Rising from Corona’s prison like a fiery bat out of hell, Copenhell returns to the shipyards of Copenhagen to bring you the very best of its pandemonium paradise.
Copenhell is a heavy metal festival held annually at the old shipyard on the island Refshaleøen in Copenhagen; originating in 2010 as one of the first open-air heavy metal festivals in Denmark. Starting out with two stages (Helviti and Hades) and summoning some of the heaviest names of the time to command a crowd of 4,000, 2010’s Copenhell set out to prove to the world that this was a festival literally hell-bent on bringing the beasts from below out to play for the masses. 12 years, two new stages (Pandemonium and Gehenna), and two long agonising absences later (thanks Covid!) and Copenhell has returned once again to make Denmark echo with the noise of 71 bands over 4 days and 35,000 metalheads!
Now let me tell you this, my dear readers, this festival quite frankly deserves all of your praise for its location and general territory alone. While I throw no hate towards the legacies of Download, Bloodstock, and many other great festivals that fans rightfully attend; I think we can all admit that we send a little prayer to the gods of rock that the weather will be nice and the the mud will be non-existent (After all, you don’t earn the nickname ‘Drownload’ with a few scattered showers and muddy puddles).
Whereas in Copenhell, located on the concrete floors of an old industrial site with the city a twenty minute drive away; you need only fear the mild inconvenience of the wind, the rain, and maybe the occasional drink spillage. The roads leading in and out hold little to no traffic to block your way, and if you decide that one of the two incredible campsites isn’t for you, the city has a great selection of hotels to stay with.
Everybody say it with me now: “Fuck yes, I can have my own shower!”
Upon arriving at Copenhell 2022, my colleague Adrian and I could already tell that this was going to be a big one. After being postponed twice in order to fend off the dreaded c***rona virus, everyone attending was practically vibrating with the pent up need to let loose some raw heavy metal mayhem; and even though Adrian and I were held back the baby reins of professionalism, that didn’t stop us from diving in head first to grab as much as we could get.
One of the many great things about Copenhell’s design is the positioning of the stages and the meticulously planned schedule of each band or artist performing. The stages themselves are only a short five minute walk away from each other, meaning easy access and quick travel for those that like to hop from show to show. Copenhell also aims to keep overlap at a complete minimum, with the exception of perhaps one to two songs. Because of this, fans needent plan for the potential issue of having to miss a favourite band in favour of another. You can put down your mission impossible type schedules my friends! This time you get to see everyone.
The first band to unleash the echo of Copenhell 2022 was Suicidal Tendencies– a thrash / rap band from Los Angeles fronted by the only original band member Mike Muir. Accompanied by the incredible guitarists Ben Weinman and Dean Pleasants; Suicidal Tendencies let loose upon the packed area floor, generating an incredible response from the already unhinged crowd.
Following this, the crowd were treated to a brand new experience of sound and style with the Danish newcomer group Vola. First to perform on the new Pandemonium stage, this group blasted into the world of Copenhell with a unique mix of progessive metal and electronic music. An incredibly unique and fantastic combination that drove the crowd wild with delight.
Returning to the domain of Helviti, fans held up their horns and let out cries of admiration as one of the great festival classics, Ugly Kid Joe, took to the stage and performed some of their greatest hits. The crowd’s harmonious renditions ended with the classic Harry Chapin cover of ‘Cats In The Cradle’, a song that sends chills down the body of anyone that hears it live (and let’s face it, some tears. Don’t even try to lie to me!).
As if that wasn’t enough, Copenhell was then brought back from the brink of the beautifully bittersweet by none other than Danish rockers Dizzy Miss Lizzy themselves. These rockers brought everything they had to the stage with all the grace of legends, proving that while it can be a difficult experience when you travel for your festivals, it really is so worth the time and effort if you get to experience something great.
Quick to follow Dizzy Miss Lizzy, a quick walk to the Pandemonium stage for Red Fang, the Portland based band performing their shower of crushing riffs, rage and noise.
Next, we were treated to an appearance of the currently touring Gloryhammer as they made their way around the European festivals. Now some may be quick to dismiss this band as a parody of the power metal genre, but the band stayed true to form in putting on an amazing show, every bit as entertaining as that from Rhapsody, Stratovarius and more. Sozos Michael makes an excellent Angus McFife and the stage props (including the legendary Gloryhammer itself) all made an appearance, much to the audience’s delight.
With the outer stages occupied by other home-grown bands, both before and after the headliners, as Gloryhammer departed, the stage was rearranged once again to welcome the majesties of metal, the one and only Metallica. The band arrived on stage to a hero’s welcome with a set list designed to cater for everyone’s tastes. Beginning with ‘Enter Sandman’ (or as many metalheads would say, our national anthem), Metallica were quick to to roll out so many of the great classics, including ‘Damage, Inc.’, ‘One’, and ‘Master of Puppets’ closing the show for the first time since 1977. Visibly tired but still triumphant, fans hailed the legends that brought a fantastic end to the first day of Copenhell 2022.
Thursday June 16th saw Adrian and I returning from our hotel fresh from a hot shower and full of good breakfast. Starting the day in style, we travelled to the R.I.P section and took the opportunity to sample multiple Danish beers and coffee/liquorice flavoured shots simply titled ‘Skull’. A danger warning for those who don’t know, these little buggers were like an alcohol fueled dessert, and would be very easy to consume in very large quantities.
And for those who do know, someone send me the recipe!
The day of music kicked off with Canada’s Deadly Apples; and much like the Skull shots, I was utterly blown away by just how good they are. This band just serves as proof that you should always try your hardest to see the earlier bands on a festival line-up to ensure that you get the chance to see the next big names of the industry before their careers are launched into the stratosphere. This band showed no mercy, dominating the stage and concluding with vocalist Alex Martel crowd surfing during their last number and delighting those who had come to the Pandæmonium stage early in the day.
Over in the woods, Danish metalcore outfit Ivy Crown made short work of their packed chip bark covered arena. The all-female band has certainly changed over time, developing their own unique mix of modern metalcore sound with some of their older punk style in a fresh and fantastic fashion. With an incredible mix of clean and harsh vocals, energised harmonies and endless melodies, there was something for everyone to enjoy and it was lapped up by the highly mixed crowd.
Heading back to the main stages, we were graced by MYRKUR– A Nordic folk group playing somewhat calming music using an array of instruments such as violins, kettle drums, shakers, guitars, ukulele topped with enchanting, beautiful song with wild primal screams…
After a spot of lunch, a cold cider topped up with a Skull chaser, Adrian and I hopped, skipped and jumped to the main stage to witness the nu-metal Godfathers, Korn. This band is one of the anomalies in the rock and metal scene, having been able to grow and adapt with every change presented to them while retaining most of its members and remaining wholly relevant in the alternative scene. Jonathan Davis is always a fantastic frontman and vocalist, even bringing out the bagpipes (a spectacle that I’ve heard of before, but never actually seen) to dazzle the crowd. The band even brought in a little bit of Metallica for their show, including snippets of ‘One’ to their performance of ‘Shoots and Ladders’.
The day continued with some incredible sets from Knocked Loose and Opeth. We also witnessed Blood Incantation (and I will honestly pay anyone who can show me WHERE in that stick bundle logo you can actually make out their name) who came down upon the stage with a righteous death metal and psychedelic extravaganza. This band was really something else to watch, deserving all of the praise and more for giving the genre of death metal a kick start back up with something new and fresh.
One of the main and best sets of the day, unsurprisingly, belonged to Judas Priest. This band is truly like a fine wine, just getting better with age; although it certainly helps to have the youthful energy of Andy Sneap and Richie Faulkner alongside the king himself, Rob Halford. This band is living proof that there are times when it really does pay to respect and listen to your elders, as they perform with a presence and talent that places them in another dimension while still teaching the kids a thing or two about how it’s done. J. P came, saw, and conquered with a mixture of hits old and new, providing a performance worthy of only the main headlining slot of that evening.
That there were more bands to follow before KISS appeared simply proved beyond doubt the strength of this year’s line-up.
Destruction was quick to follow, giving us a solid hour of glorious thrash metal mayhem, and reminding us just why their fans have their ride or die attitude and have stuck with them over the years. The stage then gave way to Phil Anselmo and Down, who were quick to push all of the past controversies behind them and simply get down to business with their heavy set. With spirits high and ears ringing.
Adrian and I then settled in with the rest of the crowd for what had been advertised as quite literally the last ever KISS show to be held in Denmark.
The stage was alight in fire and flames, a sight only proper for the glam rock legends. Anyone who knows KISS will know that no show of theirs will go on without every moment being filled with all the traditional dramatic flair that has made the band so memorable. It has been made abundantly clear, in the last decade especially, that you may know what to expect song-wise but ‘The Show’ will never be beaten. The stage itself became a time bomb that set off an explosion of rock and roll madness. A mind-blowing massacre of exploding guitars, blood gargling, drum risers, fire breathing, moving platforms; and of course the zip line that allowed Paul Stanley to soar across the adoring fans for the band’s incredible rendition of ‘Love Gun’. Amazing, breath-taking, and oh so emotional for those that bore witness, it was undoubtedly clear that Friday would have its work cut out to follow this performance. Whether you love KISS or not, there is no denying that they were one of the greatest headliners of Copenhell 2022.
Truly, what a way to go.
Friday June 17th began with a brief rinse and repeat. Hotel, shower, breakfast, Refshaleøen, R.I.P. area, bar, Tuborg, Skull, and we once again entered the ground of Copenhell 2022, ready to face day three.
While Friday certainly had its work cut out in delivering the goods with the same fantastic success that Thursday, it quickly became perfectly clear to us that Copenhell was more than capable of completing the challenge. One of my all-time favourite bands, Bad Religion, opened up the day for me. Believe me, I could go on for days about the absolute masterpiece that was B.R’s performance, but let’s just say they took it upon themselves to school the remainder of the festival on just exactly how you should go about performing an afternoon set at Copenhell. They came, they rocked, they drove the festival site wild, and then disappeared into the smoke screen as the echoes of the last notes faded.
With Ghost Iris playing a hard set from several genres of music, keeping the crowd going. After a brief intermission in which Adrian and I stretched our legs around the festival site and took some time to chill, we returned to the main stage had been taken hostage by the party pirates themselves, as Alestorm took to the stage. Now those who have been privy to Alestorms recent festival activities may have noticed their attempts to best their previous record for the number of crowd surfers by offering up the challenge to the audience. Copenhell was certainly no exception to this, and it seems only fitting that a literal wave of crowd surfers passed over a sea of people in order to aid the party pirates of metal in achieving a brand new record. The band themselves assisted their Copenhell surfers by performing a brilliant set that was both humorous and heavy. There certainly ain’t no party like an Alestorm party, and their set will certainly go down as one of the highlights of Copenhell 2022.
Agnostic Front and Baest kept the metal flag flying high and kept the headbangers headbanging. Thundermother the all female rockers then take to the Pandaemonium stage delivering a great hard rock n roll performance with tracks from their latest album ‘Black and Gold’.
With a wander around the Copenhell Con area, it was almost a walk back in time. There were crowds of gaming fans watching gamers playing old arcade games such as Street Fighter, Donkey Kong etc It was time for a sit down, a welcomed rest for our feet and yes, you guessed it- Skulls, Ciders and Tuborgs…
For the title of the true championing headliners of Friday night, though, their was really little to no competition; and that title goes to the local heroes D-A-D. Now, this may seem unexpected, as the response to the band from around half of the press tent was admittedly rather tame in comparison to others. Many of the attendants in question were local and had met the band on multiple previous occasions, and as such this was quite a regular occurrence for them. A stark contrast to myself and others fans from across the pond, as we were all understandably shitting ourselves with excitement at the prospect of seeing these hard rock legends perform. Having personally followed D-A-D since the release of ‘No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims’, being able to see them perform in a way they never could in the UK was a dream come true. As I previously mentioned, moments like these serve to remind you why it really is worth all of the hassle that comes with travelling to festivals and concerts. Irritating incidents aside, you will always get something new and exciting, as well as that little bit of ‘extra special’ that comes with seeing a band perform on their home turf and at their very best. This band was incredible from start to finish, truly stealing the show with their performance of ‘Sleeping My Day Away’. Was it cliche? Maybe. Did we love it anway? Yes, yes we did.
Saturday June 18th. With the last was upon us, it was both a bittersweet but wonderful day as we’d had some truly great days at Copenhell. There had been nonsense and laughter (most of which was directed at things that really do show our age amongst these youngsters), and we were determined not to let that stop because of the knowledge that this was the final day. The sources of humour, luckily, continued in abundance thanks to my travelling companion… as we held another brief intermission in our festival day in order to rush into Copenhagen city and buy him a new pair of shorts after he split his last pair… Now, most friends would have probably respected his request to not mention this in their festival review, nor would they suggest that there are indeed photos of his near compromised modesty that could be brought into the light at any given time or place.
But as you might have guessed, I am not most friends. And before you get mad, just remember that there may or may not be photos.
Still buzzing from the previous night and now on a dopamine high thanks to Adrian’s brief attempt at the splits, we were presented with the best hangover cure ever in the form of Soren Anderson and their beautiful instrumental guitar work. Artillery were quick to follow, providing an excellent warm-up for those who need a bit of heavy metal in order to get the day going; but I personally feel that the first truly kick-ass band of the afternoon would have to go to The Raven Age. I remember this band from their earlier career days, having seen them performing at The Underworld in London and being very impressed with what they had to offer. While the line-up has changed, the core talent remains true in the form of a lean, mean, rock and roll machine. And what better place to show off what you’ve got then Copenhell.
Thunder took to the second stage to do what Thunder do best, playing an hour of flawless classic rock. They came, they saw, they conquered the audience, with Danny Bowes oozing effortless charm to the Danish crowd who loved and lapped up every minute until then they were gone again.
Gehenna stage took a turn from the old to the new, as Junkyard Drive gave us a thrilling demonstration of what the next generation of rock music will be like; and I have to say the future looks very healthy indeed. This is another band that joins the list of those that deserve to be heard around the world, as this talented group has everything going and so much more.
Another Saturday band that festival goers should always take the opportunity to see is The Hellacopters. While they’ve been around since the mid-1990s, the opportunity to see the Swedish band has been few and far between. Thankfully the reformed and revitalised band attended Copenhell in support of their new album ‘Eyes of Oblivion’. Despite the significant age difference and Dregen having to perform in a medical boot because of sustained damage to his leg, it didn’t stop the band that gave us ‘Supershitty to the Max!’ over 20 years ago playing their hearts out for a crowd that was absolutely buzzing to see them return. I’m truly hoping that a UK tour will be in the future, as I will most certainly be attending front and centre. (If you’re reading this Hellacopters, take the hint. PLEASE TAKE THE HINT!).
Next for us were the Ukraine’s global ambassadors Jinjer, who unsurprisingly got one of the biggest receptions of the day from the audience. With a little update on the current events in their home country and fans donning a selection of specially printed t-shirts in a display of support and solidarity, Jinjer’s performance was never going to fall flat. Tatiana Shmailyuk’s voice is both a work of art and a miracle that needs to be heard live to be held in all its glory. I know they are already confirmed as future headliners for many upcoming festivals, and I have no doubt that there will be more to follow as their careers continue to grow and flourish…
While Mastodon warmed up the main stage in advance of the headliners, Adrian and I took a moment to have a look at the Copenhell-Con side of the festival. Picture going to Comic-Con if it was hosted at a heavy metal festival.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
There were old stand-up arcade cabinets with classic games like Street Fighter II, alongside talks, collectables, and even an Imperial garrison flanking an ominous Darth Vader. With all of this and more to offer, Copenhell-con was certainly a unique twist to the typical rock and metal festival; but one that most definitely proved popular with fans, and I hope they aim to bring it back for next year’s event.
The final main stage headliner was Iron Maiden. This British metal band have certainly made quite the reputation for themselves; considering they are as big in Denmark as they are in many other countries like Japan, the US, Brazil, and more. And let’s face it, whether you;ve been in the scene for years or five minutes, you know who Iron Maiden are. Their legacy within the alternative music industry has made them into a household name, and as any band in the world would tell you, that is certainly no easy feat. Many have noted a recent change in their music style, with the most recent albums ‘The Book of Souls’ and ‘Senjutsu’ taking a more progressive stance. The music, however; the bassline, guitar, and drumming all combined with Mr Dickinson’s amazing voice, still never fails to come together and make each track undeniably Maiden.
The set of their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ world tour had certainly done alot to assure fans that there is a generous amount of the new mixed with a significant slice of the old in order to appeal to both sides. Because of this, fans would be hard pushed to complain about anything on offer, both at Copenhell itself and any other upcoming tours Iron Maiden may pursue. The stage set and Samurai Eddie all looked incredible on their own, but it was during the encore, with the introduction of a Spitfire flying over the heads of the band, that not only ensured that their was icing on the cake, but proceeded to drop and entire bakeries worth of glazed cherries on top as well. Dickinson himself sounded better than he has done for many years, and Maiden have made it perfectly clear that they don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Had Copenhell been held in the UK, then it is more than likely that Iron Maiden would have rounded off the evening and event itself, again feeding off that little extra pzazz that comes from having a band perform in their home territory. But in Europe it’s a little different, and the party doesn’t stop, just the main band is done for the night. For us, that meant a set from another fantastic classic Danish group, Mercyful Fate. If there is ever a need for a great example of where the past becomes the future, then this is it. This band, to put it simply, sounded amazing. King Diamond sounded incredible as always, belting out that fantastic unique voice of his in the way that we all know only he can do. I am thrilled to hear that they have multiple festival slots this summer, and I truly encourage you to go and see them at the first chance that you get.
Sadly there are no photos for Metallica or Iron Maiden due to restrictions, although there are plenty of YouTube videos available...
On a final note, I just want to say a massive thank you to the Copenhell festival team- the organisers, the vendors, the press team, the security for doing absolutely everything right. This is how a festival should be. The music, the vibe, the lack of mud (I don’t care what anyone says, absolutely no one likes the mud!) and thanks to the general warm and relaxing atmosphere from the happy go lucky Danes truly made this a weekend to remember.
How they can ever top this in 2023, I have no idea… All I know for certain is, I cannot wait to see it!
Will we be back? You bet your asses we will….
AND THERE’S THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE A FESTIVAL….
…AND FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT ARE STILL UMMING AND ARRRING ON WHETHER COPENHELL IS FOR YOU- TAKE A LOOK AT THIS BRIEF RECAP OF COPENHELL 2022 AND THEN TELL ME YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED….