900 fans of hardcore punk descended upon a sold out Manchester Academy 2 for one of the first heavy festivals of the year, Impericon Festival. With a brilliant lineup stretching from 2pm till evening, and the one-stage setup meaning there would be no clashes, the atmosphere was already in high spirits by the time Rock Sins reporter Will Stevenson arrived to check it out.
South Carolina based hardcore band Hundredth (7) draw a large crowd considering they’re just the second band of the day. Their brutal, albeit melodic hardcore gets a dedicated set of dancers out windmilling and picking up change even at their early slot. Vocalist Chadwick Johnson prowls around the stage, commanding the crowd, whilst his imposing growl feels as though it would fill the room even without the aid of a microphone.
German electronic metalcore band Eskimo Callboy (7) bring the party to Manchester with their divisive blend of metal and dance music. The floor is comparatively empty when compared to Hundredth’s earlier crowd but those who have turned out are treated to a ridiculous, fun live show, with the band delivering energy in spades. When they end their set on a song that is essentially an internet meme, Is Anyone Up, the crowd go wild, singing and dancing along to the broken-English lyrics with abandon.
Heart of a Coward (7.5) blend brutal hardcore beatdowns with straight up metal riffing and powerful, shouted vocals. They’re monstrously heavy and the full room laps up every single second of their half hour set. Instrumentally the band put on a flawless live show, with every thumping breakdown executed to perfection with a pulsing heaviness that vibrates through the floor.
Chelsea Grin (5) emerge onto the stage like a lion pouncing on its victim. They’re full of raw, intense, down-tuned rage and the everything about them sounds fierce. That is, until 5 songs later and they all sound exactly the same. The problem with Chelsea Grin is their lack of diversity – breakdown, followed by sweeping solo, followed by breakdown. Pig squealed vocals. Guttural vocals. That’s it. That’s all Chelsea Grin have to offer, which is a shame because their stage presence is outstanding.
Blessthefall (6.5) are the most melodic band on today’s bill and it’s somewhat surprising, therefore, for them to receive quite the outstanding reception they do. Though their set opens to a half full room, it quickly fills up and once it does the crowd lap up their verse-chorus style metal core.
Bucking the trend set by several of these metalcore bands, Blessthefall’s heavier, screamy parts are the best part of their sound. The sung vocals by frontman Beau Bokan are less impactful than the growls from his counterpart Jared Warth. Nonetheless, the crowd loves Beau and his on-stage antics (he spits at least three bottles worth of water into the crowd throughout the set) and Blessthefall get away with some slightly average songwriting with plenty of on stage charisma.
Though Emmure (5) have essentially always been ‘The Frankie Palmieri Band,’ when every other member of the band quit in December 2015, that idea became reality. They’ve since been replaced by stock, studio-musician-drones. Onstage, this set up is undeniably the case: Frankie struts around in a bright white t shirt whilst the backing band, as they may as well be known, play Emmure’s brand of downtuned deathcore whilst decked out in all black. They guitarist even plays most of the gig with his hood up, to obscure his features.
Emmure are apparently plagued by sound issues and there is a three-minute brea
k between songs whilst Palmieri crouches moodily towards the back of the stage trying to remedy this. New bassist Phil Lockett awkwardly engages the crowd, something you get the feeling he’s becoming used to doing whilst waiting for his frontman to decide he wants to play some more songs. Eventually, the sound issues are fixed, though from off-stage it’s hard to tell what exactly changed. Shortly before returning to his vocal duty, Frankie requests a drum solo. It isn’t followed up on. He finally, half-heartedly returns to centre stage to give performances of “E,” “Children of Cybertron,” and “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.”
Headliners Hatebreed (10) are the only band playing today who take to the stage late. As it reaches ten minutes past their scheduled arrival time, the lights dim and ominous intro music begins to play. Seconds later, the band emerge one at a time before Jamie Jasta eventually runs onto the stage whilst shouting out one word: “Destroy!” Immediately, the band slam into fifth gear, launching into an incredible performance of one of their biggest, heaviest songs, Destroy Everything. The packed out venue explodes into mosh pits and headbangers as the crowd lose their collective minds. From this moment onwards, Hatebreed do not let up.
They follow up their opening salvo with a one-two punch of fan favourites “Honour Never Dies” and “Never Let It Die” before bursting into their latest single “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” which despite only being out for a week at this point gets a large part of the audience singing and stamping along. This is followed by another new song, AD, which receives a somewhat weaker reception, though the huge mosh pit that engulfs most of the floor space keeps the energy high.
From this point onwards its back to classic songs. Hatebreed are a band that find an issue with their recorded catalogue all sounding fairly familiar, with one or two standout tracks per album. Yet, when those tracks are compiled into a best-of setlist like today, Hatebreed can go toe-to-toe with any band. They show no sign of slowing down as they launch into “As Diehard As They Come,” dedicating it to all the fans who’ve been at the festival since noon.
At one point, Jamie Jasta tells the crowd how Hatebreed are the only band to have played Reading and Leeds, Download, Bloodstock, Ghostfest and now Impericon. This is a fitting testament to the bands ability to play to any crowd and get them on side, whether or not they were familiar with Hatebreed before. By the time they get to their final song tonight – In Ashes They Shall Reap – every audience member is well and truly on side. The entire crowd is sweaty, tired and yet still screaming for more. The set was interrupted several times by impromptu chants of “HATE BREED” and the delighted look on Jamie Jasta’s face says it all. By the time the band leave the stage, everyone in the venue is wearing a grin just as broad as the frontman’s.