Live Reviews

TAILGUNNER w/ Slander, Beyond Salvation and Jayler

Tailgunner hit Manchester in support of their debut LP on their Guns For Hire tour. It is clear to see why this band are making waves.

We first caught wind of Tailgunner back in 2022. It was a privilege to have them write in our Why I Love column about Helloween (read here). Now, they’re in the fast lane, showing why they are one of the finest new heavy metal bands in the UK. Heck; KK Downing is a fan!


Jayler are a young band with a sole purpose; to rock and roll. With confidence and charisma in spades, they open their set with Immigrant Song. Quite a bold choice of cover, but by god they got people’s attention. Singer, James Bartholomew, clearly has a strong voice and models his sound on peak Robert Plant. During the opener, he also picks up his own guitar to add extra solo flourishes in addition to lead guitarist Tyler Arrowsmith.

Again, a bold choice to start, but the crowd in Manchester instantly warm to the quartet. “How we doing? We’re gonna play some rock and roll,” states Bartholomew before adding, “we’re all over 18…so you can buy us a drink if you want!” The tongue in cheek comment endears them further as they deliver the first of their original cuts; Acid Rain (listen here); which again features some stellar solo work. With a crowd thoroughly warmed, No Woman is a new song with a bluesier feel; Ed Evans lays down a drum solo before locking back into the groove with bassist Ricky Hodgkiss.

It should come as no surprise that Howlin’ Wolf is name checked as they cover Evil. The band finish up with Piece In Our Time. A more reflective song which ends up erupting into Bartholomew getting into the crowd and running around the venue – it is no surprise that Angus Young is cited as an influence. Jayler are a band to keep an eye on; with the appetite for bands like Greta Van Fleet being clear, if they can deliver more of their high quality original music, they will rise fast.


If Jayler are all about the classic rock, Beyond Salvation are about classic thrash. A collective fist bump between the band over the intro tape gives way to some devastating thrash riffs. Fists and horns are raised in the crowd; this is home turf and it is clear to see.

Aftermath opens their set in grand fashion. There is a great use of melody in amongst the power that they possess. The mid song break down is huge and Manchester is bang up for it. It is great to hear the bass nice and loud in the mix. Dead To Me follows; the opening salvo of the song has heads banging in unison – a truly glorious sight.

Beyond Salvation combine clean and shouted vocals with aplomb. They also use plenty of different styles in their music. Ghost Machine offers fans a sneak peak of forthcoming material and Scarbearer is characterised by its absolutely huge opening of pummelling drums and furious riffing. There is also a blinding solo as the centrepiece of the track. Dead Behind The Eyes is a perfect set closer, full of energy and aggression. Beyond Salvation are a known entity on the local scene in Manchester. It is great to see them firing on all cylinders with new material to come.


To change up the style once more, Slander deliver a short but sweet set of heavy power metal. Slander have been in around the music scene for over thirty years, however, this incarnation is like a reborn beast. The stage presence of the band is massive and their playing is top notch. Andy Gregson and Andy Saxon-Lamb formed the band many years ago but only really started up again in 2020. Both are clearly loving what they do.

Steve Whittington provides vocals for the band in the new iteration of the band, and he does a great job of building a rapport with the crowd (and by bumping heads with the low hanging PA later on in the set!). Their style is fast and furious with obvious nods to the influences in the band. Slander bring plenty of energy and it is clear to see that they have been around for a while.

Fighting Talk, from their Careless Talk Costs Lives EP finishes their set which feels a little truncated as time seemed to be getting away with the packed schedule. With that being said, Fighting Talk is a brilliant little track that has a catchy chorus and a brilliantly classic metal / hard rock feel.


And so, to the main course. Tailgunner have really achieved an awful lot since their 2022 inception. They have garnered a dedicated group of followers, old and new, and have put together one of 2023’s finest albums.

With Zorba The Greek ringing around Rebellion, the atmosphere builds at the pace of the intro music before the quintet fly onto stage and dive straight into Guns For Hire; the title track of their album. “We’re the ones who bring the fire,” is sung with passion and an apt mantra. Tailgunner waste no time in delivering the goods with Zach Salvini and Rhea Thompson locking in their duel melodies perfectly. White Death, an early single, keeps the energy up. Energy is something that Tailgunner have in abundance, decked out in heavy metal shirts, leather pants and 80’s white high tops and socks.

Throughout, the delivery of the music is top class. Sam S and Thomas Hewson are a brilliant rhythm section. Rarely do they miss a beat in their breakneck timekeeping. Craig Cairns has a voice that has plenty of range and power. He sings with clarity (and plenty of echo – for that epic sound).

Hewson, Salvini and Thompson frequently choregraph their guitar moves, evoking Priest/KISS/Quo in equal measure. Never does a smile not appear on the faces of the band. Rhea Thompson is the newest member of the band. She is an accomplished player who is clearly incredibly talented. Her lime green Jackson guitar stands out a mile and when she lays down her solo parts, she really is a show stopper.

With one album and one EP under their (no doubt bullet) belts, it is no surprise that the band turn to a couple of covers to pack out their set. Not willing to settle for a shorter set, this works a treat. Thompson and Salvini have a little solo contest, which the crowd love. They shift into the Grieg piece; In The Hall Of Mountain King. This is not new for heavy metal fans, but Tailgunner do it their way. Cairns appears brandishing a Union Jack flag with Tailgunner emblazoned across it before a segue into Painkiller – one of Judas Priest’s finest cuts.

This style of heavy metal has never taken itself too seriously. During Warhead, Cairns is onstage with a plastic gun and Revolution Scream sees the singer brandishing a placard sign. Notably, the ‘whoa whoa whoa’ chorus line is belted back with full throated abandon by Manchester. It is an atmosphere to die for. An atmosphere that bubbles furiously as punters surf, mosh and crowd dive from the stage. One unlucky crowd member takes a hefty thump on the head during, somewhat ironically, Painkiller.

Some of the exuberance of the crowd entering the stage could have overflowed however Manchester keeps a lid on it…a bit. “We’re here to put British heavy metal back on the map,” claims Cairns. Too true. Tailgunner have all the elements to be a huge success. Blood For Blood is probably the most Maiden sounding of the bands’ material and again the twin guitar sound slays.

To close out the main set, the band deliver Crashdive. Cairns finishes with an almight scream. As the band exit the stage, chants of ‘Tailgunner’ echo around the venue. Tailgunner don’t disappoint. They re-emerge to recount their last show in Manchester when 18 (one-eight) people attended at Zombie Shack. Aptly, Rebirth starts a short encore that is closed out with a stunning cover of Dio’s Don’t Talk To Strangers.

Tailgunner are here to stay – we can only hope that their rise continues, and the music keeps flowing. Time for that difficult second album? Bring it on. This line up will deliver. Thanks are offered as the obligatory stage pic is snapped. “People like you…keep bands like us going.” It is a fitting and final sentiment that shows the kinship in the metal community.

Heavy metal for eternity.

Check out Tailgunner performing Guns For Hire & White Death at KK’s Steel Mill.


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