Orphaned Land - Mabool

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8152-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:38:00

While many artists (in any genre) are using middle-eastern elements to accent their music, there is something a little more authentic when a band from that region incorporates their culture into their music, and that's the case with Israel's Orphaned Land. While Orphaned Land (henceforth OL) are classified as a metal band - their record label alone suggests that - the music contained within is not entirely metal. In fact, if one were excerpt the instrumental "The Calm Before The Flood" you might think you were listening to something by a contemporary instrumental artist, the kind you find on Narada, for instance. It's fragile and airy, atmospheric and ambient, really setting the mood of calm? and by the end, eerily calm. And yet, in parts of "The Halo Dies (The Wrath Of God)" you'd have to call them a death-metal styled band (though in other parts, heavier prog rock). And yet again, listen to "Mabool," and we'd have to put them in the classical section? at least until The Flood comes. Here guitars essentially take over for a good portion of the track as the intensity builds like a deluge of rain cascading from the sky and remains quite lyrical, and cinematic. Oh yes, here again we get those "cookie monster" vocals, too.

So, to assign any one style to Orphaned Land would be too limiting. There are times where the classic elements seem hurried, as on the title track "Mabool." The latter half of this track ? Evergrey like metal - suggests a climax of sorts to the story, and so a slightly frenzied feeling is expected, but the classic element is still a just a shade too hurried, too soon to make this effect really work out. But maybe I'm being hypercritical on this point.

There are beautiful sections (tracks) to the story like "Building The Ark," where plucked guitar strings, acoustic and electric, give OL a world music feel (oddly, in any other genre, they'd be a world music artist). It's a piece that will remind one as well of a certain well-respected Swedish outfit? And "Norra El Norra," prompted this thought: what would the Beatles have sounded like if they had been Israeli? Listen to the first few moments here, and we might get the answer, but the track gets significantly heavier within a short order. But it also includes a beautiful piano passage to close it out, and in sections you can practically dance to it. I thought of Guy Manning's latest CD here, View?, which also has middle-eastern themes (and I'm sure I'm the only one reviewing this CD making that comparison). Each of these examples underscore that this is a band that can't be easily categorized. Bring someone else to mind? If you blurted out Pain Of Salvation, we're on the same wavelength (if not, pretend you did). OL don't sound like POS, but like POS, this is not just death metal, it's not just prog metal, or symphonic metal? or even just metal. Wonderful diversity, I say. My favorite track is "Ocean Land," which incorporates nearly every element heard here, and it is the track that "sold" me, "cookie monster" vocals and all. But, it's "The Kiss Of Babylon" that is probably the synthesis of what defines OL, as everyone and everything gets time in the spotlight. But "Building?" is quite the highlight, too.

OL are able to mix both death and clean vocals easily interchangeably - Kobi Farhi handling both. I personally prefer the clean vocals (which are in the majority), but the death vocals don't so dominate the mix that they become the sole focal point. In fact, given the concept of the album, here the death vocals are wholly appropriate in developing the theme. Some may not like the "back of the throat" way that Farhi sings, but I think it is a fine and soothing voice that works perfectly with the music and concept. That concept is "The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven" where we follow the three sons in the form of the snake (Judaism), the eagle (Islam) and the lion (Christianity) as they "attempt to stop the raging storm that eventually fills, covers and destroys the sinful Orphaned Land." That is, The Flood (you know, Noah and his Ark, rain for 40 days and nights, etc.). The lyrics are sung mostly in English, but, also in Hebrew, Arabic, Yemeni, and Latin, as well as a "language" (or gibberish) that the band created themselves.

If you like guitar solos and magnificent playing then you will find plenty of it here - OL have a dual attack of Yossi Sassi and Matti Svatitzki. Just fantastic, lyrical and expressive as guitars intertwine around the rhythm and vocals. An example is in the otherwise heavy, chugging "The Kiss Of Babylon" (which at times made me think of Pallas, actually). Their arsenal includes 6 & 7 string electric guitars, acoustic and classical guitars, as well as Sassi on saz, buzuki and oud. And drummer Avi Diamand plays with a lot of power, no more so than on "The Kiss Of Babylon" and "Norra El Norra," the latter of which is verily explosive and martial without being showy. On bass is Uri Zelcha and on keyboards Eden Rabin, the later of whom gets to play some beautiful passages ("Halo Dies"), some piano like (that stunningly beautiful solo on "Norra El Norra"). The album closes on the acoustic guitar piece "Rainbow (The Resurrection)" which includes the prominent chirping of birds.

"A Call To Awake" plays against expectation, as the chorus is not the most prominent aspect to the song, as things drop down, where the vocals become understated, though musically, the intensity remains at an even keel. Fantastic solo from Sassi here, too. It's such a high energy track that it makes the dramatic shift for that chorus all the more so. Rabin's keys are all over the place on this track, and yet perfectly woven into the mix. Great stuff.

In total there are 12 tracks, and OL are joined by various guests, most obviously the gorgeously voiced female singer whose a cappella vocals feature in the outro to "The Kiss Of Babylon," leading right into the fantastic, warm, and mostly acoustic "A'salk." The rhythm here is quite sinewy, and at barely over two minutes, far too short. It's an album full of subtleties, which means you need to give it a deep listen. And doing so is well worth the effort. Their last release prior to Mabool was 1996's El Norra Alila. It was the turbulence in Israel and the region on general that had the band put their music career on hold, until reforming in 2003. Though I haven't heard the band's previous albums, this sounds like a band that hasn't missed a step, re-emerging with a winner. Though much attention will be drawn by their history, and their location, they create a fantastic mix of styles that this is what have Mabool drawing top accolades at year's end.

Birth Of The Three (The Unification) (6:57) / Ocean Land (The Revelation) (4:43) / The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins) (7:23) / A'salk (2:05) / Halo Dies (The Wrath Of God) (7:29) / A Call To Awake (The Quest) (6:10) / Building The Ark (5:02) / Norra El Norra (Entering The Ark) (4:24) / The Calm Before The Flood (4:25) / Mabool (The Flood) (6:59) / The Storm Still Rages Inside (9:20) / Rainbow (The Resurrection) (3:01)

Kobi Farhi - vocals
Yossi Sassi - guitars, saz, buzuki, oud
Matti Svatitzki - guitars
Uri Zelcha - bass
Avi Diamand - drums
Eden Rabin - keyboards

The Beloved's Cry (demo) (1993)
Sahara (1994)
El Norra Alila (1996)
Mabool - The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven (2004)
Ararat (EP) (2005)
The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR (2010)
The Road To OR-Shalem - Live At The Reading 3, Tel-Aviv (2011)
All Is One (2013)
Sukkot In Berlin (EP) (2015)
Orphaned Land & Friends (2017)
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs (2018)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin IL

Added: June 7th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.orphaned-land.com
Hits: 2466
Language: english


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