The Danish death metal band that became reality TV stars

The Aarhus band Baest is poised for an international breakthrough thanks to a recent documentary and an injection of taxpayer money.

The Danish death metal band that became reality TV stars
Baest is Sebastian Adildsten, Svend Karlsson, Lasse Revsbech, Mattias Melchiorsen and Simon Olsen. Photo: Nikolaj Bransholm
Death metal is a genre defined by growling vocals, blistering distorted guitars and blast beats. The sound is typically accompanied by dark imagery that borders on the downright evil. In a music world dominated by sugary pop and hip-hop, it’s about as far away from the mainstream one can get. 
But a young Danish death metal band is upending all of that. The Aarhus-based Baest found its way into the homes of ordinary Danes nationwide thanks to a documentary series on public television that chronicled their attempt to make music their full-time gig.
The series, ‘Den Satans Familie’, follows the young band as they leave Aarhus and embark on their first real European tour. It paints an intimate picture of the five members’ relationships, both with each other and the families they left behind while on the road. Baest only formed in 2015, so the documentary captures how members Sebastian Abildsten (drums), Svend Karlsson (guitar), Mattias Melchiorsen (bass), Simon Olsen (vocals) and Lasse Revsbech (guitar) in some ways still seem to be working out how to co-exist, something that's not always easy when crammed inside a small tour van. 
The DR3 series meant that these young, long-haired, heavily-tattooed metal dudes were suddenly reaching a much larger audience, including many who were not necessarily fans of their sound but couldn’t help but be drawn in by their personalities and their raw struggle to make it in the music business. 
But getting featured in a reality TV show wasn’t the only boost for Baest. The band was named 'best new Danish act' by highly-respected music magazine Gaffa, which also declared their debut album Danse Macabre the best metal or hard rock album of 2018.
Baest was also granted 250,000 kroner from the Danish Arts Foundation, a state-run fund for supporting Danish arts abroad. The financial boost is likely to come in handy as the young Aarhusians prepare to hit the road again in support of their upcoming second album, Venenum, which is due on September 13. 
Following the band’s standout performance at Copenhell, the annual heavy metal festival in Copenhagen, I caught up with guitarist Lasse Revsbech to talk about the band’s whirlwind success. 
First of all, I really enjoyed your performance at Copenhell. What was that like for you? 
“We’ve never played a crowd that big before, it was amazing. We’ve been building up over the past few years in Denmark, so to see where it’s gotten to now makes it all worth it. At Copenhell, we shared the stage with some fucking true legends. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. It’s insane.”
How do you describe Baest?
“Baest is an intense band, with high energy and raw power but with an enormous smile.”
How did the reality show come about? 
“Our manager was in a dialogue with [public broadcaster] DR and they decided to send a crew to cover one of our gigs at VoxHall in Aarhus. We told them we were on the verge of going on this tour and everyone just thought it would be fun to do it.”
The metal world can often seem overly concerned about image and authenticity and in the documentary you come across as this group of really nice, down-to-earth guys. Did you have any concerns about how this might affect your image? 
“We were definitely nervous about the metal community’s reaction and how things would be edited and presented but fortunately we really think that DR hit the nail on the head. There’s been such a great response. A lot of true metalheads and touring musicians have told us that it painted such an honest picture of the music industry. A lot of metal bands have a hard time with this concept of selling out but we’ve not been told once – not yet, at least – they were are sell-outs.”
You also received a grant from the Danish Arts Foundation. Isn’t it a bit crazy that public money is going to a death metal band? 
“Haha, it makes you happy to pay your taxes! It’s so Danish! But really, it’s all about people supporting people and it’s something I think other countries should do.” 
What are you hoping to achieve with the release of your new album? 
“First and foremost, we’re hoping it allows us to tour more. This autumn, we’ll be heading out for our biggest European tour thus far, as main support for an Entombed AD & Aborted co-headling tour. Entombed are one of the pioneers of death metal, so it’s insane to go on tour with those guys. 
“Even if the new album doesn’t make us explode, we hope it will get us one step closer to that. We’re a band that likes to dream big, so we want to play on the biggest stages all around the world. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction.” 
Baest’s tour in support of Entombed AD and Aborted kicks off on October 18 in London and will take them to 28 cities throughout Europe, including a November 1 stop at Vega in Copenhagen. Venenum will hit stores and streaming services on September 13 and lead single ‘As Above So Below’ is out now. The four-part documentary on Baest is available to stream here.

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Copenhagen metal fans celebrate ten years in hell

"Ten years in Hell” was the running theme of this year’s Copenhell and the three-day music festival at Refshaleøen had an unmistakable self-congratulatory feel.

Copenhagen metal fans celebrate ten years in hell
Photo: Torben Christensen / Ritzau Scanpix
To be clear, organizers and Copenhell’s devoted audience of heavy metal fans alike had every reason to celebrate the event’s ten-year anniversary and rapid growth.
When Copenhell began in 2010, it was a two-day festival that drew around 4,000 people. This year, a sell-out crowd of roughly 28,000 crossed the portal into hell for a four-day extravaganza with mostly cooperative weather and a line-up that included one of the most elusive and sought-after acts in heavy music as well as a number of perennial favourites and promising younger acts. 
As a long-time fan of heavy music who has been in Denmark since the festival’s inception, it’s a bit strange that I had never attended Copenhell until this year. But as soon as Tool was announced as a headliner way back in October, I knew 2019 was going to be the year I finally joined my metal brethren in flashing the devil horns and pounding beers at Refshaleøen. 
In honour of its ten-year anniversary, here are my ten takeaways as a first-timer at the now fully-established institution that is Copenhell. 
1. This is a city festival in the best sense
Unlike the much larger Roskilde Festival, which is held on an open field outside of Roskilde some 35 kilometres outside of Copenhagen, Copenhell is a true city festival. Sure, Refshaleøen is somewhat isolated from the rest of the city but it is just a short (and quite lovely) bike ride away for city dwellers and is easily accessible via public transport for those a bit further from the city centre. Even after all my years in Denmark, the American in me never ceases to be amazed at the expansive sea of bicycles outside of major events and I also think it is wonderful that an extra bus line aptly dubbed ‘Route 666’ helps shuttle fans to and fro. 





#copenhell #highwaytohell #celebratingtenyearsinhell

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2. The crowd stereotypes are largely true
Ahead of the Danish festival season, Politiken cartoonist Philip Ytournel drew a hilarious guide to help people remember which festival they were attending. His telltale sign that you are at Copenhell is if you are surrounded by nothing but dads. 
Like his clues for others like Roskilde and Northside, Ytournel’s stereotype of the Copenhell audience is pretty spot-on. I’d estimate Copenhell’s gender ratio to be at least be ten men for every woman and the audience indeed skews older. As a 41-year-old dad myself, I felt right at home, so I’m not complaining. 
Another well-worn trope is that heavy metal fans, despite the brutality of the music and imagery, are actually among the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. This too also played out over and over throughout the course of the weekend. It seems we ageing dads with our tattoos and scary-looking t-shirts are simply really good at looking out for each other, whether it’s in the middle of the mosh pit or checking on the guys passed out on the hill. 
That camaraderie is part of what brings people back year after year, festival veterans say. 
“There’s really a special atmosphere here and there is room for everybody to be themselves. People are so happy here and they are really the nicest people you can find,” Kristian Kokholm, who has attended every festival, told me. 
3. It’s sort of small 
Having been to Roskilde Festival so many times, it is somewhat inevitable that I use it as the measuring stick for all of the other Danish music festivals. When compared to the older, more established Roskilde, Copenhell feels pretty small and there are very few overlapping concerts. While that eliminates some of the dilemmas that a packed Roskilde schedule can present, it also means that if you don’t like who’s playing on the main stage you don’t have another concert option. Luckily, there is the absolutely wild party scene at the Biergarten and sideshow attractions like Smadreland and Purgatory, where you can watch a dude lift things with his ball sack if you somehow find that appealing. 





#smadreland #copenhell #copenhell2019

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4. The audience is very loyal… 
Judging from my random chats with other attendees and the crowd reactions to remarks from performers, a lot of Copenhell’s audience is made up of loyalists who attend year after year. Giving the waning popularity of rock music, it’s probably not surprising that fans have so warmly embraced Copenhell and its celebration of heavy metal culture. 
“Copenhell has become so much bigger and better over these ten years, and the festival has really helped boost heavy, guitar-driven music and heavy music culture in Denmark,” Kokholm said. 
Copenhell veterans Kristian Kokholm and Kristian Gaarskjær. Photo: Justin Cremer
5. … but it still draws newcomers and tourists
That’s not to say that every attendee is a dyed in the wool Copenhell veteran, though. My group of friends at the festival included two other newbies in addition to myself, including Berlin resident Marian Dorbic, who made the trip for Copenhell. 
“My best mate is from Copenhagen and heavy metal music is what brought us together, so that’s why I came up for this. We don’t really have anything like this in Berlin, this is some next-level shit. The thing that brings us all together is the love for heavy metal and the fucking spirit,” Dorbic told me. 
6. The Danish metal scene is alive and well
One of the highlights of this year’s Copenhell was Friday’s performance by Danish death metal band Baest, who performed to an absolute adoring crowd. The Aarhus-based band have become darlings of the Danish music scene, thanks in part to a recent DR documentary and recognition as ‘Best New Danish Act’ by respected music magazine Gaffa. But they were hardly the only homegrown heroes to grace Copenhell’s three stages. Konvent, Cabal, Manticora, Demon Head, The Psyke Project and Slægt are all relatively young Danish bands who performed over the weekend, as did 80s rockers Pretty Maids. Saturday also featured 40 Danish musicians who came together in different constellations to perform metal classics in honour of the festival’s ten-year anniversary. 
7. Speaking of hometown heroes…
Friday’s headliner was Slipknot, who hail from my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. I have to admit that for a long time I sort of wrote the band off as too gimmicky, but as the years went on and people would stop me every time I wore some sort of Iowa t-shirt to yell “Slipknot!!!!” in my face, I really began to appreciate just how much they have done to put Iowa on the cultural map. For those not in the know, their 2001 album entitled simply 'Iowa' is considered by most to be their masterpiece. When they descended upon the Helvíti stage on Friday night, my Iowa pride was like a gravitational pull and the next thing I knew I was in the pit right in front of the stage – with a vintage Iowa-related t-shirt on, of course. 
8. The lineup could use some more variation
And speaking of t-shirts, a large part of metal culture is proudly displaying the logos of your favourite bands either via the ubiquitous black t-shirt or a battle jacket (if you can read Danish, Anita Brask Rasmussen wrote a beautiful ode to both Copenhell and metal patches recently in Information). In my case, I had a Russian Circles shirt on for two of the three days and received numerous comments along the lines of “great band!” That made me wonder how many so-called post-metal bands have played Copenhell, since the audience seemed clearly primed for it. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me the answer is none. What it also told me is that a lot of the bigger name bands have been to the festival numerous times. Slipknot had just headlined in 2015, Saturday’s headliner Scorpions were also one of the main draws in 2016 and Rob Zombie returned after just two years. Swedish Viking metal band Amon Amarth (who, to be fair, seem tailor-made for Copenhell) made their third appearance. Here’s hoping there will be a bit more variation in the coming years. 
9. And fewer has-beens
One of the low points of the weekend was the performance by Stone Temple Pilots. While one sympathizes with new vocalist Jeff Gutt and the thankless position he is in, there is no STP without the late Scott Weiland. Thursday afternoon’s concert came off as a glorified karaoke performance that smacked of a cynical cash grab by the band’s other original members. Glenn Hughes, who at one point fronted Deep Purple, and 80s Danish rockers Pretty Maids also made visiting the Biergarten or the faux Viking village Udgård sound more appealing than their tired performances, proving that even at a festival with an ageing audience clinging to metal’s bygone glory days, there is a limit to how far nostalgia will take you. 
10. I will be back
I’m slowly and reluctantly coming to the realization that I’m no spring chicken any longer and my body and mind may simply not be able to handle more than one festival per summer. While the packed Danish festival season means there might be some tough choices, I am positive that this will not be my last trip into hell!  





Farewell copenhell.. See u next year! – – – #farewellcopenhell #copenhell #2020 #metal #cph

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My top 5 Copenhell concerts:
1. Tool
2. Baest
3. Slipknot
4. Lamb of God
5. Orange Goblin