With a slight hangover and a mad dash to the Radcliffe Civic for the second day of S.O.S festival I just got there in time for the first band at midday, Coventry based Black Star Bullet and I’m glad I did as the pile driving riffing of set opener ‘8.50am’ from their self titled debut album hit the sizeable crowd. The distinctive gravel throated vocal of Trev Goddard came over like a cross between Alice Cooper and Blackie Lawless, easily one of the best voices I’d heard all weekend. Second number ‘In My Blood’ was all full throttle Airbourne dual guitar assault. The huge main riff was backed by chiming chords with a memorable chorus of “It’s in my blood, it’s in my face, it’s in my head”. ‘This Is Rock And Roll’ and ‘Take It Back’, also from the album were also chock full of room filling riffs but set highlight for me was ‘Hate’, a twin vocal delivered slice of commercial rock with plenty of bite to get the front row nodding their heads.
Another bunch of heavy riffers were next up. Leicester based trio Skam opened up with the earth moving Kyuss like bass grooves from Matt Gilmore on ‘Soldiers Of Rock’ bolstered by a crackling main riff from lead vocalist/guitarist Steve Hill and some fluid solos from his cherry red Gibson SG. Latest single ‘Holy City’ got the ever growing crowd moving even though it was still early afternoon. ‘Rivers’ was another bass heavy number with a melodic guitar solo midway. ‘No Lies’ was by far the heaviest song of the set with all of the band upping the ante to the max. Title track of their new album Peacemaker was a crushing wall of sound making it hard to believe a three piece can produce so much noise. The all too short set ended with the pounding ‘Massacre’. Manchester quintet Bigfoot hit the stage next with flying hair and a natural born frontman called Anthony Ellis, connecting with the crowd effortlessly with his Jack Black mannerisms. Highlights of their five song set were the riff laden ‘In The Gutter’, ‘Bitch Killer’ with it’s ‘Living After Midnight’ drum patterns but song of the set was ‘Come Down My Way’, an acoustic lead atmospheric rock ballad.
Twelve Gauge were another band I had seen recently, they impressed then and delivered another killer set today. Set opener was ‘Sins Of The Flesh’, a brooding, moody number with lead vocalist J.Michael Ward howling with a range like Layne Staley, original vocalist of Alice In Chains. ‘Come On And Touch Me’ was a heavy riffed slice of stadium rock with another belting vocal. ‘ Take Me Back’ is a slice of heavy blues in the style of Free and they saved their hardest hitting track ‘Lost Control’ till last and had a Nine Inch Nails like riff during the verses to beef it up. Fahran were easily one of the hardest working bands onstage today with even drummer J.R.Windsor twirling his sticks and headbanging. Even though lead vocalist Matt Black had a throat infection he never held back and pushed his voice for every song. Their set was based heavily on latest album Chasing Hours from which set opener ‘Silver Scene’ was taken from. It’s early Def Leppard vibe saw the band stage front, connecting with the crowd from the off. ‘Chains Of Steel’ was a heavy power ballad with an intense main guitar riff with Matt going for the high notes. Set closer ‘Ashes’ was built on a thick churning riff but best song for me was ‘Cased In Steel’ which covered all bases including a massive chorus.
Veteran French metallers Gang were up next, another European band making their UK debut with their nine song set based mainly on new album Inject The Venom and a heavy cover of ‘Total Eclipse’ by Iron Maiden. Lead vocalist Bill hit some impressive high notes throughout the set, more so on ‘Primal Reign’ where his voice soared over a speedy NWOBHM type backing. ‘All Of The Time’ saw the band indulge in some cheesy Scorpions style stage moves with set highlight being another new track, an epic sounding ‘The King Became A God’. Belgian based metallers Wizz Wizzard also had one foot in the classic metal era with their set dominated by their latest album ‘Tears From The Moon’, a very personal album with a lot of the songs reflecting vocalist Wizzs’ survival of a heart attack shown by ‘Six Feet Underground’, sounding like early melodic Accept, ‘Live Or Die’ slowed the pace down with some hefty Black Sabbath type riffing but the most moving song of the set was ‘Reflections From Hell’, a very emotional vocal over catchy but heavy metal riffs.
Over on the acoustic stage was Incassum who had played a much heavier electric set on the Dean Hocking stage the previous day. They played five songs over two sets. The first following Wizz Wizzard and the second an hour later after Blackballed. Three of these were played yesterday and my favourite song of that set ‘Walk Alone’ was played today, this stripped down version was stunning but this was surpassed by a cover of ‘Kiss From A Rose’ which shows that whatever genre of music it’s from, a great song is a great song and Sharleen’s vocal nailed it. Next up were Blackballed a power trio in every sense of the word. I could hear a lot of ZZ Top in their heavy blues songs with guitarist/vocalist Marshall Gill and bassist Tom Wibberley decked out like Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill but there was a lot of early Aerosmith and Cream in there to. They were completely different to any band that had preceded them today but they rocked hard with drummer Leon Gill providing a thumping backbone. Stand out songs for me were ‘Losing Your Grip’ with it’s choppy chords in the verses and balls out riffing in between. ‘Tow The Line’ to be honest was vintage ZZ Top but ‘Broke My Back’ was song of the set. The lengthy bluesy intro gave way to the verses which reminded me of ‘Angie Baby’ by Helen Reddy and Marshall gave his hollow bodied Gretsch 6120 some welly on this one with some great feedback from his amps.
S.O.S was drawing to a close with just four bands remaining so South Wales based Triaxis brought their brand of thrash metal to the fore. Fronted by the powerful vocal and stage presence of Krissie, the five piece band thundered through a seven song set that had a lot of old fans headbanging and singing along. It was my first Triaxis gig and it will not be the last. Pick of the set for me were ‘Under Blood Red Skies’ with it’s mauling riffs punctuated with melodic fills and piercing guitar solo from Glyn midway . The grandiose seven minute long ‘Lies’ was a multi time changed mid paced thrasher following a Thin Lizzy like twin guitar intro with a shredding solo once again from Glyn but ‘Black Trinity’ stood out the most. The riffs and solos could give ‘Holy Wars’ by Megadeth a run for it’s money as the band locked into some furious time changes and the song contained one of the most memorable choruses of the day with Krissie belting out the refrain of “You reap what you sow, you reap what you sow, it’s just a matter of time”.
A lot of the older members of the crowd made their way to the front for the welcome return of North East band NWOBHM stalwarts Tysondog. Formed in 1983, three of the original members exist in the current line up, Clutch Carruthers on lead vocals, Paul Burdis on guitar and Kev Wynn on bass guitar. The rest of the line up is Phil Brewis on drums and Steve Morrison on guitar who was making his stage debut this evening. Tysondog always seemed to have a punkier edge to their NWOBHM sound and almost thirty years later Clutch still has that menace to his vocals. Their nine song set was made up of five numbers from their 1984 debut Beware Of The Dog and four songs from the 1986 follow up Crimes Of Insanity. The band had signed a record deal with Rocksector Records today and good news for fans is that a new album called Cry Havoc will be due out in 2015. Back to the acoustic stage now for my set of the weekend. A very emotional set from Blaze Bayley backed by Chris and Luke Appleton on guitars. I’ve been a fan of Blaze since early Wolfsbane, thought he did a great job in Iron Maiden and think the X Factor and Virtual XI albums were better than some of the Bruce ones. Met him at gigs over the years and he has always taken time out to talk to his fans before and after the shows and today was no exception when he strolled in the venue mid afternoon. Today’s set was made up of four tracks from his solo Silicon Messiah album, ‘The Brave’, ‘The Launch’, ‘Silicon Messiah’ and ‘Stare At The Sun’, a fantastic ‘This Is The Soundtrack Of My Life’ and three Maiden covers. ‘Lord Of The Flies’ was a strong set opener, ‘Futureal’ sounded huge even acoustically but my highlight was a stunning version of ‘The Clansman’ and I was not the only one who shed a few tears when it was played. Blaze delivered every song with total conviction and his sincerity to his fans was a joy to behold!
Final band of the day were I Am I lead by the charismatic ZP Theart, one of the most energetic and crowd pleasing vocalists of the weekend. ZP was playing with a new line up from the one that recorded their debut album Event Horizon and eight of it’s ten tracks were played tonight along with ‘Inside Of Me’ which was a Japanese release bonus track, their second single ‘See You Again’ and an over the top cover of ‘You’re The Voice’ originally sung by John Farnham. ZP pushed himself on this one, nailing every note and got the crowd bellowing out the chorus. The standard of their hour long set was proven by the first three numbers. ‘This Is My Life’ saw ZP hitting some long notes over thudding rhythms with a lengthy, fast melodic solo midway which lead straight into ‘In The Air Tonight’, it’s heavy power metal grooves and huge chorus got the front rows moving and ‘Cross The Line’ was full of brooding riffs and an instantly memorable chorus. Final song of the night was a heavy run through of ‘Silent Genocide’ with yet another massive chorus bouncing off the walls.
S.O.S Fest 2014 was my first time there and next year’s is from 17th-19th July so I’m sure I will be there.
Special thanks goes to Morticia photography for use of their pics.