Ostura - The Live Opera
Author: Carmina Khairallah - 2013-12-17
In 2012, the Lebanese Progressive Symphonic Power Metal band OSTURA released their first concept album, “Ashes of the Reborn”. Not only is it a genre that is very uncommon in a scene where Heavy, Thrash, Death and Black Metal with the occasional touch of Doom seem to reign supreme, but OSTURA have set the bar even higher by making it an album with a story, including several vocalists each embodying a character, and by going as long as a year and a half after their release without a single live show. Add to that some good Facebook based publicity, and the least one could say is that there were very high expectations surrounding OSTURA’s first live show, a.k.a. “The Live Opera”, at a venue that is usually meant to keep all technical difficulties at bay, Metro al Madina, on December 7th 2013.
First of all, I wouldn’t normally give punctuality too much importance but the aforementioned high expectations as well as the band’s pressing insistence for everyone to be there exactly on time made it a problem when the band started at 10:20 instead of 10. But those 20 minutes wouldn’t have been a very long wait if it wasn’t for the highly inadequate old Rn’B music playing in the background the whole time. Regardless, the place was packed with roughly 140 attendees when the band made their appearance for their live intro (Game of Thrones main theme) after a slightly rough start and a huge round of clapping. The band’s playlist consisted of the following songs in the following order:
- On Hills of Glory – Ostura
- A Warrior’s Tale – Ostura
- The Gathering – Ostura
- Moonlight – Kamelot
- I Want My Tears Back – Nightwish
(15 minutes break)
- King’s Crowning (Instrumental)– Ostura (playback)
- Twisted Mind – Avantasia
- Sword of Erus – Ostura
- Infernal Hymn – Ostura
- Tears of Paradise – Ostura
- Ashes of the Reborn – Ostura
One thing to keep in mind is that the band’s original lineup was changed since the recording of the album, putting Alain Ibrahim on guitar and Alex Abi Chaker on drums. Despite the obvious pressure, both of them filled their role very well for the most part. Also, the vocals done by Sami Gabriel in the recording were sung by vocalist Elia Monsef and the growling originally done by Etienne Chelala was (surprisingly) taken over by keyboardist Danny Bou Maroun.
If one were to observe each band member’s individual musical expertise, they wouldn’t be disappointed; same goes for their collective technical strength as a band. When it comes to the instrumentals, everything was very well orchestrated. As for the vocals, female vocalist Youmna Jreissati displayed an almost angelic voice, and male vocalist Tony Ghanem delivered a bone chilling mix of professionalism and pure passion. When it comes to male vocalist Elia Monsef’s performance though, I have to say that it wasn’t what one would expect from his recording on the album, and after asking around in the crowd I found some similar reactions. One might think that that would qualify him as simply a “studio artist”, but I felt that there is more to it. It seemed like his rare calm, low pitch vocal parts had a very nice ring to them while the high pitch vocals and head voices that he dedicates most of his parts to were somehow dissonant. It is the mark of a true artist to know and embrace the limits of his potential and it seems like Mr. Monsef hasn’t fully explored his.
Some details, though, seemed a bit off. First of all, even though the band performed their whole album, they did not play them in the initial order where they were set, except for the final and title track “Ashes of the Reborn”. Some might argue that it was fine that way, which it was, but the emotional curve in the album was already quite well thought and it was a shame to lose it. Also, regarding the covers, although they were well chosen as the songs are from three bands that are a big part of the band’s influences, some flaws altered their performance. First of all, NIGHTWISH’s “I Want My Tears Back” was performed faster than intended, with male vocals from both Elia Monsef and Tony Ghanem and somehow jerky vocals from all vocalists instead of the original somehow stretched vocals. All of this resulted in an overall rushed and chaotic delivery. As for the band’s cover of "Moonlight" by KAMELOT, it was sung by Elia Monsef, while it didn’t seem to really suit his voice. Also, it was too bad that the band’s instrumental, “The King’s Crowning”, was given such minimal importance as it was played in playback at the end of the 15 minutes break, while some were still out smoking or grabbing a bowl of fresh air. And finally, it was a bit odd that Ms. Jreissati was staring deeply at Mr. Monsef while her character (The Oracle) was addressing Mr. Ghanem’s character (Galerion) in some parts of one song.
Regarding technicalities, some details did slightly alter the quality of the performance, such as unequal volumes between instruments or difficulty starting a few songs, but all was corrected very quickly and thus not too noticeable. The overall sound was very clean and the lighting quite appreciable.
As for the band’s stage presence, it had its highs and lows. It is obvious that both drummer and keyboardist were in a necessary immobility during the show, but said immobility could have been avoided by guitarist Alain Ibrahim, who solely kept to himself during the show without as much as a glance at his bandmates. Bassist Marcelino Said, on the other hand, showed a little more liveliness (and was seen sporting a bass with the Lebanese flag painted on it while performing NIGHTWISH’s “I Want My Tears Back”). Regarding the vocalists, it is fair to say that Youmna Jreissati’s constant shuffling gave away the nervousness that a first gig can create, while Elia Monsef showed a polarly opposite enthusiasm that was very communicative, if sometimes a little bit cocky, and Tony Ghanem gave what could be considered as an equilibrium between abundant passion and humility. Regardless, every single one of the band members seemed very happy to be there.
One last thing that I would like to point out is that some of the attendees were singing along, which is rarely seen at a band’s first gig.
In conclusion, although it was a bit shaky at times, OSTURA’s first concert was very promising and overall very good compared to the local standards when it comes to most local Metal bands – even for some who have had much more than one concert. One can only encourage the band’s desire to do something new as well as their professionalism and we hope that their next concert will help emphasize those aspects of the band even more.