Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Long Hundred 009/100: Turmoil - The Process Of which a little known band from Pennsylvania created the perfect "noisecore" album.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

At the tail end of the Nineties, metallic hardcore was infiltrated by a feedback-happy strain popularly referred to as "noisecore" (though that term had previously been used to describe grindcore bands as well). As I recall, Dillinger Escape Plan, Cave In, and Converge were the "it" groups of the style; at least, those were the bands that my hardcore friends gravitated towards. Dillinger were for the guys who took writing and playing music seriously; Cave In were for future stoners; Converge for the style kids with the cool clothes and haircuts.

Pennsylvana's Turmoil, by comparison, weren't quite as well-known. Part of the problem was that they were signed to Century Media, an independent metal label known for goth and power metal. I'm going to take a wild swing and theorize that the home of Iced Earth was the wrong place for a band like Turmoil. Even though the label had a healthy roster of European hardcore acts (largely through their KINGfisher imprint), American hardcore kids weren't ready to take recommendations from long-hairs in the year 1999. [I say this from personal experience.] And few metalheads were open to the extreme discordance that bands like Turmoil dispensed. If Relapse had signed the band, they might be millionaires today; at the very least, you'd see a lot more Turmoil hoodies at gigs.

Still, Century Media got Turmoil to at least one open-minded hesher: I discovered the band on one of the Identity compilations, and eventually got The Process Of as part of a grab bag of CDs that the label was having trouble selling.

The opening track "Playing Dead" audaciously starts with vocalist Jon Gula screaming "WHAT THE FUCK?!?"; the song itself is an extended "WTF?!?" of shifting time signatures and unexpected tempo changes. But unlike some of their more meandering (and better known) contemporaries, there's an economy to Turmoil's song structures. Unlike Converge or Cave In, Turmoil never shook their beatdown roots, even as their songwriting got more adventurous. Maybe that was the issue: Turmoil weren't as arty or weird as bands like Coalesce, but they weren't thuggish enough for the Victory Records bros who just wanted to get a pit started. They existed in a strange middle ground of being too smart for their previous audience, but not out-there enough for the tastemakers.

I spent an entire summer working out to this album. Songs like "Let It Die" and "Every Man My Enemy" were better than creatine, and really helped get in those reps. But more than anything, the album is one of the best representations of that style of hardcore. And the production is fantastic - at a time when most of their peers were still saddled with overly raw productions (like those early Converge albums), Steve Evetts honed in on the band's heaviness while retaining their rough edges. No wonder he went on to work with Sepultura.

Maybe Turmoil would have found their audience in time, but they broke up the year after The Process Of was released. A year after that, the style broke out when Converge released Jane Doe - the influence of which continues to be heard today. But of all the noisy hardcore albums that were released at the turn of the millennium, I don't think any band topped Turmoil for sheer listenability. I'm glad I discovered The Process Of before it was buried in the avalanche of similar but inferior albums. Credit goes to Century Media for taking a chance on a little known hardcore band who were unlikely to appeal to the company's core audience. And credit goes to Turmoil for creating the perfect noiscore album.

What the fuck are you looking at?

Catharsis -