Gig review: SOS FESTIVAL, Manchester – 19-20 July 2014

Absolva - SOS Festival, July 2014

So here we are at the 7th SOS festival and looking at the line up it’s going to be another great year which is down to the tireless hard work and determination by all involved to bring 27 great bands and hundreds of music fans together for a great weekend of music and all for the sum of £15. There are no huge queues, no VIP specials, no rip off bars or washed out stages just great music and loads of beer.

It’s all held in a rather unassuming room at the Civic Hall in Radcliffe which has been kitted out with 2 stages, Acoustic and Main (Dean Hocking), and a damn good PA rig and lighting system that can put others to shame.

Organised by Rocksector Records it showcases 8 of their bands which included their latest signing Tysondog which was announced at the festival and also a whole host of bands from a multitude of rock genres.

Bloodyard - SOS Festival, July 2014

The first band I caught was Lancastrian groove metallers Bloodyard. I had seen these for the first time the previous week at another festival and was extremely impressed with their sound and stage presence.

Fronted by Donna Hurd whose vicious delivery of the vocals is accentuated by her constant wind milling and stalking round the stage which fits together with the shredding guitar work of Nick Adamson as he wrings the notes out of his poor Jackson Flying V.

Kicking off with ‘Set To Fall’ we are hit straight away by the ripping heavy groove sound and blood curdling vocals which certainly smacks the crowd in the face and says mosh. Throughout the set the tight and precise backline gives the sound a full and hard beat which gives the music its overall style and sound.

Finishing with the brutal ‘Dead Relics’ they have again played a storming set and hopefully will get some good support out of it, one of my bands of the festival and well deserved.

Eternal Breath - SOS Festival, July 2014

Next up is the first of a number of NWOBHM style bands, Belgium rockers Eternal Breath formed back in 1996 by Andy Polfliet and Marino Decaluwé . They have a classic driving metal sound, fronted by the charismatic vocalist Andy whose range has a hint of Dio about it with his falsetto tones; they storm through a great set which goes down well with the crowd ending with ‘You’re Pissing Me Off’ which gives the crowd a chance to warm up their voices and stick a finger up to the band.

A really enjoyable set but despite all the efforts of Andy to get a circle pit going the crowd was having none of it, too many beers maybe…

The Goddamn Electric - SOS Festival, July 2014

On the acoustic stage there have been 2 sets from The Godamn Electric whom I have seen a few times live but never in the stripped back format were seeing today. Manchester based GDE have been touring their debut ‘Snakebite’ for the past year now which has included a Hammerfest slot in 2013.

Their straight forward rock sound translated very well into acoustic and allowed Tommy to kick out some really good vocals. Al did manage to rip some solos but they just didn’t have the power of his normal electric playing which is understandable.  Another great set which seems to be the flavour of the day due to the high quality of the lineup.

On the main stage Asylum City Zoo (who opened the main stage last year and woke up a very hung-over crowd). This year is no different with the hung-over crowd but they have a higher slot on the billing. Sitting proudly atop the bass amp is their mascot ‘Fuzzy’, apparently he not a monkey he’s a gorilla!!

Musically they describe themselves as beardcore/stomp/welly but it’s basically damn good metal along the lines of Metallica. Bass player Bobb as always is a wee bit manic and spends most of his time windmilling and belting out chugging deep bass lines.

Lord Volture - SOS Festival, July 2014

Lord Volture carry on the theme of NWOBMH with a Maiden-ish sound and some great twin guitar work going on. The Dutch based band formed back in 2009 have received great reviews and already played some great shows, they have already being announced for Lesfest 2015.

The set tonight takes tracks from the two current albums but is heavily loaded with tracks from the soon to be released thirrd album ‘Will To Power’.

Back to the acoustic stage and we have a scene set as some 20′s beach party, Fantasist who last year appeared in full gimp suits have this year some on stage in 20′s swimsuits, just mad.

Despite the tongue in cheek approach they are a great tight three-piece who play a great mixture of alt-rock with some funky overtones. Always great to see these guys but I’m not totally sure that the full electric setup was in keeping with the acoustic stage concept.

Captain Horizon - SOS Festival, July 2014

Next up were two bands both from the prog metal side – Captain Horizon were only signed to Rocksector last year and have a very likeable alt/prog sound and fronted by charismatic vocalist Steve Whittington.   Spires who followed – although playing to a smaller crowd – were impressive too.

Incassum - SOS Festival, July 2014

Incassum are one of a trio of female fronted bands this weekend and also one of the many Rocksector bands to appear this weekend. Fronted by the hard rocking vocalist Sharleen Kennedy who mixes throat wrenching vocals with melody seamlessly – as heard on opener ‘Worlds End’ – while guitar shredders Chris and Andrew rip put some great twin guitar work throughout the set and especially on the final track ‘Cut Loose’.

They have amassed a great following over the past years and you can tell why, the constant throb of the double time drums and bass give such a good grounding for the rest of the band.

Monument - SOS Festival, July 2014

There was some classic heavy metal in the form of Monument who in their own words are reviving British Heavy Metal. Kicking off with ‘Fatal Attack’ the sound is very Priest/Maiden with high clear vocals and maximum riffage.

Bass duties tonight are taken care of by Nickel from Fury ON who is filling in for regular bassist Chris Dale. With tracks like ‘Runaway’ you are back in the 80s at a rock night where big hair is rampant, not that there is much evidence of big hair in the slightly aged crowd tonight!

Savage Messiah - SOS Festival, July 2014

Savage Messiah are a band I have seen many times now at both HRH and Hammerfest are a hard rocking metal band hailing from London and were formed back in 2007.

They have the classic double-time drums and twin-guitar work on trusty Flying V’s – a sound that oozes metal, and opening track ‘Iconocaust’ is a true face-melting metal track.

The set which included new tracks ‘Zero Hour’ and The Fateful Dark’ from the new album ‘The Fateful Dark’ was well received and went down very well with the crowd.

Absolva - SOS Festival, July 2014

Final band of the night was the mighty Absolva who have 2 special guests on stage with them, Luke Appleton (Iced Earth, Fury UK) makes an appearance on guitar for the entire set and they are joined for the last three numbers by current Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt.

Absolva are a pure balls out heavy metal band and were formed when Luke left Fury UK to join Iced Earth and the remaining members Chris and drummer Martin McNee were joined by Dan Bate (bass).

Absolva - SOS Festival, July 2014

They quickly ripped into three songs from the new album ‘Anthems To The Dead’, this is pure heavy metal and given the extra guitar has a full on sound. Throughout the set there are bouts of twin guitars from the Appletons and thumping bass lines from Dan, while he’s not flinging his mane of hair around.

Doug Scarratt - SOS Festival, July 2014

Doug joins the band for ‘Soul Remains’ and ‘Never Back Down’ before they finish with a great tribute to the late great Ronnie James Dio RIP, as the band rip into ‘Heaven And Hell’ and get the whole crowd singing along.  A great way to end an excellent day.

“…we are worshipping the religion that is rock music and beer. 

The early arrivals are all sporting the same vacant empty eyes due to a few too many medicinal beers the night before but like all good disciples follow their cause and are up and ready again to party.”

Day 2

So Sunday comes around and it’s time to go down to the church and worship, but in this case the church is Radcliffe Civic Hall and we are worshipping the religion that is rock music and beer.

The early arrivals are all sporting the same vacant empty eyes due to a few too many medicinal beers the night before but like all good disciples follow their cause and are up and ready again to party.

To blow away those cobwebs and bleary eyes Midland rockers Black Star Bullet, previously known as Loophole, who changed their name back in 2010 and released their debut self-titled album in 2011.

Now signed to TBFM their re-released debut album is gaining critical acclaim and indeed most of the set today was off that album with the inclusion of a few new songs ‘Quest for Eloquence’ and ‘Catch The Bus’. A straight forward rock/pop sound which gives them a wider audience than some of the more severe genres.

SKAM! - SOS Festival, July 2014

Next up are one of my favourite bands of the festival, all the way from sunny Leicester are SKAM! a tight and heavy three-piece heavy rock band, I always like three-piece bands as musically there is nowhere to hide and everything has to be tight and precise and these boys certainly are.

Today they have a stand-in drummer as regular drummer X-ray is awol.  Kicking off with a few rockier numbers ‘Soldiers Of Rock’ and ‘Holy City’ the boys are in good form and bass player Matt Gilmore who is gurning with the best batters the bass lines out.

Two groove driven songs included their latest single ‘Rivers’ from their new album ‘Peacemaker’ which is followed by ‘No Lies’,  both really good tracks and show that they can mix it up a bit.

Bigfoot are a no-nonsense bunch of hard rockers from Manchester. A classic five-piece line up and, whilst only together for about three months, their small gig experience didn’t show.

Vocalist Anthony Ellis pulled all the moves from rock school 101 which really worked and with catchy tunes like ‘In The Gutter’ and ‘Bitch Killer’ will always be a crowd pleaser.  Catch them at a venue when you can.

Twelve Gauge are a band I’d seen a few times previously and was well impressed by their no-nonsense approach to rock and the stage show led by vocalist Jay Ward. With songs like ‘Lost Control’ and ‘Hell To The Morning’ and a great sound likened to Velvet Revolver/Aerosmith I can see them going far and especially with the release of their album ‘All In’.

“A great set by a bunch of fun loving hard rocking guys that just want to play the music and get drunk afterwards.”

Blackballed - SOS Festival, July 2014

Blackballed was a band I was looking forward to. A three piece with heavy blues rock riffs running through their music. Formed in 2012 by Marshall and Leon Gill; Marshall of amongst others New Model Army fame is a great blues guitarist and struts around the stage hammering the tunes out of his faithful Gretsch 6120.

Currently only with an EP out they are working at gigging as much as possible. The set today kicked off with ‘Follow Me’ – a great riff based blues rock track – and also ‘Broke My Back’,  and finishing off with ‘Loosing Your Grip’.  A great set by a bunch of fun loving hard rocking guys that just want to play the music and get drunk afterwards.

Triaxis - SOS Festival, July 2014

Another from the Rocksector stable Triaxis, a female fronted metal band from South Wales, formed back in 2006 and are now three albums in.

They have had some great sets so far at Hammerfest and Bloodstock and are pushing their way forward with heavy riffs and guitar shredding from Glyn and CJ on their trusty flying V’s .  With most of the set tonight coming from ‘Rage And Retribution’  they go down a storm with the crowd.

Blaze Bayley - SOS Festival, July 2014

A number of acoustic sets today from The Glass Guns, I.C.O.N and Incassum but without doubt the one that everyone was looking forward to was Blaze Bayley who was joined by the Appleton brothers.

Personally Iron Maiden were a band that bypassed me back in the day as I was more AC/DC and Black Sabbath but Blaze pulled one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and for some was the reason for coming to the festival. I heard nothing but great reviews of his set.

Tysondog - SOS Festival, July 2014

Earlier in the there was a special announcement that Tysondog had signed to Rocksector Records so the gig tonight was going to be a great celebration. Back in the 80s – and when NWOBHM was king – these guys were so close to going massive but unfortunately missed out.  But now – due to the upsurge of interest in 80′s metal – they are out there again and rocking with the best.

Their set tonight kicked off with ‘Taste The Hate’ and ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’ both off their 1986 release ‘Crimes of Insanity’ and are sounding as fresh as ever. The fact that the whole set tonight came from their two 80′s albums shows how much they believe in the music and want to keep the NWOBHM flag flying.

Newcomer to the band Steve Morrison (Guitars) not only had to learn the old stuff but also the new album ‘Cry Havoc’ which is all ready with an anticipated release date of next year.

IAMI - SOS Festival, July 2014

Final band tonight and highly anticipated was IAMI, formed by former Dragonforce vocalist ZP Theart back in 2012 and although the line-up has changed in two years at least for now there seems to be some stability.

With most of the set coming from ‘Event Horizon’ it was a tour de force of power metal. Searing riffs and shredding solos with the unmistakable voice of ZP, the inclusion of ‘You’re The Voice’ in the set surprised some but a highly enjoyable set to end the festival.

It would be invidious to single out favourite bands this weekend – it was all good – but if pushed Bloodyard, Blackballed, Twelve Gauge, Skam! and Fahran stood out for me.

Next year’s lineup is partly announced and again it’s only £15 for the weekend. For full details goto

Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley

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