If you’re looking for an epic international festival experience I’d highly recommend Copenhell.
And if you’re worried about attending alone rest assured that it’s an easy environment to make friends. I usually keep to myself at festivals but the overwhelming good vibe of the place meant that within half an hour of arriving and before I knew what was happening I found myself adopted by a group of Norwegians. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I had the amazing opportunity to further my obsession with Scandinavian music festivals by attending Copenhell back at the end of June. Now in its tenth year the inner city festival takes place in an industrial shipyard area called Refshaleøen, both easily accessible from anywhere in the small capital and relatively isolated, giving attendees the option of camping on-site or staying in Copenhagen itself and travelling by bus.
I opted for the latter and joined the daily sea of black tees and denim jackets waiting at Christianshavn Station. I attended 3 of the 4 festival days and delays going to and from the festival on the Thursday were really bad but soon rectified. As it’s a major event the local transport is bolstered with additional shuttles, running more frequently and rebranded as line ‘666’ because Copenhell never misses an opportunity for a metal-themed joke.
If you’re a casual fan of heavy music a dedicated festival can seem pretty intimidating, but inbetween the fire and skulls Copenhell’s Instagram reveals a heavy dose of humour. Everything leading up to the festival had me smiling – from the line-up announcements and videos to the plethora of puns used to describe everything from meet-and-greets (“Copenhello”) to the VIP area (“RIP”) to the on-site first aid (“Copainhell”).
The smiles continued when I arrived: layout and decor were great and the space used well to keep any area from feeling too crowded, an impressive feat given the 20,000 or so attendees. A market lane of vendors sold everything from drinking horns to vuvuzelas (!) and food offerings ranged from a dedicated viking feast area to Korean chicken to whole roasted pigs heads.
Also on offer: multiple beer halls (including one in a container hangar with “the world’s highest indoor high roping course” overhead), a sideshow stage, an art exhibition featuring badass fossils, an indoor skate park and a competition to win a Copenhell fridge, a prize that is simultaneously bizarre and oddly fitting. Oh, and then there’s Smadreland – a Copenhell institution where an appetite for destruction is rewarded with weapons and free reign to smash up old cars.
Car-smashing aside the fest was aggression-free especially in the moshpits. Unlike at a lot of festivals, crowdsurfing is encouraged and security is on-hand to catch those who make it to the front, lowering them into the pit to a hero’s welcome of high fives.
For those that prefer to chill while watching, the naturally sloping hills provide the perfect vantage point to enjoy the main stages and allow an epic view of the fest, presided over by the iconic mural of the wolf Fenrir.
Musical acts performed on 3 stages and ranged in genre from hardcore punk to symphonic black metal. My personal highlights included: a majestic set from Tool, Eluveitie’s headbanging harpist, Fever 333’s infectious energy, Slipknot’s chaotic energy, the never-ending wave of crowd–surfers during Lamb of God, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, the darkly mesmerising Heilung, the sheer viking delight and gratuitous pyro of Amon Amarth, Living Color’s funk and showmanship, and the theatrical antics of Dimmu Borgir and Rob Zombie.
While multiple stages always mean performance overlaps the festival is a good size and you’re never too far to catch your preferred performer. The schedule was also well-paced enough to allow time to grab some food, peruse the market and play drinking games with my adoptive Norwegian family – again, if you’re considering travelling for an unforgettable festival experience I can’t recommend Copenhell enough!