Orphaned Land - _The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior_
(Century Media, 2010)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (9 out of 10)
"Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself." It is one of the most common pieces of advice you'll get around the world, but it's asking you to perform quite a herculean task, isn't it? Of course loving your urban neighbor is not really an easy thing to do, but many of us try to uphold this morale on a very small scale. Let's take that scale up a few grades and look at the same statement in a political framework. For the past two decades, we've seen Europeans coming together, forming a union, opening their borders and using the same currency. We've also seen the Egyptian state trying repeatedly, over many years, to facilitate negotiations between Palestine and Israel in the name of peace; all in the interest of "loving thy neighbor".

Our neighbors have had problems for a long time, and politics is just one way to go about solving these problems; luckily, there's also music. Music has the vicarious power that can bring people together despite their differences, and Israel's Orphaned Land are calling for exactly that in their fourth studio album _The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior_. It's a seventy-eight minute, tri-lingual musical journey through one of the most mystical parts of the earth, calling for the unity of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions; more particularly Islam and Judaism.

In his latest book "The Empathic Civilization", author Jeremy Rifkin coined the term Homo-empathicus. He argues that humans are inherently soft wired to feel the pain and distress of one another through empathy. The same goes for the opposing feelings of joy and happiness. Suffering and struggle are naturally against the basic human instincts of survival and co-habitation, and it is built into us to avoid and prevent them -- and that is the message behind _The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior_. It is a concept album about a fictional warrior of light who battles against darkness. The album tells the tale of Orwarrior and his esteemed task of uniting people of all religions in peace and harmony.

Musically speaking, progressive Middle-Eastern metal would probably be the tag of choice if it was necessary to find one. In addition to the standard metal instrumentation guitars, bass and drums, there's a piano, saz, oud, bouzouki and a chumbush (have fun googling them). Mastermind Kobi Farhi sings in Hebrew, Arabic and English, and thanks to the formidable production of the mighty Steven Wilson, the words will practically jump at you -- provided that you can actually understand the three languages. The riffs all over the album sound crisp and clear, yet not overly polished so as to lose their feel. The oriental percussion (mainly the tabla, among others) is integrated with the rest of the drum set, and it's used in exactly the right places in the songs. Case in point: "Codeword: Uprising".

The authentic instrumentation is put to tremendous use on "Bereft in the Abyss" and its cathartic successor "The Path Part 1 - Treading through Darkness", which sees Farhi ascending with his screams to a Mikael Stanne-like tone right before exploding with a captivating guitar melody. There are many tracks that stick to one's memory, but a couple of the more noteworthy cuts on this record are "The Warrior" and "New Jerusalem". The former tells the warrior's story, while the latter spectacularly fuses the region's musical measures with a powerful metallic build to describe a harmonious Jerusalem without conflict. Another great aspect about _The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior_ is the grace with which it coasts through various emotions with the music, never forcing one particular emotion as the prevalent one.

Complexity and intricacy are the building blocks of the music on _The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior_, and a culturally characteristic story with an optimistic outlook shapes the lyrics of Kobi Farhi. Though I have neither been the listener nor the reviewer who gives a huge chunk of attention to the lyrics, I can't find a more fitting way to end this review than the words that ended the album itself.

"Go in peace, and find thy faith Evolve thy self, and lose all hate So a heaven you may create"

Contact: http://www.orphaned-land.com/

(article published 3/6/2011)


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