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Sunday Old School: Orphaned Land

Folk metal has become one of the more popular sub genres among rockers in the current age. While it was pioneered by the likes of Skyclad and Cruachan, it has gone on to produce stars such as Korpiklaani and Finntroll. However, one country which has the ingredients to make a great folk metal band is Israel, for it contains a mix of rich folklore from both Jewish and Arab populations, as well as the tense atmosphere and constant threat of war which contributes to the metal style so well. One of the country's most well known bands, as well as one of the world's most popular folk metal groups, would be Orphaned Land.

The band were formed in 1991, by vocalist Kobi Farhi, bass player Uri Zelcha, guitarists Matti Svatizky and Yossi Sassi and drummer Sami Bachar, originally going by the name Resurrection, before changing their moniker to the more familiar Orphaned Land. The group slogged it out in the club scene, eventually recording a demo in 1993 entitled, "The Beloved's Cry," which was met with very strong praise from the metal underground and gained the attention of French record label, Holy Records, who soon snapped up the band.

The next year, Orphaned Land released their debut full length album, "Sahara," which included four tracks from the "Beloved's Cry" demo, as well as one of their early fan favourites, "Ornaments of Gold." The album also had a striking front cover, featuring a photograph of the famous Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, also known as the Blue Mosque for obvious reasons. Much like the preceding demo, the album received great feedback from both listeners and critics alike, excited at the prospect of a talented metal group emerging from the Middle East.

Two years later, the group released their sophomore album, "El Norra Alila," which saw them increase their Middle Eastern folk music influences greatly. The record takes its title from "El Nora Alila," a piyyut sung during the conclusion of the high holiday, Yom Kippur. Following the release of the album, the group were forced to go on a hiatus of sorts in 1997, owing to the problems they were dealing with in their homeland of Israel.

Eventually, Orphaned Land resurfaced, initially under the moniker "The Calm Before the Flood" for shows in Istanbul in 2001 and Tel Aviv in 2002, in addition to an acoustic set, before reverting to the Orphaned Land name. They began writing new material, which caught the attention of German label Century Media, itself home to some heavy hitters such as Lacuna Coil and Moonspell, to whom they signed with and released their third album, "Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven," in 2004. It was a concept album, dealing with the story of three sons, representing the three Abrahamic religions who attempt to warn humanity of an impending flood.

With a new album out and a bigger label behind them, the band began experiencing a greater exposure than before, releasing an EP, "Ararat" in 2005, which included a cover of the Paradise Lost song, "Mercy," before appearing in the 2008 documentary "Global Metal" along with such acts as Kryptos and Sigh. However, it would be another six years before they released another full length album, which came in 2010 in the form of, "The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR." They promoted the album at first by supporting Metallica in Israel before appearing at a number of festivals including Summer Breeze and Wacken Open Air. The album also contained the song, "Sapari," an arrangement of a Yemeni folk song which has gone on to become one of their most popular recordings, becoming another live favourite.

Orphaned Land continued to see their profile rise, embarking on tours with the likes of Katatonia in North America and Amorphis in Europe, as well as releasing their first live album/DVD, "The Road To OR-Shalem." Following these accomplishments, Matty Svatitzky decided to quit in 2012, with his place being taken by Chen Balbus, who made his recording debut with the band on their fifth album, "All Is One." As the title suggests, the record deals primarily with their message of peace, particularly in their efforts to bring together Christians, Muslims and Jews, which was explored in greater detail on songs such as "Brother," which dealt with the falling out between Isaac and Ismael, the sons of Abraham who are believed to have been offered as a sacrifice as part of a test by God in Judaism/Christianity and Islam respectively. Orphaned Land are currently working on a new studio album, which is expected to be out next year and will no doubt only continue to see their place as one of the Middle East's most respected metal bands cemented.

Orphaned Land - "Ornaments Of Gold"

Orphaned Land - "Norra El Norra"

Orphaned Land - "Ocean Land"

Orphaned Land - "Mercy"

Orphaned Land - "Sapari"

Orphaned Land - "All Is One"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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1 Comment on "Sunday Old School: Orphaned Land"

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1. Drum_Junkie writes:

Awesome SOS. I had no idea they had been around that long.

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