Orphaned Land - All Is One (2013) - The Nobel Peace Prize of the metal world - 99% (29/05/14)
Orphaned Land is an ambitious band from Bat-Yam and Petah-Tikva in Israel that started as a death and doom metal band back in 1991. As time went by, the band shifted more and more towards Middle Eastern folk metal and developed a musical and lyrical approach that tries to unite the different cultures and religions of the Middle East. The band plays folk music with a heavy twist inspired by many intriguing subcultures. Their songs feature lyrics in Arabic, English, Hebrew, Latin, Turkish and more. Above all stands the clear message that people should unite and live peacefully together instead of fighting each other. All these elements caracterize this motivated and unique band. Some fans even started a petition to help the band getting the Nobel Prize for their commitment to allowing the Arab World to listen to their music despite ongoing conflicts and to spread their peaceful message. If you buy a new Orphaned Land record, the concept always plays a central role and you should be aware of that fact, have a minimum of knowledge about the different cultural and religious conflicts and be in favour of the message of peace to fully enjoy what the five band members and their high number of guest musicians on different exotic folk instruments, choir duties or orchestral arrangments do. To spread their message, the band has also become more and more accessible and soft without losing a certain progressive and symphonic inspiration. The band though quit growling passages apart of one short exception, brutal riffs or all too dark atmospheres in their sound. The music has become as positive as the message behind without sounding vapid but rather liberating and magical. "All Is One" is definitely the band's most accessible record and old fans might feel a little bit disappointed about that development but anybody else should immediately dig this release. Personally, I don't miss the band's earlier sound on here at all because these musicians have developed into something better and more important over the last ten years.
On the other side, the songs on here are catchier and less challenging than ever before. The epic half ballad "Brother," the symphonic folk metal opus "Let The Truce Be Known," or the joyful and danceable "The Simple Man" are instant hits and kick off the record on a very high note. My favourite song is though the opening title track "All is One" that isn't a far cry from Therion with its majestic symphonic arrangments, positively overwhelming choirs and charming Near Est folk melodies. This song is probably the best song the band has ever written.
The greatness doesn't stop after the first four tracks. An absolutely outstanding highlight is "Fail," one of the most thought out songs ever written in any musical genre. The track combines gripping narrative passages and dark and slow growls with enchanting clean vocals. Musically, the song includes dark and slow passages but also many melodic guitar riffs while the drumming turns out to be quite dynamical and diversified. The epic story that is told in six unique minutes is also worth some attention. This song doesn't stop creating colourful images in my mind. These six minutes definitely have more content than many entire albums, books or movies but it all sounds so light, peaceful and relaxing at the same time. Later on we get two duets with clean male and female vocals in Hebrew with "Shama 'Im" and in Arabic with "Ya Benaye." Both songs are exotic but accessible and transport a dreamy, positive and spiritual atmosphere. Both songs impress me much and are absolutely authentic and very interesting for those who are interested in foreign cultures and languages. For the very first time in the band's career, there are no unnecessary lengths and no filler tracks on this album. The album gets more and more experimental and progressive as it goes on instead.
In the end, these entertaining fifty-four minutes are a stunning and intellectually appealing discovery of different cultures, languages and even music genres that all are an essential part of the heart, mind and pulse of the Middle East. This record tells you more about this fascinating region than many documentaries I have watched. When you really take your time to listen to "All Is One," you can feel this certain kind of magic that only a few records have. This record is about more than just music because it builds a bridge between all these different cultures and despite this noble attempt, the music itself still remains catchy, emotional and innovating. That's where Orphaned Land become authetntic and sympathetic in comparison to the Bonos and Geldofs of this world even though I respect what these guys have done and are still doing. Orphaned Land though come directly from a place that is not always easy to live but they concretely try to make things better and they surely love their origins more than anything else. This album even beats the band's own groundbreaking 2004 progressive folk metal opus magnum "Mabool – The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven." Along with Amorphis' emotional firework "Circle" and Stratovarius addicting hit album "Nemesis," this album is definitely the best of the year 2013 on my list. There is no excuse for you to not try this record out right now.
Originally written for The Metal Observer« Back to R'Lyeh - The Awakening / Last Fight of the Primordial (2013) - Sophisticated potpourri under a Lovecraftian flag - 86% (29/05/14)Avantasia - The Mystery of Time (A Rock Epic) (2013) - A surprisingly convincing return to form - 79% (29/05/14) »
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