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    COPENHELL Festival Review 14TH – 17TH JUNE 2023 – COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

    Review and photographs by Kal Ahmed ( KKLive Photography ) Headliner photos by Adrian Hextall

    COPENHELL 2023- Refshaleøen, Copenhagen, Denmark – June 14-17

    Wow, Copenhell has come a long way since its first festival 13 years ago! A full Copenhell Con program, and amazing food and drinks that’ll make you feel like a Viking. The festival captures the Scandinavian vibe, which is so cool. We had a blast and it felt like we got a true Danish experience while we were there.

    Being a smaller festival, you’d expect smaller bands but you’d be very much mistaken. 2022’s festival line up rivalled fore mentioned festivals with KISS, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and Korn hitting Hades and Helviti stages (main stages) This year, it’s no smaller with Slipknot, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard and Pantera gracing the stages…

    2023, being the second year of ROCKwell Unscene Magazine covering the festival and the excitement is no different from 2022…

    COPENHELL FESTIVAL is definitely Europe’s best kept secret- a 4 day festival, 4 stages and nearly 80 bands playing to a crowd of between 35-40,000 daily music lovers.

    Compared to some of Europe’s bigger festivals such as Hellfest, Wacken and Graspop, it has a considerably smaller attendee rate but is definitely classed as competition…

    So my trip begins….

    Driving from Birmingham to Bishop Stortford, stopping the night in the worst apartment ever, trying to get some sleep to be picked up by my festival buddy Adrian at 04.30…      At 4am, my phone rings and a chirpy voice says “I’m outside” In a panic, its straight in the shower and out the door… Getting to the airport, parking the car and straight to booking in- boarding the flight to Copenhagen with Ryan Air- very smooth and efficient…             The process from getting from the airport to the festival was very smooth- picking up the hire car, dropping our luggage at the Air B&B, parking the car and picking up our press passes- all without any issues…. AND WE WERE IN

    Once we arrived at the festival, after setting up our cameras and harnesses, a quick Hi to fellow photographers, we headed over to the main two stages, Hades and Helviti, which stood side by side. We kicked off the festival with an artist I’ve been wanting to see for a while  – Ville Valo. The Finnish artist made his name with HIM, and we were so happy to see him back with a debut album that was released earlier this year. Valo’s gothic love-infused rock was still alive and well, and both he and the audience were really into his new music. It was dark, dreamy, and he had a voice to die for – it was an amazing way to start the festival.

    Next, we made our way to the Gehenna stage, which was located through the woods (and covered in chip bark to keep it dry). Riverhead was the first to perform, and they gave us a masterclass in performing that mixed hardcore and metal with progressive death metal. It was an impressive blend that left us in awe.

    From Riverhead, we moved on to what was undoubtedly the band of the weekend – Enforcer from Sweden. We were blown away and all we could say was “Holy Shit”. Originally a one-man project from Swedish thrash veteran Olof Wikstrand, the band has grown in style and stature. Their set was filled to the brim (and then some) with classic speed metal interspersed with lots of glam, groove, and an atmosphere and image that hit the 80s sweet spot perfectly. They played with so much energy and enthusiasm that we couldn’t help but feel joyful. We highly recommend their latest album, ‘Nostalgia’, which came out earlier this year.

    After enjoying a few Tuborgs, we made our way back to the Helviti stage to catch Clutch, a Maryland-based quartet. Admittedly, following the high-energy speed metal of Enforcer, Clutch’s groove-laden rock left me feeling like something was missing from their set. But in reality, it was probably just my buzz from Enforcer that had me wanting more. I can’t wait to see Clutch perform again when I am a bit more in the mood for their signature style, and lucky for me, their European tour is currently underway with Nate Bergman supporting.

    Sick Of It All brought their classic hardcore punk sound to the Hades stage, with brothers Lou and Pete Koller delivering a performance that was nothing short of amazing. Lou’s gravelly vocals and Pete’s outstanding guitar skills made for a pure punk rock experience. The circle pits, crowd surfers, and very busy security detail all showed just how much the band resonated with the fans.

    The first of the festival’s main headliners took to the stage next, and it was clear that the organizers of Copenhell knew exactly what they were doing. Each night had three headliners on the bill, and Wednesday was no exception with Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, and Parkway Drive all taking the spotlight at different times. Mötley Crüe started things off with their signature L.A. metal sound, and it was a moment of reflection for many of us in the audience. As people who grew up with the band and their hedonistic ways, we couldn’t help but wonder how relevant they were today, thirty years after the release of ‘Dr Feelgood’. But regardless of our thoughts, the performance was nothing short of amazing, and it was a joy to see these legends in action.

    The movie ‘The Dirt’ has brought the Crüe back into the spotlight and it’s been amazing to see. The younger generation who never had the chance to see them live is finally getting that opportunity. Even with the replacement of Mick Mars on guitar, the band’s performance was a huge success and the crowd was loving it.

    From LA Sleaze to the John Carpenter-inspired set from Dance With The Dead, the whole experience was just incredible. The nostalgia-fueled performance was an absolute treat and the heavy synth wave instrumental music was the perfect accompaniment. It was a definite win and you couldn’t help but smile and sing along with the crowd. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of something amazing for the band.

    It’s important to note that the first beer at a festival is always the best of the weekend. But picture this – combining that delicious brew with a small black tube filled with the most heavenly and addicting elixir known to mankind. Adorned with a picture of a skull, this potion is only found at Copenhell and is a blend of coffee, chocolate, and liquorice that’s simply to die for. The drinks tab may have taken a hit, but we all cheered when we found out the main bars were once again stocking it. And who knows, maybe a case of 50 to take home wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all!

    Def Leppard absolutely killed it on stage with one of the most professional and polished headline performances of the weekend. I was having such a good time that I may have overindulged in the Skull, but it was worth it to witness the spectacle that this band brought to the stage. They gave us the full Stadium Tour experience, complete with all of their classic hits and more. The crowd was electric and the energy was off the charts. It’s clear that these guys just keep getting better with age, and Joe Elliott’s voice was as strong as ever. When they played ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’, it was like they were showing everyone else how it’s really done. It was an unforgettable performance and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.

    The last band of the first day was an absolute blast! I had seen Parkway Drive ten years ago at a festival in Helsinki and wasn’t impressed, but boy have they come a long way! They put on an amazing performance, getting the crowd hyped up and excited. When they played ‘Prey’, I couldn’t help but dance along in the pit. I had to remind myself to take pictures, but it was hard when all I wanted to do was enjoy the music. They were the perfect way to end the first day, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. The only downside was an annoying parking ticket, but it was worth it for such an incredible experience.

    The 15th of June was a fantastic day, starting with Black Gold’s incredible performance on the Pandemonium stage. This British band, with their masked identities, looked and sounded amazing, playing nu-metal that reignited my love for the genre. I’m excited to see what they have in store for us in the future. Later on, I caught a glimpse of the American group, Vended, on the Hades stage. They’re really coming into their own with their unique style, distancing themselves from comparisons to Slipknot, especially considering the lead vocalists are father and son.

    The performances by Testament and Aborted were nothing short of impressive, and their sets were received with great enthusiasm by fans of thrash and death metal. It’s truly heartwarming to witness the incredible reception that Testament is currently enjoying, especially since the genre of thrash seems to be making a triumphant return. It’s a source of great joy for me and many of my friends!

    For me though, the band of the day that I considered to be one of my absolute must-see’s was Sleep Token. This band has literally achieved the unimaginable having gone from being relatively unknown to absolutely killing it in no time at all. It’s amazing how they managed to thrive during the pandemic when so many other artists struggled. Even though they couldn’t tour, they still managed to make a name for themselves with some fantastic festival appearances. And let’s not forget how mysterious they are – it just adds to their allure!

    It’s exciting to see that Sleep Token is still shrouded in mystery and that they’re using it to their advantage. The hype surrounding them feels reminiscent of ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ – it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake, but we just have to see it for ourselves! This approach is clearly working for the band, as the Pandemonium stage was packed with fans eager to see the British act perform. This band was absolutely incredible to watch, and with their rising fame, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Sleep Token takes their place at the top of the bill with a stage and performance that lives up to their amazing vision.

    If you’re a fan of up-and-coming bands, then you absolutely have to check out Electric Callboy. These guys are going places, and their latest album ‘Tekkno’ is proof of that. With dance beats that are sure to get your feet moving and RnB-style vocals that are as clean as they come, this band has taken industrial music to a whole new level. And with metalcore influences woven throughout every track, you’ll be headbanging and dancing all night long. The crowd at Copenhell went wild for this band, and it’s easy to see why. Just listen to ‘Pump It‘ and ‘We Got The Moves‘ and you’ll be hooked. Disco metal is the way of the future!

    An explosive set by Fever 333 at the Pandemonium stage with their new lineup as of May 2023 making it a quartet from a trio- vocalist Jason Aalon, April Kae on bass, Brandon Davis on guitar and Thomas Pridgen on drums. Pure raw energy and passion – guitar licks, acrobatics and even Jason climbing up the side of the stage…

    After enjoying some delicious Skulls and pig’s head (because, why not?), we headed back to the main stages to catch Halestorm’s performance. And oh boy, did they deliver! Their energy was just as electrifying as it was over a decade ago when we first discovered them. Watching them play was pure bliss and it’s hard to believe how young they still are given their undeniable talent. The crowd was completely won over and it was truly a night to remember.

    Coming to the end of Day 2 and I was able to round off the evening with classic metal band Pantera. Even though I’m not really into that heavy metal sound that they’re known for, I was blown away by their performance. But what really made the experience unforgettable was the crowd’s reaction. It was like a litmus test for the band, to see if they could still bring the heat even after losing two core members. The answer? Yes. yes, they can! With Charlie Benante (of Anthrax) on drums and the legendary Zakk Wylde on guitar, you know you’re in for a treat. And the energy that Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown brought to the stage was electric! Sure, some people might say that Pantera should just call it quits, but for every naysayer, there’s a whole army of fans begging for more. And they got what they wanted! The band played their hearts out and the crowd loved every minute of it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Pantera disbanded, but they proved that they’ve still got it! Rock on!

     

    It was a fantastic Friday on June 16th as we headed out early to catch Steel Inferno’s performance.

    The band’s classic thrashy speed metal with an 80s vibe was the perfect start to our day. After that, we made our way to the Copenhell Con to attend a session on ‘Serial Killers: Criminal Profiling and Metal Music‘ with Florence McLean. Singer Skynd also joined in to share her thoughts on why she exclusively writes about serial killers in her music. We were surprised to learn that many serial killers are insecure, loners, and have few friends or   family members. However, we couldn’t help but chuckle when we realized that this description might apply to some of the attendees at the Con. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the session and later basked in the sunlight outside…

    We had a blast in the sun! And who doesn’t love some solid power metal? With Brazilian outfit Angra taking over the stage, we were pumped to hear some of the best in the genre. It’s not often that they tour, so it was a real treat to witness their greatness in person.

    Out in the wilderness, Haliphron treated us to some intense horror metal, courtesy of the talented former members of Dutch bands Izegrim and Bleeding Gods. The audience, who were passionate about this kind of music, really enjoyed it and some may have taken inspiration from it.

    On another note, the Danish occult death metal band Defacing God put on a mesmerizing performance at the Pandemonium stage. Sandie The Lillith was captivating as she sang and put a spell on everyone. Her act was so impressive that she even drank a goblet full of blood and sprayed it over the front few rows, leaving the audience in awe. I can’t help but fall in love with her performance!

    The power of Napalm Death was so immense that it caused a sudden outpouring of rain and a wild gust of wind that even ripped one of the video screens at the Pandemonium stage. Due to safety concerns, the grassy area in front of the main stages was temporarily closed and unfortunately, the Helviti stage had to be shut down as well. As a result, the highly anticipated performance by Architects had to be cancelled, which was undoubtedly the biggest letdown of the entire weekend.

     

    It was truly a miracle when the clouds suddenly disappeared and the sun came out just in time for Skynd to take the stage at Pandemonium. With the video screen repaired and reinstated, it was as if nothing had ever gone wrong. Skynd is a band that truly deserves the best, and with their amazing performance, they are sure to be gracing much larger stages next year. This Australian trio’s heavy electro-industrial music mixed with true-crime-inspired lyrics is simply stunning. The lead singer, also known as Skynd, has an incredible vocal range that will leave you in awe. From low and powerful to high and majestic, her voice is something out of this world. And when she pours in the horror element, it’s simply chilling. We highly recommend seeing and hearing this band as soon as possible.

    And that brings us to the end of Day 3 with Slipknot! This band really knows how to draw a crowd, and they always deliver a unique style that keeps fans coming back for more. It’s amazing to see how they’ve managed to maintain their following over the years, even after the nu-metal era has passed. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just discovering their music, there’s no denying the energy and enthusiasm that Slipknot brings to the stage. They had everyone singing along, crowd surfing, and creating a massive grey cloud of concrete dust at Copenhell. It was an unforgettable performance and a perfect end to an amazing day!

    And finally, Saturday (June 17th) arrived! The festival was coming to an end, but we were excited to see the famous Guns n’ Roses perform for three whole hours! Even though there were fewer bands on the main stages, the day was still full of great music – some old, some new, some borrowed, and some blues. As a festival-goer who didn’t want the fun to end, I was thrilled to experience it all.

    I’m thrilled to say that Mammoth WVH (and I have a feeling he wants to drop the WVH) absolutely rocked the Hades stage in the early afternoon! His modern set of hard rock songs was nothing short of amazing. It’s clear that he’s not only an incredible musician, but he’s also got some serious vocal chops. And let’s not forget about the rest of the band – Frank Sidoris brought some serious guitar skills to the table, Jon Jourdan held it down on rhythm guitar, Ronnie Ficarro was absolutely bouncing with energy on bass, and Garrett Whitlock absolutely killed it on drums. This group has all the makings of a future headliner, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here!

    What an incredible experience at Gehenna! Spectral Wound brought their A-game with some of the purest black metal I’ve ever heard. Their visual impact was mesmerizing, with black and grey makeup that added to the overall effect. Their set felt like it was reaching out to the souls of the departed. What set them apart from the rest was Jonah’s brutal vocals and the impressive guitar skills of A.A. and Patrick. Canadians sure know how to put on a show!

    Local band Forever Still gave us a glimpse into a dystopian science fiction world with their metal performance. It was simply mind-blowing! Then came Billy F Gibbons with his solo performance on Helviti. The trio reminded me of a musical version of ‘Ghostbusters‘ with their groove-laden shuffle-blues set. Billy’s experience and comfort on stage were evident, and he gave an effortless performance. He put in the effort, though, and it was a great set. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this amazing experience!

    Choosing between Fishbone and Angus McSix was a tough decision, but ultimately, I went with the one that filled me with the most joy. While Fishbone reminded me of old times, Angus McSix, the former Gloryhammer singer, had a fresh energy that made me feel alive. His performances of “Master of The Universe” and “Sixcalibur” were simply unmatched, and his confidence in being “one better” only added to the excitement. I knew I had made the right choice, and I couldn’t wait to experience the joy of his set.

    Wow, the Angus McSix show was truly an incredible experience that I will never forget! It was even more mind-blowing than a Gloryhammer show if you can believe it. From the amazing lasers to the epic swords, to the guitarist who looked like Skeletor’s modern-day cousin, and even the inflatable dinosaurs – it was all so magical and unforgettable. The music was loud, anthemic, and so very memorable, and seeing Thomas Winkler’s beaming smile as Angus was just the cherry on top of an absolute triumph of a show.

     

    The highlight of my day came next! As mentioned earlier, every day had three amazing acts, and the early evening slot was filled by none other than the Swedish powerhouse, Ghost. With the Danes and the Swedes simply separated by a bridge, it felt like a homecoming show for the band and the crowd responded with pure joy. Their delivery was flawless (but we always expect nothing less), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the 9:30 pm slot in the next few years. Ghost’s music is loved by many, they have fans of all genres, and with Tobias Forge’s wicked sense of humor shining through his persona, it’s no wonder why they are so beloved.

    I was so excited to see Spiritbox, and they definitely didn’t disappoint! They’re such an amazing band, and I think they’re on the verge of something big. The whole Canadian crew seemed thrilled to be there (I mean, Canadians are always happy, right?), and Courtney LaPlante’s vocals were absolutely spine-tingling. But even though she was belting out these intense, hair-raising tunes, she still managed to be super friendly and engaging with the crowd. It was such a cool mix of polite and angry vibes – classic Canada!

    The night was a blast, and the festival ended on a high note with the legendary Guns n’ Roses taking the stage. Their ‘Not In This Lifetime’ Tour is a force to be reckoned with, and they didn’t disappoint with a 29-song set, even singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ to Dizzy Reed. The crowd was in awe, and they played some of their best hits like ‘Chinese Democracy’, ‘Live & Let Die’, and ‘Coma’ (which was played for the first time on tour!). The highlight of the night was definitely the back-to-back trio of ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’, ‘November Rain’, and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, which got everyone singing along. It’s amazing to see people of all ages still enjoying their music, and it’s clear that Guns n’ Roses still know how to put on a show!

    Well, for 2023, its a wrap…. will we be back in 2024? “Hmmmmm, let me think….. need i say anymore? Hell yeah, we’ll be back….

    OH YEAH, BEFORE I FORGET…. Thanks to all the festival staff, security, food and drink vendors and….. you, the puntera.  Have a look at this video, see if you can see yourselves….

     

     

     

     

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