• Entertaining soundtrack for an epic theater play - A review of Orphaned Land's & Amaseffer's ''Kna'an''

    Orphaned Land & Amaseffer - Kna'an (2016)

    Kna'an is a collaboration between Israeli Middle Eastern folk metal groups Amaseffer and Orphaned Land. The goal was to write a soundtrack for a German theater play about Abraham's journey to Canaan. Even though this initiative originally came from a German theater director, both bands accepted the challenge since the topic plays an essential role in Christianity, Islam and Judaism alike. The promotion for the peaceful coexistence of these three religions has always been an essential goal for both bands. 

    The final result is quite different from what we usually get from both bands aside of the religious topic, the intellectual lyrics and the epic storytelling. Kna'an offers thirteen short and concise songs that focus on the theatrical atmosphere carried by numerous female and male singers, majestic choirs and simple yet emotional melodies. Many songs are carried by appeasing acoustic guitar melodies and elegant string passages along with the dominant vocal performances. The album is overall dominated by harmonious new age and neofolk sounds where classical music meets folk music in a balanced way with a few minimal rock and metal influences in a few selected songs. 

    Only few tracks offer plugged guitars and riffs recalling the band's metal works. The few heavier tunes have a mid-paced to slow vibe and an overall softer production than usual. The throaty vocals and the simple main riff in ''The Angel of the Lord'', the classic doom metal riffs in the beginning of ''The Burning Garden - Sarah and Hagar'' and the slow guitar melodies in ''Akeda'' are among the strongest heavier moments of this collaboration.

    While the album offers a harmonious balance of acoustic and calm songs carried only by the most essential instruments and one vocalist on one side and more diversified and vivid tracks with multiple vocalists and instruments on the other side, the vocal performances themselves are a little bit too melodramatic, pathetic and ironically also theatrical in my opinion. In his best moments, Kobi Farhi's calm, fragile and slightly menacing vocals recall Manuel Munoz of Arkan while his higher, louder and more vivid vocal melodies sound a little bit whiny, weak and overall exaggerated. It's the same case for the female guest vocals that work well in the calmer moments but sound too overwhelming in the more symphonic passages.

    In the end, this record is first of all the soundtrack for a theater play about Abraham's journey to Canaan and it serves its purpose by building up an epic atmosphere somewhere between neofolk, new age and classical music. Especially the last tracks including the heavier and dramatic ''Akeda'', the melancholic and mysterious ''Fruits from Different Trees - Ishma'el and Itzhak'' and the harmonious and reconciliatory closer ''Prisoners of the Past'' where all vocalists harmonize perfectly are great compositions that develop a majestic atmosphere. While the instrumental level is diversified yet distinct and never overwhelming, the vocal parts sound a little bit too forced in the more vivid passages throughout the record. What we get is an entertaining soundtrack that will open up to those interested in the concept itself and not necessarily in the original bands. Those who are expecting heavier sounds and more progressive song structures as on the band's regular outputs might be disappointed.

    Final rating: 8/10

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