Soil and Viza, Manchester Academy

2nd February 2014

Review by Cat A

To say that I like SOiL is a bit of an understatement, so when I noticed that the Manchester leg of their Skindred support tour was the day after the Terror Twins do Manchester adventure I ignored the “sensible” voice in my head that reminded me I had to be awake and functioning at 5:30am the next day and had to go and see them; they are after all the band who popped my Metal gig cherry back when I escaped my home town for the first time in 2002. Unfortunately, this being a Sunday and my home town being somewhere that is not necessarily easy to escape, it meant that I did have to leave before the headliner to not get stranded. I apologise profusely!

Opening the bill was a band I’ve seen the name of, but never had a chance to listen to, but I’m always game for giving bands a chance until they prove otherwise, though I must confess that when there’s an instrument I can’t even name on stage, alongside the usual drums, guitars and bass I raise an eyebrow. That instrument turns out to be an Oud (similar to a lute for those as equally clueless as I on the subject of Eastern European instruments). As for what they sound like? Think Eastern Europe meets American Hard Rock and a bit of System of a Down for good measure (as it turns out they’re associated with Serjical Strike Records).

All I have to say about Viza is go and SEE these guys. If they are on the bill at a gig or festival you’re at, just go and see them. Their show is full of energy, enthusiasm and is a refreshing change. That their latest album Aria was funded by a Kickstarter campaign shows a growing fan base for their unique combination of heavy rock and traditional Greek/Armenian elements. They were a great opening act, and all that stands between them and a slot higher up the bill is a bit of exposure.

As ever, when I am reviewing a band that I love, I get nervous that I am going to have to write a scathing review about a bad gig. Today is not one of those days. The original line up is back, and SOiL have well and truly returned to form to put on a blistering performance.

Ryan McCombs of SOiL – photo credit Cat A

Breaking Me Down saw an energetic leap onto the stage to enthusiastic, deafening  welcome from a crowd where at least a half I spoke to were there for the support alone. Tracks from their latest release, Whole, going down just as well as the signature songs from Scars. I loved every moment of this set. In fact I want to go back and do it all again, but with a longer set, and not having to worry about getting home. It was an emotional rendition of Redefine that was my highlight, vocalist Ryan McCombs pouring his heart into the lyrics. There was even something for those who didn’t know anything by them; a cover of Black Betty which had what sounded like the whole room singing along.

Of course, it’s just not a SOiL show without ending on their most well known single, Halo, with McCombs electing to perform from the middle of the pit before declaring that “the music starts with you and ends with you”.  

It was with ringing ears and a very hoarse voice that I left, insanely happy that SOiL are back to their best. Bring on their next headline shows, I’ll be down the front losing my voice.

Rating: *****/5

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