Ostura is a five-piece outfit from Lebanon. They are on their second album. If you’ve never heard them before, then you are in for a rare treat. If you are a fan of prog metal, then you will become a quick fan as I have. From start to finish, The Room is full of your typical prog metal accoutrements; violins, drums, sky vocals, and searingly heavy riffs. It is all that and more. If that was all it was, then it would just be run-of-the-mill prog metal. I wouldn’t even begin to dare to disrespect these folks in that way. You could say I’m a bit of a convert, but once you listen you will know why! Ostura features Elia Monsef on vocals, production and media, Danny Bou-Maroun on keyboards, orchestration and production, Youmna Jreissati on vocals, Alain Ibrahim on guitars and Alex Abi Chaker on drums (live). A considerable lineup, and only one thing strikes me: I’ve never seen anyone include production, media or orchestration on a regular set of credits. Naturally, as our dear readers might assume, I was indeed intrigued.
The title track starts things off for us in excellent fashion. It is one of the shorter tracks, but at just under five minutes is well long enough to get the point across. The Room will smack you in the face with its in-your-face combination of violins and drums, not to mention the seriously heavy riffing and the stop-time arrangements. It will become apparent early on to the reader with a discerning ear that the Room is all about the vocals. The title track does not disappoint. There is a strong, up front melodic lead vocal on here and angelic backing vocals as well. At about two minutes in we get to hear a bit of noodling (wobble, twiddle, widdle). Normally I am a big fan of lead guitar work, and this piece is no exception.
Escape features more of the same (who ordered the violin convention?). The combination works well, and the fact that it has become a pattern only two tracks in did not concern me whatsoever. We also get to hear some angelic female vocals on this one. At the five-minute mark is some tasty lead guitar work, a bit heavy on the wah peddle, but i LIKE it that way!
Beyond (The New World) starts out great, with riffs and synths a’plenty. There is of course beautiful violin playing and gorgeous vocals as well.
Let There Be is more of the same, but as our pattern develops we begin to wonder, well, why is it so good? Is it much better? The answer is yes, because it’s cleaner, louder, harder, faster and just all-around better! But then, of course, you would have to hear it to know. This is beautiful progressive rock here, folks, with lots of dramatic violin moments and exquisite piano passages. About half way in we get to here a piano/vocal interlude that is just stunning. There is another pattern which I began to see on this particular track, and that is the big finish. You will notice if you get to listen. See the pattern I am projecting?
Erosion is another longer, bigger and even more dramatic production. We also get to here the basic pundit stuff here though, with big, heavy, in-your-face riffing and a nice instrumental interlude to boot. I love when the violins and the lead guitars work together. The fusion is almost classical in nature. There is also a nice chug to the riffs, and some ethereal vocals.
Only One starts out life with a beautiful piano and vocal intro showcase somewhat reminiscent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This wonderful orchestration gives way to some extremely heavy riffing, then goes mellow again about two minutes in. At least we get to hear more shredding on this one. At about three minutes in, the guitars really let rip! Piano, vocals and violin also get their chance to shine. I love how the pattern has already developed at the halfway point. There is also some gorgeous mellow blues picking.
Mourning Light is super mellow by contrast, with a pretty piano intro and some nice female vocals. I noticed that, while listening to it on my PC’s media player, there were some really neat tracers going across the screen. But I digress. There is a lot more to be excited about here. The strings reminded me of classically oriented stuff – again. Let’s move on, shall we?
Deathless is a six-and-a-half minute monster. It also has a video/single thing going on that you may have noticed if you ever visit, say, Facebook or YouTube…or so I’ve heard. It begins with an ominous opening, as classical metal tracks normally do. It also has big violins, and rock vocals mixed with operatic ones. There is a tiny bit of growl, and a nice vocal interlude at about the two-minute mark. Then they proceed to rock out! This track features light and dark plus the very shades in between. The sky vocals at the three-and-a-half minute mark are wickedly good. At about four minutes in we get to hear another excellent lead guitar solo. As with many of the other tracks herein, this one is all about the big production values. Good stuff.
Darker Shade of Black is even bigger. It is just over nine minutes, and it wins five cool points for the title alone. I love when there is a creepy intro, and this one does not disappoint. Is that a flute in there? Lots of violins and vocals on board again, and a very busy drummer on this track. Big number, with overloaded female vocals, prog flights of fancy shredding on the guitar, lots of big vocals on the finish. Starting to get it?
The Surge features more of the same. It’s almost as if I’m repeating myself. Broken record much, Rick? Anyway, we have another beautifully creepy, ominous, foreboding piano intro and some nice little acoustic guitar flourishes. There are some synth wobbles towards the end. This one is more of an atmospheric number, but it does get a bit heavier and throws in some nice chugging riffage towards the end as well. Another big finish later, and its one to the next track!
Duality is the behemoth of them all. At just over 12 minutes, its sheer size would suggest a prog metal epic. It begins with some computer-type bleeps and bloops, then some big kettle drums (classical orientation again). There are some big riffs to start out, and a good solid groove. Great rock vocals, and of course lead guitar solos (2:25), then more violins…The vocals play as important of a role as any of the other instruments, which is very refreshing for me at least to see. They do flake out just a bit on this one, but when you stretch out for 12 minutes, that’s bound to happen to anyone. It sounds great but is perhaps a bit self-indulgent. Such is prog. Great stuff. Wish I could sing like that.
Exit the Room is the closer, and is sort of an icy outro. Beauty icicle piano playing with a little violin and some spooky single note plucking. All in all, probably almost frozen.
To put the cap on the head, I would like to say that it’s been a most incredible pleasure listening to this recording. Top marks!
1. The Room
3.Beyond ( The New World)
4. Let There Be
6. Only One
7. Mourning Light
9. Darker Shade of Black
10. The Surge
12. Exit the Room
Playing Time: 74 minutes 23 seconds
Elia Monsef - vocals, production, media
Danny Bou-Maroun - keyboards, orchestration, production
Youmna Jreissati - vocals
Alain Ibrahim - guitars
Alex Abi Chaker - drums (live)