Photos by Al Case
Since Copenhell’s days 2 and 3 were loaded with a legion of significant names, it’s difficult to take into account every single one of them. Moreover, I’m sure that due to differences in taste, as well as the multitude of the activities at the festival area, some might have a considerably different outlook of the event and the acts that stood out the most. So let’s (stage)dive right into it.
Acts like Europe and Alterbridge, although incomparable style-wise, to some degree, go into a similar category of radio-friendly rock which is performed by all means skilfully, yet does not quite feel that much convincing and relevant in the present-day context. Though the performances were executed in an almost robotically meticulous manner, the majority of the crowd didn’t appear too agitated either. The distance between what was happening on stage and the audience felt a bit like an old love relationship, in which the passion is gone, but the fond attachment to an empty shell of what used to be great and exciting is still lingering somewhere.
All of this is by no means about the age of a band or its members. There is also a cool kind of being dead inside, as proven by one of the most dashing Saturday’s evening performances, the one of Rob Zombie, who appeared in his renowned style of a glamorous homeless person rolled out of his trailer parked somewhere in a desert close to Vegas. The connection with the fans was sort of very much there; the stage presence vigorous and rather fun to witness. The Zombie team were definitely the mega-divas of the festival, bringing to the stage all the kitsch imaginable, from a range of extravagant outfits to balloons and all the props they managed to grab in a Danish tourist shop. Rob Zombie’s confidence and success have always been a living proof that it is possible to make four chords sound (and mostly look) cool and exciting, especially paired with the role of a joker, which is always a nice distraction from the overly political and overly dramatic. And the alien-shaped balloons definitely extended Zombie’s metaphor of how we perceive each other in modern society, going well with industrially brutal, beat-driven sound.
Authentic passion can always be felt and appreciated; when the artist is truly into it, the audience responds respectively, at least for the most part. This was true to Friday’s highlight performances of Powerwolf, Saturday’s megastars Slayer, legendary death metal pack Memoriam, and Danish thrash metal powerhouses Hatesphere. Bands like that have iconic status, yet it would be a huge miss to perceive them like that since they serve so much more than nostalgia and could melt an iceberg with their proficiency, energy, brutality, power, and conviction.
Since Copenhell is mostly about the rock’n’roll and party-prone kind of heavy music, the Polish black metal act Batushka did feel a bit out of context. Nevertheless, the performance was one of the most memorable ones. This is currently one of the most brilliant post-modern black metal outfits, which aesthetically embraces blatant liturgical aesthetics of the finest black metal tradition. It’s difficult to figure how much irony there is to their Satanic priest kind of stage presence though. Anyhow, their effect on-stage is always mind blowing. For the ones in favor of intensely enduring black metal sonic and visual atmosphere, the darkest component of the festival must have left a strong impression.
One of the most magnificent performances gracing Hades stage was undoubtedly the Americans of Baroness, who have developed their sound into a draggy, sludgy, dramatic, yet uplifting, especially as it comes to the harmonies of John Baizley’s and Gina Gleason’s vocal duo. They might not attract as much attention as creators of simple fun stuff, but this was definitely some quality music performed both powerfully and subtly. The same was true to another act – Opeth – which does not necessarily opt for a kick-ass brutality, yet always puts up a quality show of their signature romantic progressivism.
In the light of the classics, it is always exciting to get a taste of fresh blood. That being said, the performance of Finnish thrash metal prodigies Lost Society was rather disappointing, especially compared to the ones I happened to witness at the very kick start of their careers; sound felt a bit off, stage presence a bit meh, the technical aspect not too good either. The same went for Motionless in White: a bit cliché, a bit off tune, but they’re just so lovely and fun to watch, aren’t they! Overall, the band’s mixture of subcultural stereotypes put together with seemingly all seriousness is a bit cringe-worthy, yet in the right setting their mash of pop metalcore and Marilyn Manson (yes, it’s already a genre) could be a lot of fun to certain people. However, I wasn’t sure whether Copenhell is necessarily that sort of setting.
Sadly (or not), the latter performances melted to the background noise when compared to some of the others, staged by, for example, warmly welcomed Danish projects, such as already mentioned Hatesphere, Rising, Slaegt and Ghost Iris. The latter acted as a hellish proof that the local scene has both renowned and experienced, as well as rapidly rising and attention-worthy loud music outfits.
One of the most outstanding performances Saturday was the one staged by Baest, a death metal act from Aarhus, whom I already had on my radar since witnessing the band playing live in their hometown. One can feel the extent of hard work the musicians put into a rather complex execution of their music, making death metal sound and look exactly how it’s supposed to. It is worthy to note that Baest only came together as a band in 2015 and haven’t released a full-length album just yet, however, both their live energy and the public’s response acted as the best explanation why they were already invited to perform in Denmark’s major metal event.
There was always action happening on one or two of the Hell-themed stages, yet if none of those was a visitor’s cup of tea, there were plenty of other things to do, from visiting the art hall or skate park, to releasing rage by crashing old cars. If the latter is not fun, I don’t know what is.
I can see why so many people get addicted to this festival. As Copenhell’s virgin, I got to appreciate both the selection of music and the overall atmosphere which is nowhere else to find. Some of the organizational practicalities by no means could be executed more proficiently, however, it is the impact of performances and the Copenhell Family (join their group on Facebook, if you haven’t already) that truly define the significance of the event.