time. Well, almost anyway, there was that Grave concert...
Yes, Grave was nearly drowned as they played on the Pandæmonium stage, there was a veritable cloudburst coming down on us and the strong wind was such that the water flew almost horizontally straight into the stage! Because of this weather, Testament who were up next on Helvíti were delayed for a good while as the guards were making sure people didn’t get to close to the stage in case something should fall – yes, it was that bad, and even though in the end nothing happened, I am still glad they took the precaution – too vividly do I still remember the Sonisphere accident in 2010.
This wasn’t the only major delay the festival saw either, no Alice In Chains managed to blow out a generator during their headlining show on the Friday, putting an abrupt end to a show that had ranked the best of the day up to that point! About fifteen-twenty minutes later things were up and running again, and the band could come back out and play a few ending songs before leaving.
These were both accidents that were hard to do something about beforehand though, but there was one thing that plagued Copenhell worse than the biblical locust storms ravaged Egypt, and that was a notoriously bad sound coming from all of the stages, especially Helvíti and Hades! Too often we had a hard time hearing guitars (and in bad cases vocals as well) due to the fact that the speakers simply didn’t seem to be able to manage the amount of bass they were fed, making all the bass sounds sound distorted and drowning out other stuff. I’ll admit to the sound in general being better if you stepped away from the stage, but how does that help when you want to headbang your neck to pieces on the frontline?

It wasn’t all bad though, actually it was quite the opposite, or at least as close as anyone can hope to get – once again Copenhell offered up a formidable experience, where the main feeling was that everything worked.
The dynamic duo of Anders Bøtter and Carsten Holm as hosts worked like a charm and had the crowd answering loudly and proudly “HELL” after some well-placed “Copen” before the shows. Heck, even though Bøtter’s voice was shot to pieces the last day of the festival, he could still get the crowd all rallied up no matter who was about to enter the stage.
The biergarten, which might have lessened slightly in size since last year or was I just too drunk to notice that time around, was a good place to crash when your feet were giving in, and you could entertain yourself by participating in the live-band karaoke or just sit back and watch the differing talent of others.
Copenhell also opened up for a completely new area this year, Asgård, a Viking village located just behind the biergarten where you could enjoy old-fashioned grilled meat, beers, axe-throwing competitions (am I the only one seeing the danger in the combination of the two?) and other historic pass-times.
Not that Copenhell had lessened on other points of attraction to make this possible, Smadreland (the wrecking ground) was still up and running, and the foosball games and win-a-beer-by-headbanging competition sites were also populated much of the time – sadly (well, it’s hard to know if that really is the right word here) due to the immense program Copenhell had mustered, we didn’t have much time delving deep into any of these activities this year...

Speaking about the program, that was one thing which really offered up some unexpected surprises (is there any other kind?), where pre-appointed favourites disappointed with routine gigs and bands I really hadn’t expected to bother seeing all the way through delivered some of the festivals top performances!
We didn’t get round to Pandæmonium much as it was mostly placed at the same time or at least overlapping with music we wanted to hear on the main stages, but I think we got the most important parts out of it anyway – Malrun for instance proved to be just what the doctor had ordered as they (for us) opened the festival there early Saturday!
Hades was the place to rock out, which we gladly did to Newsted and Illdisposed to name a few, and Helvíti was the place for those grand shows that simply could fit on anything less than the largest of stages – Alice In Chains and King Diamond are two very different examples which had exactly this in common, but there were more of course.

I could go on mentioning specifics, like the ever smiling and helpful personnel, the ridiculously over-priced food or the cold and tasty beers which in contrast to the food came at a reasonable price of 40 DKR per glass (slightly reduced when bought in bulk), but instead of boring you with too much ranting about this or that, I’ll stick to saying that Copenhell, whoever was watching over it, did it once again!
The best thing about this festival is that we in Denmark finally have something large-scaled that not only brings out the best in the Danish metal community, but is something we can be proud of and brag about when going abroad – Copenhell can easily measure up to the festival standards of the rest of Europe, and for that I can only congratulate them and say; ”See you in 2014!”

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