Festival Report 2018

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Ninth edition of Copenhell - my, they grow up fast, don’t they?
We’ve been with this baby nearly from the start, year two to be exact. We’ve watched it grow, take its first steps, make its first growl. And we’re proud.
To think that we have something like this in the middle of Copenhagen, how awesome is that? Pretty damn awesome, if you ask us.

The big name on the poster this year was the legend himself. The original prince of darkness. Ozzy mother effing Osbourne.
That is quite a name for a festival this size, and maybe that’s why there really wasn’t space for any other band from the higher levels. On the other hand, when you cut back on super headliners, there’s much more room for your mid- and lower level bands (counting general fame, not quality here), and it was in these layers that Copenhell truly shone through this year. Of the more famous ones, there were your Ghost, Alice In Chains, and Nightwish. There were a lot of bands for the newer generation of metalheads - Avenged Sevenfold, Parkway Drive, and Bullet For My Valentine to name but a few.
On the more brutal side of things, why not go for a bit of Suffocation, Kreator, or Thy Art Is Murder?
Of course, you can’t have a metal festival without some true Norwegian darkness lurking in the corners, and also here Copenhell came prepared in the guise of Satyricon, Enslaved, and Tsjuder.
We could go on name-dropping bands for a long while yet, but I guess the point has sunk in - no matter how much people tend to complain, Copenhell delivered a varied program which catered to most, if not all, forms of metal on the periodic table.

In regards to growing, Copenhell had something special in store this year, for those who simply can’t get enough of the festival - the festival was now four days of music! Or three and a half for perfectionists…
The official festival opening was on Thursday 21., but already on Wednesday 20., ticket holders could enter the first part of the festival grounds, and be treated to live music from the Pandæmonium stage, from 5 P.M., until a bit past 1 at night. We were of course on spot for this, and although we missed out on the first band, the US hardcore band Turnstile, we still got to enjoy (some more than others) L7, Mustasch, Neurosis, and the Copenhell houseband - Red Warszawa, before heading home to get some rest before the main area of the festival would open the next day.

The layout of the festival had been slightly updated once again - once more trying to optimise the limited amount of space that Refshaleøen has to offer, while making maneuverability between stages and other events a priority. For one thing, the sideshows performances, in which we saw Pain Solution’s Maniac and Visobel Black make a glorious return, and newly added Zora Van Der Blast and Princess Tweedle Needle from Twisted Sister Sideshow, had their own stage now, which was one up from having them move around from area to area in former years. The newly opened area, in which this stage was placed together with other fitting attractions, such as the Copainhell (where your threshold for pain was measured by deranged doctors) and Bonk & Blæks Tattoo parlor to name a few, was fittingly known as Purgatory.
Even without this, Copenhell still sports one of the largest amounts of alternative pastimes we’ve encountered - that’s pastimes worth having, mind you. Smadreland was back, and for those who didn’t feel like getting their hands dirty, there was now also a digital version, set up to be playable on two flatscreens in an open container next to the real thing. The Biergarten, with its live-band karaoke (called Openhell of course) and rockin’ DJ’s, was a place filled with party from opening to close of the festival - we didn’t enter it once, without seeing several people dancing on the tables, headbanging in the corners, and at times even moshing in front of the stage. This place epitomises all that is good and right about a true metal party.

This could easily be said about Copenhell as a whole as well. Even though it’s grown, it hasn’t grown so much as to outgrow that sweet, familiar feeling that is one of the cornerstones of the festival’s success. Here’s hoping it stays at approximately the size, and absolutely the location it has now - walking onto the concrete harbour pavement, with the huge wolf’s head looking down on us, is definitely one of the highlights of the year. And Copenhell still has that perfect size of around 12K visitors - enough to give a good response for the shows, but not so big that you feel crowded, and have problems running into friends. Because Copenhell is definitely also a meeting place for friends. And strangers, for that matter.

But a festival wouldn’t be worth its name, if it didn’t dish up some good performances, now would it? Of course not.
We’ve already talked a good portion of the names present at Copenhell this year, and we’ll get into a quick run-down of the concerts in just a bit, but first I’d just want to shine the spotlight on Maniac and Visobel Black, this lovely, wholesome young couple whose job it was to dazzle and amaze those who needed a break from the music. Since seeing Maniac (or Morten as he was called back then) for the first time at the festival back in 2015, we’ve done our best to keep up with his antics during each subsequent year. Sadly, we only had time for one their shorter shows this year, and even though some of the tricks seemed familiar, I enjoyed the fact that the couple had worked a bit of a storyline into the performance this time around. And that ball-sack weightlifting was a harrowing experience, to say the least!

Luckily, we didn’t have any similarly disturbing experiences, when it came to the bands. Well, ok, there was the one with Kellermensch, but the less said about that one, the better. We think of the children, ok?
So, with only Ozzy being that super headliner on the billing this year, the question begged to be asked is of course, who was there to look truly forward to? Not that we didn’t look forward to Ozzy, but he wasn’t the main attraction, regardless of his well-earned fame.
No, my main event for this year was, without comparison Helloween. With their Pumpkins United, they promised for the first time to present the band back with original member Kai Hansen and classic line-up vocalist Michael Kiske. Having had Helloween as the favourite band for most of the years of my youth, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up for anything!
Corrosion Of Conformity is a band I don’t have as much history with, but I have quite enjoyed their music through the years, and I was looking forward to seeing them live for the first time since ‘96. Having only seen frontman Pepper Keenan with Down since then, this was a pretty nice deal.
Then of course there was that one non-metal show - Jakob Stegelmann & Aarhus Symfoni Orkester. It was hard to imagine just what this would end up being, but having complete faith in Stegelmann, it was definitely one of the top priorities this year.

As with every year, there had been complaints and whining about the line-up beforehand, and I must admit that I too had to concede that Copenhell has dished up stronger overall line-ups in the past, at least in regards to my taste.
Still, we ended up moving basically from stage to stage through the entire festival, and we managed to cram the most concerts in that we’ve ever tried here. What’s even better, is that most of these shows were actually really good! Some surprisingly so, some expected, and yet some completely out of the blue! A few didn’t quite live up expectations, but out of these, the majority was still mostly enjoyable at some level, and that’s a pretty damn fine end-score for the festival.

After seeing Neurosis headline the warm-up day, I was ready to name concert of the festival. On the first full day of the festival, Soulfly forced me to consider concert of the day instead of concert of the festival as the format to work with. This notion was solidified on the Friday by Kreator.
And along came a Saturday. And suddenly I was afraid I’d have to focus down the format on an hour by hour basis instead of having a daily winner. I mean, honestly, Jakob Stegelmann & Aarhus Symfoni Orkester - Satyricon - Corrosion Of Conformity - Helloween. What’s a poor reporter to do?!
A special shout-out goes to Zeal & Ardor, a show we were only able to catch in passing, hence no special review, but which had managed to completely pack the grounds in front of the Pandæmonium stage on the Thursday with their highly unique sound, blending negro spirituals with metal. I have it on good authority, that the performance was rockin’ as well.

Was there really nothing missing from this year’s Copenhell then?

Well, sure, of course there was. The main thing - rain. Since the inception of the festival, rain has been the one constant we’ve always been able to count on, the one recurring show that no one would miss, that one companion we’d always be sure to run into at one point or another. Not this year though! Despite some silly predictions of a so called “cursed festival”, the only rain to come by this year, fell during the night and morning between Thursday and Friday, i.e. outside of official festival opening hours, and it only helped settle the dust that’d been blowing around up till then. It wasn’t exactly a burning hot sunshine festival either, mostly grey to patchy with a bit of wind, but as such, it was perfect festival weather - no involuntary burn victims here.
Speaking of burn victims, fire itself was a victim this year. Following one of the driest and warmest summers in recent history, police had prohibited all forms of pyrotechnics and public fires all over Denmark, due to the simple reason that one little spark could set the whole place in flames. What does this mean for Copenhell? Well, obviously it meant that bands couldn’t use pyrotechnics for their shows - luckily, no one had booked Rammstein. It also meant however, that Copenhell’s trademark ball of fire, announcing a coming show, had been replaced by a foghorn. A terrible, noisy, and uncharming thing, which I hope we’ll never have to encounter again. Sure, I understand the reason behind it, but it just didn’t work.
Also, there couldn’t be the traditional burning of the wicker man, that we have enjoyed in past years - a sad departure, that we hope to welcome back in the future.

I’ve also already mentioned the running between stages, so as you can gather, we were also missing time this time around. In short, this meant we either had to skip, or cut short, many of the extracurricular activities that we usually enjoy at this festival. First world problem, I know, but it deserves a mention.
And there were of course a few concerts that didn’t exactly live up to expectations. Oddly enough, Helloween shows up in this category as well, and if you wonder why that is, you should read their individual review. Likewise, Alice In Chains didn’t quite manage to dazzle this reporter (they asked for no press, so don’t hold your breath for an individual review on this one), and even though they didn’t have the same technical problems they did at their last visit, they didn’t quite manage to keep the energy up through their entire set. To make another example - Ozzy was very good, but that Zakk Wylde solo? That was a killer, and absolutely not in the good sense!

Still, Copenhell managed once again to deliver. It was another year of everything that’s made this festival as great as it is. The music is of course important, but even more so, we need the cogs and wheels that make the festival run between and during shows. All the little, mostly unnoticed stuff, that let’s the artists do their thing unhindered, and support and back up the interest of the visitors, so that they too can have a safe, free, and fun experience. I always mention the guards as a perfect example of this, but a recent article has made me even more aware of the fundamental difference between Copenhell and other festivals - especially so the Danish ones. The article was namely about another festival, which incidentally featured a metal band. During their performance, the large screens proclaimed in bold letters that moshing and crowd surfing was strictly prohibited, apparently due to public safety. And this is a common thing at many festivals. At Copenhell though? Here these things aren’t just allowed, no, they’re damn near encouraged by the very people hired to keep us safe! I mean, honestly, where else would you see guards high-fiving and hugging crowd surfers, as they ushered them out of the pit?
There are so many more things that sets Copenhell apart, like the announcers firing up the audience prior to each show, and rounding each show off after the band is done. All the sideshow entertainments mentioned and unmentioned. The fact that there are little to no delays.

Ozzy may have been the main name of the line-up, but there are two others that I must mention - don’t worry, we’re nearing the end now, just hang in there for a little bit more.
First up, recycling. What’s that you say, how can recycling be a thing? Well, one would think it wouldn’t be, but hear me out. Since its inception, Copenhell has been drowning in waste, mainly from thrown away beer cups. Many a volunteer has had to spend their festival picking up crap that others have left behind, and frankly, things have looked like shit. This year, finally, after insistence on my part in basically every review for every year, Copenhell decided to take an extra price for their cups, a price that would then be refunded when delivering the cup back. Now, this has been going on abroad for longer than I can remember, there’s nothing new in it as such, but in Denmark, this is a quite novel experience. Up till now, it hasn’t really existed at either festivals or in concert halls. Resulting in the same shit-covered floors everywhere. Not anymore though, as Copenhell has finally taken the fight up! Well, nearly not anymore. The system wasn’t perfect. Apparently, there were different types of cups in different serving areas, and one wouldn’t accept the others. Things can become a bit more streamlined. The biggest problem though, if you ask me, is that the Danish audience wasn’t prepared to deal with this on their home-turf. Fair enough, some period of adjustment should be expected - I’m just hell’a glad the festival is actually doing something to start the process!
Secondly, Pigs From Hell. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here is another shout-out for you. A shout-out for the best damned purveyor of edibles at this year’s Copenhell. While others felt overly priced and underly (is that a word?) served, Pigs From Hell dished up a perfectly sized portion of pig, together with creamed potatoes and coleslaw, for the both fitting and amusing price of 66,6 DKR. After locating it, this was our go-to restaurant for the entirety of the festival, and we hope to visit it again next year.

As we do with the entire festival. Next year sees Copenhell turn ten, and albeit we do not know what that means just yet, this reporter feels confident that it will be something very special and memorable indeed.

Latest uploads: