Kill-Town Death Fest 2018 – A haven for brutality in central Copenhagen

Preludium

Kill-Town Death Fest is a modern legend within the death metal scene. The festival existed between 2010 and 2014 and took place at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen. The focus was mainly on the Scandinavian scene with some European, American and Asian bands thrown in for good measure. I was never able to attend any of those initial years because of life and, to be honest, the fact that I’ve always been more of a black metal buff than a death metal connoisseur when it comes to the extremer forms of metal music. Despite this, when the festival announced in January this year that their resurrection would take place in September I felt a strong urge to go. Partly because of the legendary status of the festival and partly because it was now very comfortably relocated to Pumpehuset, which is only a couple of minutes walk from the main station in Copenhagen. I live in Malmö so the trip would take about 50 minutes door to door. Very convenient!

Pumpehuset is also a good venue in my opinion; it has two stages, a great courtyard (Byhaven) and the location is superb. I bet some of the old visitors missed the old Ungdomshuset, but since I never experienced those days, I feel this venue was a great match for the festival. Only thing I would complain a bit about was that it gets too crowded at the smaller stage. Other than that the arrangement as a whole was very professional. There was great food (amazing vegan burgers and sweet potato fries from the Green Burger food truck and South American style cooking inside Byhaven) and drinks (lager, Mikkeller, To øl, long drinks etc) to get on the spot. If you feel like you need something else, or just get away for a couple of minutes, you’re in the dead center of the great city of Copenhagen.

The tickets sold out within a month for this fest, so the thirst for this its return was apparently great. Second hand tickets sold faster than you could say “Altars of Madness” up until the festival started. I was lucky to get a ticket for my girlfriend on the first day of the festival, so she was with me from Friday and onward. Talking about the days, KTDF goes on from Thursday until, and including, Sunday instead of the more normal Wednesday through Saturday for four day festivals. Something to keep in mind for future planning folks. I thought it was a bit of a shame since the trains stop going early on Sundays and we missed some stuff we wanted to see.

As you might notice from the bands listed below, the focus had shifted a bit towards the American scene with the resurrection edition of KTDF. This wasn’t necessarily the greatest move in my humble opinion, but as you’ll notice from my text there was still enough goodies in this line-up to keep me well satisfied.

 

Thursday

I basically went straight from work and got there in the late afternoon. I got my press pass, met some friends over a beer and chat and also met up with a nice German guy to buy a ticket for my girlfriend, who would join the day after. It was nice to just be at the festival and get a feel for the place in its current death metal context. First band I saw was CEMETERY URN all the way from Australia. They’re specializing in something they themselves call “barbaric death metal”, to me it didn’t really sound all that different to traditional death metal of the American variant. Down tuned, grinding and with deep guttural vocals. Very well played though and I stayed for a couple of songs to enjoy the craftsmanship, even though it wasn’t straight up my alley.

Next up was HYPERDONTIA who boosts the cool mixed origin of Denmark and Turkey. This was more my thing, very riffy and with a great drive and feel to the music. Again the guttural vocals (they would make a great many returns throughout the festival) isn’t what I love the most in this world, but the rest was killer. The smaller “Black Stage” area was absolutely jam-packed so apparently you can be a prophet (of death) in your own land. With some help from Turkish band leaders.

Since the bands start every hour, on the hour, at one of the two stages interchangeably, you don’t have a great deal of time between the bands. Especially if you’re like me and haven’t really listened a lot to many of the bands. I want to watch, see and hear for myself if it’s a band I want to look in to more thoroughly or not.  The next band up I did have some knowledge about though, I’ve even seen them live before. It was time for the highlight of the evening in my book: NECROWRETCH. Now, everyone that really knows heavy metal knows how amazing the French were at that back in the 80’s. Something the French aren’t really famous for, unlike eating snails and having a bad attitude, is great death/black metal. Necrowretch is the exception that proves the rule. This was more my cup of (putrid) tea! Fast and furious, yet heavy and melodic. There’s a lot of influence from old Scandinavian bands like Necrophobic, Grotesque and Merciless in the melodies and thrashy touch, as well as some more traditional death and black metal riffing. The whole thing sounded great and worked very well live. A band that has Ibanez Destroyer and Gibson Les Paul guitars and a Fender P-bass already catch me interested before they even start, and Necrowretch kept that interest alive for the whole show. Well played and extremely tight, great drumming and riffing. Best gig so far on the festival.

Last band I saw before I had to leave to be back in decent time for work the day after was the US brutal death metal combo TORTURE RACK. I sure can’t deny that it sounded american. This wasn’t my thing and sounded pretty generic to my ears, so I left. Major cudos to KTDF for bringing new bands over from the US for their first European dates though. That’s no small feat and a testimony to how good this festival knows its scene. Unfortunately me leaving meant I missed the BLOOD INCANTATION gig, but since I saw them a bit on Brutal Assault, and then again in Malmö a couple of weeks after that, I still thought the Thursday was a decent day’s worth.

 

Friday

Even though I left work earlier on the Friday, we still weren’t at the festival until the evening. This meant we missed the two concerts that took place outside in Byhaven. The must to eat also took us to a great, but a bit over-priced, pizza place just across the street from the venue. Great pizza and amazing ice tea! Anyways, once we arrived at the festival we had a drink and started watching bands. First up was PISSGRAVE from the US. The name says a lot… You could say that it sure wasn’t for me. I heard no riffs, or really anything, that stood out or was even remotely memorable. People afterwards seemed to like it though, so if this is your type of band I guess it was a decent gig. I sure didn’t get it though.

Next band was also from the US and named ASCENDED DEAD. This was more to my taste. Finally some abundant leather and studs and some old school Possessed/Morbid Angel/Hellhammer metal. The sound wasn’t great, but at least they looked cool and did a good job playing. Not bad at all.

The three first days all the bands I was mostly excited about seeing played at 21:00 on the main stage. Since the hour was upon us we got up to the second floor, where the main stage is located, to see Germany’s brightest shining death stars; VENENUM. We were not disappointed! Great gig and amazing playing throughout. I’ve seen them once before but this time was better. The music is a bit hard to describe, it’s definitely still death metal though. A bit more so than for example Tribulation or Slægt, which are bands that could be mentioned when talking about Venenum’s sound. Also Watain and Reveal comes to mind. It’s eery, atmospheric and haunting music with a lot of melodies and clever riffs, while still maintaining its brutality and strength. A very impressive gig and a truly dynamic performance which stood out as one of the most memorable parts of the festival. Only one band managed to top this, but more on that later.

After that burst of greatness it was hard for other band to compare. We saw GRAVE MIASMA from the UK which weren’t too bad, but got a bit repetitive after a while. Their sound was classic and not very bad at all, just a bit too much of the same old story for yours truly. TRIUMVIR FOUL from the US was next up and this was better in my opinion. Very brutal and uncompromising death/black with a dirty and raw aura to it. There was still some finess to the performance though, so not a bad way to end the evening.

Originally Peruvian death metal legends MORTEM were supposed to have been last out, but they had to cancel because of visa problems at the last minute. This was a true shame since I would’ve loved to see them. We were pretty tired though so we went home to get some rest.

 

Saturday

Saturday began with some pre-partying at home before getting on the train to Copenhagen. We missed the outside gigs again, but were in a good mood and ready to have a festival day with a bigger focus on party than the previous days. Rum & coke and Gin & tonic in hand we headed for our first band, which sounded interesting on paper. ANTIVERSUM were said to play a mix of death, black and doom, a description that wasn’t very far off at all. I especially enjoyed the black and doom parts, which they blended in greatly with their death metal base. There was a lot of focus on hypnotic riffs and atmosphere, just in a much rawer and thicker context than it would’ve been in a black metal band. I enjoyed the gig and it was very well played, definitely a band to check out further.

The second band inside the venue was Danish UNDERGANG, a band that celebrates their tenth anniversary this year. The concert was a total 90’s death fest, in a great sense of the word. The band sounded to me like a pleasant mix of old Morbid Angel and early Entombed, but with deeper vocals. A really nice concert and one of the tightest playing units in the whole lineup. The next band, Italian METIFIC, was less interesting. I mean, it’s interesting to see a death metal band from Italy, the land of dragon slaying power metal and weird gothic doom, but the music wasn’t very exciting. Everything, from the bass sound, the guitars to the vocals was too deep and guttural for me.

Now the clock was close to 21.00 and that meant the most interesting band of the evening was supposed to play. NECROS CHRISTOS, from Germany, is one of those strange bands that is hard to describe the style of. Both this chronicle, and my other writings on this page, may reveal that I’m a sucker for this type of bands. Bands that walk their own path, but somehow manage to balance it with their roots so they don’t estrange their listeners, but rather expand their preferences to make something unique. Necros Christos is one of those bands. The concert is focusing on older material, probably carefully selected especially for this occasion, and the music is very versatile. It’s without any doubt death metal, but at the same time also black metal, doom metal, prog rock and so on. There’s always something going on musically that takes an unexpected turn which makes the songs greater and greater as they carry on. Every note and chord, every hit on the drums and every word is exactly where it should be to serve the songs’ purpose and present them at their very best. The band is insanely tight and the musicianship is through the roof, I could’ve enjoyed a solo concert with any of the band members all alone on stage. The atmosphere is dark, epic and heavily emphasized on the occult, the room is boiling from heat and energy. When the title track from their first EP “Curse of the Necromantical Sabbath” starts the room literally explodes with excitement. Without any doubt this was the greatest show of the festival, as well as one of the greatest shows I’ve witnessed in years. Thank you Necros Christos and KTDF for the experience!

After that outburst of energy we needed a break, so we skipped one band to have som drinks and hang out to land a bit from all the adrenaline. Next band we saw was the classic 90’s band DEMILICH from Finland. The band is considered as one of the fore-bearers of the dark technical type of death metal and the guys are evidently great musicians. The material consists of both album songs and old demo stuff and it all has a great aura of 90’s around it. A good gig that I would probably have liked even more if I hadn’t already seen the greatest show of the festival just before. Nice when old bands get back together and actually deliver on all levels though, hopefully we’ll see even more of Demilich in the future.

We now skipped yet another band for some party time, the long drinks were both tasty and moderately priced after all… Our last band for the day was also the last band playing, namely INCANTATION from the US. The band is somewhat of a legend within the scene and have been around for close to 30 years by now. Their veteran status is underlined by a singer looking like a true Satan Claus (pun definitely intended) and an unmatched routine on stage. These guys have been on stage before. The sound is rather typically american and maybe not fully my type of death metal, but I do have the utmost respect for the institution that is Incantation. It was very heavy without turning doomy. The thing that struck me the most was how great the bass player was, he played like a mad man and it sounded great. The fact that he wore an Angel Witch shirt sure didn’t hurt either.

After this we attended the after party for a while, where we got treated with great heavy metal tracks by Cirith Ungol, Riot, Omen, Saxon and the likes. Very nice to hear some clean sung vocals for a change during a full weekend of gurgling and screaming. DJ Thundersteel sure knows great party metal. We left unwillingly to get the last train home.

 

Sunday

On the Sunday we, or at least I, was pretty worn out by partying, the travelling and from basically only being served one type of music for the last three days. You could say that the festival life style had caught up to me, and I wasn’t super keen on going back to be honest. But, since I have a responsibility towards you, the readers, and since we’d still payed for my girlfriends ticket, we went. There was still some bands that we wanted to see after all. We did, half intentionally because of economic reasons, miss the record fair at Byhaven which started the day from noon. A great initiative in my opinion!

First band we saw was SPECTRAL VOICE from the US. The stage set looked great, gloomy and dark with candelabras and incense smoke, so the initial senses were intrigued and we wanted to see more. The music was very dark and with clear influences from heavier doom metal. Sometimes it was even over-overwhelmingly heavy and you could feel the music as much as hear it. A nice touch I must say. Sadly the guttural and one-sided vocals took away some of the pleasure from the concert, but still this wasn’t bad at all.

Next up was american SEMPITERNAL DUSK, who played typical american death metal. No more, no less. Well played, but unfortunately not very exciting. Something that was exciting on the other hand, was the next band, Sweden’s own RUNEMAGICK. The band has a very unique take on death metal in my opinion. It’s dark, slow to mid-paced and very simplistic. Almost as much rock or 70’s heavy metal as it is death metal. The riffs have that special 70’s feeling to them, they’re just played a bit differently and it somehow comes out as very nice death metal with its own special groove to it.  The concert was very nice, especially considering this was the first performance in over 10 years, and felt like the perfect soundtrack to my somewhat gloomy Sunday (which was fittingly enough the festival’s own name for the day in question).

Last band we saw was Finnish RIPPIKOULU, another undeground band formed in the early 90’s. The music was a mix of different styles with punkish, Scandinavian death metal and black influences at its core. All sung in Finnish and with some folk music touches here and there. I got some vibes of early Amorphis in the folkier bits. Not bad at all, but we were both pretty tired and decided to leave on the second to last train home after the concert. We still wanted to see HOODED MENACE, also from Finland, but they were the closing act starting at midnight, which is also the time the last train leaves for Malmö before 05.00 in the morning.

All in all the festival experience was great and it’s nice to finally have been to this legendary institution. I definitely hope for a return next year and yet another great combination of Copenhagen and death metal. Maybe take some time off work though, and possibly book a hotel room. Even if the trips with the train are convenient they get pretty expensive and it would be nice to not have any time to keep. The after parties on Friday and Saturday were pure heavy metal hits extravaganzas, and it would’ve been nice to be able to attend those.

 

To summon it all up

Festival: Kill-Town Death Fest

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Accomodations: You have the whole city of Copenhagen at your disposal. Everything from cheap hostels to luxury hotels are available and the festival is just a 5-10 minute walk from the central station and a couple of trains stops from the international airport. A perfect location!

Food: Good! The sweet potato fries at Green Burger were the best ones I’ve had.

Drinks: No complaints what so ever. OK pricing and a more than decent selection.

Best: The location, Necros Christos, Venenum, Necrowretch, Runemagick, DJ Thundersteel and the atmosphere.

Worst: A bit too crowded at the Black stage and the full day Sunday.

Would I go again?: Definitely! A great festival that’s pretty unmatched in giving the death metal connoisseur exactly what they want, and then some.

 

Niklas Svensson

Niklas Svensson

Writer

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