The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
4/16/2010 - Review by: Raising Iron
Well, after six long years Orphaned Land has finally released their follow-up to the genius that was Mabool from 2004. The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR is the title of this latest release, and the band continue to seamlessly meld their authentic, middle eastern instrumentation with progressive metal ideals to great aplomb. The songs here are constructed with even greater depth than on Mabool (yeah, I know, hard to believe), and as such this release will probably alienate as many metalheads as they win over.
Here's the crux of the matter: progressive metal in and of itself tends to alienate bangers due to the cerebral attentiveness required to enjoy such excursions; for many, they just want to sing and bang along to catchy hooks, driving riffs, etc., and of course there's nothing wrong with that, but as such many of our progressive purveyors go unappreciated by the mainstream punter. Enter Orphaned Land circa 2010; talk about rich song-writing, this 78 minute journey will leave the uninitiated completely bewildered, and it's taken me a good half dozen listens just to begin to hear everything that's going on. It's no wonder it took the group several years to complete this thing, every last note is painstakingly placed, there's no doubt these fifteen tracks were constantly evolving during the song-writing process. I tell ya fellow headbangers, this is pure genius. If you liked Mabool or any of their earlier works, you're definitely going to like this. It's tempting to suggest the disc runtime should've been shorter, but that would've only diminished the return on the invested listening. Let's face it, not enough people are going to delve into this to bring about huge sales and full-scale tours, which is a damn shame, but it's completely understandable.
Orphaned Land continues to compose with their Middle-Eastern flair, and it's never been more dominant than here on ORwarriOR. The disc is rich with their countries musical roots, and the metal is really secondary here. The entire thing moves along as one large piece (as concept albums tend to do) instead of fifteen individual tracks, and Kobi Farhi's tender tenor never sounded so rich, augmented by the beautiful strains of Ms. Shlomit Levi, who also leant her voice to Mabool. Kobi only occasionally uses his death growls, but they are well placed. When things do get metal as on track 5, "The Path, Part 2", the leads are absolutely engaging, highly melodic, adding to their own telling of the story; see track 7, "The Warrior", for another example. Mabool contained a handful of songs that could obviously stand alone, great for stage fodder, but it's hard to say what those might be here. The lead track, "Sapari", is probably the only overt single, and it's already been released as such.
Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree produced, and his acumen for knob-twiddling now stands in high regard and unquestioned; just one listen to the acoustic instruments' authentic shine will reveal why he's quickly becoming such a highly sought after mixer/producer. Check out "New Jerusalem", the subtle layering of Ms. Levi's vocals intertwined with the bouzouki, saz, or oud (not sure which!) is pure bliss, the heavy staccato guitar riffing entering the fray not disturbing or pushing aside any of the notes expressed.
The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR is absolutely stunning from beginning to end, a real treat for those willing to invest the time into it, and Orphaned Land have excelled to the highest echelon of the progressive metal pantheon, as they are truly an original entity, not sounding like any but themselves. This very fact affords them a slightly greater appreciation among metal fans than many of their contemporaries, for, setting aside skill, talent, and deft musicianship, originality goes a long way in the battle for recognition in our often fickle and befuddling genre.
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