“WHAT THE FUCK” – possibly one of the greatest openings to an album ever. Turmoil basically took the words right out of my mouth. Combined with its discordance and urgency right off the bat, those angst-filled words – “What the fuck are you looking at?” – delivered by vocalist Jon Gula are a punch right in the gut at the very start of “Playing Dead,” the first track off their seminal 1999 release, The Process Of. Although my introduction to Turmoil came many years later, even when I first heard this record, there was still an innovative quality about the release. That’s because The Process Of was way ahead of its time and, dare I say, groundbreaking. With it, the highly underrated Philadelphia five-piece helped establish the foundation for metalcore and many of the bands to come.
Comprised of 12 tracks and 35 minutes of pure, uncompromising metal-filled hardcore with punk rock sensibilities, The Process Of absolutely defines the metalcore genre. Turmoil were influenced by East Coast hardcore acts like Agnostic Front, the Cro-Mags, Sick of it All, etc., but like similar bands at the time (Integrity, Earth Crisis, Disembodied and so on) they were also heavily influenced by metal. While their earlier releases (1995’s From Bleeding Hands and 1998’s Anchor) still hold a ton of significance, The Process Of is the one that’s often recognized as Turmoil‘s most revered.
To me, that is 100 percent the case. It’s hands down their best work and arguably a watershed moment for the whole metalcore genre. Maybe fans hold this record so dear to them because Turmoil disbanded in 2000, shortly after its release (although they’d later reunite with ex-Through the Eyes of the Dead vocalist Nate Johnson). Or because the band isn’t shrouded in nostalgia, which can be off-putting sometimes (everyone loves Jane Doe, we get it). And their history isn’t well-documented, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything online; look up “Metalcore” on Wikipedia and Turmoil isn’t even mentioned once – what’s that about?
But the main reason this record holds such an underground appreciation is probably more so due to the fact that The Process Of is just goddamn perfect. I still get goosebumps when “Playing Dead” kicks in. With its huge, raw and aggressive sound, frenzied rhythms and dissonant tones, as well as vocals that are corrosive and utterly spit-in-your-face vicious. The track just seethes anger and frustration, and it sets the bar for the album, which Turmoil do a hell of a job maintaining. The Process Of is absolutely relentless and super intense throughout.
The songwriting is impeccable, featuring tons of headbang-worthy riffs mixed in with progressive structures and just enough complexity to keep things interesting. “The Discipline of Self Loathing” combines crust style drum work with thrashy riffage, while the dynamics of “The Locust” are captivating. “Killing Today for a Better Tomorrow” is a straight-up rager, comprising pummelling drums and some angular guitar work.
The diversity within the tracks is also commendable. Rather than blending together, each one has a place and a purpose, and is distinct from the others. The slower-paced crushing groove of the aptly-titled “Impending Doom Theory” is entrancing and switches up the vibe with a more gloomy tone midway through the release, while still maintaining all of its indignation. However, that insistent energy comes right back with the killer “Dear Jon,” as well as on “Let It Die,” which features manic guitar work, while “Staring Back” contains unpredictable, intricate patterns.
Complete with production that is tight and clean, The Process Of is simply a classic that stands the test of time. And it deserves way more recognition than it gets. It’s genre-defining metalcore from a band that has somehow flown under the radar and remains relatively unknown. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Turmoil, please, do yourself a favour and check this out right fucking now.