This was the 5th annual SOS Fest, as usual held at the Radcliffe Civic Centre near Manchester. Organised by Mark Appleton of Rocksector Records, the two-day festival showcases the extraordinary talent from the area and as well as any other bands which Mark deems worthy to grace his festival. The event has gained a brilliant reputation after years of hard work, and as such strengthens the lineup each year with bigger and better bands. And this year was no exception. SOS has two stages the Main Stage and the Acoustic Stage. The Acoustic Stage, located at the opposite end of the hall to the Main Stage, ran alternatively to the bands on the Main Stage, but features less bands.
Right lets start with some apologies... So, sincere apologies to everyone on the bill on the Saturday, as we were unable to make it. We also missed the first three bands of Sunday - Allaira, My Wooden Pillow and Savage Outlaw - due to transport complications. Sadly we also also missed Evil Scarecrow, apparently one of the festival's highlights.
Afterdown were supposed to be the first of three acts on Sunday's Acoustic Stage between Fantasist and Max Pie. They were however unable to play, so an improv set of AC/DC covers was performed by a couple of willing volunteers. Great spirit, and great entertainment. The next acoustic act onstage was the front man of Belgian rockers Wizzard, Wizz Wizzard. Mark, I believe, has strong ties with Wizz and his festival over in Belgium, entitled Wizzfest. Wizz played an entertaining set which displayed his soulful voice well over his basic chord progressions. The final acoustic act of the weekend were the awe-inspiring folk-prog metallers Spires. Playing tracks from their acoustic mini-album, Lucid Abstractions, the band created a cold hush through the hall as the songs chilled the bones. They finished their set with their own take on Skid Row's 18 & Life, which was greeted by a rapturous applause. Raising hairs on necks with fantastic imagery and virtuoso guitarwork, Spires set the bar very high for any band daring to follow them.
We arrived just as Gone 'Til Winter were taking to the stage. GTW are a 5 piece female fronted melodic power metal band who will be playing Bloodstock this year. They played an awesome set where the duo of female vocals harmonised well, and the band showed a great stage presence and played a tight professional set. Definitely ones to watch for in the near future.
Next were the band who made my day, Fantasist. This pin-striped trio consisting who are half-mad, half-genius but all awesome! Churning out catchy rock tunes by the bucketful and acting like complete prats on stage, they kept the crowd rightfully entertained throughout their high-energy set. Their penultimate song was an astronomically complicated progressive instrumental number, that involved some pretty mind blowing bass tapping from bassist Robb (Who looked amazingly similar to a rastafarian Gene Wilder!). Though the band did openly admit before starting the song that this was pretty much an opportunity for some stage self-fellatio. But hell did they justify doing so. Then, when allowed an encore, they showed us their great technical skill with a mind-blowing cover of Rush's Spirit of Radio. To anyone who hasn't seen them: Get Pin-Striped!
|Fantastist's Ollie and Robb doing what they do best|
Next on the Main Stage were Belgian power metal act Max Pie. Displaying a 'swaggering' stage persona, Max Pie were oozing European confidence and played what was clearly a standard set for them. Fusing Iced Earth style riffage and clean/screamed vocals, they played a decent set, but i feel they should have a live keyboard(ist?) instead of using a track. As this would create a rawer edge to their sound. After Max Pie were Evil Scarecrow, sorry again guys.
The next two bands marked the return and end of female fronted bands to the bill, in the form of Incassum and Hanging Doll. Incassum are a melodic death metal band who's vocalist, Sharleen, can be angelic one moment and a growling demon the next, switching seamlessly. Whereas Hanging Doll use three singers, with three very different vocal styles. Sally's lead vocals are operatic but mix well with Dan and Kev's growling vocals. Dan has a raspier style whilst Kev bellows out each syllable, and it's this contrast of styles which gives them a darker side than a Sith Lord. The stage presence and interaction with both band members and crowd is what makes them two of the most exciting bands in the UK metal scene. Incassum also risked it all with a cover of Fear Of The Dark, needless to say, they nailed it.
|Hanging Doll's Sally|
Then came the moment most people had been waiting for; the crowd grew to it's greatest capacity, the intro track hushed the crowd, and then Absolva took to the stage. Formed by two members of Fury UK, Chris (guitar and vox) and Martin (drums), when Chris' brother Luke got the chance of a lifetime - to join Iced Earth. Chris and Martin respected Luke and his place within FUK and roped in Tom (Vice - guitar) and Dan (Point Blank Fury - bass). As soon as they hit the stage, they showed why there was such a hype surrounding them. With their hard-hitting brand of Thin Lizzy-esque heavy rock, they grabbed hold of the crowd and never let go. Playing songs off their upcoming album, Flames Of Justice, and FUK's 'I See Red', this was definitely the most successful debut gig i've seen any band play. Some may argue that the hype surrounding Absolva currently is only due to the remnants of Fury UK, however, I urge ANYONE who believes this to go and see the band. With SOS, Bloodstock 2012 and a short tour with Iced Earth already under their studded belts after a few short months, they are hard hitting, hard working, and have pushed themselves to the limit to ensure they live up to where FUK left off. A definite highlight of SOS 2012.
|Absolva's Tom and Chris performing an impressive twin solo|
As the crowd sadly depleted, with people heading home, masters of british metal, Beholder, smashed whatever was left of our eardrums into oblivion. Their balls-out gut wrenching traditional metal has stood the test of time, and they were right at home as the headliner of this amazing festival. Playing anthem after anthem, including their tribute to the late Sophie Lancaster - Never Take Us Down. These guys are so clearly grateful to everyone who supports them, with appreciation from the band to all the festival crew, bands and fans after nearly every song. After this high-energy performance, i am definitely looking forward to seeing them kick ass at Sunk Fest on August 18th. It was sad to see the crowd disperse before such an entertaining unifying metal band, but you can't have everything I guess.
To sum up then, SOS Fest 2012 was sheer entertainment from start to finish, with a first rate lineup. Mix that with a welcoming, friendly atmosphere; an awesome venue; and a collection of fantastic people, and you've got one hell of a weekend. A huge thanks to Lynn for inviting us, we look forward to seeing what's in store next year!
How can SOS Fest 2013 be any better?
Screw the apocalypse! I'm there!
|Beholder bringing the day to a gut wrenching close.|
For more photos of all the bands that performed, head over to www.facebook.com/hullmetalmag