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
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.
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!
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).