Since its inception, Impericon's Never Say Die! Tour has done a consistently good job of showcasing the underbelly of metal sub-genre's. Its inclusion of bands such as Thy Art Is Murder and Whitechapel all the way through to Being As An Ocean and Northlane over the years has been a cold hard statement that metalcore, deathcore, and hardcore are all thriving, as opposed to simply surviving. This years assault of breakdown centric firearms was no different - as a cold, damp night at Birmingham's The Mill would go on to emphasise.
Great American Ghost  put in a motivated effort to start proceedings with a bang. Front man Ethan Harrison's bellowing vocal scratches play off charmingly against his approachable tone when sharing thoughts with the crowd. The likes of 'Altar Of Snakes' has a groove tone the crowd can't resist moving to, and Harrison's relentless energy helps move the set from A to B in a cohesive fashion. While yet to lay down a selling point that differentiates them from the pack, Great American Ghost serve up a platter of hardcore which sits nicely in this kind of situation.
Deathcore mob Alpha Wolf  are a totally different proposition though. The Aussies take a second to survey their playground for the next 30 minutes, then flick the switch and drop a cargo of intensity on a welcoming crowd. The rampant 'No Name' starts things off with a bang, while 'Golden Fate; Water Break' brings a level of post-hardcore emotion wrapped in the bones of gut-wrenching, down tuned riffs. The set is the first time of the night the crowd become fully un-glued, it wouldn't be the last.
It's fair to say that the south coast's Our Hollow Our Home  are somewhat of the surprise package this evening. While on record the five piece often sound too watered down to be considered a future force in metalcore - they put a performance in here that suggests there's more to them than the occasional anthemic chorus or 'whoah oh' chant. Vocalist Connor Hallisey's dark, blunt tone gives added spine to the likes of 'Loneshark' and 'Hartsick' and even though the occasional attempts to get a crowd wave going struggle to fit, the quintet certainly turn a few heads with their harrowed tones.
Our Hollow Our Home - Photo Credit: Sempiternal Photography
Despite their best efforts, Londoners Polar  can't emulate the same level of intensity as their predecessors. Admittedly the bands musical throws differ profoundly when compared to the likes of Alpha Wolf, but their did seem to be a cog missing in the wheel here. Vocalist Adam Woodford certainly puts a tireless shift in, and the aching tones of 'Breathe' and 'Midnight' make for a noteworthy head bang or two, but the bands back catalogue lacked the strength to make this anything more than an adequate set.
Though their initial inclusion in the lineup seemed a mismatch - King 810  are the most well represented band of the night in terms of merch, and they slot into proceedings much slicker than you'd expect. Their poetic lead heavy metal packs a punch as heavy as anything you'd come across tonight, and vocalist David Gunn does a frankly absurd job of maintaining his vocal pitch while he gesticulates around the stage. 'Alpha & Omega' and 'Killem all' sound Jason Voorhees levels of punishing, and despite being this years variety act - King 810 dominate the stage in confident fashion.
In Hearts Wake  are all to often forgotten when it comes to the upper echelon's of modern metalcore. Though never discovering a path of their own to fortify, the Byron Bay five piece are a solid guarantee for a rough time at every occurrence. The heavyweight riffs that prop up 'Skydancer', 'Healer', and 'Divine' go down a treat, but it's 'Refuge' that truly showcases what this band are capable of. A ground shaking breakdown, slick verse riffs, and even a chorus hook thrown in for good measure: the reason why In Hearts Wake rarely disappoint is because they're armed with an arsenal of modern metalcore bangers.
When you consider some of the intensity bought to the bill tonight - Crystal Lake  had quite a task in front of them to steal the spotlight. But when vocalist Ryo Kinoshita dives directly into the crowd as the flurry of riffs that begin opening song 'Aeon' hits - you get the feeling the Japanese quintet will probably manage it. This was a stark indicator for what was to come too, the beckoning growls of 'SIX FEET UNDER' are stomach churning, while the electro elements of 'Lost In Forever' add depth to Crystal Lake's monolithic attack.
Crystal Lake - Photo Credit: John Gyllhamn
Kinoshita is proud to point out the band are the first Asian outfit to ever headline the tour, and their performance here more than warrants Impericon's leap of faith. The one-two of 'ALPHA' and 'OMEGA' manage to keep the tempo at fever pitch mid set, and the finishing blows of 'Apollo' feel apocalyptic - especially when Kinoshita finishes the performance diving into the crowd from a ledge precariously sticking out of the buildings wall.
In amongst a lineup that showcased much of metalcore's brightest elements - Crystal Lake managed to be the outright talking point. If latest record Helix had the purpose of adding another bow to the bands ribbon - then this show was undoubtedly the knot that can tie everything together. The five piece may not be new on the scene, but they're certainly one of the major players in it.