By Adam Wills
It has been a long six years since the release of Orphaned Land’s landmark album, Mabool, an album that continues to amaze me with its beautiful combination of Middle Eastern instrumentation combined with the familiarity of metal. Ever since word of their follow up album was out, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR – and with producer extraordinaire Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree and Opeth collaboration fame) on board to mix the album? Let’s just say expectations weren’t exactly low for this one.
Album opener “Sapari” doesn’t waste any time in showcasing the exotic sound that Orphaned Land have become masters at. Female vocalist Shiomit Levi’s voice is right up front from the get go, and provides a great contrast to main vocalist Kobi Farhi’s wide range of vocal styles (who provides everything from melodic chanting, to narrations, to growls). As the second track “From Broken Vessels” makes its way through a 7½ minute journey, a more progressive direction becomes apparent. Interludes of technical guitars with a wide range of tempos and beats scatter throughout the album, break up the flowing melodies and expand the album to a full 78+ minute epic prog monster.
However, this is my concern with the album. While …ORwarriOR is a beautiful crafted album, with some absolutely magnificent passages, its sheer length, both in song length (6 songs clocking in at 7 minutes+), and album length, there are many times when things seem a tad too tedious. Proggy breakdowns interrupt the flow of some otherwise incredible songs. One of the main reasons why Mabool was such an amazing listen was the incredible flow of the album. You could get lost in the album and, before you knew it, you were back on track 1. With ORwarriOR, I look at my cd display, and realize I’m still only on track 3.
Now don’t get me wrong – this is a technically sound album. The instrumentation is spot on, and Wilson did a superb in mixing such a sophisticated album. Vocal performances are inspired, and the combination of English, Hebrew and Arabic lyrics make for an exceptional listen. The shorter acoustic interludes provide a fresh break from the intensity of some of the heavier tracks. I can go on and on about what Orphaned Land did right. However, there is just that intangible “grabbing factor” that is missing, and I think the length of the album may be the biggest contributor. The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR will continue to earn continual runs in my CD player, as I continue to search for the moment that it really clicks – I know it’s going to be in there somewhere.
Keep an eye out for Orphaned Land’s upcoming North American appearances.
3/8 BB Kings – NYC
3/10 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QUE
3/13 Wreck Room – Toronto, ONT
3/14 Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL