When the Prog Metal sub-genre began it's unnervingly rapid, Power Metal-fueled proliferation circa 1984, many of the recordings that would eventually become considered 'landmark', scene-defining releases originated within Europe and North America. While the remainder of the civilized world were certainly contributing, albeit on a much smaller scale, the focus remained on the most obvious of choices. Sadly, this unintentionally narrow outlook would lead to an occasionally homogenized overall experience that simply begged for a renaissance. Fortunately for all parties involved, with the inevitable progression of time, artists and groups from less-than-likely of sources slowly began to develop and emerge (i.e., Cellar Darling, Orphaned Land and Subterranean Masquerade, among others), offering the proverbial average listener the opportunity to greatly broaden their horizons. An ideal example of this growth is Lebanese parvenu Turbulence and their sophomore effort Frontal.
On the brilliant Frontal (2021), an expertly assembled eight (!) song collection of Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the delightfully exhaustive (i.e., an 11:13 run time), synth-driven tome “Inside The Gage” and the relentlessly pummeling--albeit highly-effective--“Madness Unforeseen”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Triumphantly emerging after a three year self-imposed hiatus courtesy of the increasingly diversified Frontiers Records roster, the group wastes little, if any, time improving upon their curiously underrated full-length debut Disequilibrium (2015) by distinguishing themselves via a staggering array of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork, mystifying synths and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Commanding a tonality that belies their relatively brief existence, the group is initially bolstered by a understandably subtle sense of enthusiasm that elevates these strains to 'Earwig' territory.
Continuing with the groove-laden, emotionally-overwrought “A Place I Go To Hide” and the oddly soothing gem “Crowbar Case”, the relatively unknown--albeit undeniably airtight--combination of vocalist Omar El Hajj, guitarist Alain Ibrahim (Monarchy and Ostura, among others), keyboardist Mood Yassin, bassist Anthony Atwe and drummer Sayed Gereige steamrolls ahead like the well-oiled machine they so obviously are. Surging ahead with an intricate and intellectual compositional approach, the group delivers their wares sans the overwhelming sense of urgency common among the would-be crème de la crème of the genre, allowing the music to engulf the listener with an all-consuming auditory experience. Showcasing each instrument with equal aplomb (guitar and synth solos materialize with an implied sense of equal importance), the oft-multi-octave El Hajj is afforded the opportunity to 'expound' far beyond the traditional, and perhaps limiting, confines as both a vocalist and lyricist.
While the group's influences are painstakingly displayed throughout (perhaps most notably Black Clouds & Silver Linings era Dream Theater), other standouts, including the shimmering and occasionally lilting “Faceless Man” and the soaring, hook-laden introspect “Perpetuity”, offer a wealth of further sonic evidence in support of the group's unabashed lyrical and compositional prowess without borrowing too heavily from any single source. Simultaneously heart-achingly beautiful and rhythmically complex to the point of a stark and potentially career-defining uniqueness, the overall apex of their efforts lies within their ability to transcend a genre they otherwise exemplify. The unabashed creativity that so effortlessly flows forth ultimately leaves the proverbial listener with a sense of wonder and self-realization that few of their contemporaries are legitimately capable of replicating on a wholesale scale, making Frontal a genuinely pleasant--if not astonishing--surprise very few will want to avert.
But is it really worth it? That depends almost entirely on your particular point of view. With the group once again flexing their more than considerable creative muscles on an unprecedentedly grand scale, the end result(s) of their more than considerable efforts contained herein showcase their exponential artistic growth. Easily one of the most dynamic and exciting all new releases of this year, the majority--if not all--of the decidedly tuneful wares contained herein are seemingly destined to dramatically raise their profile on an international level. Only time will tell if the group is indeed capable of ascending amid the hierarchies of the genre or crossing over into the proverbial mainstream. Accordingly, if Prog Metal is indeed your 'thing' (and would you be reading this if it weren't?) and you're truly unafraid of change or variety, then the all-consuming tome that is so often the mighty Frontal might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
You Are Not Alone (EP) (2018)
Pilot (EP) (2015)
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