Orphaned Land

The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

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Much like peace talks in the Middle East, it takes patience to be a fan of Orphaned Land -- the acclaimed Israeli heavy metal band that, as of 2010, had released but four studio albums during a career spanning nearly 20 years! But then, there are few albums in any musical genre as ambitious in scope as Orphaned Land's, and the seemingly impossibly high standards achieved by 2004's Mabool (which essentially set the story of Noah's Ark to music) inevitably forced the bandmembers to spare no effort in a bid to top themselves with their next magnum opus, The Never Ending Way of the ORwarriOR, six years later. This time, the conceptual thread of choice is a little less specific (it deals with a "warrior of light" struggling against the forces of darkness), but the musical palette may be even more daunting and far-reaching, as evidenced by the utterly fearless, almost reckless, manner in which the musicians behind Orphaned Land combine the harshest extreme and traditional metal elements with a multitude of Middle Eastern folk styles and rhythms (and instrumentation) -- most of them at the very opposite edge of the dynamic spectrum (i.e. not heavy!) -- within the same songs. Consider too that the band constantly enlists female vocalist Shlomit Levi to provide added tonal contrast, well as a string section performed by the Arab Orchestra of Nazareth on a few tracks, and that versatile vocalist Kobi Farhi intones his alternately gruff black metal shrieks, clean singing, and ethnic chanting in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. In sum, there's so much going on at once that not even the usually all-forgiving "progressive" description really does the music proper justice -- the negative side of this assertion being that, though Orphaned Land truly offer something for everyone, it may not always be enough of any given thing for most heavy metal fans, only a fraction of whom will be open-minded enough to cope with it all. Nevertheless, it's impossible to remain unmoved by the stupefying breadth of metallic and non-metallic sounds traversed by these generous 15 tracks, which last a CD-busting 78 minutes, and may indeed require another half-decade gap between albums for listeners to come to terms with all of the ideas that Orphaned Land managed to cram into The Never Ending Way of the ORwarriOR.

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