SOS Festival Day 2, Radcliffe Civic Suite, Bury, 18th July 2015

The SOS Festival, for those of you who don’t know, is an annual event held in the small town of Radcliffe, near Bury in Greater Manchester.  To say it’s one of the Rock and Metal scene’s best kept secrets is something of an understatement.

Curated every year by Rocksector Records, the festival has hosted the likes of Evil Scarecrow, Triaxis, Absolva, Monument, Fury UK and Heaven’s Basement.  So we’re talking about the cream of the crop in terms of up-and-coming bands, several years before their step up to the likes of Bloodstock, Sonisphere and Download.  To that list, you can also add Gun, Avenger, Blaze Bayley and Tysondog, ably representing the more experienced end of the spectrum.

So something for everyone, then.

This year, for the first time, the festival had a Friday evening start, which meant I was unable to make it to see Triaxis, Collibus, Obzidian, Amethyst, Vice and Kill Or Cure, which was a real shame, since according to the buzz around the place on the second day, it had been an excellent night.

On to day two, I only caught part of Twisted Illusion‘s set, but from what I did hear, the youngsters that made up the band have good a very good thing going, despite their youth and inexperience.  Expect to hear from them in the future.

Lock Up Laura's vocalist, Lee McCusker

Lock Up Laura’s vocalist, Lee McCusker

Next up on The Dean Hocking Stage were Lock Up Laura (****).  The lads from Lincoln put on a high energy performance, showing themselves to be a very tight band displaying very strong, classy Hard Rock credentials.  Playing SOS in support of their recently released second album, Masquerade, in a time when the likes of Nickelback can be massive sellers, Lock Up Laura have got what it takes to really step up.

The Raven Age (****) were something of a pleasant surprise.  Personally, I’d been expecting something a lot more in the Trad Metal vein than the Nu Metal-tinged music the band purveyed.  They’ll be touring with guitarist George Harris’ dad’s band, British Lion next month as well as Skarlett Riot in October.  On this evidence, definitely worth checking out.


The Amorettes – Gill (guitar/vocals) and Heather (bass/Motorhead t-shirt)

The next band I managed to see were one I’ve wanted to clap my eyes on for a while.  If you were stood outside the auditorium, listening, you would have sworn this band were a bunch of highly experienced road warriors with a Joan Jett-style vocalist.  Take a look, though, and you discover that this band who can give Motorhead a run for their money, are three little girls from The Central Belt in Scotland.  To call The Amorettes (*****) awesome is something of an understatement.  Considering they’ve only just released their second album, Game On, their confidence and power onstage is nothing short of incredible… something you’d expect of a band with a career length in double digits and a combined age well into triple digits!

Go and see them, if you know what’s good for you.  They will blow you away.


Marco Kern – Drunk in charge of a Metal band (although you wouldn’t know it)

Teutonic Metal… you really can’t go wrong with that, when it comes down to it.  Austrians, Garagedays (****) prove that in spades.  Sound-wise, think Udo-era Accept, or even Udo Dirkschneider‘s solo stuff, as a reference.  Despite the level of inebriation vocalist Marco Kern was exhibiting in the press room, when he strapped his guitar on, it was like someone had flicked a switch to turn on his frontman circuits.  All signs of alcoholic stupor evaporated and the lads played a blinder.


Fireforce – possibly Belgium’s finest export

Staying in a Teutonic Metal vein, but with a definite twist of Power Metal, were Belgian veterans FireForce (****), making their first ever UK appearance.  These guys played out of their skins, tapping the same kind of energy as the likes of Dream Evil, Edguy and Bloodbound.  Special mention does have to be made of frontman, Filip “Flype” Lemmens.  This man has a truly incredible set of pipes, pushing notes maybe only Rob Halford can hit!

Italians, Secret Rule (**) were somewhat disappointing, if I’m honest.  Although the music itself was pretty decent stuff, very much in the vein of Lacuna Coil, and very well played, the lack of onstage charisma from the band meant I headed back to the press room to get ready for my next set of interviews, rather than waiting to be dragged off (like I had to be with a few other bands).


Marc Farquhar – Cumbria’s answer to James Hetfield?


Die No More’s Kev Smith – definitely not a Hamster.

Cumbria’s Die No More (****) were a massive improvement over the Italians.  This was a solid set from a band that really did know what they were doing.  Sonically, these guys are a part of the same movement as Evile, Gama Bomb, Municipal Waste and Bonded By Blood – Old School Bay Area-style Thrash, but brought very much up to date.  They have, apparently, been called “UK’s answer to Metallica“, but that’s selling Marc Farquhar and the lads short.  Yes, Marc does have the James Hetfield rasp in his voice and they do play in a similar style, but Die No More do have their own identity and based on this show, they’re a band to watch out for.


Avenger… erm… Avenging!


The last band I managed to see was the resurrected NWOBHM band, Avenger (****).

These guys were part of the legendary

Avenger's Ian Swift obviously enjoying himself!

Avenger’s Ian Swift obviously enjoying himself!

Neat Records stable, and that pedigree shows.  They delivered a strong, tight set of classy Hard Rock, quite obviously enjoying every second of it (as evidenced by the MASSIVE grin on vocalist Ian Swift’s face right the way through the set).

Lordi, Warehouse 23, Wakefield, 25th March 2015

It’s been a good few years since I last saw Lordi.  It was just after they’d won the Eurovision Song Contest for their home country of Finland.  That time, they played at The Carling Academy in Birmingham, with support provided by a young Finnish band called Turisas.

That night, despite a storming set from the support band, culminating in a breakneck version of Rasputin (which they eventually recorded), Lordi still managed to come out on top.  This time, at the much smaller Wakefield club, would the masked Finns still be able to pull it off?

IMG_3309Unfortunately, thanks to a parking issueIMG_3314 (as in the lack of it within the easiest distance of the venue), I missed the first few songs of the openers, Hollywood Groupies, but what I did see certainly made me want to know more about them.  The Italians certainly won themselves a few new friends on the night thanks to their obvious enthusiasm and very nice line in traditional, proper Heavy Metal, very much in the vein of their fellow countrymen, Arthemis.  These guys are definitely worth watching for the future.

Next up were Sweden’s very own Dirty Passion.

This is a bunch of guys who definitely IMG_3340know what they’re doing and what they’re about.  They also happen to do it very well.  It must be really only down to the vagaries of fashion that these guys aren’t a lot bigger.  With the seeming resurgence of this type of music, and the usual Swedish flare for doing this sort of thing right, it can only be a matter of time before these chaps become much more well known.  On that night’s performance, they certainly deserve it.


Onto the main event, then.  The Finnish Monster Squad, kicking off with new single, Nailed By The Hammer Of Frankenstein, which was the first of five songs unleashed from the new album, Scare Force One, including the title track and the instrumental track, Amen’s Lament To Ra.  Somewhat surprisingly, Hard Rock Hallelujah was the third song in the set instead of it being saved for the encore (which was made up of Scare Force One, Who’s Your Daddy? and Could You Love A Monsterman?)


The set itself was very well balanced.  There was literally something from everything, to twist the old phrase.  Since this is Lordi, the vast majority of the songs are the best ones Kiss never wrote.  With some lyrical modification, virtually anything Lordi have ever recorded could slot into almost any 70’s album from their back catalogue.  Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the most recent Kiss albums had co-writing credits featuring an obviously Finnish name.


Anyway, special mention has to be made of both the theatrics (this is a Lordi show, so there has to be some showmanship and some gore), which were always spot on and just the right level so they didn’t overshadow the music, and the musicianship, especially from Amen (guitar) and Mana (drums).  Being able to play that well in full costume makes what they do even more impressive.

As for Mr Lordi himself, he was in fine form, striding the stage in total command.  The venues may have become smaller, but The Monsterman hasn’t.  Could we love a Monsterman?  Yes.  We did, and we still most definitely do.

Amaranthe, Wakefield Warehouse 23, Wednesday 18th March 2015


So on an ordinary Wednesday night, I made my way to a new venue in Wakefield by the name of Warehouse 23.  Having got inside, I was genuinely surprised that my feet weren’t sticking to the floor and that the toilets had toilet paper and didn’t stink of urine.

On top of that, the bar prices were very reasonable, being much more “pub” than “venue”.  This was the first time in quite a while that I’d bought myself a drink at a gig and not felt like I’d been done.  The venue are also building a bit of a reputation thanks to the bands they’re putting on since they opened last year.

On this particular night, it was the turn of Swedish genre smashers, Amaranthe, supported by the Modern Metal of Engel and throwback Glam/Sleaze Rockers, Santa Cruz.

IMG_3185The first band up, somewhat surprisingly having read the poster, was Santa Cruz (****).

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will freely admit that from my position right down at the front in the photo pit, it was somewhat difficult to gauge the sound and the reception the first two bands got, but the Finns seemed to be playing something of a blinder.  They were definitely not a band going through the motions.  All shapes thrown were genuine as were the smiles on the members’ faces during their set.???????????????????????????????

As for the set itself, it was like being back in the late 80’s, very much following in the footsteps Hanoi RocksMichael Monroe.  Classy Glam/Sleaze Metal, straight off Sunset Strip, but infused with that characteristic Finnish know-how and confidence.

The boys from Helsinki certainly made themselves a few friends, going by the comments I heard from various members of the audience.  Then again, with this type of crowd, the type of music Santa Cruz play and their Finnish attitude, failing to connect was never really an option for them.  They connected big-style.

Next up were the band I had been expecting to see first, Gothenburg’s very own Engel (***½).

They seemed to be an interesting choice for the bill, especially since Amaranthe’s bass player, Johan Andreassen, is a former (albeit a shortlived stint, nearly a decade ago!) member of the band.

Obviously no sour grapes from either side, then.

Their style of music is very much straight-ahead Modern Metal in a similar vein to the more melodic sides of bands such as Killswitch Engage and current iteration of The Agonist, contrasting clean and Death Metal vocals over a Melodic Heavy Metal base.  The band themselves were very professional and self-assured.  Their level of experience was obvious (only accentuated by relatively new vocalist Mikael Sehlin’s mentions of the band’s “fourth album“) and they used that experience to put on a solid, if unspectactular show.

Finally, to what had to have been a somewhat disappointing crowd (which more than likely got more to do with the newness of the venue and it being a Wednesday night not long before payday, than it has to do with the quality of the bands on offer), Amaranthe (*****) hit the stage.

Olof Mörck

Their enthusiasm and the obvious joy of performing was incredibly infectious.  It was virtually (and literally!) impossible not to stop a huge grin spreading over my face as I snapped photos in the pit and then from the punters’ side of the barrier following the traditional three songs.

To say that, onstage, Amaranthe are a well-oiled machine would make them seem soulless.  They’re not, by any stretch of the imagination.  They’re actually a lot of fun to watch.  The triple vocal line-up of Jake E, Elize Ryd and new boy Death Metal vocalist, Henrik Englund worked a lot better than expected on the surprisingly spacious stage.

When propelled by guitarist Olof Mörck, bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer, Morten Løwe Sørensen, they form a truly formidable live outfit.  One of the tightest I’ve seen in a long while.  They were almost effortless in their stagecraft and were very obviously enjoying themselves as they powered through a set made up of songs from all three of their studio albums.

As for the music, it’s bouncy, catchy feel-good stuff, ample proof that good Metal doesn’t need to be grim, angry and aggressive.

Jake E

Jake E

Not even a technical fault early on that took down the vocals, guitar and bass could even slow their momentum.

There were no tantrums or hissy fits from the stage, which was a very pleasant surprise.

They actually finished the song before joking around with the audience and each other until the power was restored, at which point they carried on as if nothing untoward had happen.  Extremely professional and very refreshing.

Johan Andreassen

Throughout the whole set, probably the only miss-step was the entirely gratuitous (but thankfully not long) drum solo.  Then again, it did give the rest of the band time enough to gather themselves before carrying on.  To say the two hour set flew by would be by no means an exaggeration.  The pounding encore-closer and final song of the night, Massive Addictive came far too soon.

An apt way to finish, really.  It would be cheesy to say that Amaranthe, as a live act, are Massively Addictive… but they are.  Their sheer joy at being on stage and the quality of the songs and musicianship on offer make that something that really does have to be said, despite the fermented milk factor.


Hayseed Dixie, Wakefield Warehouse 23, Saturday 21st March 2015

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Guest Reviewer: Kath Runciman

I first would like to address the venue for this gig.

Having never been to Wakefield’s new venue, Warehouse 23, I was unsure what to expect for the evening.  What I experienced was polite, pleasant staff who were attentive and supportive and who showed a level of empathy with disabled audience members, I feel has to be mentioned, as there were several large motorised wheelchairs, several visually impaired and hearing impaired people there and what I saw was a superb level of support to ensure that they had the best experience the venue could offer. Yes, there is still room for improvement but I don’t think I’ve seen that level of genuine inclusivity in any venue before….well done Warehouse 23.

So….downside… support band, so there was a long wait before Hayseed Dixie came on, but for me, that is the only negative of the night.

Once on stage, Hayseed delivered on of the most fun and enjoyable gigs I have ever experienced. The level of energy from the band members and musical ability was superb and they competently carried the audience through renditions of classic rock tracks, hip hop, Britney Spears (only for a moment, fortunately) and triumphant renditions of classic tracks such as Bohemian Rhapsody.

John Wheeler engaged with the crowd brilliantly with a blend of banter and interesting (and insightful) political commentary on issues both American and British.  He finished a staggering rant quoting several philosophical and scientific theories, with, “I’m not just a redneck, I’m an educated redneck and that’s something to be afraid of“.



Getting back to the music, renditions of Motörhead‘s Ace Of Spades and AC/DC‘s Highway to Hell whipped the crowd into a sea of horns up waving hands and when they broke into Journey‘s Don’t Stop Believing, young and old embraced their inner Glee demon and sang along and danced equally. The band also introduced the crowd to some of their original material from the No Covers album which was well received.

The musicianship was phenomenal and the band members, apart from Jake ‘Bakesnake’ Byers on acoustic bass, swapped between instruments and showed a level of classical aptitude, mixed with thundering rock interpretation that was awe inspiring for its execution and truly brilliant.  The fiddle playing (as a classically trained and experienced concert violinist) was breathtaking at times and beautiful in moments of classical and softer renditions, something which in a climate changing in temperature constantly due to the mere heat of the crowd in such an intimate space, was very impressive.

Finishing with a staggering rendition of Pink Floyd‘s iconic Comfortably Numb, the audience were left with no doubt, that Hayseed Dixie had given their all to Wakefield and after 5 minutes, all of the band were in the bar with the fans, drinking, signing autographs, having photos and selfies done and relaxing, no sense of rushing away, a genuine desire to meet, greet and relax with the fans who supported them, old and new.

If you see Hayseed Dixie are playing a venue near you, if you need to feel the joy of music and the fun of not taking life too seriously, you cannot go wrong with a trip to one of their gigs. 10/10 and thank you for an amazing night.

Richie Ramone, Generation Graveyard and The Idol Dead, Barfly, 13.12.14

After reviewing Richie’s first solo offering Entitled a few weeks back, and then having the great pleasure of interviewing him, I was more than a little pleased to trundle up to Camden on a frosty Saturday and see whether the live show offered by the man known as “The Ramones‘ Fastest Drummer” lived up to the hype.  Camden Barfly however, is the teeniest venue in the world.  When I first walked in, I was a little bit horrified if I’m honest – this is Richie Ramone we’re talking about here, this isn’t a local band who haven’t hit the big venues yet.  I was kind of expecting a bigger stage – it’s smaller than the one at my local!  It didn’t help that at that point there were less than twenty people in the room (including one of the bands) and I was surprised – I’d been expecting a horde of Ramones fans!  More on that a bit later.

Anyway,  in my not especially qualified opinion, Punk roughly falls into five categories – the Discordant, The Angry/Political, The Femme, The Classic, and The Pop.  Bands will sometimes occupy multiple categories simultaneously, but generally speaking I’ll listen to anything except The Discordant because those guys can’t actually play their instruments and I don’t like hurting my ears.

I hadn’t heard either of the support acts for the night – I like to keep support acts I haven’t listened to yet as a surprise – it’s always nice to turn up and see someone completely new to me.

The Idol Dead are strictly speaking a rock band, but I think they straddle The Classic and The Pop beautifully.  They’re upbeat enough to be accessible to an audience who have limited experience of punk but they have enough hallmarks of bands gone by that they’re actually GOOD.

The Idol Dead. Photo Credit Suzi H

The Idol Dead. Photo Credit Suzi H

I couldn’t take a decent picture because they didn’t stand still long enough for me to do so, so I apologise for the blurry offering above.  I don’t mind though because I’ve seen headline bands with sold out crowds (Metallica, I am looking at you) put less energy into their sets than these guys put into playing the opening slot in a poky room in Camden.  My local has a bigger gig room than the Barfly, as I’ve said before, but the way these guys played you’d think they were playing a sold out Donington. Musically speaking they are extremely competent, stage presence-wise they were gripping and I challenge anyone to listen to their latest album and not end up sticking it on repeat.  As a first opener Richie Ramone couldn’t have picked better really.  Their latest album Hollow Point Curse is available on BandCamp – for the love of rock go and buy it so they can keep doing what they do and I can go bop around in the front row to them again.

Next up were Generation Graveyard and my first thought was  “I assume these guys get a discount on skinny jeans and denim cuts by buying in bulk. If they don’t, they’ve missed a business trick”.  Anyway they had a hard act to follow after The Idol Dead ripped up the Barfly.

Generation Graveyard. Photo Credit Suzi H

Generation Graveyard. Photo Credit Suzi H

However, I now have a bone to pick with whoever it was who didn’t tell me that Death Metal and Punk had crossbred and spawned a deadly baby in Generation Graveyard? These guys are dark and twisty and I re-pulled my ruptured stomach muscles headbanging to them.  They somehow manage to combine Death Metal riffs with punk beats and vocals I can’t even describe.  Go check out Human Hive – it was the definite highlight of the set for me.  They’ve assured me they have touring plans for next year and they’ve definitely gone on my ‘must go see’ list.

So by this point in the evening, I was sweaty and hurting and my neck muscles were promising that Sunday would bring a bangover of Epic proportions.  I hadn’t expected to see such amazing support acts – normally I end up not liking at least one of them.

The room had filled to bursting point and the front row were rammed up against the stage.

It was now Richie Time.

It’s hard to know what to say at this point.  Folks who read the album review I wrote will know that a) Richie is my favourite Ramone and b) he has Alex Fucking Kane and Claire P from Anti-Product in his band.  Given I pretty much think Anti-Product are the Greatest Punk Band Who Ever Walked The Earth this means I’m reviewing from a massive disadvantage – my inner 15 year old fan gurl is fucking squeaking away and my calm 31 year old journalist self is totally relegated.

Richie Ramone. Photo Credit Suzi H

Richie Ramone. Photo Credit Suzi H

Hyperbole aside lets get the objective stuff out of the way.  Richie is not a brilliant singer – he’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not brilliant.  The band are tight though – both Claire and Alex have huge stage presence and work together flawlessly – they’re both born showmen.

Alex Kane. I desperately tried to get a picture that had Alex, Claire and Ritchie in but couldnt. Photo Credit Suzi H

Alex Kane. I desperately tried to get a picture that had Alex, Claire and Ritchie in but couldn’t. Photo Credit Suzi H

What Richie misses in vocal strength, he makes up for on drums and in terms of presence. He has a certain energy on stage which younger front men struggle to emulate – on stage he is utterly sure of exactly who he is, and he doesn’t second guess himself for a second.  From the minute he hit the stage (introduced by Matt Stocks from the Punk Show on Team Rock Radio) to the minute he left the stage and headed for the merch stand, he provided an interactive and high octane sprint through a set that was fast, violent and very, very satisfying.  Of course he played a lot of Ramones stuff – the first pit opened to Somebody put Something In My Drink and from then on it was mosh central until Commando the last track of the encore was played.  Tracks from Entitled received a thunderous reception – Forgotten Years – and Take My Hand were particularly brilliant.  If the enthusiasm of the crowd was anything to go by this is a Triumphant solo debut for The Ramones’ Fastest Drummer and should he release another album (please do), I suspect they won’t be lacking in tour ticket sales.  As gigs go, it was everything my 15 year old self could have wanted, and there’s a whole new generation of fans who were throwing themselves about the place last night to keep happy too.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to try and retrieve my voice and stick ice packs on my pit-related injuries.

Týr, Korpiklaani and Sabaton – Sub89, Reading: 2nd December 2014

Review by Suzi H

Well bugger me if it hasn’t been an EXCELLENT year for gigs in the Southern Tower of Wyrd Ways HQ. Of course, it was absolutely topped off when I discovered that Týr were touring with Korpiklaani and Sabaton.  I’ll be honest and admit that whilst I’ve listened to Korpiklaani in passing more than once, I’ve only listened to one Sabaton album because basically, Cat A threatened me until I did. Both of these are mistakes I intend to rectify.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning!

Regular readers will remember that time I got sent a Týr album and fell more in love with it than I ever thought possible and basically decided that a) Viking/Battle/Folk Metal is the best subgenre of Metal ever, b) Faroese is the sexiest language in the world and c) There might be a band I like (slightly!) more than Turisas.  Anyway, after AltFest got cancelled I spent some of my refund on tickets to see this line up and oh gods do I wish I had the leave from my day job to have managed a few more dates.

Týr were up first, and whilst I was a little annoyed that their set was so short (I wanted a full hour long headlining slot!) what they gave me was not in any way disappointing. I don’t have my usual setlist notes** for any of the bands because I was too busy jumping up and down like a squirrel on acid, however from the opening notes of Blood of Heroes, throughout Hold the Heathen Hammer High, the sheer fucking ephemeral BEAUTY of Grindavisin and Tróndur Í Gøtu (which might actually have been Sinklars Visa, I was enjoying the moment not taking notes!) through to the rage of By The Sword In My Hand and Lady of The Slain it was one of the best gig openings I have ever seen.  The crowd seemed pretty damn happy, and while it was weird being in a crowd with no pit, there was certainly more enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen for an opening band before. Especially when you consider it was a Tuesday night, and the band were on just after 7.30 – I’d only made it for doors by the skin of my teeth!

In short Týr were everything I wanted them to be, although next time I want a headline set and to not be stuck at the back behind all the tall people.

Týr. Photo Credit Suzi H

Týr. Photo Credit Suzi H

Next up Korpiklaani. Now, like I said – I wasn’t a Korpiklaani fan – not because I don’t like them but because I couldn’t name a single Korpiklaani song for you if asked and I am very guilty of muddling them up with Finntroll, much to my esteemed Editor’s despair.  So when 5 seconds into their set a massive mosh pit opened up right in front of me and by the end of their set I had shin splints from jumping up and down really hard in my work boots, no one was more surprised than me. As it turns out Korpiklaani who are *quite good* at folk metal in the traditional recorded on a CD format, are absolutely 100%, pure unadulterated frenzied brilliance in a live setting. The crowd (who appeared to be quite hardcore fans) did not stop moving from the start to the end of the set, and it was one of the most intense crowds I’ve ever been in (more on that later).  Anyway, despite not knowing a single track well enough to name, Korpiklaani did a fine job and I didn’t think the evening could get any better.

Korpiklaani. Photo Credit Suzi H

Korpiklaani. Photo Credit Suzi H

Well I’m a foolish monkey.  Following a rousing burst of Europe’s The Final Countdown, Sabaton burst onto the stage straight into Ghost Division and proceeded to, fuck shit right up. And by that I mean the pits got so intense I, for the first (and only!) time in my life retreated to the back.  Because my poor feet had been jumped enough thank you very much and getting clonked over the head by the 6 ft bloke behind me was the final straw so I gave up and went to observe from a safe distance.  At this point I can only renounce my idiocy at having decided some years back that Sabaton weren’t my sort of band (they write albums about history. I’m a bloody fool. If they could do a nice one about the War of The Roses I’d be well happy).  Anyway, despite some annoying PA problems at the start of the set which were more than covered for by the crowds enthusiastic singing, the set was a storming rush through war, death, glory history and the importance of crowd voting for songs in Swedish or English. I’d also like to commend Sabaton for carrying a decent range of girly fit t-shirt sizes. Thank you for being the first band to carry XL T shirts at a gig I’ve attended!

Sabaton. Photo Credit Suzi H

Sabaton. Photo Credit Suzi H

All in, I haven’t hurt this much after a gig for a while, and the bands on the bill left me wanting more – I’ve been cycling through them all on my playlists since Tuesday night and the next time any of them crop up on my gig listings – I’m there.