Genre: Progressive Metal
Running Time: 78:23
Coming all the way from the dusty dunes of the Middle East, straight from the doorstep of Jerusalem, I give you Orphaned Land, progenitors of Israeli progressive/death metal.
It has been a long wait since thier last album, 2004's Mabool, but Orphaned Land proves the wait was worth it. The Never Ending Way of the ORwarriOR, is an imposing opus that reminds us of everything that's great about progressive death metal, and the method of delivery is probably unlike anything you've been listening to recently.
Orphaned Land works its magic by combining metal guitar riffing with acoustic, middle eastern folk inspired soundscapes. They remind me of a Middle Eastern Opeth. Both bands have folk influences.
Think of Opeth cuts like "Patterns in the Ivy" and you can get a sense of what I mean. And the combination of melodic and death vocals present on ORwarriOR is something else that Mikael Akerfeldt is well known for.
Vocalist Kobi Farhl has one of the best clean singing voices in the genre. The first several tracks on Mabool placed more an emphasis on growled vocals, but ORwarriOR focuses more heavily on actual singing. As a death growler, Farhl doesn't sound like a natural but he's adequate.
What he does possess is a truly epic, inspiring, and uplifting voice. He unleashes the full majestic quality of his voice on songs like New Jerusalem and Bereft in the Abyss, but whether he's singing, chanting, or shrieking, Farhl is guaranteed to astound you.
Also integral to the Orphaned Land mix is guitarist Yossi Sassi Sa'aron. Primarily, he's a beautiful melodic guitarist, but is also capable of delivering deafening blasts of metal riffery to deliver a shock to your senses. For proof, check out "From Broken Vessels" or "Barakah."
Sa'aron also proves himself capable of delivering spectacular guitar solos. The extended guitar outro on "The Warrior" is a wonderful example, but his solo on "Disciples of the Sacred Oath 2" is in another league. The aura delivered by the notes ringing from Sa'aron's guitar sears through the atmosphere like a heat wave rolling out of the Arabian deserts.
The female vocals delivered by Shiomit Levi provides another magical facet to the Orphaned Land recipe. She's used sparingly, but the contributions she makes on "Sapari" and "New Jerusalem" help take those tracks to the next level.
The Never Ending Way of the ORwarriOR is an epic journey, meant to be listened to as a whole, but if there's one standout track I'd recommend you listen to it would be Sapari. "Sapari" features Levi's alluring vocals followed by Arabian-sounding chants while Yossi Sassi Saron's guitar cuts through everything like a knife. The two vocalists do an expert job of playing off each other.
There are many subtle things that Orphaned Land do that make all the difference in their music, and this "Sapari" exemplifies that as well as any other. There's a great octave shift that occurs later in the song, which provides the song with a whole new level of intensity.
What I also liked is there's a refrain where the guitar riff always stops. It serves as an epic buildup to the final refrain at the 3 minute mark where the guitar just continues straight on through. It's a small touch, but it makes all the difference.
Lyric writing also proves to be another of Orphaned Land's strong suits. They tell of an epic struggle between light and darkness, and of the journey to confront evil. The lyrics also pull verses from the Bible and the Koran to provide a more authentic feel.
As with any progressive metal album, there are some moments where the album tends to drag a little bit but Orphaned Land do a good job of staying grounded and never sound too over the top. The drumming is good but I feel that it takes a backseat to the rest of the instruments and that the drummer gets forgotten about some of the time.
It's not a major complaint but I think the album would be even more amazing if the drums took a more central role some of the time. I also feel like Sa'aron's guitar solos were slightly better on Mabool, but Orphaned Land fans won't be disappointed with what he comes up with here.
All that aside, though, Orphaned Land have really outdone themselves this time and are almost a lock for metal album of the year. The Never Ending Way of the ORwarriOR is deeper than the secrets of the Nile and grander than the halls of King David. This album is a mandatory listen in 2010.