COPENHAGEN, the capital of Denmark, has the royal palace, the Little Mermaid, the freetown of Christiania, and tons of other tourist attractions. Since 2010, there’s also been an attraction for the metal tourists: COPENHELL. The festival’s been growing year after year, and today, it’s a three-day festival (plus one warm-up day) with 25.000 metalheads visiting from primarily Denmark, but also from all around the world. The billing is a varied mix of metal genres as you will see below.
For work and family reasons, I’ve been forced to skip the warm-up evening yesterday, although it would’ve been interesting to see female rockers L7 and Swedish metal band MUSTASCH. Also billed were NEUROSIS, TURNSTILE and Danish cult phemenon RED WARSZAWA.
I drove from Jutland last night, because I have an early meeting in the centre of Copenhagen. Right after the meeting and a quick lunch, I head out to the festival site. For someone from Jutland, Copenhagen equals traffic chaos, but I find my way to the festival site and change from shirt and jacket into a more appropriate Carcass t-shirt and camouflage shorts.
My first date today is with Delila Paz and the rest of THE LAST INTERNATIONALE. I’ve been enjoying listening to some of their material on Spotify the past couple of weeks. It’s not metal in any way, but more of a retro protest rock kind of thing. It works fine and it’s a nice and slow beginning of the festival. The trio play the small stage, Pandemonium, which is a good thing, because The Last Internationale is in my mind a club band rather than a band for the big stages – at least for now. Their music is infectiously groovy, though, so I reckon The Last Internationale’s potential shouldn’t be underestimated. Apart from a guitar that is far too low in the mix most of the gig, everything is in place.
Today is also the day when the Danish national team meets Australia in the World Cup in Russia. I’m not sure if the 1-1 draw between the two teams is a good thing or a bad thing for the atmosphere during the following PARKWAY DRIVE concert on the Helviti stage, but the Australian metalcore veterans seem to be received well enough by the Copenhell crowd.
Sadly enough, it’s been a really dry May this year, which means that open fire is not allowed in the area around Copenhagen. Consequently, the supposedly gigantic pyros Parkway Drive have been carrying around with them on this tour are a no-go. What a bummer for both audience and band, but probably best for the environment.
Nevertheless, for those who are metalcore fans, I’m certain that this is a memorable gig. I’m not a fan, to be honest, but there are passable riffs here and there, and it’s an entertaining show by a through-and-through sympathetic band. For me, this is mostly metalcore cliches and rather predictably so.
Less predictable is the next live experience on the Pandemonium stage. I’ve been listening to ZEAL AND ARDOR a few times during the past month or so, and I’m not at all sure what I am to expect. The concept of mixing negro spirituals with black metal is both paradoxical and weird from the outset, and exactly how it’ll work live in front of an audience and in the early evening, that’s one of those make or break situations. I’ve probably not expected it to work as well as it turns out to do.
The next 45 minutes are an amazing showcase of how not-so-common blends can also work in front of a metal crowd. When you look at people’s faces, reactions range from disbelief and wonder to complete surrender to the world of Swiss-American Manuel Gagneux, whose vision this is a result of. I’m in the latter camp. The whole setup is simple with no fancy costumes, no gimmicks, no nothing, but the power of the melodies and voices that come out of those six human beings on stage is fascinating and almost hypnotising. If this had been an after dark show, it might have been even more impressive, who knows, but I’m just appreciative of the fact that I got to experience this up-and-coming wonder of the metal scene.
Here’s a snippet of the song ‘Servants’:
Zeal and Ardor setlist:
1. Sacrilegium I
2. In Ashes
4. Come On Down
5. Blood in the River
6. Fire of Motion
8. You Ain’t Coming Back
9. We Can’t Be Found
10. Built on Ashes
11. Ship on Fire
12. Gravedigger’s Chant
13. Row Row
14. Devil Is Fine
15. Don’t You Dare
We’ve become much more accustomed to the fact that you can mix operatic singing with metal these days. When NIGHTWISH started out, this wasn’t common at all. Their Oceanborn album made a big impression on many a metal fan, myself included, when it was released back in 1998, and the Finnish band around Toumas Holopainen have kept impressing continuously over the past two decades, both with ambitious albums and great live performances. When Floor Jansen joined Nightwish, the band gained a front woman who was more metal than her predecessors – in fact, possibly more metal than the rest of the band.
Tonight, here in Copenhagen, she is as metal as we’ve gotten used to over those past few years. The guy next to me happens to be a walking, talking Jansen-pedia, and he informs me that this beautiful Dutch woman has a one-and-a-half-year old son, that she played in After Forever before (hey! I knew that, mate!) and that the sound guy should turn up the volume on her voice. I have to agree.
That, however, is probably the only fault I can find on this show. Because a show it is. Nightwish is in every respect a show band. The backdrop is an awesome looking video wall, the band are all over the stage, taking the piss on eachother, and generally just seeming to be happy about what they do together.
Nightwish are touring on the back of the Decades best-of album, which was released earlier this year. Not surprising, then, that this is a best-of show. Although you could argue that any Nightwish show is a best-of show.
It strikes me that the thing that makes Nightwish relevant after all of these years is that they combine total cheesiness with a genuine love for both pop and heaviness as well as a tinge of madness in their compostions. That’s why tons of fans have an enjoyable show tonight – even if Floor’s amazing voice is too low in the mix.
1. End of All Hope
2. Wish I Had an Angel
3. Come Cover Me
7. I Want My Tears Back
8. Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean
10. Slaying the Dreamer
11. The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker)
12. Ghost Love Score
This is an evening of strong front woman. Possibly the two strongest front women in metal at the moment, in fact. ARCH ENEMY are going from strength to strength, touring like mad and putting out one great album after the other. Their popularity is certainly well-earned – through hard work and a collection of fantastic songs.
Alissa White-Gluz and her hardy men deliver a kick-arse show on this Thursday evening. The dust rises to the Copenhagen sky as the moshpit grows in front of the stage to the sound of opener ‘The World Is Yours’ from the 2017 album by the same title. This is just the first lesson in melodic death metal. Another ten follow over the course of a gig that could easily have lasted another hour if you ask me. As always, the highlight for me is ‘My Apocalypse’. I think I will put it in my will that this song should be played at my funeral – that and Paradise Lost’s ‘Beneath Broken Earth’. Perfect party music!
Arch Enemy setlist:
1. The World Is Yours
2. War Eternal
3. My Apocalypse
4. The Race
5. You Will Know My Name
7. The Eagle Flies Alone
8. First Day in Hell
9. As the Pages Burn
10. We Will Rise
AVENGED SEVENFOLD are the headliner of the evening. I’m there. I listen. I try to keep an open mind. I don’t get why they are so popular. They are like…Helloween, Maiden, Metallica and some other stuff put into a pot. They are all bands I love to bits, but Avenged Sevenfold are not them, and they don’t strike the right chord for me. The rest of this gig becomes a well-deserved break until I’m heading over to Pandemonium to see a band I find far more interesting, namely the up-and-coming Danish band MØL.
I’ve only listened to MØL’s music very briefly before the festival, which is why I arrive with very few expectations as to what I’ll be hearing. It turns out to be intense stuff. I can see why they are able to build themselves a name right now. They are a sort of combination of shoegaze, 90s alternative rock and black metal. Their universe is one of dark, simple melodies and total rip & tear. This is most definitely a band you’d want to see live for the experience. Very dark matter indeed.
MØL’s gig concludes my first day, even if I’d love to see SOULFLY who close Thursday, also on the Pandemonium stage. A man has to acknowledge his age and limitations and find his bed if he’s expected to do a bit of work the next day – and get ready for another two days at Copenhell, of course.