“MY CHEST TIGHTENS! I CAN’T BREATHE!”
As Oracle frontman Jason Kerr screamed these words to the packed Voodoo crowd who braved the cold and wet Saturday evening to gather together for a few hours of heavy music, there was no denying Oracle’s position as a phenomenal live band.
A whirlwind of nearly endless riffs; blistering and often unrepentantly-in-your-face drumming; punchy, supportive basslines; and one of the angriest vocal deliveries to ever grace ears, Oracle melds the sum of its parts together perfectly with tremendous energy and precision.
They were a commanding force that caused heads to bang, screams and chants to puncture the space between songs, and horns and fists to punctuate the air throughout their set, so it’s no surprise there was an extended plea of “One more song!” from the crowd who didn’t want it to end.
Having progressed and matured through consistent, dedicated hard work and obvious passion, Oracle have developed a cool and collected sense of confidence in themselves and their abilities, evident at Saturday’s gig.
Completely unfazed and professional, the band did not falter when rhythm guitarist Connor McDonald encountered a pedalboard issue that needed his attention. He calmly repaired it with ease, before diving back into impeccable riffing, earning a knowing and encouraging a smile from Jason, just as lead guitarist Jake Dornan ripped an intricate, tonally beautiful solo with an expression of pure serenity on his face.
Support bands Drakonis and Grey Stag were the perfect choices to thaw out the half-frozen crowd, still stiff from an intense three and a half hour Machine Head set just two short days prior.
Grey Stag’s first Belfast performance has undoubtedly earned them many new fans who hope they return North soon. Reminiscent of a more crushing Mastodon, they are an impressively tight three-piece with a surprisingly enchanting sound. Playing 2018’s e.p. The Guide as well as new music from their upcoming release, they are definitely a band to watch out for in 2020.
Drakonis rarely fail to deliver an exceptional live experience, and Saturday was no deviation. Frontman Steve Reynolds embodied the band’s commitment to detail and aesthetic, appearing as a cannibalistic corpse with blood dripping from his maw and crusting his jacket, while the rest of the band stood as the undead, channelling the darker and lesser-spoken aspects of life and death that they write music about.
Creating an astounding wall of noise, Drakonis is a stand-out black metal band whose upcoming release, the follow-up of 2017’s The Great Miasma, will surely be worth the wait, especially with their embracing of melodic components, emphasised by the addition of keyboards to provide a new atmospheric layer to their sound.
Understandably proud of what they have achieved with their long-awaited debut album, Novissima, Oracle’s set contained the album in its entirety, almost in sequence, with fan favourites ‘No God Waits for You’ and ‘High Priestess’ thrown in for good measure, while the flawless, crowd-galvanising ‘Serpentine’ was brilliantly withheld until the encore, for maximum devastation.
Oracle do what they do for the love of it, and with every t-shirt thrown into the crowd during their set, you could tell how grateful they are for the support they have, and for opportunities to share their passion with people, which they did at yet another fantastic Distortion Project show.
Review // Mark Russell
Photography // Wayne Donaldson
Check out our review of NOVISSIMA here: