Festival Report 2019

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Copenhell, happy birthday to youuuu!
Horns up, everyone! It’s the tenth birthday of Copenhagen’s, and Denmark’s, premium metal festival, and although we weren’t there for the year of creation, we have been faithfully watching it grow every single year since then. And it is with pride and joy that we see what it has become.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks, as they say. You know the idiom “there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes”. Well, I think we can safely add one more. Death, taxes, and people complaining about the line-up. Every year, every festival apparently manage to book a line-up worse than any previous year, according to social media sources and surveys.
And still, every single year, a hell of a lot of good and great bands come out, play hours upon hours of music we all love, and usually put on one hell of a show to go along with it. Or passable, at least. Sure, some are boring, but you know, there are so many other things you could spend your time on instead.

We were lucky, or unlucky if you’ll have it that way, enough that our dance-card was pretty damned filled up this year, so we didn’t manage to go check out nearly as much of the sideshows and other fun, as we are used to. Or hoped for, for that matter. But that seems like a first-world problem if ever there was one, doesn't it?
Alright, so what did this terrible line-up contain, that would make Copenhell 2019 the stinker of the decade? Well, on the headlining front, we had Tool, a band that has been forcefully requested every year since the conception of the festival. Not strange really, considering the scarceness of their appearances. Only twice in this millennium, and the latest of those was in 2006, some 13 years ago. Or to put it into context, 4 years before Copenhell was even created.
Alongside them, Copenhell had booked Slipknot, a veritable super success in their own right, and always adored when they make their somewhat more frequent visits than Tool.
At last, we had Scorpions. While they may not exactly fall into the same lane as the other two, both of them being U.S. bands from the 90ies and Scorpions being a German band from the 60ies, one cannot deny the unmistakable longevity and trail of successes behind them.
Needless to say, there was a lot of variety in bands, both nationality, age, and style, running below these, on the three stages of the festival. Some brand new in this setting, others Copenhell alumni who were happily making a return.

The sideshow section of the program was much the same - although here the alumni section outweighed the fresh starters, as far as I could see.
The biergarten was an ever popular refuge from the sun, and a Meccha for those seeking to show of their own talent in the metal karaoke, or just swing their legs and hair for the DJ in the small hours.
The love of the Danish heritage could be seen in the relocated and now larger area of Udgård, which contained bars and food-stands, peddlers and merchants of jewelry and weaponry, and of course several old-fashioned games one could partake in. No baths this year, but plenty of nice shade under the crowns of the trees.
The ever-loved Smash-O-Rama known as Smadreland had also relocated, and was now lying in one corner of the large sideshow area in the corner behind the Pandæmonium and Hades stages. While Red Warszawa didn’t actually play this year, one could meet members of the band here, as they helped commenting on and judging the competitive part of the Smadreland activities.
There were a lot of other things going on as well, but as I mentioned, we didn’t have all that much time to look into them all, as our musical program was tight. I would like to go on record and applaud the idea of having a board game area within the old wharf hall - I didn’t play, but others were, and I just love the idea of the possibility to do so.

So, if we didn’t partake in the sideshow fun ‘n’ games, what did we do? I feel I have explained that already, but let’s get into a bit more detail on the area.
Being a long-time fan of Tool, their visit was of course the major high-light for this particular guest, yet there were many other bands peaking my interest as well, and in a slew of different genres. Demons & Wizards was definitely something to look out for, as everyone here enjoys both Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, but have never before had the chance to catch this constellation. Stone Temple Pilots was an old friend that I was also seeing for the first time, a show which sadly fell through quite hard. Oh well.
Others didn’t though - Amon Amarth delivered a nice trip through their very own super-production Viking adventure land, with a very special guest, and Pretty Maids, who for the first time were invited solely on their own merit, did a good job in kicking the Friday into gear. That is, if you didn’t show up until it was their turn to play. I hear Alien Weaponry had a very special treat for their visitors, but we sadly missed this, as we were otherwise engaged.
There were more bands that we made a happy return to - above and beyond anything else was Massachusetts’ own Rob Zombie, who, in my opinion, delivered the strongest festival performance this year, high above anyone and everyone else.
Baest was another new acquaintance, and also another band who delivered big - never before have I seen so many people gathered at the Hades stage, and as I mentioned, I’ve been here nearly from the very start of the festival!

Yes, there was a lot of music, and much, most of it even, was delivered well by the artists who were behind it. Slipknot was a positive surprise, as I wasn’t sure they still had it in them (they did), but on the other hand, Scorpions proved only that they were the oldest band at the festival (they did not deliver well. At all.) So, hey, we got a bit of both ends.
The same can be said about the festival in general actually. Much, most of it in fact, lived up to the high standard we’ve come to love and respect over the years, however, it was clear that some points could do with a bit more work. The wardrobe people, while being polite and helpful in getting your gear inside, weren’t always as delicate with said gear as one could hope - in fact, it at times looked like an airport, with bags being thrown, dropped, and turned on their heads.
Not all sales personnel in the official merchandise stand were in tune with the needs of the customers, such as info on sizing and specific pieces of clothing (luckily, there were others close by, who could give a helping hand).
And then there was that one guard in the entrance area who tried to turn people away, because said guard didn’t realize which line the person stood checking.
C’mon Copenhell, you’ve done better, and you can do better again!
That being said, the guards at the front of the stages were cool as always, high-fiving crowdsurfers as they came tumbling in (after making sure they were safe and sound of course), and the stagecrew worked fast and tirelessly in setting up some of the most impressive stage-shows seen here.
Other personnel was on point as well, and while there were many an interesting food stand - with a nice and notable increase in vegetarian and vegan options - we mostly enjoyed our plate of lovely grilled pork, coleslaw, and creamed potato. Oh baby, that’s the good stuff!

No birthday cake was seen, but the festival had created quite a special show, called Ten Years In Hell, in which more artists than I can count (ok, they were 40, if my memory doesn’t fail me) performed original and covered material. I didn’t know what to expect from this going in, but as with the rest of the festival, it was surprisingly well put together and entertaining as, well, hell. As it were.
So once again, congratulations are in order for this our local metal holiday. Let’s raise a beer together - 6,66%. Here’s to the last ten years, and here’s to the next ten!

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