Orphaned Land

The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR

Written by: EW on 04/02/2010 17:35:45

And some still question the worth of metal...Israel's majestic Orphaned Land are back with their first album in 6 years, and fourth overall in nearly 20 years, and a grander, more artistically composed record you will not hear this year. Whatever the quality of this album, Orphaned Land's presence in the fields of metal, Middle Eastern folk and now prog is a credit to the geographical and musical diversity of metal these days and a boon to it's being as a genre intent on the pushing of boundaries in all manner of concepts.

"The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" is so layered and complex in both message and musical delivery that I must hold my hands up and admit that after a number of listens I am still discovering new features in the 78 minutes of it's delivery. From opener "Sapari", one of the most straight-forward in structure and thus perhaps not coincidently, one of the catchiest, the feel of intense passion and emotion contained within cannot be understated, especially when compared to many of the albums that pass for 'folk metal' these days. Through 2004's "Mabool" and backwards in OL's history the band have expertly blended Middle Eastern folk melodies, through the use of local traditional instruments such as the oud, saz and bouzouki, with heavy metal rhythms and structures and now as time has gone on, a strong dose of prog/synth tendencies. Too, with the hoarse and clean vocals of Kobi Farhi, choir chants and the wonderful female vocals of Shlomit Levi, there is an intense amount to admire and immerse oneself in "The Never Ending...", lending itself as much a musical education as a composition in it's own right.

Relating Orphaned Land to other bands is difficult and for the most part, futile, with the exception of one of today's giants: Opeth. Taking a cue from Akerfeldt and co's mastery of the prog-meets-metal dynamic, OL take a veritable slurp from Opeth's well of influence in tracks like "The Path (Pt. 1) - Treading Through Darkness", "Vayehi Or" and "His Leaf Shall Not Wither"; through the production technique of Opeth's 'sixth member' Steven Wilson to the recognisable sound of the Swede's brilliant "Damnation" album. Despite this, repeated listens will still only bring the conclusion that Orphaned Land sound like Orphaned Land and noone else, reason for which can be summised by the authenticity of their Middle-Eastern bouzouki passages, a trait Nile have admirably strived for for many a year, in songs like "Olat Ha'tamid" and "New Jerusalem". This amalgamation of styles, deeply intertwined into the soul of the music generates the depth of emotion guaranteeing ultimate success for the album, begging you to listen repeatedly and intently to a piece of art that has clearly been meticulously slaved over it's construction.

With "The Warrior", my favourite track, the album moves into it's second of three parts and boy is it a pleasurable listen. The lead soloing that seems to dominate much of it's 7 minutes is superlative, giving the air of the prog influence mentioned earlier, in an evocative and passionate display of Yossi Sassi Sa'aron's guitar playing skills, atop some not inconsequential keyboard rhythm backing. As the album progresses the quota of prog in the band's structuring of songs like "In Thy Never Ending Way" and "Barakah" is seen to increase. Not being of a sufficiently devout prog worshipping tendency it is in these later stages that my interest is felt to wane a little, at least until I remind myself of the energy OL have invested in these songs and that they thus deserve my full attention. Forgetting that I would suggest the album is one or two songs too many there is still great warmth in "Vayehi Or" and "M I ?", just best perhaps enjoyed after a short refreshment break for your mind and soul.

In view of those who have known Orphaned Land since before "The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" this album feels like a continuation of "Mabool" with greater developments in the all-round performance and production on show. As of now I have not identified a song so instantly pleasing as either "Ocean Land (The Revelation)" or "The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins)" off "Mabool" but this new one is without doubt full of wonder and long-lasting enjoyment to all capable of working through it's dense layering and religious symbolism. Given Orphaned Land's position deep in the wilderness when it comes to any modern 'scene' it is not clear how much appreciation this album will engender, but in a meritocratic world it would be lauded to the skies for it's natural local diversity and impressive musicianship to the level where only a very few others could touch them.


Download: The Warrior, Sapari, The Path (Pt. 1) - Treading Through Darkness
For The Fans Of: Opeth and Middle Eastern/ethnic music
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 25.01.2010
Century Media Records

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