Album of the Week 25-2013: Orphaned Land – All Is One

This year, there has been no album I anticipated more than ‘All Is One’. Israel’s Orphaned Land is the best Metal band of the last two decades, ‘Mabool’ was a work of pure brilliance and ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ simply a masterpiece. ‘All Is One’ was something of a minor surprise though: while still unmistakably Orphaned Land, the band opted for a somewhat more direct and compact approach this time. And while I loved the complex nature of the album’s predecessors, this is another masterpiece worthy of Orphaned Land’s name.

Still firmly intact is Orphaned Land’s infectious melange of progressive Metal and traditional Middle-Eastern music and the bombast present on the previous album is probably even more prominent here, with the Turkish string orchestra and a large choir providing some of the album’s most beautiful moments, but the songs are shorter and somewhat simpler this time. The opening title track, which is very simple in structure, yet incredibly powerful, is the first example of that already. Also, the guitars of Yossi Sassi and newcomer Chen Balbus are a bit more crunchy here and Kobi Fahri has abandoned his death grunt almost entirely (with the notable exception of short bursts on ‘Fail’ and ‘Our Own Messiah’) on this record in favor of his marvellous clean vocals.

All this may have been the change Orphaned Land needed. ‘All Is One’ sounds every bit as inspired as its two incredible predecessors did without blandly rehashing it. Also, the simpler structure may serve the band’s message of respect and harmony among all people populating the Middle-East, which is slightly more direct than before here as well.

However, it’s not like the Israelis became a completely different band here. ‘The Simple Man’ is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the band and contains some of Uri Zelha’s best bass work ever, ‘Let The Truce Be Known’ and ‘Children’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the final act of this album’s direct predecessor and ‘Through Fire And Water’ is an amazing track that combines Hebrew, Arabic and Latin lyrics in a very Middle-Eastern sounding track. Those songs would be the ones I’d recommend fans of the band to check out first. There’s more however: the mind-blowing instrumental ‘Freedom’ may be the album’s best song, Yehuda Poliker composition ‘Shama’im’ is the fantastic Hebrew song and ‘Brother’ most likely the band’s best and most heartfelt ballad so far.

Fans of the band and Middle-Eastern influences in music would do themselves an incredible favor if they’d purchase ‘All Is One’. And if you have the chance, be sure to pick up the limited edition for ‘As I Stare At The Ocean Alone’, a beautiful Yehuda Poliker cover. They played the song in Hebrew with Poliker on their breathtaking DVD ‘The Road To OR-Shalem’. And like ‘Mabool’ and ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ before this, ‘All Is One’ is another work of art with a message of peace that deserves to be heard by anyone who loves music. In fact, the lack of grunts may make it accessible to even more people. This may just be my album of the year…

Recommended tracks: ‘All Is One’, ‘Freedom’, ‘The Simple Man’, ‘Shama’im’, ‘Brother’

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