top of page

Tower Of Fire

Artists: Nitrate, Atack, Remedy, Saracen, White Skies, Gabrielle de Val

Venue: Manchester, Rebellion

Date: 29th June 2024

"The joy on the faces on the fans can only be matched by those of the bands performing; it’s not often, if ever, they will play to a crowd that know the words to all their songs."


Remedy © Andy Nathan
Remedy © Jen Williams

This was my first visit to the Rebellion in Manchester. I’d heard unfavourable stories about the venue; however, with only approximately two hundred to two-hundred-and-fifty in attendance, it proved to be excellent, making it comfortable to move around and find a good viewing position to watch the bands. Organisers, Bruce Mee and Greg Dean, would have naturally hoped for there to be a few more in attendance., but for whatever reason it was not to be. Paradoxically, (established) festivals such as Glastonbury and Download sell out without a single band being announced, and large arena and stadium tours are doing better than ever. Ten to fifteen years ago, Tower Of Fire would undoubtedly have sold out; however, the pool of Melodic Rock fans willing to attend shows is becoming an ever-decreasing circle. Indeed, looking round the audience throughout the day and evening, there were very few under the age of fifty. There lies one of the problems, the older we get the harder it is to stand up for hours on end like we use to do in our youth. Fortunately, this exceptionally run festival, had a mid-afternoon start and an early finish at 10.00pm, so pacing yourself throughout the day was made a lot easier.

The show began at 3.30pm prompt, and basically ran on time throughout the afternoon and evening with the bands adhering to their allotted set times. The raised bar area at the rear of the venue meant that those who wanted to chat had the opportunity to do so without ruining it for those of us who wanted to enjoy the artists on stage. There was a little cross over for the first act of the day, being it being an acoustic set.

Gabrielle de Val

The Spanish singer (German born), and longtime friend of festival organiser Bruce Mee, got things off to a great start, albeit relatively sedate being an acoustic set, with de Val being joined on stage by her guitarist Gustavo Martin and bass player José Luis Gallera. The majority of the songs were taken from her excellent debut album released last year ‘Kiss In A Dragon Night’, with one new song ‘Up To Where You Are’ from her next album. Highlights were the title track, which the singer thanked FM’s Steve Overland for his contribution to her opus, the rockier version of the Mike Oldfield classic ‘Moonlight Shadow’, plus the brilliant ‘Candle In The Window’, known to most from House Of Lords’ James Christian’s solo album ‘Rude Awakening’. De Val’s voice sounded beautiful, and it was refreshing to hear a female singer not trying to scream and reach audio levels best left for cats and dogs. Although all the songs translated well to acoustic versions, I’m looking forward to hearing the full band renditions at Firefest in October.


White Skies

The second band of the day, and first to give us the full electric show are UK based Melodic Rockers White Skies. The five-piece of Mike White (vocals), Ray Callcut (guitar), Pete Lakin (bass), plus rhythm section Rob Naylor (bass) and Daz Lamberton (drums) had a great sound for a small venue. All their songs were taken from their brilliant ‘Black Tide’ album. The band were very tight with the standout being White’s exceptionally strong vocals.



As mentioned earlier, none of us are getting any younger, so I had to decide on which band to miss in order to get some food and a much-needed sit down for half-an-hour. So, I asked my good friend, Andy Nathan, to write a review of their set.

In a line-up of newer bands, Saracen were, on the face of it, a little the odd man out. Singer Steve Bettney is the only original member, but as he opened with an ear-splitting falsetto it was clear he could still bring it, and his hyperactive stage movements and crowd poses were also highly entertaining. Their debut album ‘Heroes Saints And Fools’ - one of my favourite NWOBHM albums ever, blending old school Metal and the Pomp of early Magnum- was well represented and after ‘Crusader’ eventually came to the boil, the Maiden like gallop of ‘Rock Of Ages’ even got a few fans headbanging at the front. ‘Meet Me At Midnight’ was a casualty of running late, so the first four songs ended up being from that album, with two absolute epics back to back in ‘Horsemen Of The Apocalypse’ and the title track. I’ve been less keen on their later material but ‘Swords Of Damascus’ had the classic Saracen feel before a final oldie in ‘Ready To Fly’: as Simon Roberts stretched out with a lengthy and fluid guitar solo, Bettney’s energy took him into the crowd to high-five and shake hands. A revelation of a set to delight old fans and hopefully make some new ones.



No true Melodic Rock festival would be complete without a band from Scandinavia. Swedish band Remedy burst onto the with their glorious debut, ‘Something That Your Eyes Won’t See’, last year. They’ve just followed it up with the equally superb ‘Pleasure Beats The Pain’. There was great anticipation for their debut UK appearance, and they did not disappoint, playing a strong nine-song set with tracks taken from both aforementioned albums. The vocals were initially low in the mix, but thankfully that was soon rectified and allowed for the harmonies to shine through one of the outstanding facets of this type of music we call Melodic Rock / AOR. The quintet of guitarist and founding member Roland “Rolli” Forsman, vocalist and guitarist Robert Van Der Zwan, keyboard player Jonas Öijvall, and rhythm section of Jonas Dicklo and Fredrik Karlberg on bass and drums respectively were, by general consensus, the band of the day. I think that the crowd reaction said it all. Hopefully not, but this may be the one and only time that many of us get to see Remedy play live. My only slight disappointment was they did not have time to include my favourite track ‘Scream In Silence’.



The band founded by guitarist Keith Atack and recently recorded the excellent ‘Nine Lives’ album. Sadly, singer Lee Small (one of the most underrated in the business in my humble opinion) and bassist Chris Childs were unavailable and were replaced by Paul Riley and Dom respectively. Completing the line up this evening were powerhouse drummer Bob Richards and Nick Foley on the Hammond. The latter, along with Atack’s skilful guitar playing, produced a fantastic Classic Rock vibe a la Deep Purple. Riley was not your archetypical Rock singer but had a great set of pipes and filled in admirably for Small, even more impressive when we discovered this was his very first time playing with the band. He certainly was a scouser having fun in Manchester!

The whole set was garnered from the ‘Nine Lives’ opus, including a laudable version of the Mountain classic ‘Blood Of The Sun’. Following penultimate track ‘Stone Cold’ (about relationships going bad), guitarist Atack thanked the crowd and introduced his band before blasting through ‘There’s A Twister Blowing Through’, which included short solos from each of the band members; that’s certainly the way to do it at a festival where you’re limited for time. For a band that had only played together once they were very tight.



The big draw of the whole festival was obviously the inaugural show by Nitrate, a band that have consistently released excellent Melodic Rock/AOR albums, four to be precise. The band were formed nine years ago by Nottingham musician Nick Hogg. They released their debut album ‘Real World’ back in 2018 on MelodicRock Records, 2019’s ‘Open Wide’ and 2021’s on the now sadly defunct AOR Heaven label. Their fourth and latest release was 2013’s ‘Feel The Heat’, released via Frontiers. Back in the day (i.e. the mid-to-late eighties), Nitrate would have been playing to thousands, not just a couple of hundred fans, but those of us who turned up today were really looking forward to hearing these guys play live for the very first time. Joining Hogg (bass) were singer Alex Strandell, drummer Alex Cooper, guitarist Richard Jacques, and Tom and James Martin. Following a long intro, Strandell, looking like your archetypical rockstar, hit the stage and the band launched into ‘Dangerzone’. Initially, the backing vocals were low in the mix, but thankfully the crowd more than made up for the latter, which must have delighted the band. With no barometer to gauge the setlist, each song was greeted with enormous cheers. Opening three songs certainly saw the band hitting the ground running; however, it was a surprise (a pleasant one I might add) when Strandell announced ‘Need You To Understand’ from his other band, Swedish Melodic rockers Art Nation. Continuing the surprises, we were then treated to the Vega classic ‘Kiss Of Life’ featuring two ex-members, the Martin twins. So good is that song, it was no surprise that ‘You Think You Got It’ saw the momentum drop off, but the band were soon back on track with the superb ballad ‘Satellite’ and ‘Feel The Heat’ and brought it home in fine style with ‘Wild In The City’ and ‘Big City Lights’. For a band playing their first-ever show after only one rehearsal, this was an absolute triumph.


Outside of the Melodic Rock world, these bands would not be recognised by the modern music fan; however, these were the type of bands that regularly played the early to mid-afternoon slots at Firefest and Rockingham. The joy on the faces on the fans can only be matched by those of the bands performing; it’s not often, if ever, they will play to a crowd that know the words to all their songs. Personally, I love these types of festivals, where each band only gets a limited amount of time to showcase their talents, thereby limiting the amount of needless chat, solos and unwanted cover versions. For those that bemoan ticket prices of the likes of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, etc. to sit a million miles from the stage, you should have been here tonight for the up close and personal experience. Hopefully, the Tower Of Fire will return again, and with nothing but positive feedback will increase in popularity. If not, it blazed high for one glorious (rainy) June day in Manchester. Roll on Firefest in October.


Main Review: Mark Donnelly Saracen Review: Andy Nathan. Photos: Andy Nathan, Julian Thomson & Kelv Williams.


Gallery. All photos © Andy Nathan, Julian Thomson & Kelv Williams (used with kind permission)




Related Posts





2 days ago

A great festival with great bands



Here are our latest editions.