The Room



by J.C. van Beekum USER (20 Reviews)
January 1st, 2020 | 5 replies

Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Room is as bombastically epic, ostentatious and grandios as any great progressive-metal concept album could be, yet it doesn’t lose sight of painting a sonic picture which is both emotionally and musically rewarding.

As soon as one hits play on 2018’s The Room, something becomes immediately clear: you are on the precipice of an epic journey. So let me paint you a picture of how Ostura begins their musical opera, arranges its décor and tells the first of its many musical tales; let us enter ‘The Room’:

As the record commences you’re first presented with the sound of exhausted breathing slowly but surely becoming louder, then, suddenly the strings make their precipitous introduction, bringing forth quick bursts of sound, before portentously subsiding into silence, if only for a short while. Within that silence an arpeggiated sequence of guitar chords emerges, followed shortly after by a swift tom-fill allowing the drums to mark their arrival, thereupon the strings make their second entrance synchronizing with the guitar’s chord-progression to a fault. The music becomes exponentially more boisterous, a snare-roll gains sound and velocity, yet a short string intermezzo supervenes, whilst the sound of exhausted panting which initiated our journey becomes readily intelligible again, a mere silence before the storm: the strings quickly reach a higher frequency, a massive riff takes the stage undercut by dramatic string-chords while being intricately accented by the drums. The first motif is established and the moment to reveal our first vocalist is thereby betokened. Soon after he has reached his higher notes he exchanges the musical stage seamlessly with another vocalist, her singing equally as proficient and emotionally impactful. They go back and forth in musical dialogue, as the album’s narrative begins to unfold, before joining together in beautiful harmony. This all sets the stage for our first guitar solo: an intricately composed melodic swindle with whammies abound, before keys, a single violin and soft singing lead us across the podium, where we are once again graced by a repetition of the first motif in conjunction with various vocal harmonisations. Yet, they do not occupy the stage for long, as they quickly fade into sonic obscurity, allowing another set of serene string chords to set the stage for our next chapter.

After this eminently appropriate introduction the record becomes increasingly more sonically impressive: the riffs become heavier, the drums more rhythmically enthralling, the vocals more emotionally intense, the orchestral arrangements more gripping, the instrumental layering more textured and convoluted, the compositions more ingenious and the guitar solos more scintillating, all the while the overall musical state of the record reaches unpresented levels of ‘proggyness’. Lebanon based cinematic progressive-metal outfit Ostura (which translates to ‘legendary’ in Arabic) absolutely pulled out all the stops in order to craft a monolithic modern-day metal opera with their bombastic sophomore-effort The Room. The project is a concept album of epic proportions, which the band themselves elucidates on as follows: “The Room tells a story about a social recluse girl who takes refuge in a room. Locked in with her thoughts, fears, and ambitions, the girl’s imagination turns the room into an endless universe where she is the creator. Soon after, the creation gains the ability to create and ask the right questions. The story tackles the notions of fear, perfection, social anxiety, ambitions, rage, power, and the struggle between the creator and the creation.” The band’s two fantastically skilled vocalists, Youmna Jreissati and Elia Monsef, are joined by Michael Mills (Toehider, Ayreon) and an entire chamber quintet, granting the album a profoundly impressive vocal template encompassing an array of different vocal styles and sounds.

Each of the vocalists is burdened with the responsibility of representing the emotional state of each of the story’s various characters, with Monsef and Jreissatie representing the girl and her creation, respectively. They are supported by orchestration provided by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, live percussion, analogue synthesizers, ethnic instruments (see the track ‘Erosion’), as well as drums operated by the esteemed Thomas Lang (worked with Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel and many others), Marco Sfogli (worked with James Labrie, Jordan Rudess among others) on lead guitar with contributing work from renowned Turkish guitarist Özgür Abbak as well as the band’s own guitarist Alain Ibrahim, Dan Veall (worked with Glenn Hughes, Paul Di'anno etc.) is present on bass and last but not least we also have the band’s own keyboard player Danny Bou-Maroun. Oh, and Dutch progressive-metal legend Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen also happens to be involved. The point of this summary is not just to pretentiously boast about the amount of talent which contributed to this record, but more so to illustrate the sheer gargantuan seize of this project, the remarkable sonic variations present on it, as well as the astonishing number of musical identities which took part in creating the operatic, sonic concoction which is Osutra’s The Room. Couple of all of this with the fact that one of the projects many collaborators, keyboard player Bou-Marou, also has a background in composing film scores and you seriously start to understand why the record has this unmistakable feeling of cinematic grandeur and conceptual cohesiveness.

The records compositions certainly give the impression of being rather meticulously composed, with the band having seemingly payed attention to every minute detail: moods, time signatures, tempos, rhythmic structures, vocal styles, chord progressions, melodic motifs and harmonic sequences continually fluctuate, according the album a tremendous amount of musical diversity, whilst the flow of the record never feels awkward or hackneyed, allowing The Room’s musical narrative to immaculately drift across the record’s musical stages. A superficial look at any of the multifaceted compositions on this album will confirm the above mentioned claims. Aesthetically Ostura’s style on this record is difficult to exhaustively describe, with elements from heavy metal, power metal, symphonic metal, progressive metal ala Dream Theater, film music, classical music, folk music, progressive rock, electronic music and industrial metal, all constituting a part of The Room’s transdisciplinary, auditory panoply. Track ten, ‘The Surge’, has an ending which is riddled with eerie, staccato-esque industrial electronics, the track that precedes it, ‘Darker Shade of Black’ makes heavy use of acoustic instruments and what I assume must either be actual flutes or a strange keyboard effect (and its guitar solo is absolutely gorgeous), while the epic, penultimate track, ‘Duality’, contains equally off-kilter, electronic instrumentation as well as the same flute sounding instrument making another appearance. These are but a few examples however. To list all the little instrumental divergences on the The Room would take me an eternity.

The production on this record is also exceedingly monolithic, absolutely gargantuan and nearly impeccable. It’s unbelievably crisp, sharp, warm and huge sounding, with each and every instrument just polished enough and placed at the exact right frequency in the mix, both allowing it to retain its own unique musical identity and simultaneously combine seamlessly with the other instrumental pieces. Nevertheless, the noticeable emotional weight behind the vocals, the canorous intensity of the orchestration and the melodic clarity of the guitar tone, all give the record an ever-present emotional severity. Thus, while the record both requires and is endowed with a highly polish production, it nevertheless provides an experience which is as emotionally satisfying as it is musically mesmerizing. All of this being said there is a singular criticism that I can level at this album, because for all of its compositional complexity and unpredictability and for all the richness and variety ascribable to its musical palette, the record does have a certain superficial homogeneity to it. Rather than constantly providing definitive juxtapositions of the many musical elements that make up The Room, Ostura instead give preference to the weaving of their myriad of disparate musical elements together into amalgamated sonic tapestries thereby somewhat obscuring the genuinely disciplinary variety which foregrounds The Room creation. Once one has caught on to the instrumental patterns generally used within the quieter moments and familiarised themselves with the record’s particular vocal tendencies, it can leave one almost wondering why the music can come across as so seemingly homogenous at times. Yet this is not emblematic of every single moment on the album, with strange instrumental and compositional twists and turns preventing the record from becoming decidedly stale. Perhaps one could say Ostura have intertwined the musical elements on The Room to an almost overly perfect degree, which does somewhat detract from the overall listening experience.

This being said, I must ultimately commend Ostura for crafting one of the most musically inspired and emotionally gratifying progressive-metal records in recent years. The Room is an astonishingly composed musical tale across numerous, intricately construed sonic podia, each with their own particular, carefully and skilfully constructed musical décor. Therefore reader, I beseech you, enter ‘The Room’, take your seat, grab your bucket of popcorn, wait for the curtains to part and allow Ostura to take you on this epic journey; perpare for your expectations to be defied, your heartstrings to be pulled and your musical scope to be expanded beyond new sonic horizons.

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user ratings (18)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 1st 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

Perhaps I was a little too quick in my follow-up to my latest review, however patience isn't my strong suit (at least today).

- Constructive criticism is always much appreciated.

- Have a little taste over here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITZ38FtAs1c

January 3rd 2020


Sounds good. Good review too, pos.

January 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

@Confessed2005, thanks so much!

Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2020


I prefer this closing than the last review. Solid review all around mate.

That said, I'm not sure this is for me.

January 5th 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

I actually did alter the last review's ending sentence as well. Thanks for the appreciation none the less, and well, no this is probably not up your alley. I can eat my way through cheese like not many can. It is a gift bestowed to only the proggiest of proggers...

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