What do we know about SOS Festival then? Sponsored by Rocksector records and organised by them and Chris Appleton (founder member of Fury UK and now playing with Absolva amongst other things) who also compered it, it’s now in its 8th year and showcases some of the label’s talent, along with other up-and-coming artists and a guest “name” as well. It’s a well-put-together event held at a good location – good stage, good sound and lights, free parking, food and drink available at reasonable prices in the venue and the local town centre literally just a stroll away. I rocked up on Friday night never having been to the event before and not really knowing what to expect. There were a couple of names on the bill I knew well, a couple I was familiar with and loads that I hadn’t heard of. Good good, a chance to open my listening ears! With so many bands to see I was a bit worried that if too in-depth this review would turn into a small novel so please forgive if I have skimmed over your favourite; in the interests of fairness I tried to watch at least a song or two from everyone who played and write a line or two about my opinion of them rather than give you a detailed resume of setlists, band members, histories etc. Some of them that I particularly enjoyed I will tell you about in more detail. Some of them that weren’t really my “thing” I canvassed opinions about from other festivalgoers to try and make this not too subjective.
The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with Kill Or Cure, a 4-piece band from Manchester who play straight-ahead rock with soaring operatic vocals. The comparison to Meatloaf in terms of both the vocal quality and the look of the singer is obvious, but the music is hard and driving, with the odd “whoa-a-ah” chorus and some masterful widdly guitar solos. Kind of reminded me of a slowed-down Dragonforce. They also have a focal point in their tiny Japanese bass player who had me worried that her bum-length hair was going to get caught in the strings all the way through the set. I liked them.
The setup here is that there was supposed to be a band on the second, acoustic stage in between acts while the main stage was prepared for the next band, but due to a traffic delay the first band due to play didn’t make it for their first slot so after much scurrying on the big stage we got Vice. I don’t know much about them but they were all flying hair and loudness! A little too fast and hard for my personal taste but with non-shouty vocals, some nice twin-guitar thrashing, a couple of timechanges and an upcoming single called “Sloth” featuring some nicely-executed back-and-to singing from the bass player they were pretty good.
Reverted had finally made it off the M6 after a 7-hour journey from London so we got to see them after all. Singer Tony warned us that despite being acoustic they would be “louder than you think” and indeed they were. 2 15-minute sets on the acoustic stage between the next 2 acts showcased a band with hard but catchy songs, vocals a little reminiscent of Hetfield in places and some inadvertent toe-tapping and head-nodding from me. I particularly liked the song “Time”, even if the lights did make Tony look a bit evil!
Back to the main stage and Amethyst were on. This was the first time I had ever seen a 7-string bass and I have to say I watched very carefully for a while to make sure all of them were used and it wasn’t just for show – they were, and as the bass player had a beard as big and impressive as his bass I was, well, impressed! Musically they seemed to be very angry about something, not sure what. The musicianship was excellent, there were lots of time changes, and they played some real hard metal. Reminiscent of Slayer it kind of went Death! AND FIRE! AND DEATH! AND MORE DEATH!! Not my cup of tea but went down well with the crowd and they had a bit of a moshpit going down at the front and many horns so if DEATH!! is your thing, check them out. After another short acoustic set from Reverted we had Obzidian, who had also braved the M6 to get there from Stafford/Wolverhampton but made it in time. I only caught a short bit of their set so all I have on my notepad for them is “screamo vocals and some really nice guitar solos”. That does not a great review make so I turned to some of my friends who told me they are a really powerful thrash band with a “brilliant” guitarist and some deep lyrics.
On to the acoustic stage again and the band I was most looking forward to seeing today: Heartbreak Remedy. This band is a 4-piece from Cumbria whose music is totally at odds with pretty much everyone else on the bill tonight. Electrically they are bluesy hard rock with almost a country feel at times, tonight playing acoustic they were like breath of fresh air to those of us who were starting to feel a little rocked out. The slower-paced chilled-out sounds of “Heartbreaker” and “Rose” in the first set teetered on the edge of being bluegrassy at times, whereas in the second set “Tell Me Why” gave us Zep-esque overtones and “Life” even managed a time change just to keep up with all the harder bands on the main stage. The sets really showcased how improved Matty Penn’s vocals are recently with their southern-inspired laid-back vibe. They finished with “Already Gone”, a slightly faster and more bouncy uptempo song just to remind us that we had more rocking to do yet.
One of the things I liked about this weekend was that for once women were well-represented on the stages, including the next band up Collibus. I have to admit here that I am not a huge fan of female vocals, however Gemma from Collibus has some real power to her voice whilst holding the tune and not getting screechy – not bad at all. I would describe the music as more metal than thrash. The twin guitars again worked well and some of my friends described them as “unexpectedly brilliant” and “one of the best bands of the festival” so even though again they weren’t necessarily to my taste they went down well with the rest of the audience.
Tonight’s headliners were Triaxis, a 5-piece band from South Wales who feature not just one but 3 women, vocalist Krissie, bass player Becky and guitarist CJ. Most of tonight’s set was showcasing songs from the new album Zero Hour which was released back on May on Rocksector Records – you can read PlanetMosh’s review of it here: http://planetmosh.com/triaxis-zero-hour/ The phrase I have written in my little notebook to describe them is “Melodic Metal”. Krissie has an amazing voice, powerful and edgy yet with just a hint of sweetness, and there was a definite female Maiden feel going on in some of the songs. In keeping with the general theme of the night they also throw in a few time changes, some big riffs and lots of scorching guitar solos but tempered them with some rather nice harmony vocals from the girls and the title track from the album “Zero Hour” which is much slower and more thoughtful in places. A lot of their songs are quite angry too, and there was a fair bit of killing going on in there. However, they totally made up for that by playing an encore that was a song about Rainbows! Well OK it was actually a song about a wizard but it was originally BY Rainbow. They covered “Stargazer” and I have to say they totally owned it. The crowd went wild, there were horns up and heads banging everywhere and it was a great way to end the evening. After something for pretty much everyone we all went home knackered but happy, and looking forward to what Saturday would bring.