June 14th – 15th 2013
By Ellen Norvang
There is not much rotten in the state of Denmark this sunny Friday afternoon as the metal festival Copenhell, for the fourth time, is about to take place in the heart of the capital Copenhagen. 10.000 metal-fans are fitted into a playground of everything related to the Scandinavian metal-scene; Vikings, burning churches and a small cemetery for your resting pleasure. The gates to hell have once again opened and this year with an ever so growing and bigger line-up than the previous years.
The many ticketholders are Friday not only greeted with a hell of a long queue to the entrance, but also about a 100 meters from the main entrance fanatic Christians have lined up with crosses dictating that Jesus loves you and a lunatic chanting from the bible. They are willing to make a last effort to save the people dressed in black and studs from entering the gates to hell where the only purpose obviously is to worship Satan. The party-hungering audience doesn’t seem to care much and most people reacts with a smile. They are having a laugh by having their pictures taken with the Jesus- freaks. This sure isn’t America.
Unfortunately for this festival, photo-pass wasn’t possible…
First band on the main stage this afternoon is Amon Amarth (4/5). A huge Viking ship takes up the whole stage and even though the majority of the Danes might find Viking history boring and silly, somehow it doesn’t seem silly when Amon Amarth pulls it off. Vocalist Johan Hegg greets his Scandinavian brothers in the audience and judging from the rest of the line-up Denmark loves their Scandinavian brothers right back, cause Swedish music takes up a lot of the bill on this years festival. Amon Amarth’s music is heavier than most bands circling around the same theme and this afternoon the sound seems heavier than Thor’s thunder as it does a very good job taking up the whole area in front on the stage and all the way to the back. Hegg’s voice never fails live and their material seems heavier live compared to their records.
Amon Amarth sure proved why the Vikings won most battles as the band conquered the stage with success.
Unlike most other festivals Copenhell makes it possible for the audience to watch most bands on the bill as one of the three stages is always busy. Therefore when Swedish, secretive Ghost (3.5/5) are about to enter the second largest stage most of audience have lined up. Judging from the size of the crowd this gig could have easily taken place on the main stage. One thing is for sure, metalheads don’t go to church on Sundays, but this very moment when Ghost enters the stage they are willing to be taken to mass with frontman and singer Papa Emeritus as main leading satanic pope. The band’s festival gear and background setting seems like a light version of what the band is capable of creating on their normal set. There is no church background, and the only inscent comes from the crowds shared joints and not the band’s usual sticks added to create the full experience. The costumes are still obviously there, but the weather works against the band’s performance as it is sunny and that doesn’t go well together with their show. One might think that most people are here to see the elephant, cause the band is hyped for sure. For a band that doesn’t say much, as in only a few Danish phrases, it is hard to keep the crowd alive when not many know the material, but only the band name, but the satanic pope has the crowd completely under control. What lingers in the air for a long time after the show is finished is people chanting “Satanas, Lucifer” from the song “Year Zero” from the album Infestissumam and undoubtly Ghost had more fans after this performance.
What probably most nostalgic fans have been waiting for this evening is Alice In Chains (3.5/5). This is a show with no background, no special tricks, just a sing a long show for the nostalgic grunge hungering crowd. This is without a doubt some very good musicians and Layne Staley’s heir, William DuVall, is a brilliant choice that has only made the band rise again. The band loses a bit of the nerve and painful sensitivity even during songs like “Down in a Hole” during their live performance and there is something that just can’t be translated from record to stage. Maybe it is because they are not supposed to seem happy or maybe because they simply are too good musicians? It tends to become a plain rock band with less nerve and pain. But then again, it is a band that has a back catalogue to die for and a band that can handle their instruments in their sleep.
Worst case scenario happens during half the set as a power cut decides to make the stage silent for 20 long minutes. But Alice In Chains wants to finish the set and give people what they came for and by the end of the gig most people have forgotten about the electricity problem. The band declares that they are determined to finish their set and starts off from exactly where the power went off. By the time they finish off with the classic “Rooster” the show is not overshadowed by the stupid electric mistake.
Friday night’s headliner is good old Danzig (3/5). The anticipation quickly turns into disappointment when the short legend enters the stage. It does not start very well. Glen Danzig’s voice is weak and he is desperately trying to catch his breath. Luckily it gets better, but the thought of the 58 year old veteran becomes a bit tragicomic. The band, with former Type O Negative member Johhny Kelly on drums, is doing fine all along, but struggles with a bad sound in the beginning. Danzig is energetic but to a certain point in the beginning. It takes him a few songs to warm up because it takes its toll on his vocals. The will to perform is most certainly there and after “Twist of Cain” and “Am I Demon” he seems warmed up and the show seems to begin.
The show gets more interesting when former bass player for Misfits, Doyle, is bought out on stage as a surprise to play a short Misfits set. He has, unlike Glen, not lost his bodyshape over the years. The bad start seems forgiven by the end of the show where classics such as “Mother” and “Die, Die My Darling” have been delivered.
The weather is not as beautiful on Saturday as it was the following day. There is a lot of activity happening on the festival and with the programme constructed to always have a band on stage it is difficult to have time to see all the booths with merchandise, the different areas AND drink beer. The decoration on the festival is dedicated to everything you need from the Scandinavian scene: Coffins as relaxing beds, a smoking wooden church, a Viking area with people dressed to the part and a bunch of cars with only one purpose: to be smashed to get your aggressions out. Not to mention the hairdresser stall where it is possible to have your makeup and hair done, where, judging from the crowd walking out of there, King Diamond’s look is very in this year.
The weather is not on the festival’s side this day. The sunshine turns into a heavy cloud and for one hour straight the sky opens up and pours down heavy rain. With not many places to hide no one is really left with dry feet.
When supergroup Down (4.5/5) is about to enter the main stage the rain has stopped and the southern rock is exactly what the crowd needs to dry up. There could have been way better sound up front of the stage, but the weather is better and alpha male Phil Anselmo is leading the ball. No biggie. Starting out by mentioning his last name Hansen has roots in Denmark goes down well.
This gig is like one big gathering of homies who likes beer and fun and the crowd is invited- along with members of Testament who played earlier. Anselmo is even picking up the guitar to play a little Mercyful Fate and preaching to the audience that if they don’t smoke weed they should most certainly start straight away. Bad jokes goes hand in hand with beer.
It doesn’t seem like the band is making a big effort and they know what works to get the crowd going. It is a must-do to dedicate songs to Dimebag Darrell and Jeff Hanneman.
It might be that Down is only entertaining if you are on Phil’s level: drunk and a bit goofy. It is a low level of entertainment, but somehow it works. It makes you feel like you are hanging out with your mates. The band delivers even though it just doesn’t have very much seriousness to it and most of the material is from the band’s masterpiece “Nola”. But it seemed to work for everyone and Down was by many crowned as one of the best live experiences this year.
Darkness is upon us and midnight almost near when the black metallers in Godseed (3/5) takes up the stage. After a long fight over the right to the name Gorgoroth the two members Gaahl and King ov Hell formed a new band. There are not many surprises when it comes to the music and you get what you expected. But the stage show on the other hand is stripped down. Gorgoroth was known for having crosses and naked, bloody and crucified people on stage, but Godseed is lacking all the black metal happenings. Gaahl is the only member wearing his signature corpsepaint. The only thing that works for their stageshow is that it is dark and almost midnight.
This is without a doubt great musicians and it has the typical evil, Norwegian coolness too it. The double pedal is what keeps the audience attention because it sounds amazing but the entertainment is not quite there. The music should be able to speak for itself and it does, but lightning and corpsepaint can only do so little for the stage show.
Without a doubt King Diamond (4/5) is the festival’s main headliner and for a reason. The black carpet is before the show covering up the stage settings so no one can get a peak of what to expect and expectations are high. For years Danes have not always been proud of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich’s heritage, but King Diamond has never failed and now the king has returned to his kingdom after a long break and a few serious surgeries. Even if you are not a fan at least you are in for a treat when it comes to the theatrical show. After 3 bypass operations Kim Bendix Petersen aka King Diamond has come home and his voice sounds better than ever. And what a setting and props on stage! We are being let into a satanic mansion with pentagrams and creepy ghosts. The fence in front of the stage kind of ruins the contact with audience in the beginning, but as the show moves along the band and the show shines through.
Fanatic Christians couldn’t sabotage what is a great gathering for metalheads in Denmark and may this festival only rise bigger and better for every year to come.