Live reviews by Rich Price, Fiona Harold, Rachel McMurdo & Aaron Emerson
Live Photography Courtesy of Craig Hutton
Day 2 of SOS festival and a lovely day, the weather was with us and at time of arrival it was already noticeably busier than yesterday. Chilled out crowds were sitting on the grass outside, the atmosphere radiated out from everyone and what would become the beer tree was hesitantly beginning construction.
Twisted Illusion took to the Dean Hocking Main Stage to open proceedings on day 2, greeting the relatively small crowd with a three part harmony hello which was a novel touch. It was however followed by a fair amount of onstage awkwardness as they gradually found their feet. Playing some really nice mid-tempo Hard rock, with some obvious NWOBHM touches, with clear Maiden and Priest influences frequenting their set, but I couldn’t help but think that they looked like a school band.
Frontman Matt does have a decent amount of stage presence, an excellent voice and some pretty good guitar skills. Which was enough to carry the band for those awkward first few minutes. The set carried on with original numbers such as ‘Nobody’s Child’ which were good. Nothing which will set the world on fire but respectable outings showing that they have some good songwriting skills.
It wasn’t until they were joined on stage by Chris Appleton for a rousing cover of Dio’s ‘Heaven and Hell’ that the band really started to shine. Freed up from guitar duties frontman Matt came to life on stage moving around more and engaging more directly with the swelling crowd. They started to show some real promise especially with Guitarist Anthony’s spectacular guitar solo.
Final song the self titled ‘Twisted Illusion’ was probably the best of their own material, and showcased that Matt REALLY can sing. It all came across as a somewhat new band who’re still a bit more comfortable playing covers, but the talent on display hints that they might have a future ahead of them.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTIband
Lock Up Laura
Following Twisted Illusion on the Dean Hocking Main Stage were Lincolnshire’s melodic Alt rockers Lock up Laura. The first thing which was noticed was that all of the members of the band were moving about and there was an energy on stage. At the same time, there was also a certain amount of reservation, as though they seemed conscious to limit the amount of movement earlier on in the set.
Singer Lee McCusker’s vocal style was reminiscent of Muse’s Matt Bellamy during the opening song, with plenty of use of melody throughout their set and some big chorus I was frequently reminded of Creed, and at times Pearl Jam.
Songs such as ‘Natalie’s Song’ stood out during their performance. It wasn’t until halfway through their performance that they took off. Breaking into a touch of ‘Creeping Death’ in the middle of one of their songs the suit jacket came off and the band just seemed to lighten up and have a laugh. By the time of song ‘The Jury’s Out’ they were engaging with the crowd and trying to get a bit of jumping going.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LockUpLauraMusic
Next up on the Metal Nation Radio Acoustic Stage are Black Diamond are normally a four piece rock band from liverpool, However the appearance today was a one-off in the form of an acoustic duo of singer/Guitarist Daniel Byrne and Drummer Adam Fairclough playing a single snare with brushes.
I’m going to be honest since hearing the name I’d had the Kiss song of the same name buzzing around my head half the day and was fully expecting to find them throwing out acoustic Kiss covers, which tbf would have been great. However, this wasn’t to be the case and that was fine.
There was no getting away from the glorious weather outside and these pair on acoustic stage were doing a great job of bringing that sunshine indoors. Playing an easy going set of folk rock coupled with deep bluesy vocals they filled out the room will warm tones. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the band performed in a singer/songwriter style like this all the time rather than their usual electric selves, this was a respectably good performance. Their later set featuring a rousing version of Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’.
The last song had a bit more of a Black Crowes vibe about it. They have a gig lined up as their full band on the 5th of August at Manchester Zoo, I recommend checking them out.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bdmusicuk
The Raven Age
Back to the Main Stage for The Raven age who open their set with a nicely produced backing track with acoustic and some gentle singing and then some fantastic drum work from Jai Patel, which he demonstrated throughout the set, The Raven Age took to the stage and it took a while to figure out just what to make of them. They have an aggressive tone to their music, but at the same time the music itself wasn’t actually aggressive and was chocked full of melody and nice technical touches, which was a curious combination at first, the vocals and music, the tone and feel not really meshing up too well.
It did seem to take them a little while to get into their stride on stage, but once they did they really did. Once they broke into their song ‘Death March’ which really chugged along at a great pace it really began to come together into a great set. some nice dual guitar work between guitarists George and Dan and final song ‘Angel In Disgrace’ saw them come into their own, all held in place with a tour de force drumming performance which put a smile on my face.
It’s always nice to hear a band which challenges you to think about what you’re hearing and takes it on its own merits rather than just being another genre band, although I did keep thinking that possibly they were playing at a slightly slower tempo for those songs, if slightly sped up it may have worked better initially but then it may not have worked at all. This is a band I think which need to grow on you, and I can’t wait to see them again.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheRavenAge
The former Tokyo Blade singer took to the main stage and the wealth of experience he has was obvious. The German based Prog Metallers took to the stage with no faltering starts or trouble settling in, they came out and delivered a much more solid performance right from the get go. Energetic performances right from the start, they powered through a professional set, with touches of Maiden and Priest and more that a touch of Halford-esque vocals on songs like ‘Demons’ and ‘Fame is Just a Whore’.
Attempting a bit of a cheap pop by coming out in a Manchester United shirt, the desired effect not manifesting, indeed a lot of their dry humour seeming to fall somewhat flat with the crowd. With singer Nicholaj Ruhnow admitting he didn’t really care about football only beer, he seemed to win back some fans. Playing some rousing versions of songs like ‘Lifeline’ and a cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘Faith Healer’ this was a great performance, playing to a smaller crowd than expected they still achieved a bigger than expected crowd response, with their widdly guitars, double bass drum works and even with some prog elements.
I have to say that this was one of the first sets of the day which struck me as being complete from start to finish. I’m just not so sure that the rest of the crowd would have agreed with me on that.
Invalid Displayed Gallery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NickHellfort
Brummies Captain Horizon Played a really enjoyable set of 80’s tinged rock, a solid engaging show which was held together by a particularly solid performance from the rhythm section. They had a summery feel to them playing their rock with some very strong elements of funk and groove. The description immediately springing to mind was that it was like the Chilli Peppers doing a cover of the Baywatch theme tune.
Their singer ‘Whitty’ was the most energetic of the frontman i’d see that day, dancing and prancing about on stage and then into the audience dancing with people and generally doing what a good frontman should and taking the party to the crowd. It certainly had the desired effect as the crowd were dancing right to the end of the set after that.
This was a great set which just went from strength to strength and by the time of final track ‘The Dark’ the audience were clapping along and dancing away with a great feeling of connection between the band and the crowd. They went through a variety of different styles and sounds – a real melting pot sound during their set and one which kept the audience on their toes throughout.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/captainhorizon
The great thing about festivals is that quite often you see a band that you would never normally go out of your way to see but you end up really enjoying, especially on small or acoustic stages. So it was with Steel Threads. The three piece played an entertaining set of folk rock with an alternative twist, the two violins adding something completely different from the full on, plugged in sounds on the main stage. Between the violins, acoustic guitar and bass drum they made a big enough sound to attract attention and had a sizeable appreciative crowd around the acoustic stage for their set. Complementing the strings were some really lovely vocal harmonies, in fact the whole of the set had a lovely, chilled out feel, but at the same time was up-tempo enough to keep the crowd engaged and feet tapping. A very enjoyable slice of folky goodness.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SteelThreads
There was quite a buzz outside about The Amorettes, and it seemed their set was anticipated to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Although I’d heard the name I knew nothing about the band or their sound, so I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. And now I know. If you want to take some time out to remember what life was like when Motley Crue and Van Halen ruled the roost, go and see The Amorettes. This three piece, all girl band from Scotland quite frankly came to show the rest how it’s done.
Don’t let the fact that they are female put you off – because girls can’t really rock and roll, right? WRONG! The Amorettes had more balls than a lot of bands I’ve seen, vocalist Gill has a fantastic powerful voice that’s made for the genre, plus bucket loads of stage presence. There was plenty of interaction with an enthusiastic crowd throughout their set of no – nonsense classic rock, the simple combination of guitar, bass and drums producing a full on sound that didn’t let up. Definitely a band you’re going to see more of in the future.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/theamorettes
This Austrian four piece were already well into party mode by the time they took to the main stage. Frontman Marco Kern is a definite showman, callbacks going down well with the eager crowd. Their sound was huge, with heavy, chugging bass riffs and drums blending with plenty of usage of the guitar effects pedals. Garage Days (named after the Metallica album? I don’t know. But probably) played a set of fast paced heavy rock which ticked all the boxes for the crowd but to me seemed just a little bit… well.. samey. That said, and the whole band were entertaining to watch and Marco’s quips to the crowd were fun, plus they were tight and definitely looked the part of ‘classic rocker’. All in all an accomplished set that was just what the SOS fest crowd wanted to hear.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/garagedays
It took a while for Garage Days to finish which led to some rather humorous and particularly dry quips to Garage Days insistence on the opposing stage that they loved their fans and everyone else, indeed.
13 Stars were kind of interesting, after a lot of fairly similar bands on the main stage the Acoustic provided genuine contrast and was putting out some quite notable performances. In the case of 13 Stars it was in the form of some southern boogie, featuring 2 acoustics and a Cajon (one of those wooden boxes that you slap around a bit, not a chicken strip).
This was a great family set, a small crowd but a warm welcome. I know that when planning festivals of this nature you cannot predict the weather but if this had been outside in a tent with the sunshine beating down on you with some beer and a barbeque this would have been probably the most perfect summer time experience that Manchester would be capable of.
Chilled, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable, this was a great family set with the front of the crowd populated mainly by kids. This was easily the most feel good set of the day for me. Book them again next year and rent a BBQ.
All taking to the stage in sunglasses, Belgian combat metallers Fireforce certainly look like they mean business. With plenty of fist clenching and posturing, frontman Flype belts out Halford / Dickinson-esque vocals as if it was the easiest thing in the world. It was clear to ear that their influences of classic 80’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal was just flaunted in front of our eyes, right down to dress code and sun glasses alike; it really was like watching the reincarnation of Judas Priest. Just like Airbourne flaunt the AC/DC influence Fireforce flaunted their clear homage to the the mighty Halford and that hellbent for leather giants Judas Priest; featuring masses of chugging guitars, thumping bass lines and a thundering course of percussions, Fireforce were well received by the crowd. Fitting easily within their genre but with enough originality to set them apart from the norm, they blasted through their set to shouts and cheers; making its mark on the crowd was new single ‘Thunder Will Roll’ which brought out the best of the throng in voice and breaking the law spirit.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Fireforceband/
Secret Rule are a 4-piece female-fronted prog rock/metal band from Rome, Italy who have been together as a band for just over a year now. Their debut album Transposed Emotions was released to great reviews and today at SOS Festival we were treated to a superb sample of songs from the album including the lead single ‘True Friend’ which is led by a funky bass line together with a lovely melody and current single ‘Reena’ which is a captivating ballad with particularly beautiful vocals from Angela Di Vincenzo. Secret Rule’s philosophy is to always be yourself and not be afraid of doing so, and the whole band certainly embody this philosophy by appearing to love what they do and doing it with great enthusiasm and passion, they seemed to genuinely have a great time today on the SOS main stage. Bassist Michele Raspanti had a huge grin on his face almost all the way through the set and the audience couldn’t help but be captivated by Secret Rule.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/secretruleband
I really enjoyed Captain Horizon’s main stage set so I was looking forward to seeing what they did for an unplugged set – would frontman Whitty be able to stand still that long? Well, no. Despite the change of scene there was no difference in his enthusiasm and delivery. Personally I’ve never seen someone perform dance move The Worm during an acoustic set before, and probably never will again. Not strictly acoustic, Captain Horizon’s set had a holiday vibe, in keeping with the sunshine outdoors. Much like 13 Stars before them the sound did make you feel like you wanted to be sitting out on the grass chilling with beer in hand, the funky riffs transporting you to somewhere exotic. Their all too short set was really good fun and Whitty’s excursions into the crowd made you think that Captain Horizon are not just playing for you, but partying with you. Brilliant.
Die No More
Die No More are making quite a name for themselves in the music scene with recent appearances at Wildfire Festival and WizzFest as well as their own short Louder than Hell headline tour, and they have also recently won the headline slot at Caveman Bash 2016. The Cumbrian metal 4-piece immediately got tonight’s crowd moving as vocalist/rhythm guitarist Marc Farquhar encouraged everyone to move forward and join in- with the incentive of free CDs and t-shirts! There wasn’t much encouragement needed to be honest as the music and passion of the band spoke for itself and drew quite a crowd on its own merits. Die No More do metal with a touch of thrash really well and have a great stage presence; comparisons have been made to Metallica and closing track of the night, ‘Council of War’, definitely incorporated some crunching Metallica-esque riffs and vocals, but they are a young band with their own modern take which makes them stand out. Die No More’s debut album Elected Evil is out now so check them out for yourself if you like your metal heavy and riff-laden!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DieNoMore
Avenger have been around on the British rock scene for over 3 decades now. Formed in late 1982 out of the ashes of cult band Blitzkrieg they have taken their NWOBHM, classic and thrash metal stylings to fans as far abroad as the Eastern Seaboard of America. The 5 guys from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne played a cracking set tonight comprising of material from all 6 of their albums, the latest of which – The Slaughter Never Stops – was released last year. Their previous albums have been re-released 5 times in 7 years which shows what a fan base Avenger have and are still adding to. Amazing riffs were combined with Ian Swift’s vocal talents to make for a high-octane, truly rocking performance. The set finished on ‘You’ll Never Take Me (Alive)’ from the album Blood Sports. This fast-paced song showcased Ian Swift’s Paul Di’Anno-esque vocals and drummer Gary Young’s talents really well and was an apt closing number.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/avengeruk1
Wizz Acoustic + Luke Appleton
Wizz Beauprez- frontman of hard rock band Wizz Wizzard- was one of the many artists who had travelled over from Belgium to perform at this year’s SOS Festival. Appearing with him tonight, immediately before headliner Blaze Bayley took to the main stage, was his good friend Luke Appleton of Iced Earth, Absolva and Fury UK, and also one of the organisers of the festival of course. Wizz usually brings Luke over some Belgian lager named Duvel when he visits, and Luke jokingly commented that they were named “Dancing with the Duvel”. The pair took turns on lead and backing vocals with Wizz taking the lead on the 1st couple of songs, and then Luke singing a brilliant cover of Ronnie James Dio’s ‘The Last in Line’. This was followed by a beautifully emotional Iced Earth song- ‘Watch Over Me’ which was a moving tribute to Wizz’s friend Steve who tragically died. Wizz wiped a tear from his eye and went on to play some numbers from his 2014 EP Wizz Acoustic. Both Luke and Wizz showed tonight that they are just as at home playing as an acoustic duo as when they are rocking out with a full band. These guys are full of talent and were a real highlight of the day for me at SOS.
Having been privileged to see Blaze Bayley perform an intimate acoustic set at Castle Rock Studios earlier this year I was really looking forward to this. The consummate showman has achieved almost cult status through sheer hard work and determination, turning the bad breaks into positives and ultimately coming out on top.
SOS fest comes at the end of a huge tour to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the release of Silicon Messiah – this in itself a massive two fingers to the bad record company decisions that led to the delayed release of the album in the first place. Flanked by Chris Appleton on guitar, Martin Mcnee on drums and Karl Schramm on bass from heavy metal favourites Absolva, Blaze Bayley performed a blinding set including highlights ‘Ghost in The Machine’ and ‘The Hunger’.
It was clear to see how admired he is as a performer, with plenty in the crowd singing along with every word. Blaze’s voice was as clear and strong as ever and his in-between song chat had more than a touch of the motivational speaker about it. Despite the late hour both the crowd and the guys on stage were having a ball, with plenty of cheers and callbacks. All too soon it was off and on again for the encore and as the band launched into Iron Maiden’s ‘Man on the Edge’, a song which Bailey is quite rightly very proud of, you felt like he could not have done any more. As with every other time I’ve seen him live he gave it all he’d got and the crowd loved every minute.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/officialblazebayley
Saturday was my only day at this year’s SOS Fest, but what a day! The organisation and community spirit were second to none – it really did feel like you were part of the family. With the addition of some sunshine allowing people to sit on the grass, chill and catch up with friends between bands this was a great little festival.
Yes there were timing issues by the end of the day, but I’m yet to go to a festival where this isn’t the case. With great sets from the likes of Die No More, The Amorettes and of course the wonderful Blaze Bayley – not to mention the Appleton Brothers popping up more times than that witch from Chorlton and the Wheelies – this is definitely a great, value for money, well run festival. Long may it continue.