Engine Rooms, Southampton

Back in the heady days of my youth in the early Eighties I was still listening to bands from the Seventies; Deep Purple, Led Zep, Sabbath etc. but by then the albums those bands produced didn’t seem as good as their previous outputs. So when a new musical genre came along, I grasped my air guitar with both hands and proceeded to frenetically headbang along to a ton of bands that made up a new musical genre called: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Unfortunately, as I lived in Spain I never got to see many of those bands live as it was a massive struggle to even find their music there, I thank God and Kerrang Magazine for pointing me in the right direction and catching up and seeing some when I came back to Blighty to live.

Tonight’s support Airforce comes from that era, but went under my radar back then. If you pardon the pun; made up of Tony Hatton (Bass), Chop Pitman (Guitar), and Doug Sampson (Drums- side note: Doug originally played in Iron Maiden but declined Steve Harris’s offer to join due to ill health) the three then went through a fair few singers and had some success on the live circuit but never were able to relate any of their studio recordings and thus disbanded. They joined together in 2016 to release their debut album ‘Judgement Day’ and got the bug again. Lead singer Flavio Lino joined the band in 2018 and has added a younger sheen to the band.

Airforce comes out strong and gives the audience some low-flying riffs with Flavio adding some Dickinson-inspired Air-raid siren vocals. It very much sounds like classic NWOBHM but with an added modern touch. They work the stage well and engage with the crowd (which starts off a bit sparse but gradually fills out) and deliver a tight set of hard rock songs that make you see why they had been chosen to support that night. Good stuff.

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If ever there were an absolute legend of Heavy Metal; someone who was well respected for his playing, commitment, songwriting, and humbleness it would have to be Steve Harris. Let’s face it, it was his drive and ambition that propelled Iron Maiden to achieve the global status they enjoy now. But it seems that after all the sell-out stadiums and Boeing 757’s being flown around the world by the singer, he still craves the discomforts of a tour bus and small venues to play in.

The Engine Rooms seems made for British Lion and the band takes to it like big cats on a Gazelle carcass. Mauling the audience with their ferocious brand of classic power rock. Singer Richard Taylor is a revelation, giving us a powerful soaring vocal display that has depth and feeling when needed and power and strength when required. The guitars of David Hawkins and Grahame Leslie intertwined to produce a searing attack; chopping & changing between lead and rhythm, making the crowd bang heads and clap hands in unison.

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My mate Paul Sanders commented on a photo I posted up online of Steve Harris saying that he was the “Cliff Richard of Hard Rock, loads of hits and never seems to age” and the way he runs around the stage and drives the rest of the band on, Paul’s observation was spot on, his pounding basslines push the music along with an intense groove. Only once did I see him do his trademark ‘point the bass at the audience like a machine gun’ as that is kind of a Maiden thing. Live, the band were a different entity than on record; I found that the songs played without the polish of the studio output were much more powerful and more emotional. Standout tracks for me were “Legend, Spit Fire and The Chosen Ones”.

Set List
This is My God
City of Fallen Angels
Father Lucifer
The Burning
Spit Fire
The Chosen Ones
Land of Perfect People
Bible Black
Us Against The World
A World Without Heaven
Eyes of The Young


Words & Pictures by Dan O’ Gara.

British Lion