by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist –
Lebanon and heavy metal – an unlikely pairing perhaps, but Ostura is doing their best to put the Lebanese metal scene on the world-wide map with their debut release Ashes of the Reborn.
Ostura (meaning “legend” in Arabic) was founded in 2009 by drummer Chris Naimeh, keyboard player Danny Bou-Maroun and guitarist Elie Hnein. Naimeh came up with the concept and story, wrote the lyrics and approached Bou-Maroun and Hnein for compositional input. The epic concept of Ostura was so huge that the trio rapidly expanded to a group of 15 collaborators, each contributing voice or instrument. The trio ended up creating Ashes of the Reborn – a true metal opera that tells an epic tale of good against evil. Keeping to traditional operatic ideals, they recruited multiple singers to play each of the major parts, along with a group of choir vocalists to play the supporting cast. The only major lineup change was the recruiting of guitarist Alain Ibrahim to replace founder Hnein (who left the band for personal reasons).
The tale is a basic and classic one. The hero, Galeron (voiced by Tony Ghanem) was chosen by The Druid (voiced by Elia Monsef) to fight the evil dictator, simply called the Tyrant (growled by Etienne Clala). Aided by the Ancestral Spirit (sung by Sami Gabriel) and guided by The Oracle (Youmna Jreissati), Galeron uses the powerful Sword of Erus to confront and defeat the Tyrant. Each singer has a unique voice which helps define the characters and make it easy for the listener to keep track of the dramatis personae. The band pulls out every trick in the symphonic-progressive-operatic-metal handbook to keep the album moving. They handle many mood and tempo changes without issue, and deliver technically precise music. The group of singers works very well together – in fact it seems the more the merrier. The solid engineering makes the album easy on the ears, but crisp and clean throughout.
The album opens on a powerful high with gritty and heavy guitars on “A Warrior’s Tale.” The track sets up the story for the balance of the album and features great vocal performances. The choir joins in, along with nicely done keyboards on the rollicking “Sword of Erus.” The instrumental “King’s Crowning” is a nice segue between the setup and the darker meat of the story, opening with soft piano and ending with full orchestral effects and pounding drums of war. “On Hills of Glory” is a very martial track with an intense drum line and driving guitars – perhaps the best lead break on the release.
Pianos and the sweet voice of Youmna Jreissati are highlights of “Tears of Paradise.” This track features some great duet and back-and-forth vocals. “The Gathering” opens with an almost folk-metal feel, and once again allows plenty of opportunity for dueling vocalists. It quickly becomes a power track as the intensity builds. Orchestral metal takes over for a while at the start of “Infernal Hymn,” but this quickly becomes a full ensemble effort -choral vocals, chugging guitars and bass, manic tempo changes, and the growled voice of the Tyrant combining to make a long but fascinating track. As with all good stories, the climax is key. “Ashes of the Reborn” features great vocals by the entire cast, power metal keys, ripping guitars, bass and drums – a very satisfying and triumphant conclusion to a fine album.
Ashes of the Reborn is a superb metal opera. If Ostura’s goal was to put Lebanon on the world metal map, they have succeeded admirably! Each and every track is delivered with passion and enthusiasm, and the band proves itself to be one to watch. This release is highly recommended for fans of symphonic, progressive or power metal.
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Chris Naimeh – Drums / Lyrics
Danny Bou-Maroun – Keyboards / Music Composition / Arrangements
Elie Hnein – Guitars / Music Composition
Jack Hayek – Bass
Tony Ghanem – Vocals
Elia Monsef – Vocals
Sami Gabriel – Vocals
Youmna Jreissati – Vocals
Etienne Clala – Growl Vocals
Wissam Tabet – Choir / Keyboards
Naji Safiti, Michel Doumit, Wissam Saliba – Choir
Hady Barhoush – Acoustic Guitar
Rayan Seif – Violins
1. A Warrior’s Tale
2. Sword Of Erus
3. King’s Crowning (Instrumental)
4. On Hills Of Glory
5. Tears of Paradise
6. The Gathering
7. Infernal Hymn
8. Ashes of the Reborn
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10