Orphaned Land – The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR

January 01, 1970

(Century
Media Records)

 

www.centurymedia.com

 

Orphaned
Land is an anomaly in the world of rock ‘n’ roll – a popular, border-hopping Israeli
heavy metal band that also enjoys a large Arab and Palestinian audience. Formed
in the early 1990s as Resurrection, the band changed its name to Orphaned Land
to avoid confusion with a Florida-based death metal band. Although the band has
been, shall we say, less than “prolific” throughout its on-again,
off-again career – The Never Ending Way
Of ORwarriOR
is only the fourth Orphaned Land album in almost two decades,
and its first in six years – every new album from Orphaned Land both shocks and
surprises with a mix of traditional Middle Eastern folk music and boundary-busting
progressive metal that underlines and supports the band’s intelligent,
conceptual lyrics.

 

While Orphaned Land’s
last album, 2004’s Mabool, drew its inspiration,
literally, from the Biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, the story and concept behind The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR is a
little less specific. Loosely translated, the “ORwarriOR” is a
champion of light and order facing down the forces of evil and chaos on
battlefield Earth. While the story may be somewhat difficult to follow for
European and American audiences – lyrics are sung in English, Hebrew, and
Arabic – the energetic music is so invigorating and exciting, the band’s
instrumental virtuosity so impressive, that it doesn’t really matter.

 

This ain’t
your daddy’s heavy metal, that’s for sure, and listeners tuning in to hear Iron
Maiden or Motley Crue will be sorely disappointed. For prog-metal fans with
tastes more attuned to, say, Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater, however, The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR will
prove to be a real treat. While some traditional metal tropes remain, such as
skull-busting rhythms and shredded-lightning fretboard runs, Orphaned Land
brings a much more refined and subversive vision to its music. The
album-opening “Sapori,” for instance, features exotic vocal
harmonies, martial rhythms, and the haunting leads of female vocalist Shlomit
Levi soaring above a sea of clashing instrumentation and symphonic-metal riffing.

 

The
explosive “From Broken Vessels” offers up grating black-metal howls
from vocalist Kobi Farhi, whose broken-glass gargle is accompanied by a
muscular soundtrack that includes clean vocal harmonies and time-signature
changes that only superhuman math-metal monsters like Meshuggah could
duplicate. And so it goes throughout The
Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR
, the album mixing the sublime with
bludgeoning sonic overkill, often in the course of a single song.

 

The
too-brief-by-half “Bereft In The Abyss” is, by turns, almost pastoral
in its grace, with an elegant acoustic-guitar threaded beneath Moroccan rhythms
and gorgeous harmony vocals. “Olat Ha’tamid” sounds like a Middle
Eastern bazaar caught on tape: the bustling crowds, the heat, and the haggling
captured against an esoteric instrumental backdrop, strains of traditional folk
crashing against riff-driven hard rock. The grand, epic “The Warrior”
is the album’s centerpiece, a swelling cinematic soundtrack and spoken
(Hebrew?) lyrics leading into a moody, atmospheric, metallic sturm und drang
that sits uncomfortably beneath the vocals like a fiery hot ember. The guitar
playing of Yossi Sassi Sa’aron and Matt Svatizky here is simply amazing, their
instruments entwined in some sort of battle to the death that results in biting
tones that leave scorched earth in their wake. 
 

 

Taken
altogether, The Never Ending Way Of
ORwarriOR
provides an exhilarating ride across a musical landscape that,
upon first blush, will seem to be exceedingly hostile to foreign ears (i.e.
those of us not of Middle Eastern descent). The challenge is worth the sojourn,
however, for even if you can’t quite suss out the story behind the lyrics, the
band’s intent is clear, and the complex, multi-layered and textured music
created by Orphaned Land takes the concept of progressive metal to an entirely
higher level. Mixed with love by Porcupine Tree’s resident genius Steven
Wilson, who also contributes keyboards to several songs, The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR represents a form of
“thinking man’s (and woman’s) metal” that expands the genre’s sound like
no other work previous.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Warrior,” “From Broken
Vessels,” “New Jerusalem,” “Sapori” REV. KEITH A.
GORDON

 

 

 

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