Event: S.O.S. Festival 2015 (Day Two)

Bands: Blaze Bayley, Avenger, Fireforce, Garagedays, The Amorettes, Captain Horizon, Nick Hellefort, The Raven Age, Lock Up Laura

Venue: Radcliffe Civic Hall, Radcliffe, Manchester

Date: 18 July 2015


Well Day 1 of S.O.S. really set the standard high, so did Day 2 keep the ball rolling?  The answer was quite simply you better believe it did!

With the headline slot celebrating 15 years since the release of Blaze Bayley’s 'Silicon Messiah' album and with the album to be played in its entirety, we knew that this would be the not just the icing on the cake, but also the cherry on top of what turned out to be another superb day of Rock and Metal.

With Day 1 closing in the wee small hours of Saturday, it meant a later start to Day 2, as we arrived just in time to see Lock up Laura hit the stage, so apologies to opening act Twisted Illusion. 

Lincoln's Lock Up Laura delivered a solid set with frontman Lee McCusker bringing a touch of the Eddie Vedder’s to the stage, as the band delivered tracks from their two albums 'Running In The Dark' and their latest release  'Masquerade, with the highlights being 'Crashing Down' from the debut, the title track 'Masquerade' and their current single ‘The Jury’s Out’.  The latter having a heavier edge.  This is a band with real potential and one I’d highly recommend you check out if you're into the new breed of modern hard rock bands with a bit of bite about them.   

Next to hit the main stage were Londoners The Raven Age, a band that features Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris’s son on guitar, but there the similarity to Dad's band ends, as The Raven Age are a Modern Alternative rock band with a really powerful sound, as they demonstrated with their short but impressive set.  Favourite songs from their set being the rocking ’The Death March' and the storming ‘Angel In Disguise’.  With the band hitting the UK stages throughout July and August with Steve Harris’s British Lions, they are definitely worth checking out.  

We had to bow out of the next bands Germany’s Nick Hellefort to grab such much-needed nourishment before returning to the main hall to catch one of the highlights of the weekend Captain Horizon. 

The Birmingham based Indie Prog Rockers really set out the stall for the rest of the bands to follow, as frontman Steve Whittington covered every possible inch of stage in the first two songs, then decided to join the crowd down the front to cover even more ground.   

This is one band that surprise all with their energetic live shows and today was one of their best, with tracks from the new album 'Imitation Sun' dominating the set, they really set the crowd alight, with Whittington even having time to do The Worm across the stage mid song (!), before venturing into the crowd once again.  A really fun band to watch live with enough variety in their material to go far.  If you're looking for something a little left field and different, then look no further than Captain Horizon.  They even managed to have enough energy left to appear on the acoustic stage later in the day. This is definitely a band who have found their stride and are on the way up.

With such an energizing set from Captain Horizon, it would take something special to follow that and what came next was the excellent all girl trio The Amorettes. This Scottish trio really hit the mark with their no nonsense, high octane, kick-ass rock n' roll.  

The band hit the stage running and became an instant hit with the crowd as they ploughed their way through the set of top notch rock n' roll, with their set including ‘Fire At Will’, ‘Get What’s Comin’, the storming ‘Bull By The Horns’ and 'Give Em Hell’, all taken from their latest album 'Game On’. I know the band have been likened to Girlschool and Rock Goddess, but to me they are more like Crucified Barbara meets The Runaways.  

A band with a modern edgy rock sound and a take no prisoners attitude.  They shot from the hip and came at you one hundred miles an hour, exuding both power and boundless energy from the second they started to the second they finished.  

The girls rounded off their high octane rock n' roll party in style with what must be their motto ‘Hot and Heavy’.  Believe me when I tell you this is one of the best all girl bands I’ve seen in ages. To say we were well impressed and blown away by this band would be an understatement.   

Unfortunately we had to duck of for some fresh air during Germany’s Garagedays set, so again apologies to the guys.  That’s the thing with festivals, you’re always going to miss a band or two and this time round it was Garagedays.

One band that has been on my must-see list for a while now is Belgium Combat Metallers Fireforce, because each time they’ve appeared on a festival line-up I was covering, I have always been otherwise engaged with interviews.  Even more frustrating is every time I've missed them, our Editor has caught them in action and raved on about how good they were.  So when they were announced as appearing at this years S.O.S. Festival, I made sure this time around, come hell or high water, I was going to be watching them!

The band didn’t disappoint as they brought their A-Game and they opened up with the old school Heavy Metaller ‘Coastal Battery’ and so it began.

This was the bands first UK appearance and they were here to make their mark, with their twin guitar fuelled Metal at breakneck speed with the likes of 'Deathbringer', the title track of their latest album, the anthemic ‘Thunder Will Roll’ and the excellent '1302 – Battle For Freedom’ from their 'March On' opus.

Their set was rounded off with two absolute corking slabs of old school Metal, first up it was the massive ‘Born To Play Metal’, during which lead singer Fylpe got the crowd to sing along with this thunderous metal anthem, which saw a flurry of horns and fists pumping the air throughout.  The band rounded off an impressive first UK set with what else but 'Combat Metal'.  Now this is what S.O.S. is all about, mixing not just different genres but bringing in bands from around Europe that you may never normally get to see in the UK.  So a big thanks to Flype, Ervwin, T-Warrior, Thunderbass G and Batterick for keeping it real.  I may have missed the band on other occasions, but I’m sure glad I got to see them this time around, as they put on one hell of a great metal show.

Again a fresh air and food was called so we had to duck out for Die No More, who according to the barfly’s gave a hell of a show.  Again apologies but I’m sure we’ll catch them on the road next time around. 

Next up where another European outfit as Italy’s Secret Rule hit the stage with a very different style to the full on metal of Fireforce.

The band are led by the majestic tones of Angela Di Vincenzo.  The band's set was one of two parts, the first half of the set seemed a little lacking in power, whether this was just down nerves or whatever, the band seemed to pick things up as the set continued and concentrated on their 'Transposed Emotions' album.

Opening up with ‘True Friend’ was a little safe, I would have like to heard them open up with 'Dawn Of Crisis', which has a more positive feel to it as an opening track.

The set did gradually pick up pace with the excellent Symphonic tones of ‘Sensation’ and the superb ‘I Don’t Wanna Be’, a much heavier track than previous ones in the set, but the set closer 'The Journey' was the icing on the cake for me.  This was absolutely the song of the set.  

A powerful slab of Symphonic inspired metal to round off a set that grew from humble beginnings into a powerhouse of emotions.  I’ve listened to the album since the show and I must say, it’s quite impressive and worth checking out.   

Next up where Newcastle ‘s NWOBHM legends Avenger. The band released two albums in the 80's before calling it a day, but in 2005 the band reformed.  Now in 2015 with a new album under their wings 'The Slaughter Never Stops', out last year on Rocksector Records, the first of the weekends NWOBHM bands hit the stage. 

Opening up their full on metal assault with ‘Revenge Attack’, Ian Swift on vocals showed the young guns on the festival that you're never to old to rock n' roll, along with Sean Jefferies and Liam Thomson on guitars, Ian Fulton on bass and Gary Young on drums.

The blistering set continued with ‘Into The Nexus’ from their latest album, before rolling back the years to their 2009 'Killer Elite' album for the blistering ‘Run For Your Life’.

The band might have been around in one form or another since the early 80's, but they haven’t bowed to trends, they still delivered that classic NWOBHM sound that made so many bands quake in their boots.  They kept the pedal firmly to the metal and carried on from 'Killer Elite' with ‘Brand Of Torture’, before returning to 'The Slaughter Never Stops' opus for the ballsy ‘Fate’.

It was over to 'Blood Sports' for the no holds barred riff laden ‘Death Race 2000’, before probably the song of the set for me, the rampaging ‘In Arcadia Go’, again from their latest album.  

The set was rounded of with classic Avenger in 'Under The Hammer' and what else but 'Enforcer'.  Geoff Barton may have first used the term NWOBHM, but it’s the bands behind the movement that made it the phenomenon that it became and to see some of these bands still grinding out the Metal some 40 years later, is just a great.  

Now speaking of legends they don’t come much bigger in the world of British Heavy Metal than Mr Blaze Bayley.

Tonight's gig was the final show of the 15th Anniversary tour of the release of the 'Silicon Messiah' album, that was released under the Blaze banner and tonight would be played in it's entirety from start to finish, bonus tracks included.

With a backing band of Absolva’s Chris Appleton on guitar, Martin McNee on drums and on bass Absolva’s new bassist Karl Schramm, the band set out to deliver one of the finest Blaze Bayley shows I’ve seen.

Before the full Silicon Messiah the band warmed up the crowd with ‘Speed of Light’ from the '10th Dimension' album, then it was over to the title track off 'Blood And Belief', before a real treat (pun intended), with the Iron Maiden track ‘Futureal’, which sent the crown into a frenzy.  This was the perfect foundation for the rest of the set which was the entire 'Silicon Messiah' album.

To say Blaze was in fine form tonight would be an understatement, as he was far from being a " Man on the Edge", he was in total control with his trade mark quips in between songs and crowd prompting chants.  This was the man at his very best and he seemed to be enjoying the show as much as we were.

Opening up the remainder of t he set with album opener ‘Ghost In The Machine’, from here on in Blaze was the star, with Chris not far behind as he just ripped up the six string as true Appleton style.  In Schramm Absolva have found a powerhouse bassist, as he showed his metal credentials and what can I say about the man behind the kit, Martin ‘The Machine’ McNee was at his thunderous best.  

The rest of the set was 'Silicon Messiah' like we heard as fans from the first time.  Each track performed in order as it was on the album itself.

The band powered through well into the wee small hours of Sunday, but the crowd didn’t care what time it was, they were witnessing one of the tightest set's of the entire weekend and absolutely loving every second of it.

After the full Messiah treatment it was time for something a little special with set closers 'The Man on the Edge' and the thundering Wolfsbane 'Touch of Steel', which featured the guitar and bass duel of all duels between Chris and Karl, with Blaze jokingly disapproving of the pairs centre stage antics, this was of course all in good clean fun and an utter delight to watch.

This was the perfect way to end what was another great day of Rock and Metal and with Blaze hitting the road in 2016 with a new album and a 30 date tour, the man defies all doubters and shows he still has fire in his belly and can still be classed as one of the finest frontmen in Metal today.

With Sunday already upon us it was back to the hotel to wind down, catch some Zzzzz’s and prepare for Day 3. 

Review by: Barry McMinn




 All content copyright of The Mayfair Mall zine unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced with prior written permission.