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Orphaned Land - "The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" (CD)

Orphaned Land - "The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" CD cover image

"The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" track listing:

Part I: Godfrey's Cordial – An ORphan's Life
1. Sapari (4:04)
2. From Broken Vessels (7:36)
3. Bereft in the Abyss (2:45)
4. The Path (Part 1) Treading Through Darkness (7:27)
5. The Path (Part 2) The Pilgrimage to Or Shalem (7:45)
6. Olat Ha'tamid (2:38)

Part II: Lips Acquire Stains – The WarriOR Awakens
7. The Warrior (7:11)
8. His Leaf Shall Not Wither (2:31)
9. Disciples of the Sacred Oath II (8:31)
10. New Jerusalem (6:59)
11. Vayehi Or (2:40)
12. M i ? (3:27)

Part III: Barakah – Enlightening the Cimmerian
13. Barakah (4:13)
14. Codeword: Uprising (5:25)
15. In Thy Never Ending Way (Epilogue) (5:09)

Bonus Track
16. Estarabim (Erkin Koray Cover) (5:13)

Reviewed by on May 14, 2010

"...by the time you finally find your way to the oasis you will be covered in goose bumps."

Orphaned Land is a heavy metal band from Israel, and that alone should pique interest. The fact they deliver an attractive blend of prog, death, and doom while singing in English, Hebrew, and Arabic should actively turn some heads. Furthermore, the fact that six years have passed since the release of the critically acclaimed “Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven,” which itself took seven years to release, adds more mysticism to the mystery. Orphaned Land’s most recent release, “The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR” delivers even larger doses of the successful formula developed on “Mabool,” and arguably goes too far.

A surprisingly tight rocker, “Sapari” is the lead single and starts “The Never Ending Way of OrwarriOR” off well. “From Broken Vessels” expands the palette by adding Opeth-style progressive death metal and a plethora of growls from lead vocalist Kobi Farhi into the meandering cut. The third song, “Bereft in the Abyss,” is a short, lyrical acoustic piece that features Farhi’s clean croon and lots of Middle Eastern flair. “The Path (Part 1)” ties all those musical concepts together in a winding, twisting and thrilling prog-metal masterpiece. These four songs (and the entire album) have heavy Middle Eastern melody, instruments, and influences adding to the already excellent craftsmanship. So far, so good.

But from there, Orphaned Land gets farther and farther into their own navels. They don’t fly off the rails as much as they and wander off and float away. Mixing extended progressive jam sessions with short-and-gentle interludes, the album glides around the extreme metal landscape, bouncing between Opeth-style growls, chugging death/doom, and Dream Theater-style guitar-and-keys lead fests.

“The Path (Part 2)” is an extended progressive piece that doesn’t really add much to the first part. Sure, there are some good moments (the bridge lead with backing vocals around the five-minute mark comes to mind), but on the whole we’ve walked this road many times before already on “ORwarriOR,” and have many more times to go. Part I closer “Olat Ha’tamid” takes a jaunty Middle Eastern melody and transposes it into a metal riff fest, leading into Part II opener “The Warrior.” Starting with a dramatic spoken word opening, “The Warrior” ultimately builds into more guitar-fed prog chops. On its own, “The Warrior” is another good prog-metal composition, but here it gets buried under its own weight.

The album measures in at an impressive 79 minutes, and that doesn’t include the bonus track. That is a lot of time to fill, and we get the impression that if compact discs held more than 80 minutes of music, Orphaned Land would have filled that time too. Writing the music to fit the lyrical theme of light versus darkness, represented by ORwarriOR (light warrior), the thinly veiled metaphor and plea for peace is not surprising given the social and political climate of the Middle East. But the story itself drags out, leading to extended musical jams to cover all the thematic points. Producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) should have done much more to cut and edit the album, instead of looking for another arena for his own genius, as rumor has it (the phone/modem sounds on “Sapari” are completely unnecessary and out of place, for example).

The story of ORwarriOR is a long, dramatic and detailed one, and Orphaned Land has a big message to deliver. And fittingly Orphaned Land has written long, dramatic, detailed and big music to go along. If, like me, you enjoy getting lost in deep mazes and huge bazaars of fantastically composed and dramatic progressive metal, then by the time you finally find your way to the oasis you will be covered in goose bumps. But if you prefer a focused and lean metal machine, than these troubadours will not give you the answers you seek.

Highs: “The Path (Part 1)” is a fantastic prog-metal masterpiece.

Lows: The album is much too long.

Bottom line: Israeli prog metal that is fantastic and unfortunately fantastically long too.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)