Saturday dawned hot and sunny for SOS festival day two and I made it back just in time to catch openers Soma Dark who were another thrash band with shouty vocals but also some melody. They powered through a short set that finished with what appeared to be a metal version of “Summer Lovin” from the film Grease which was, erm, different!
No acoustic act at this point so next up on the main stage we had Idestroy, a female power trio based in Bristol that features Becky from Triaxis along with Bec and Jenn. I’m not normally a great fan of female vocals so was prepared to be unimpressed but actually they were damn good. More of an indie/punky feel than just straightforward rock, with even a nod towards poppiness on occasion, they bounced through a short but sweet set and brought a breath of fresh air to a day that promised to be Very Metal otherwise. One to watch I think.
Aonia on the main stage were proper operatic rock in the best Swedish goth style, with not just one but two female vocalists and the guitarists (obviously deeper) vocals also coming to the fore occasionally to provide a bit of contrast. Despite having to borrow a stand-in bass player from Dakesis (not sure what happened to theirs, hope it wasn’t anything serious) they provided an entertaining and competent set that featured a stonking version of Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills and Far Away,” a song that was just made to be performed in this style by this band. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy them nearly as much as I did, and I also have to admit to some serious corset envy by the time they finished.
Over on the acoustic stage we then had Matchstick Men who I noted weren’t particularly acoustic at all as they had bass and drums, but despite that they played some bluesy toe-tapping tunes that had the crowd nodding along in no time.
A Jokers Rage then bounced onto the main stage to a theme song that was very Hammer House Of Horror. This is also a band I’ve seen before and thought were OK, but they have been out on the road a lot since then and that extra experience is really starting to show. Zacky’s vocals are much improved, as are the backing vocals, and the whole set was more accessible than on previous encounters. In fact I could actually see the crowd, who had been a little “what the hell” when they first came on, warm to them as they got further into the set. They closed with a cover of Tupac’s “California Love” with a little added Slash riff here and there, and perhaps the only surprise surrounding them was that they weren’t a little further up in the running order.
After another short set from the Matchstick Men it was back to the main stage for Ritual King. This is a 3-piece local band that I hadn’t heard of before, and they came on looking a bit Nirvana to a fairly sparse crowd who it appeared didn’t like the look of them much either. This was a huge mistake on their part as actually they turned out to be my Discovery Of The Weekend! The songs were melodic classic rock with really strong bass lines, perfect harmony vocals and some splendid wah-wah guitar parts. They were so good I forgot to write many notes about what they actually played, but I did go and buy their album on the strength of this performance. They perhaps need to work on their stage presence a little more, but that should come with experience and with material of this quality it’s not the end of the world. I will definitely be looking out for them in future, I thought they were fantastic.
Over on the acoustic stage we now had a familiar face in Matt Jones, the lead singer and guitarist from Twisted Illusion. This time it was just him and a guitar, and I have to say he has a pretty amazing voice. He did a couple of songs off the new Twisted Illusion album and a wicked cover of Tenacious D’s “Tribute”, filling the room with an impressive wall of sound from just one person!
Dakesis followed on the main stage, another female-fronted band whose music put me in mind of Dragonforce and their ilk. It was all very epic, flags were waved, if there had been any dragons on the premises they would definitely have been in danger of a good slaying. Technically they were spot-on with fast riffs, some nice solos, strong bass and solid drums. I enjoyed them, and the Grumpy Husband (who is notoriously hard to please) thought they were awesome and made me buy their album too. If you like your metal in a Nightwish kind of style then do check them out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Matt was joined by one of his bandmates for his second acoustic set and together they powered through a couple more Twisted Illusion songs and finished with a really well-executed cover of Dio’s “Don’t Talk To Strangers.” Not everyone can pull off a song by one of rock’s most respected and revered singers but Matt did a very good job, and received some well-deserved good feedback from the crowd afterwards.
Next up was Lord Volture, all the way from The Netherlands. They had pointy guitars, synchronised headbanging, high-pitched Halfordesque vocals and the whole thing was a soupcon of Scorpions, a sprinkle of Saxon, a muddle of Maiden, a portion of Priest….. They were pure metal and at times verged on becoming a parody of the early 80s NWOBHM bands but they played so well and with such obvious love of the genre that they got away with it and it became more of a happy timewarp. I loved them.
Our next acoustic act was John Doyle, providing more covers of rock standards with a good vocal range and a good beard too.
Vicious Nature on the main stage were, as their name suggests, pure thrash. They were fast and loud with some nice guitar solos and reminded me in places of early Metallica. This is not my personal favourite genre of music but they played it well and the crowd, although sparse again, was very enthusiastic. A cover of Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” closed the set and was very well done.
Another covers set by John Doyle (including an interesting version of “The Evil That Men Do”) preceded Crimes of Passion on the main stage, or CoPUK as they seem to prefer to be known as – there must be another CoP somewhere else in the world perhaps? Anyhow they are another old-skool metal band with good riffs and Priestly vocals, competent but nothing really outstanding about them. The union jacks on their shoulders (presumably for the UK bit of their name?) was a nice touch though.
Back on the acoustic stage we had a somewhat longer set from John Sloman, former vocalist with Uriah Heep and Lone Star. Interspersed with anecdotes from his many years in the business and his memories both happy and sad his set featured a lot of songs from his latest album “Don’t Try This At Home” and his 2003 release “Dark Matter”. His songs have a feel of Led Zeppelin about them and his voice is powerful, tuneful and soulful. He was a personable chap who gave us a well-performed set and I enjoyed him a great deal.
Main stage closers on Saturday were Scotland’s Attica Rage who played their usual style of melodic metal. Several songs from their latest album featured, and I felt they had a slightly softer edge than some of their earlier stuff. They are still basically hard and heavy though, just effortlessly throwing out riff after riff whilst bass player Matthew does some cracking gurning to entertain the crowd. Speaking of which…. I don’t know what happened, but there seemed to be a definite lack of people in the room at this point. Those that were there were wildly enthusiastic but there seemed to be an awful lot of space at the front. The same thing happened on Sunday (I’ll get to that in a bit) so I’m wondering if perhaps the transport links to Prestwich aren’t the best and a rethink of timing might be in order for next year? Anyway, back to the point…… I have described this band in my notes as a Sabbath for the modern age, and they just kept on churning out those powerchords whether the song was slow and doomy or fast and loud. A couple of covers closed the set, Motorhead’s “Overkill” which was actually faster than the original which I didn’t think was possible, and the Osmonds’ “Crazy Horses” which provided a wild singalong for the audience and went down a storm. Drummer Richie showed that he can play just as well standing up or sitting down, guitarist Stevie was all howling solos and flying hair and frontman Jonny managed to both growl and sparkle at the same time. Attica Rage are a fine live outfit and will be on tour later this year in support of their new album “Warheads Ltd” which was released back in June. Sadly time constraints meant there was no time for an encore but we all left sated with music and thinking Sunday’s bands would have to go some to match what we had already seen.