Turbulence - B1nary Dream

Artist: Turbulence

Album Title: B1nary Dream

Label: Frontiers Music

Date of Release: 8 March 2024

I try my very best to not read other reviews or opinions of albums before I write my own, because I don’t want my thoughts to be subconsciously swayed by others. However, on this occasion, it has proved impossible to get away from the hype, the excitement, and the all-round positivity from this release. It doesn’t help of course that I’m quite late to the review party, but I’ve really wanted to spend time with it to formulate a proper, informed opinion of it. And ‘it’ is ‘B1nary Dream’, the third full-length release from Lebanese progressive metal band, Turbulence.

On a not unrelated subject, have you ever been in the position where you feel totally alone, the lone voice in a sea of opposing views? If you have, you’ll understand my discomfort here, because try a hard as I might, I simply cannot get into ‘B1nary Dream’ as much as I want. Everywhere I look, I see hugely positive reviews, including a few full-marks, and from people I share a great deal of similar musical taste. So why am I having such a hard time with this record? I admire it, I like it in parts, but I don’t love it. It’s maddening.

Despite my personal struggles, I can understand 100% why there is a lot of love out there for this album. And that’s because there are a lot of ingredients to ‘B1nary Dream’ that are genuinely out of the top drawer. For a start, there’s the production. This is an incredibly strong sounding album from start to finish, where every ounce of power and clarity has been wrung from a mix that supports and accentuates each and every note. Each of the five musicians within the band can be heard, their performances laid out in a crystal-clear detail that only serves to demonstrate just how accomplished they all are as individuals and as a collective unit.

Next, there’s the concept story that forms an important part of this record. As the cover art might suggest, the central protagonist is a robot, 8b+1, who is part of an experiment known as ‘Binary Dreaming’. The album charts 8b+1 on its journey to an awakening of its consciousness. However, as sci-fi as this might sound, there’s real emotional intent wrapped up in the narrative, brought to life primarily by the passionate and dedicated vocal performance from Omar El Hage. It’s a sci-fi story, but I’m left in no doubt that there’s a very human aspect to the narrative.

But the vocalist isn’t the only star performer here. On ‘B1nary Dream’, the performance of each musician within the quintet is worthy of praise and a moment in the spotlight. Whether it’s the groovy riffing and emotive leads of guitarist Alain Ibrahim, the dancing bass of Anthony Atoui, the colourful, textured, and bold keys of Mood Yassin, or the pin sharp and technically adept drumming of Sayed Gereige, the quality is without question.

Again, I ask no-one in particular ‘why am I not absolutely loving this album?’

Turbulence - B1nary Dream

The output is accurately described in the accompanying press release as ‘groovy technical progressive metal with nods to djent and jazz fusion’, and therein lies some of the problem for me. I love prog and I love the challenge it can provide. But I also crave melody, or something beyond the perfect execution to make me sit up and take notice. I want the music to punch me in the gut and force me into repeat listens because I can’t wait to hear a particular song again.

As good as the music on ‘B1nary Dream’ undoubtedly is, I rarely get this feeling. Or at least, I experience it too infrequently. Urgh, it’s like Opeth or Wilderun all over again; I want to like this album more, but something stops me every time.

That being said, I have noticed that the music has felt stronger and more engaging as time has gone on and as I have wrestled with it over the past few weeks. To begin with, it’s hard not to be won over by a track like ‘Theta’ which bursts to life out of the ashes of the opener ‘Static Mind’ with a properly groovy riff, soaked in synths and ably supported by a stuttering, syncopated rhythm. I really like the tone of the guitars, whilst Omar El Hage gives everything he has to the cause. The track ebbs and flows nicely, and feels like it covers a lot of ground within its five-minute lifespan, the lead guitar solo in particular catching my ear around the half-way mark.

Elsewhere, ‘Ternary’ offers some rather excellent vocals, whilst the electronic beat is accented by more deft and engaging lead guitar playing. And, crucially, the song carries with it a greater melodic intent – not enough to fully seduce me, but it’s definitely one of my personal favourites. The heavier riffs when they emerge, though, are pretty impressive and the song draws to a close in a way that’s rather hypnotic.

The fourteen-minute title track is clearly the centrepiece of ‘B1nary Dream’ and again, I know many who will lap it up willingly. For me, it is another very well constructed composition, full of exemplary musicianship with plenty of twists and turns to amplify Turbulence’s progressive intent. As with many of the songs here, however, I don’t connect strongly enough with large swathes of the material. I like the ‘chorus’ with its sprawling majesty and greater melodic muscle, and the variety is commendable for sure, but I end each listen feeling admiration, but not love.

In fact, it’s not until the very final track, an instrumental by the name of ‘Deerosion’ that I get the chills and the goosebumps that I so craved earlier on the album. It’s a really emotive, bittersweet composition that starts off very quietly and with a demonstrably melancholy vibe. The lead guitar lines are laced with sadness and solemnity, even when things kick up a notch. As finales go, this one is genuinely excellent. As much as I really like it, it only serves to underline just how much more I could have enjoyed this record if but for a touch more expansive melody here and there.

What I will say in conclusion is that, despite my misgivings, I urge anyone who enjoys progressive metal to check out ‘B1nary Dream’. The disappointment I may feel should be no reflection on the quality of this release, more a reflection of my defective ears and brain. I say this because I fully accept that I am in the vast minority here. Turbulence are an incredibly talented outfit, and I’m sure most of you reading this will enjoy what you hear immensely. For me, though, it just refuses to click.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%



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