SOS Festival: Sunday Review

Ugh! Sunday morning! Okay, it wasn’t technically morning, but after the party atmosphere at the conclusion to Saturday’s revelries, it felt bloody early!

Luckily, we had the superb alarm call from Coventry’s BLACK STAR BULLET. Their excellent no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll, tinged with punk, was the perfect way to blow away any fogginess in the head, and get those heads and toes moving.

Leicester 3-piece SKAM, on the verge of releasing their sophomore album to the world, played a blinding set of melodic rock, taking the opportunity to unveil plenty of the new material to new faces, surely winning new fans in the process. Their combination of catchy, rhythm-led songs accented by soaring solos had many people looking at each other and nodding in that typically British understated ‘very good’ fashion. Special mention to bassist Matt Gilmore’s facial contortions, his eyes rolled so far back, he could see his own thoughts, and his tongue must surely get sunburn!

BIGFOOT ramped up the stage antics further, with various members alternately standing on the lip of the stage to work the crowd. However, vocalist, Ant Ellis hogged the area forward of the monitors, very much like a demented version of Jack Black, jumping, crouching, skipping and shaking. Not once did his vocals falter, though. Their strong set of hard rock songs always cutting through the stagecraft to take centre-stage. This was a band I really want to see again.

Those making early doors were being truly spoilt! As if what had gone before wasn’t good enough, TWELVE GAUGE ramped things up another notch! Groove-laden rock seemed to be the order of the day so far, and so it continued, but this time a little heavier. For a relatively new band, they (justifiably) oozed confidence, JM Ward working the crowd supremely, backed up by the knowledge, no doubt, that he was delivering some top-class, balls-out rock! The album, ‘All In’ went straight on my shopping list!

FAHRAN were a band I’d wanted to see for some time. I was not disappointed. They brought a set of again, groove-laden, classic hard rock, Matt Black’s vocals pristine, yet powerful. One particular track, ‘1000 Nights’ really caught my attention. From an intricate opening riff, it swelled to a hard-driving belter of a song. Top notch!

From the imagery on their scrims alone, there was no mistaking where French metallers GANG were coming from. From the off, we had galloping basslines, twin guitars, wailing vocals… the lot! We were even treated to an Iron Maiden cover. Nothing too obvious or cliché, either… instead, we got a fine rendition of ‘Total Eclipse’, possibly one of the best B sides ever! The performance was full of energy, particularly from frontman, Bill Gang.

Keeping the metal European, and having performed a sublime acoustic set on the Saturday, WIZZ WIZZARD took to the main stage for the full electric onslaught. Wizz is very much keeping the grandiose metal style of old alive, and doing it well. The album, ‘Tears From The Moon’ is good, but the songs are so much better live. We’re lucky to have Wizz with us. In his own words, introducing a song; “Three months ago, I had a massive heart attack, but they don’t take me… ‘Six Feet Underground” Legend!

BLACKBALLED raised one or two eyebrows when they took to the stage looking like they’d got lost on the way to Glastonbury! Adorned with a bowler hat, western-style shirt and a hollow-bodied Gretsch, Marshall Gill entered stage left unassumingly enough. The set seemed to be a slow-burner. They didn’t start off with the biggest crowd of the day, but the longer they played, the more came to the front. By the time they left the stage, there were many people walking away, all saying the same thing, “They were f*cking brilliant!” I can’t really pinpoint what you’d call them, musically, which is a good thing, I think. They’re a blues-infused rock band, with a pinch of folk, a smattering of punk, and a whole ton of groove. In a nutshell, like many said, they were f*cking brilliant!

Festival favourites, TRIAXIS had lots of new things to show and tell this year! First off, singer Krissie Kirby can no longer windmill! The long tresses are no more. Unlike Samson though, her voice is as powerful and pitch perfect as ever. Secondly, the Triaxis name now takes on a new meaning, as there are a trio of ladies on stage. Becky Baldwin has taken up bass duties, armed with a Rickenbacker. Well, if it’s good enough for Lemmy…! Thirdly, and most importantly, we were treated to a new song, ‘Death Machine’, and I’ll tell you now, it’s a belter! Triaxis packed the Civic, and put in a performance to match the expectation, Kirby playing with the crowd, and Glyn Williams’ fretwork was the best I’ve ever heard it, even when he went a string down! They ended the set with fan favourite, ‘Black Trinity’, replacing their regular cover of ‘The Wicker Man’. A great move, which shows they have material as catchy and popular as anything Maiden have.

TYSONDOG had an element of ‘show and tell’ tonight too! The NWOBHM stalwarts revealed that they had recently signed to Rocksector Records, and had album already recorded that just needs finalizing. For a band that have been around the block a while (admittedly, stopping for a rest for a bit!) their performance was excellent, precise, full of energy, with plenty of New Wave bite.

Of course, the biggest success of NWOBHM was Iron Maiden, and next on the bill was former Maiden singer BLAZE BAYLEY (see what I did there?), performing acoustically, backed by Chris and Luke Appleton. Bayley is celebrating thirty years in the business, and played a retrospective set, including songs from his tenures in Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden, as well as his solo albums.

Bayley’s performance was, quite simply, beyond words. Never have I heard someone put so much passion into the storytelling of a song, to the point where they almost became orations of poetry that just happened to be backed by music. The Appleton’s were also in top form, giving Bayley the space to deviate from the structure of the song to work the crowd, or to add pathos to his recounting. The highlight for me was ‘The Clansman’. Not only is it a great song, but the way Blaze spat out sections of the song, you’d have thought he was from Scotland, not Tamworth!

From the stripped back simplicity and emotion of a Blaze Bayley acoustic set, we were plunged into the exact opposite for tonight’s headliner! I AM I are fronted by ex-Dragonforce singer ZP Theart. That should tell you something. Big songs. Big riffs. Big sound. Big presence, and all topped off with massive percussion and Theart’s extraordinary voice. They’re no ‘one trick pony’ though. The songs varied in tempo, cadence and mood, but were all performed with supreme confidence, with plenty of crowd interaction. A fantastic finale to a fantastic weekend.

To Lynne Hampson, Mark Appleton, and to all those working tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the superb sound and light show all weekend and beyond, I doff my cap to you all. See you next year.

Review and Photography: Rob Nankivell

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