Copenhell - 2023

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

To say that expectations were high when Pantera was announced for this year’s festival, is a gross understatement! With the untimely demises of brothers ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Lance Abbott and Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Paul Abbott, the metal world was ultimately denied one of the most hoped for reunions ever, and it would take close to 20 years before remaining members Rex Brown and Philip Anselmo would take on some brothers in arms to bring the old songs back on the road for the hungry fans. The question on everybody’s lips was, how would it go?

“Be honest, how many are seeing Pantera for the first time? (loud response) That’s cool, we like fresh blood. Also, can I say, that’s good parenting!”
- Phil Anselmo (vocals)

Parenting or not, I’ll admit that I was one of the people seeing the band for the first time, despite finding them back when Far Beyond Driven was released. -94 was such a good year for metal, but that’s a sidetrack we don’t need to go down now. Not surprisingly, this was the show that had the biggest crowd waiting for it to begin. The stage itself was covered by a Pantera curtain, and on the large screens on either side clips from the band’s old home VHS’s played, concluding in showing white silhouettes of Dimebag and Vinnie Paul before the show began for real.
To fill out the gaps in the band, Charlie Benante (Anthrax) and Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne) had been recruited, and while I’ve always enjoyed Benante, I was a bit more hesitant towards Wylde. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t doubt for a second that he had the needed chops to pull it off, but Zakk Wylde is, well, Zakk Wylde, and I was unsure how much of that he would be able to put aside for the sake of the show. As it turned out, my fears were thankfully put to shame, and for almost all of it, Wylde gave a highly respectful performance, letting the music speak for itself without the need to put himself front and centre. Another nice sign of reverence was that Wylde had images of Dimebag and Vinnie Paul on his vest, and Benante had a small Vinnie Paul puppet on the drumkit.
There was one more guest, but we’ll get to that later…

“Every note we play is for Dimebag and Vince.”
- Anselmo (vocals)

If you read our review of Down’s concert the year before, you'll understand that I harboured some hesitation to what state Anselmo would show up in as well, but again, my fears were completely put to shame, as he looked clear minded, present, and quite energetic. Rex Brown was Rex Brown, cool, groovy, and a lot of fun.
The show itself was also well thought out and impressive, with nice pyrotechnics, smoke cannons, and video production - the latter shown especially when the first part of Cemetery Gates, the calm part, was played as a backing track between Fucking Hostile and Planet Caravan, while the back screen was showing home-, backstage-, and live videos of Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, and the side screens were showing a text in their honour.

This show was obviously to a large degree for the memory of the band’s former members, but it was also very much for the fans. Kicking off with A New Level was a great energy boost, and already here the fans were ready and willing to take over singing the chorus, something that would happen again several times during the show. There was one song though, where the band had unexpected help not from the Danish crowd but from Testament’s Chuck Billy. He came in and sung on Walk to great cheers from the audience. This was of course following Testament’s own excellent show earlier in the day, and it was a real highlight to see Billy come in and show his respects here.

Overall, Pantera delivered an experience that was exactly what we dreamed they would do, but wasn’t sure we could hope for. With only two real minuses, one not even being in the hands of the band - the stageside bars managed to run out of beer, and the other was Wylde going fully Zakk Wylde solo mode in Planet Caravan (excuse me, but snore!) - this was truly a magnificent return to form for the band, and I loved (nearly) every minute of it!


A New Level
Mouth For War
Strength Beyond Strength
I’m Broken
Suicide Note Pt. II
5 Minutes Alone
This Love
Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit
Fucking Hostile
Cemetary Gates (snippet)
Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath cover, w. Zakk Wylde solo)
Walk (feat. Chuck Billy)
Domination / Hollow
Cowboys From Hell
Use My Third Arm
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song)

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