Review by Paul Castles
As someone who spends much of his free time devouring death metal releases where sinew-snapping singers seek to outdo each other with the most sadistic growl they can summon from the pits of their stomach, Orphaned Land offer a distinctly different portfolio. For a start they’re not from the US or Scandinavia but from Israel. I’m not entirely devoid of knowledge of the Middle Eastern metal movement having enjoyed Melechesh for a few years but nevertheless Orphaned Land are not an easy act to pigeonhole. All Is One is their sixth album but quite possibly the one that offers a metal audience its biggest challenge with its Yemen and Turkish elements woven into it like some kind of mystical Arabian carpet.
Although vocalist Kobi Farhi has not shied away from the occasional deep death metal delivery in the past, this album is almost entirely devoid of it, ‘Fail’ being the only track where he gets the urge to cough up a growl. He has a distinctive tone and quirky delivery that on tracks such as ‘The Simple Man’ bare more than a passing resemblance to another singer from a faraway land, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian. It successfully amalgamates a broad church of Middle Eastern influences but the vocals are pretty clean.
That isn’t to say All Is One is not an engaging album, it is. There are some inspirational moments wrapped up in it with the opening title track enjoying the backing of a magnificent 25-strong choir. The pervading culture clash that resonates throughout means that you can almost taste the eclectic collision of smells and flavours as though you’re listening to it in a Middle Eastern street bazaar. While such ambience has always run through their veins All Is One sees Orphaned Land delve even deeper into their cosmopolitan culture. On the energetic ‘Through Fire and Water’, as well as featuring female backing vocals it also sees Kobi singing in Hebrew and Arabic.
Lyrically, Orphaned Land are understandably heavily influenced by the conflict that has practically been a permanent fixture of their homeland since time immemorial and the touching ballad ‘Brother’ is guaranteed to set the neck hairs standing to attention like tulips. Their unifying theme of trying to break down the Israeli-Palestine barriers such as on ‘Let The Truce Be Known’ sadly won’t make a jot of difference to the permanent instability that sadly passes for normality in this bloodied part of the world. It will show though that there is more to this region than hatred and conflict. In that respect Orphaned Land are fine ambassadors for their nation.
Three years ago their album The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR was widely acclaimed but All is One differs on a number of levels. Chen Balbus has replaced Matti Svatizky on guitar and the sound is now cleaner while the songs are more concise. Their forthcoming UK tour and in particular their visit to Bilston on November 12 at the Robin2 is something I will look forward to.
7 out of 10
- All Is One
- The Simple Man
- Let The Truce Be Known
- Through Fire And Water
- Ya Benaye
- Our Own Messiah