There are many words that could be used to describe this fourth full-length release from Israel's ORPHANED LAND, but perhaps none does it better than, simply, “beautiful.”
Given that this album's predecessor, “Mabool,” was one of the most critically-acclaimed Metal releases of the decade, this album was anticipated with potentially impossible-to-achieve expectations. Very few bands ever achieve such a magnificent, defining moment as ORPHANED LAND had done, and among those that do, the same magic is rarely achieved a second time. The follow-up was practically doomed from the beginning to disappoint.
Fortunately, every so often lightning does strike the same place twice, and such is the case with “The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR.” With this album, the band have again raised the quality standard not only for the small but growing number of bands fusing Metal with Middle Eastern Folk music, but for the Folk Metal genre as a whole.
What sets this apart is the degree to which Metal and traditional sounds have been integrated. This is not a cobbled-together, Metal with some Folk melody overlays or breakdowns added to it. This is a singular composition – a true hybrid sound for which neither the contemporary nor the traditional elements could exist without one another. The deftness with which the band achieve this is so simple as to almost escape detection, but the trick here is the manner in which the melodies are orchestrated, with Folk elements being played sometimes using traditional instruments, sometimes using modern instruments. This creates a seamlessness to the sound, and displays the band's innate talent for arrangements.
This album is a bit of a growth in some ways as well. Whereas the “Mabool” storyline and composition had a strong sense of antiquity associated with them, “The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR” seems much more focused on the Holy Land in modern times, juxtaposing the contemporary and the ancient. As mentioned, the music maintains a high degree of Folk melody and instrumentation. Yet at the same time, there are many subtleties in the overall arrangement that place this in a contemporaneous setting. Several songs, such as “Olat Ha'tamid” open with a traditional music recorded with lower fidelity production quality, and then go on to transition to heavier elements with a cleaner production, creating a bridge between historical and contemporary setting. Likewise, the band has introduced snippets of orchestration into the sound, which makes the music sound not only more full, but more influenced by a world culture outside the immediate surroundings of the participants in the album's lyrical concept. All of this skillfully channels the tensions that exist in that portion of the world - the pull that exists between tradition and modernity, between local ties and global influences.
ORPHANED LAND have done what should not have been possible – they have created something that is the equal to “Mabool” without simply duplicating it. They have created something, well, “beautiful.”
(Online June 15, 2010)