Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR
Century Media
Progressive Middle-Eastern Folk Metal
15 songs (1:18:18)
Release year: 2010
Orphaned Land, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Israel's finest export have a new album out, and it's fitting that the theme chosen is that of a fight to spread light ('or' meaning 'light', for those confused by the title). Orphaned Land themselves are warriors of light in the spreading of their message of harmony between races, and their gigs are known to bring together Jew and Muslim in united appreciation of the music, something that is rare in that all-too orphaned land. My colleague Alex has praised the band elsewhere for this, and highlighted it as one of the ways Metal can bring people together rather than push them apart - a feature of our great genre that we're collectively, reader and writer, guilty of paying less attention to than, say, the racist whining of the NSBM scene.

Listening to The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR, it's hard to imagine why anyone would choose the hateful over the loving, the ugly over the beautiful. Catchy opener Sapari is a great example, a deceptively straightforward duet between Kobi Farhi and female vocalist par excellence Shlomit Levi that positively writhes with joyous life as it mixes modern metal and traditional folk, technical drumming with that added Eastern percussive feel. The differences between this and Mabool are immediately obvious - fewer growls, more female vocals, and a slightly more traditional Prog Metal feel as opposed to Mabool's near-symphonic folk complexity. Of course, this is still very folky and complex music - the choice of Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson as producer (and keyboardist) was an inspired one, and you can hear his influence in the likes of From Broken Vessels, a seven-minute twisted and original Prog Metal track which takes several diverse routes, building exploratory constructions and letting them fall as familiar melodies return in wonderfully subtle ways. It's impressive stuff even if you're not aware of it, and makes for an engaging album even with its seventy minutes-plus running time.

Despite that scary-looking length, I can't see anyone growing bored with this album quickly, if ever. In any other band's hands, the likes of acoustic interlude Bereft In The Abyss would be dull and soon marked for the skip button, but for Orphaned Land they are part and parcel of the whole experience, and fit in wonderfully with the more metal songs. Tracks like The Path parts 1 and 2 are as much made up of traditional instruments as they are the rock standards, and the melodic lead guitars work with the folky elements perfectly. The more extreme Doom and Death elements may have gone with time (in case you weren't aware, the band have been around for nearly twenty years) but growls do remain here and there, although they're sparingly used and could easily have been dropped altogether without any loss to the music, in my view. Kobi's clean vocals are beautiful, a kind of Israeli Mikael Ã…kerfeldt in some ways, and he more than carries the music - music that is excellently played, of course, guests aside from Levi and Wilson including Nizar Radwan on violin and Yonatan Danino on shofar, a Jewish wind instrument made from a ram's horn.

Songwriting is even better than before - where Mabool took time to seize you, ORwarriOR grips instantly. Although it's mostly midpaced, the bursts of speed on the likes of The Path Part 2 - The Pilgrimage to Or Shalem are brilliant, the Heavy Metal gallop of Olat Ha'tamid ('eternal offerings', roughly) another example. No Prog Metal fan will fail to love the orchestral-backed The Warrior, which easily beats everything from Nightwish's last album in terms of restrained grandeur, and even though Disciples Of The Sacred Oath pt 2 is the longest track present at just over eight minutes long, it's still a hell of a ride, some of the best usage of flute this side of Jethro Tull and nice crunchy Metal coming together in one kickass track. The Gothic tinges of Vayehi Or are like Paradise Lost if they came from the Middle East, and Barakah brings the ethnic elements to the front and allows them full reign before the headbanging guitars return. To be honest, it'll take a few listens for Mabool fans not to feel a little disappointed, as ORwarriOR isn't quite a continuation of that album, but this is in every respect brilliant, ending pieces like Codeword: Uprising and In Thy Never Ending Way as good as the initial tracks. Give it time, and this reveals itself to be the highly praised Mabool's equal, if not better - Orphaned Land deserve every bit of hype.

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Killing Songs :
Sapari, From Broken Vessels, The Path pts 1 and 2, The Warrior, Disciples Of The Sacred Oath pt 2, New Jerusalem, Vayehi Or, Barakah
Goat quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Orphaned Land that we have reviewed:
Orphaned Land - All Is One reviewed by Andy and quoted 85 / 100
Orphaned Land - Mabool : The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven reviewed by Jack and quoted 95 / 100
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