Orphaned Land

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Orphaned Land - Sahara ©1994 Holy Records
1. The Sahara’s Storm
2. Blessed Be Thy Hate
3. Ornaments Of Gold
4. Alidor Al Mukadisa
5. Seasons Unite
6. The Beloved’s Cry
7. My Requiem
8. Orphaned Land, The Storm Still Rages Inside

Orphaned Land’s first official offering, Sahara, is quite immature compared to their follow up, El Norra Alilia, but still a very interesting album in its own right. The material itself was written in a two-year period and was simply compiled into two parts, half the album re-recorded demo material and the other half freshly written for the album itself. Already, the band made it their aim to combine regional Israeli folk music with doom-death. The folk influences are not nearly as well integrated as they would be on El Norra Alilia and the production is very weak, with clanking snare beats, muffled bass, and wafer thin guitar lines; the overall sound is cackling with treble and sounds like it's emanating from behind a wall. The actual arrangements are a tad meandering and lack overall cohesion, the parts often poorly grafted together. Nevertheless, the album well illustrates the band’s future potential, a vitality and passion better realized on the follow up. Kobi Farhi’s clean voice lacks the necessary confidence and often sounds overtly melodramatic, but he still pours out ample emotion (“The Beloved’s Cry” is a fine example of a song where his singing voice really works). The music, while inconsistent, offers some brilliant hooks and middle-eastern tinged melody lines, a somewhat effective (though often dubious) combination of “Oriental” and Western music. The album is recommended for fans of the band, but I would advise anyone unfamiliar with Orphaned Land to invest in El Norra Alilia instead.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2001

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El Norra Alila

Orphaned Land - El Norra Alila ©1996 Holy Records
1. Find Yourself, Discover God
2. Like Fire To Water
3. The Truth Within
4. The Path Ahead/A Neverending Way
5. Takasim
6. Thee By The Father I Pray
7. Flawless Belief
8. Joy
9. Whisper My Name When You Dream
10. Shir Hama'alot
11. El Meod Na'ala
12. On Temptation Born
13. The Evil Urge
14. Shir Hashirim

After the somewhat uneven and meandering debut Sahara, Orphaned Land returned to the metal world with a brilliant follow-up, El Norra Alilia. Located in Israel, the band found their trademark sound in combining regional folk music with pulverizing and fairly complex doom death. They are particularly passionate about their music, and the album is imbued with an emotional power unrivaled in any other metal band I can think of off hand. Aural intensity is transformed into emotional ecstasy when combined with melody and authentic, even spiritual, sentiment. El Norra Alilia fills the patient listener with an ecstatic sense of freedom and release, drawing on the most liberating qualities of metal and the most emotive, sensual elements of folk.

The doom death (if such life affirming music can be addressed as such) that forms the core of the sound is eclectic and ever changing, with very few riffs repeated in a given song; the music is journey like in its course, drawing on winding threads of guitar, ever changing percussion and bass lines that seem animated with a life of their own. The music is extremely heavy in parts, alternating between stop-go riffing and crushing doom interludes. The guitar soloing is brilliant, making use of more Oriental scales and Mediterranean modes than you can shake a stick at, and possessing a hypnotic sense of inflection. If this was all there was to Orphaned Land, you'd have an excellent doom death album. But El Norra Alila also makes use of authentic Israeli folk music, ambient experimentation, Spanish guitar flourishes and features one of the better voices in metal music, Kobi Farhi.

Farhi's voice simply drips passion; romantic, convoluted and layered in complex harmony, his singing (and growling) brings to the music a deeply emphatic, powerfully emotional center. His lyrics might bother the particularly anti religious faction of the metal/rock undergound, as they deal often with Jewish, Islamic and Christian mysticism (well, that and women!). But I think most will find it an enjoyable listen despite any personal reservations they might have regarding his very real faith. Farhi's lyrical themes aside, the album features a whole slew of guest musicians, lending the music a very authentic flavor. The lead guitarist Yosi Sassi is quite skilled at the Oud, and the band's drummer Sami Bachar is more than able to deliver a beautiful assortment of regional percussion. Israeli strings freely intermingle with charging death metal mayhem.

El Norra Alila is one of the greatest albums in the metal genre, and a no-brainer for anyone into Middle Eastern folk and particularly heavy music. The music is a sensuous pastiche of traditional music and metal's better qualities, deeply spiritual and entertaining at once. When I listen to Orphaned Land, I become lost in it, utterly submerged in its tremendous emotional depth, drowning in waves of sonic bliss.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 09/2000

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Orphaned Land - Mabool ©2004 Century Media
1. Birth Of The Three (The Unification)
2. Ocean Land (The Revelation)
3. The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins)
4. A'salk
5. Halo Dies (The Wrath Of God)
6. A Call To Awake (The Quest)
7. Building The Ark
8. Nora El Nora (Entering The Ark)
9. The Calm Before The Flood
10. Mabool (The Flood)
11. The Storm Still Rages Inside
12. Rainbow (The Resurrection)

Orphaned Land is finally back, after several years of silence and promises of a landmark successor to their now-classic El Norra Alila. The Israeli band, best known for its blend of epic metal and traditional middle-Eastern influences (complete with ethnic instruments) as well as for its strong spiritual beliefs, has returned with an even more religious album than its predecessor; Mabool is an all-out concept album about the flood, and most songs have subtitles tracking their position in the story told in the album.

I must admit that references to god and prayer in rock generally do not sit very well with me; however, in this case, the strong melodies, varied arrangements and overall cohesion of the music (not to mention the fact that a lot of the lyrics are sung in Hebrew) make it easy to overlook the preachiness and enjoy this superb album on its musical merits alone. Orphaned Land has expanded their musical range significantly on Mabool; they include quite a bit more traditional chanting (including choirs and solo female singing: "Building the Ark") than before, and blend classic metal riffs and harmonies ("A Call to Awake") with more modern semi-black, semi-tremolo riffs and semi-nü-metal hard-panned singing ("Halo Dies"). I suppose their music could be dubbed jü-metal. Or not. Either way, a second-tier Iron Shmaiden they certainly are not: the compositions are significantly more elaborate and multi-dimensional than most Iron Maiden songs, but they never get bogged down in gratuitous complexity; in fact, most songs are downright catchy and stick to your ear canals like cotton candy (but in a good way). Their influences are a tad more obvious on this release, and one can identify echoes of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" in a couple of solo sections, Therion's Theli ("Building the Ark"), Amorphis' Elegy (the keyboards, mostly) and Iron Maiden ("Halo Dies", "A Call to Awake").

Unfortunately, as is the case with most ambitious concept albums, the album does tend to lose steam towards the end, especially around the time the central thematic songs ("The Calm Before the Flood" and "Mabool") roll in: the (few) epic guitar solos, spoken word bits and instrumental sections leading up to and included in "Mabool" are overlong and less than convincing. Which is a shame, really: the string-quartet-to-metal-and-raspythroating crescendo in the title track is truly something. And "Nora El Nora" sounds like a Mediterranean drinking song, which is probably not the effect they were going for, considering it is likely to be about the hope of being saved from impending death by entering Noah's ark.

That having been said, Mabool is a superb, varied and compelling album that must be owned by all.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 02/2004

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