Festival Report 2017

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

There is an English spoken idiom, which claims that there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. Add rain at Copenhell to that, and you've got something. A wet festival, for one thing.

Yes, the constant companion for every festival guest and worker at Copenhell was back for another year, and with a vengeance! Not exactly sure what it was seeking to revenge, but I guess that's beside the point.
Honestly though, who cares? The Danish, Swedish, and some other places as well, metal community was once again gathered before the Gates of Hell, for three days of heavy frolicking at the harbour of Copenhagen. Copenhell was on, and so were we...

Quite befitting for the name of the festival, the American band DevilDriver was the first band we got to see this year, as they opened up the Hades stage on the first day of the festival. This, dare I say it, great show, was only the starting point though, as, in my humble opinion, Copenhell had once again outdone itself when it came to booking bands. I mean, just check out this headlining line – System Of A Down, Five Finger Death Punch, and Slayer. Slayer motherfucker, it was about time for them to return!
Just below these on the posters, the all-star line-up continued with names like Prophets Of Rage, Black Star Riders, and Rob Zombie! In case you haven't heard about the two first bands, Prophets Of Rage is basically Rage Against The Machine, but without original vocalist Zack de la Rocha, and Black Star Riders is basically Thin Lizzy, but of course without original vocalist Phil Lynott. Now, I know you have heard those names before! And in the highly unlikely event that you haven't heard the name Rob Zombie, well, go educate yourself. He's the main man from now dead and buried White Zombie, who's continued on to create arguably an even bigger name for himself after he moved on to do his own thing.
It was not only in the top layer that interest was to be found though, the mid and lower levels (of fame, not quality mind you) there was more gold to be found! Us here at Metalmoments were as pleased as Punch to see Psychotic Waltz added, Huldre was set for another go at the Hades stage, Powerwolf was set for a Copenhell debut. In Flames, Europe, Invocator, Carcass – I could go on and on, but I guess the point has been made. Copenhell was all in on the line-up!

With all these bands taking up our precious time, one would imagine that there wasn't much time left for sideshows and other activities, but staying true to their form, Copenhell wasn't about to lower the quality or quantity of these either!
Following an increase in the amount of guests the festival took in, we were now up at 23000 visitors, the layout of the festival had been slightly changed and expanded, so as better to house everyone. One of these changes, was that the old dry-dock had been opened, inside of which there were more food stands, and bars with larger selections than those out by the stages. It also housed an exhibit called Painted in Blood, with three nameworthy artists of metal art showing and selling some of their work. The artists were Thomas Ewerhard (Amon Amarth, Volbeat, Doro, etc.), Jan Meininghaus (Bolt Thrower, Kreator, Sacred Steel, etc.), and Björn Gooβes (Hatesphere, Vomitory, Hackneyed, etc.).
At the other end of the festival area, more space had been opened up as well, and now housed an outdoor skating rink, and in the Styx area, there was a new meet & greet tent, fittingly called Copenhello.
Favourites in reprise were the headbanging competition, the karaoke at the biergarten (a.k.a. Openhell, gotta love those puns), and the baths in the Viking village. And of course Smadreland, Copenhell's own destruction derby, which only increases in size and popularity for each passing year. This year, a special DJ house had been added, there was a tribune for spectators, and of course the ever-popular team competition DM in Destruction.
Good old The Maniac was back again, with his own show of hair raising spectacularity. With him was Visobel Black, who with her violin added another layer of oddity to the performance. A new feature in The Maniac's show, was the extended fireshow, which ended in a Mad Max inspired crescendo of The Maniac swinging a flamethrower guitar. While it was visually astounding, I missed the self-mutilating part of the show that really had me on edge in previous years. Just call me weird, if you will.

These were just some of the many, many activities that Copenhell had on offer, in the unlikely event that your musical schedule would find a break.
They would all have been for naught however, if it wasn't for all of the volunteers who, with their dedicated blood and sweat, made it all possible.
We usually hand it to the guards here, for being awesome, friendly, and letting drunken metalheads have their fun. They were no less awesome this year.
They weren't alone in this though. We had the great luck of coming across the best shirt seller we've ever met, while looking at the official festival gear. We didn't get her name, but I've never seen such care and dedication, in making sure her customers got the right size, taking the time to make sure everyone was happy and comfortable with their purchase. And did I mention that the official festival merchandise was marked as fair trade, Co2 neutral, and all sorts of goodliness? That’s well worth paying an extra buck for, and it wasn’t even all that much more expensive than other shirts on the festival. On a side-note to this, Copenhell, you should make more shirts. Not necessarily more designs, there were enough of them to go around, and different enough to hold something for everyone I'd venture, but some of them were completely sold out already by the first day, and even during the second day, several sizes of the remaining designs were also gone. It'd be great if one didn't have to rush in, to be sure to get the preferred shirt.
Also in the food stands, we met some people with smiles and an excess of energy – quite astounding, considering their stressful job. Regarding the food, I still think some of it is quite overpriced, but on the other hand, we found one meal with great value for money, the Vulgar Display Of Pølse from the Tulip grill tent, and one meal with unsurpassed taste, the curry turkey plate from the System Of Saigon tent. The power of pun was strong in the food area as well.

So, with all of these things lined up and in order, we could simply relax and have fun during our stay. Well, ok, relax may be saying too much. I mean, honestly, did you see that line-up?!
Of course, we had some expectations going in. Some bands we could almost pre-emptively say we would love, others we were interested in seeing because they were there, and a few, we didn’t expect too much from, to be honest. Having been a huge fan back in the day of their first span of activity, I was hugely impressed with Copenhell snagging System Of A Down, and having never seen Rage Against The Machine, I was very much looking forward to Prophets Of Rage as well, even though I haven’t ever really followed the band. And then there was Psychotic Waltz, another band that I give huge salutes to Copenhell for adding to the bill. Even though they’re not headliner size, they were still one of the bands all of us here at Metalmoments were looking forward to.
For more intimate details of the shows we saw, you should as always check out the individual reviews, but let me just add up the score here short, and sweet. There were very many shows that were well-played and entertaining, and very few disappointments, so overall, the score is almost as good as the line-up look on paper.
Day 1 was intense, in the sense that there wasn’t a single real break in our musical schedule. DevilDriver was our first band, and they opened the festival perfectly with much energy and a crowd that loved it. In Flames was, well, In Flames. I didn’t expect them to interest me, and they lived up to my expectations, but managed to pull themselves up a bit by the end. Prophets Of Rage and System Of A Down, neither of which we’ll be reviewing because of restrictions from their respective management teams, delivered their songs the way they should, but were ultimately disappointing. System Of A Down because of a complete lack of presence. Both Carcass and Ministry managed to pull the mood up and deliver good shows, but in the end, it was Invocator that completely slew the festival with a tight kick-ass show on the Pandæmonium stage.
Day 2 had a less intense schedule, for us anyway. Psychotic Waltz opened the day for us, also on the Pandæmonium stage, and they did it in the best possible way. The day couldn’t possibly get any better, and it didn’t, even though Powerwolf delivered a very strong late-night performance at the Hades stage. Airbourne and Five Finger Death Punch gave us just what we expected, for good and bad, yet what little we saw of Batushka (not reviewed, as we only managed to catch about half a song after Powerwolf) seemed interesting enough.
Day 3 had a late start for us, but after that it was an active day until the festival closed down. Huldre was our first concert, and you know I always love them, so no surprises there. Europe on the other hand, did surprise me, yet sadly not in a good way. They were the ultimate low-point of the festival, not to put too fine a point to it. Overkill was Overkill, again no surprises there, as was Red Warszawa. Slayer was well above their average standard and a delight to witness, but in the end, it was Rob Zombie that swept my feet away. Holy shit, what a performance! Not completely unexpected that it would be good, but good at this level, wow! Despite all I had thought going into this year’s festival, Rob Zombie blew all competition out of the water!

Still, huge thanks must go to Huldre as well. They were the band that finally managed to chase the rain away, and at the end of their show, the sun shone through for what must have been the first time during the entire festival.
But, you know what? A bit of rain, or as it were, a whole truckload of it at times, has never hurt anyone. Except for when it has, of course. Still, with the location that Copenhell has, in an old harbour, it doesn’t matter all that much. Most of the ground is covered with cement anyway, so the only patch of mud we found was not much bigger than a foot. Pools of water gathered of course, but the festival management was quick to call in vacuum trucks to take care this problem.
And other complaints? I don’t know, some minor things here and there perhaps, nothing big enough to stick to my memory. All things considered, this was yet another awesome year, at what has quickly risen to be my favourite of all the festivals I have ever visited. Also the punniest one. This makes me proud to be part of the Danish metal community.

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