Impericon Festival 2016 in Munich - A report

Colored hair wherever you look, a lot of dark make-up around the eyes, one septum after the next and tons and tons of tattoos - it is clear: We’re dealing with Core here! And if that’s your thing you’re at the right place at Impericon Festival. The festival tour, which was organized for the fifth time this year and already visited several European cities, took hold of the Bavarian city Munich in 2016 - to be more precise it took hold of the Zenith - die Kulturhalle. The festival might not have been sold out like in other cities but it was far from ill-visited. THe Impericon Festival proofed to be a magnet for true Metalcore fans, age 15+.
To round out the festival a couple of stands as well as several beer-benches were provided, which proofed to be very popular due to the sunny weather. If you were able to get away form the sun and enter the dark, cool hall the first thing you’d see would be an Ibanez booth - which makes sense, with Ibanez being a sponsor - which was a place to get the bands’ signatures and a barber shop which several attendees used to spice it up spontaneously. Out of the ordinary: The back part of the hall was sealed off during the festival. The front part of the Zenith was populated with two bars for drinks, a booth for snacks and one really big merchandise booth. Really big is also a term that describes the day’s line-up: Hellions, Hundreth, Any Given Day, Chelsea Grin, Blessthefall, Despised Icon, Bury Tomorrow, Northlane, Emmure, Callejon, Eskimo Callboy & Hatebreed. We arrived at Zenith a little late during the afternoon - in time for the third band: Any Given Day.

Any Given Day
Despite the great weather outside, the venue was already full of people eager to see the bands. As third act of the day, the metalcore band Any Given Day had the pleasure of warming up the expectant audience. With classic core sounds and predictable riffs, the boys from Gelsenkirchen, Germany, played their set list and amazed a good majority of their listeners. After their set, a lot of people fled to the outside but that might have been just because of their longing to enjoy the sun as long as possible.

Chelsea Grin
On time the American crew of Chelsea Grin took over.  Typical unintelligible growls and tons of double bass shook the Zenith. At the beginning their constructed sound seemed to be missing finesse. At the end however the guys around Alex Koehler delivered a bit more variety in their songs and entertained the already partying core crowd. As was to be expected despite the early hour there was no lack of crowd surfing or people who kick around in the crowd. But back to the band: At the end of their performance the guys played a solid Deathcore number which made them stick in your mind postiively. Melodic tones went into hard thrashing und a decent portion of banging and shouting. Add to that the odd awesome guitar solo and that’s it. A truely amazing act regarding the early time of day.

A far better beginning was rattled off by the boys of Blessthefall. With a mixture of melodic singing and growling they easily got the party going. Already during their second song, you could easily see and feel the fun the metalcore rockers from Phoenix, Arizona, had on stage. Part of the band, as well as some guys that had managed to get on stage, even started a small circle pit and fired it up. A break, which was accentuated by the guitarists, caused further jeering by the fans. All in all, the band around singer Beau Bokan were a lot more melodic but not at all softer than their predecessors. The cheering and screaming of the partying crowd in the hall confirmed the slight feeling everyone had: Blessthefall could have easily played a little later that day with some more time on stage.

Despised Icon
The Canadian band Despised Icon continued with a cleary duller performance which was coined by tons of double bass parts and posing. One standalone feature of the band is their use of two vocalists - one for screaming one for growling. After a couple of small technical difficulties one of the frontmen jumped into the crowd and surfed a bit over the first couple of rows of the attendees who cheered the closeup experience and started waving their recording cellphones through the air. After the vocalist found his way back to the stage the Deathcore band finally delivered a more varying show after the slow start. The crowd cheered and jumped and screamed accordingly.

Bury Tomorrow
Audibly more melodic than Despised Icon, Bury Tomorrow began their show. Already with their first song, the five boys from Southampton, England, inspired their fans to take out the firelighters and smartphones to create a cosy atmosphere. Not wanting to appear too soft, Daniel Winter-Bates and co. continued straight after their announcement how happy they were to be here, with harsher sounds and riffs. With emotional and deep lyrics, catchy and complex songs, as well as a great mixture between clean and harsh vocals, Bury Tomorrow hit the mark.

A little more action for the crowd was delivered by the Australian crew of Northlane. The power of the Metalcore band was in the air from the first minute on. They also differed visually from the previous bands since the were a lot more dubious - be it hoodie or mouthgard. With a clearly more mystic atmosphere and a well coreographed lightshow the guys took over the stage and there was no lack of movement on the stage either. Nor was there in front of the stage: not one person was left standing. After the first two songs Northlane played a more eery song and showed a different side. Exactly the point why the Sydney-based band rounded out the line-up perfectly - they added a variety to the more or less sameness of the previous bands.

Was it the cold breeze outside or the excitement that the next band would hit the stage in a couple of minutes? Whatever it was, Zenith was more crowded than before when Emmure began their performance. Unlike most of their predecessors, the metalcore rockers from Connecticut only had one guitarist, which mad their music seem a bit simpler. Simple is also the right word when it comes to their performance, at least when we’re talking about creativity. But also musically, they did not manage to stand out this evening. Their instrumental elements were somewhat predictable, the vocals by singer Frankie Palmeri were equally unimpressive: classical growling and shouting. Some fans partied dutifully through this performance. But let’s be honest, Emmure’s performance was neither better nor worse than the others. Simply average.

Callejon vs. Eskimo Callboy
After Emmure the excitement in the hall regarding the upcoming performance was immense. These kinds of battles between bands are few and far between, why it was clear why the fans were excited. After half an hour of reconstruction on stage the lights finally went out and the music started playing: In style the battle started with good old Scooter and “Always Hardcore”. A giant Bugs Bunny plush head, a tricicle, water pistols and skullasks  couldn’t be missed - obviously. To start off the battle Eskimo Callboy fired a giant Konfetti-bomb. It was immediately clear that we arrived at the main acts of the evening. Smoke collums, an complex lightshow no expenses were spared on stage. The German crew created special “decoration” as well since they threw toilet paper rolls into the crowd and partly wrapped themselves in it as well. While Eskimo Callboy heated up the crowd Callejon chilled in the background of the stage at a bar and drank. Obviously they didn’t need to take care of their drinks themselves but were tended to by a barkeeper while they listened to their Metalcore colleagues.The edge of the stage meanwhile featured a different spectacle. A couple of die hard fans had taken to the stage and claimed the edge of the stage as their own while they kicked through the air like crazy. Eskimo Callboy knows how to entertain their fans. One catchy tune followed the after the next constantly supported by awesome lightshow and smoke collums. With the trance enriched sound the band definitely won the crowd over. The band switch happened almost unnoticable. A touch less melodic the German guys of Callejon continued performing and entertaining the fans. Well earned the guys of Eskimo Callboy now took their turn at the bar while Callejon took it to the max. Storms of cheers and tons of crowd surfers were a given. The battle definitely was one of the highlights of the evening which will stay in the memories of the attendees for a long time, both visualy as musically. But the night wasn’t over, since THE headliner had yet to perform.

After the battle the hall visibly cleared out. Part of the crowd was already going home, Callejon vs Eskimo Callboy being the musical highlight for most of the fans. A shame for a band like Hatebreed since they played as headliner and the crowd didn’t take the time to listen to the last concert. The Hardcore band Hatebreed didn’t give too much thought about that and presented their classic “Destroy Everything” in the usual forceful fashion, despite some technical problems. Compared to before the stage was decorated rather simply which however didn’t impact the show, since sometimes: less is more. After the first hit they fired the second one with “Live for this”. The power of the first two songs is hard to describe. Despite the smaller crowd a truely powerful feeling was in the air which made you smile excitedly - which is something only true headliners can achieve. The still present crowd moved like there was no tomorrow and sang along loudly. The American band’s performance was the crown jewel of the festival. A musical switch of style like this is rare. Hatebreed’s sound nearly tore down the hall and animated fans once more to give even the last bit of energy they had - the vocalist didn’t have to ask for long to get a Wall of Death. The festival can consider itself lucky for the guys around Jamey Jasta to close out the evening since the quality of the music went up. The Impericon Festival would have done good in adding one or more Hardcore bands to the line-up during the day, to get more variety. Massive thanks to Hatebreed for finalize the day with their special, authentic style.

Much appreciated by the Bavarian metal- death- and hardcore fans, the Impericon Festival 2016 stopped by in Munich for the first time.
Taken together, this festival was a huge success - even though it was not sold out in Munich. Still, no band had to play in front of an empty venue.
From the musical point of view however, Impericon Festival was average. Even though there were several big names in the line-up, there was a lack of variety when it comes to sub-genres. Throughout the day, several bands sounded very similar to their predecessors. Exceptions were Hatebreed and the battle between Callejon and Eskimo Callboy. But for fans of metalcore music, it surely was a great day with lots of bands from the same genre. Nevertheless, the great variety of bands made it a high-quality festival, leaving the audience curious of who will be in the line up next year.
The supporting program off stage, however, was not very convincing. Especially the food had been advertised a lot prior to the festival. Promises had been made about vegetarian and vegan food. We saw one veggie booth. Usually, you’d think that there are lots of food trucks and stands at a festival like this but burger, kebab and one barbeque booth are not exactly a wide range. And another problem occurred way too quickly: With so few food stands and more than 3,000 people, waiting times exceeded anything you’d call normal. A couple more booths would have been more than great. Additionally, it was quite embarrassing that cheeseburgers (also vegetarian cheeseburgers) were sold out at 5 pm. At 6 pm it was also impossible to buy Monster Energy Drinks - more than awkward considering that Monster Energy is one of the sponsors of the festival.
Luckily, the huge merch stand could make up for this and was probably able to sooth one or the other consumer soul. No big queue and reasonable prizes, so that everyone got to their favorite band shirt quickly.
Taken together, Impericon Festival 2016 in Munich was a great success, especially because it was held for the first time in the Bavarian capital. Hopefully, Impericon will bring it back in 2017. 

Text: Conny Pläsken
Translation: Tanja Frank / Rich Winterstetter
Pictures: Manuel Miksche