Album of the Week 08-2012: Orphaned Land – The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR

There used to be a time that the best Metal bands in the world were from the United States, Germany, Sweden or England. Today, Israel’s Orphaned Land is probably the best band around in any genre, as their mixture of styles, which include Doom Metal, Death Metal, Progressive Rock/Metal and large doses of traditional Middle Eastern music, transcends any notice of musical boundaries. I can’t express in words how much I love this band. They’re one of the few bands in whose music I can totally lose myself these days. And while previous efforts were ranging from good to stellar, ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ is the album that definitively made me fall in love with Orphaned Land.

On their magnum opus (so far), Orphaned Land’s music proves to be of equal importance as the general atmosphere the album sets as well as their message of inter-religious harmony. Check out the promo photos to this album for the ultimate example. This makes the album feel as an experience as opposed to just any good album you put on. And although all tracks lend themselves to separate spins, I tend to listen to the album as a whole. Any album that is set up so ambitiously is risking to get lost in the sand somewhere, but that’s not the case here: the dynamics retain your attention, the melodies make you sing along – even to the songs in Hebrew, although I don’t speak a single word in that language – and the guitar riffs make your head bang.

Interestingly, the songs derived from traditional Hebrew poems, chants and hymns are always the ones that grab me first. Opening track ‘Sapari’ is catchy and powerful and ‘Olat Ha’tamid’ hypnotizing. What I find especially remarkable is that these melodies work so well as Metal songs. Never are you given the impression that these are songs written centuries ago, it sounds fresh and powerful. And the Hebrew lyrics are really powerful. So are the Arabic Koran texts in ‘Disciples Of The Sacred Oath’.

With an array of styles as wide as on ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’, it could be expected that the musicians involved build upon their instincs and experience. Although there is some truth in that statement, there’s such an unbridled passion in this music as well. It lies within Yossi Sa’aron’s soul gripping guitar solos (‘The Path Part I – Treading Through Darkness’, ‘The Warrior’), Kobi Fahri’s emotional vocal delivery (‘MI?’, ‘Bereft In The Abyss’), the overwhelming Arabic orchestral arrangements (‘Barakah’) and guest singer Shlomit Levi’s intense chants (‘Sapari’, ‘New Jerusalem’). This adds to the experience as it’s not only musically proficient, but also beautiful.

In addition, Porcupine Tree main man Steven Wilson’s flawless mix is probably what gave ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ just that little extra the band needed to make this album even better than its already near-flawless predecessor ‘Mabool’. Every instrument is mixed in clearly and litterally nothing seems out of place, even in the largely arranged songs. The rough edges the band had in their early days have now vanished and frankly, it’s all for the better.

Every fan of music should hear this album one day or another. It’s one of those “albums you must hear before you die”, but it won’t show up in any lists or books that Rolling Stone or NME give you to that extent. In that case, just take my word for it. This is brilliant, border denying – not crossing, it just denies their existence – music with a passion that many Pop musicians can’t even dream of. I am very careful about calling albums perfect, but I have litterally nothing to complain about for this one and isn’t that the definition of perfect? ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ is the best album of the last decade.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sapari’, ‘The Path Part 1 – Treading Through Darkness’, ‘Olat Ha’tamid’, ‘Barakah’, ‘From Broken Vessels’

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