Sound — 8
Orphaned Land are a name most metal fans are likely to be aware of, whether they actually listen to, like or love their music or not. Given their relatively unique style of metal, their message and their positively received progression from album to album, there's a lot here to like, and their newest album is certainly the most accessible to date.
For those who don't know, imagine a metal band from Jerusalem. What exactly would that entail, musically speaking? Try infectious rhythms, exotic instrumentation, live choirs, mega-fancy production and all the trimmings, including gravy and a few pigs-in-blankets. Doesn't even sound like anything at all, they I've just put it, but bear with me here.
The first song pretty much sums up this album: An off-kilter beat and riff (sounds like 7/8 time signature) with amazingly effective bursts of choir, orchestral segments, incredibly accessible vocals, a great intermingling of middle-eastern scales and westernised melody reminiscent of Joe Satriani and similar '80s experimentalists. Their previous albums ("Mabool"-era) included less of these elements and a sound closer to Dark Tranquillity-styled melodeath, but you'd be hard pressed to see if that's at all apparent in this album, which is closer in style to fellow Middle Easterners Myrath, progressive influences and all.
Although this album is accessible, it's not in the way that's detrimental to the band. In a popular, catchy band, what sells is not any collaborative element of the music but whoever has the face of the band, usually the vocalist, such as Falling In Reverse (which is essentially Radke's childish fantasy). In Orphaned Land, there's no forced attempt to be sold. It feels like an album created solely by the musicians, using a method of writing that simply spreads their music even further than they could before with a lot of scope being used for atmosphere and setting. Very good sounding album.
Lyrics — 7
Our main vocalist is one Kobi Fahri, a rather charismatic singer with a great deal of expression behind his performances. Given the melodic density of the main body of music, his place in the sound is rather pronounced and really effective, his mid-ranged croon having a certain warmth and at the same time, feeling of uncertainty. In many ways, his style reminds me of SOAD vocalist Serj Tankian, the way he can pull emotion out of nowhere is something special, and his Israeli roots give his voice that distinctive vibrato that keeps to the epic style.
Lyrically, Orphaned Land's themes have been centred on polar opposites of extremes (East and West, light and darkness, etc.) with this album not having such a clear theme. As suggested by the song names, lyrics and album cover, this album puts forward a message of unity to corners of the world, claiming the common ground between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. This message is one of positivity, which is apparent when you go to an Orphaned Land live show and see a bunch of metalheads doing the circle dance chain things, which is always a sight to behold. There are some darker themes here and there, such as in the song "Fail" which is also one of the few songs to have harsh vocals (very very Mikael Stanne styled), and deals with a man disillusioned with the world and slowly becoming more and more nihilistic towards it. "Simple Man" talks from the standpoint of one Jesus H. McChrist, about how he feels his purpose is simply to be a teacher of men and not a supposed deity, which is a thing that should be addressed in this increasingly religiously aggressive world. These are really well penned and thoughtful lyrical themes and have been given a good platform for performance with this album.
Overall Impression — 7
This album hits a lot of the right buttons. If taken out of the context of "metal-genres and keeping up appearances," this album is still a really strong album, very pleasing to metal fans but with bits and pieces for all music lovers. Perhaps not revolutionary but still a very good addition to Orphaned Land's discography.
Songs to look out for: "All Is One," "The Simple Man," "Brother," "Fail," "Shama'im," "Children."