A metal band from the small rock of Gibraltar? Really? Yes, here you got it! Oracle was formed in 1983 in the small British territory (only 6 square km!) on the southern tip of Spain just where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic sea. A very strategic and important place during the second World War. It’s a small British settlement with about 30,000 inhabitants. Oracle were made up by lead vocalist Alan Alman, guitar-slinger Peter Montegriffo, bass player Steward Cavilla and drummer Peter Corea. They recorded and released their self-titled and only album in 1989 through the small Spanish label Cambayá Records on vinyl only. The album was recorded in Doublehums Studio in Kenley, Surrey, UK. It was produced and engineered by Oswind Falquero. The fantasy inspired cover artwork was painted by Belinda Montegriffo.
Fast forward to April 2015 and the Greek label No Remorse Records obtained a licensing deal with Cambayá Records regarding this undiscovered gem and now releases it on CD for the first time. Through a very long and winding road one copy of this CD arrives in the mailbox of The Lionsheart and I spin it in my CD player not knowing what to expect. Transferred from original master tapes and available for the first time officially on CD, Oracle turns out to be another one of those hidden melodic hard n’ heavy gems. It reminds me of a NWOBHM sound with a melodic twist and some very light progressive touches.
Not being familiar with the band before I try to find some information on the internet but there is hardly any to find. The band split up shortly after releasing this one and only album. The No Remorse release is also unusually scarce when it comes to info on the band. As always you get a very nice booklet with all the lyrics reprinted but this time there is no band bio and there is no bonus material. Being a bit spoiled I´m a bit disappointed that there is no such thing on this remaster. Instead of going through a band history I turn to the music and the songs on this album instead.
Oracle – Track by track comments:
The album starts off with the mid-paced, melodic rocker “Don´t Stop It” with lyrics that emphasize the need to look forward and don´t look back. Keep on moving forward is the message here. It´s a nice melodic, mid-tempo rocker. It features a few nice keyboard fills, a great vocal from Alman and a driving riff that makes it a pleasurable experience. It is followed by “Good Times” which is another mid-paced melodic metal song with a nice solo and a feel-good chorus line. A song about living your life, enjoying the day as it comes and not worrying about the future.“Teaser” starts with a great riff from Montegriffo and soon the keyboards join and the song kicks off. The riff drives the song with a pumping bass line from Cavilla in the background but this song has a weaker chorus and it is not one of the strongest cuts on the album to my ears. It ends with a spooky vocal from Alman which is kind of cool. Lyrically it´s a song which deals with the desire for a woman that is too strong to handle. Then it is time for one of the highlights of the album called “Never Want To Cry” which starts off with a sort of proggy feel and then slows down. There is an acoustic guitar and a nice layer of keyboards in the background. A majestic and sad vocal from Alman gives you goosebumps and the song becomes heavy again just in time for the chorus. A really strong song with a nice tempo shift and a heavy grooving chorus. It ends with an intense solo from Montegriffo and it´s a song about not wanting to cry (obviously!) when looking back on sad memories. The original vinyl album side A ended with song number five called “Fool For Your Love” and this is another great melodic metal song with a strong chorus which tends to stick in your mind for hours and never leave. This is a memorable song with a really nice melody sung in the verses as well as a strong chorus. Definitely the strongest song so far on the album and this song even had commercial potential in my opinion. The lyrics deal with being blinded by love and not seeing it for what it is.
The “B-side” starts off with the song “Dreaming” which begins with a brilliant acoustic guitar and again a great vocal performance by Alman. The intro soon turns into a heavy guitar riff with a mighty scream to go with it. The song changes shape yet again into a fast-paced rocker with a heavy edge but still with a memorable and chatchy chorus with the band joining in. The NWOBHM influences really shine through here. Again the lyrics deal with broken love and having a crush which is destined to go wrong. We are then treated with “Back On The Road” which has got a nice keyboard fill, a driving riff and lyrics about the endless search for love. The song also features a wild and crazy guitar solo from Montegriffo. Up next is one of the highlights and strongest songs on the album called “Murder In The Street”. It starts with a police siren created through a keyboard. This song has a pulsating and grooving riff with a great bassline providing a depth in the wall of sound. Alman sounds angry and shows a lot of attitude on this song. The siren comes back for the chorus where Alman stretches his voice to the limit. It´s a song that immediately makes an impression on you and invites you for some headbanging and toe-tapping. The lyrics for this song are of a political nature and deal with the conflict in Northern Ireland which was very active and present when this album came out. The album rounds off with “Killer Queen” which is yet again one of those strong and epic songs on this great album. It starts off with an electric guitar without the distortion and soon it develops into a moody guitar solo. The song changes tempo several times, from the most fragile vocal to a fast-paced aggressive song and it has a lot of progressive parts. You get the impression that you are treated with an instrumental song because it goes on for several minutes before the vocal part starts. The lyrics centre around the “Killer Queen” who comes out at night and curses all kingdoms with famine and storm. This is also the fastest song of the album and a great way to go out with a bang. My top picks from this album would definitely be “Never Want To Cry”, “Fool For Your Love” and “Murder In The Street”.
Oracle was an obscure release on a small Spanish label in the late 1980´s. There is no wonder why I did not notice them back then (did anyone outside of Spain or Gibraltar?) but, it turns out to be a great find today. The album is well produced and the musicianship is top notch. Not all the songs on the album are fantastic, but there are 5-6 really great songs and a few not so great (though not bad). Alan Alman has a great, warm and personal vocal style that appeals to me. The rest of the band is a tight unit and with the slight progressive nature of the album it really highlights the fact that these guys are professional and really good at what they do. There are some really great guitar solos and other guitar parts that lift the album out of mediocracy as well as some cool bass lines.
I´ve come to expect a lot from the Greek label No Remorse Records who usually fire on all cylinders and deliver all you can think of in their reissues. This time it is not perfect and it is a little disappointing that there is no band biography (I can´t find one on the world wide web either) and there is no bonus audio material. Still it is a very professional and nice reissue judging by normal standards; it´s just that my expectations are so high. If I take all that has been said into account I would rate this reissued album to 7 geeks out of 10. I also want to express a sincere thanks to No Remorse Records for bringing out all these undiscovered gems into the light and I always follow their release schedule and look up the bands on YouTube. Keep ém coming!