Starting off Oracle‘s 2020 gig calendar with a bang, this show brought two very new acts face to face with their first Belfast crowd and while some considered this a risky combination, it turned into a brilliant night that showcased a surprising variety of sounds for a 3-band lineup. Needless to say, the pressure was on for Witchkicker and Koma, with the latter making not only their Belfast debut; but their live debut full stop.
Witchkicker wasted absolutely no time kicking the night off, blasting straight through 3 full songs before even stopping to take a breath. Clearly determined to make the most of their time on stage and showcase what they had to offer with some seriously impressive technical skill on display, their set covered a range of time signatures and compositional styles, along with classic blistering guitar licks combined with some higher fretted bass lines that cut through the ensemble brilliantly. The all-female 4-piece displayed a rather large pair of metaphorical balls with their impactful combination of well-composed rhythm guitar sections straddled by perfectly timed drum fills and punchy bass that when combined with lead singer Laura’s commanding vocal presence delivered an instant feeling of rousing energy from the onset. Formed quite recently in 2019 by accomplished guitarist and the band’s token Gordie Mo Sheerin, this band has generated a surprising amount of online hype both north and south of the island with only a few shows under their belt and no official releases yet, however, have proven they have the chops to stand on a bill with a band as brutally heavy as Oracle and not be out of place. No official date on their first release yet but two must-listen tracks to look out for are fast-paced hard-rock opener “Nature, Nurture or Resent” and “Afraid to be Nothing” which boasts a wide variety of styles from the slowly building drum and bass intro to the intimidating, screaming crescendo finish.
Next to take the stage were Belfast-based band Koma, playing their first official show as a band has gained some attention with their recent debut single release. A combination of musicians with some experience playing the scene but in varying genres, they certainly answered a lot of questions about how such a combination would turn out, successfully elevating the crowd at their first show into an impressive frenzy despite having only one known track released thus far. Vocalist Simon McElhone’s particular brand of raspy rock vocals may not be for everyone but they definitely cut through and have no trouble being heard above the cacophony of gritty riffs and harmonized lead guitars, wearing out noticeably towards the end of the set. This is something that can be quite easily rectified with a bit more breathing and diaphragm control but will be vital for longevity. Once the show started and the band had settled on stage the other members of Koma showcased a surprising amount of confidence and energy throughout the set, with bassist Bones Wilson by far looking the most at home on stage, never standing in one place for any longer than a few seconds. Koma arguably saved their strongest tracks thus far for the stage, with “Horde” gaining a brilliant response from the crowd but their other songs displaying a lot more instrumental skill than the debut release. Koma evidently impressed and surprised a lot of people who weren’t sure what to expect, and while there is definite room for improvement in some areas live they managed to even get pestered for an encore from the crowd at their first-ever show, which as support on a tight schedule they respectfully declined, partially to avoid running over and partially because they had run out of songs, an altogether understandable admission.
Finally and without further ado, the groove-powered titans Oracle opened their set with “All Father” from their latest 2019 album “Novissima”. Tight and well-rehearsed as ever, they brought every last fan to the front of the room and kept them there throughout, without a dull song played. The only hiccup of the night consisted of what sounded like a cable momentarily coming loose from rhythm guitarist Conor McDonald’s pedalboard during arguably the chunkiest riff in their second song “Sky Burns Red” and therefore the worst possible time, but this was calmly rectified by him in less than 5 or 6 seconds, the naughty cable was firmly put back into place and it remained there for the rest of the set. Next, the band played another song from their album “Hollow”, again advertising the fact that every Oracle song should be your favorite Oracle song, with frontman Jason Kerr’s renowned stage presence and destructive voice creating a blender of flailing human bodies beneath the stage.
After playing another two highlights from their latest release “Hypocrisy” and “Limos” the band took a step back to their earlier EP “Tales of Pythia” and treated the crowd to a familiar favorite in “No God Waits For You”. This brought a variable ocean of hair to the fore as everyone from the front to the middle of the room decided they would volunteer their necks as a tribute and headbang en-masse. Drummer Rhys Fraser proved to be capable once again of ridiculous endurance, managing to stay on beat despite starting the set with some blast beats and drum fills that would turn most people’s arms and legs to damp spaghetti by this point in the show. Jason then announced “Serpentine” a song that in his words, everyone should know, which the response clearly indicated was a safe assumption. You would be hard-pressed to pick Oracle’s “heaviest” track but with the crowd bellowing the vocals beside Jason, shaking the room quite literally, on this particular night in question this song stood out. One would be forgiven for thinking the introduction to “All Must End” was an indication of a slower and more melodic song winding things down, but those thoughts quickly dissipate once the song builds to its first chorus. Stuffed full of plenty of instrumental technicalities to show off each individual band member’s respective talent, the lead guitars are a particular highlight, with Jake Dornan maintaining his signature “bliss face” during complex solos he plays as if on automatic. With the night drawing to a close, Oracle was not asked or begged for an encore, with the greedy crowd simply standing there expectantly as if to say “you WILL play one more song” and the band hastily complied closing the night with the title track from their album “Novissima”.
Overall a thoroughly well enjoyed night by all who attended, with both support acts making a lasting and powerful impression on an often critical Belfast metal scene for their respective debuts. There’s plenty to be excited for across Ireland in 2020, and as always, the Distortion Project is leading the charge with elevating new and upcoming bands alongside the tried and trusted regulars. As for whatever Oracle has planned next, you’d have to be living in a cave to miss that!
Review: Michael Scott
Photography: Wayne Donaldson / TWKOM Media
With Special Guests