Orphaned Land, a 26-year-old band from Israel, are unique in metal, a peace ambassador to a tortured occupation zone. A strong fan base makes an Orphaned Land concert a pilgrimage to Hope-istan. Regardless of ambition and cock-eyed self-awareness, Orphaned Land are one of the world’s finest progressive metal bands and Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs may be the best album of their prolific career.
The band’s music is an easily acquired taste, if you can pull yourself away from the latest crash-cart of Finnish death metal. “Only The Dead Have Seen The End of War” (Plato quipped 2200 years ago) is a crown jewel of comfort-zone metal with a smaller heap of the mid-eastern orchestration that adorns the album’s other tracks. For comparison’s sake, Orphaned Land navigate through the same sand storms as Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Opeth-lite and Bollywood soundtracks.
Orphaned Land are a sound unto itself, with a message that bars it from Behemoth concerts. The 70mm epic of the album’s opener, “The Cave,” spills all that the band offers in east of the Nile folksy instrumentation, double-harmonic Arabic scales, choral groups wider than the Euphrates and enough progressive metal to realize that this 9 minute experience is not a mish-mash of world music, but a masterful achievement of musical vision.
Long after the band ran the Israeli clubs as Resurrection, Orphaned Land have become a force that leaves the old death and doom roots to find the strength to forge “Like Orpheus” (featuring Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kursch) and “Leave Behind,” both feats of fused metal, perfectly long in brevity.
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs does wander the dunes a bit in tracks like “Chains Fall to Gravity” and album low-point, “Take My Hand,” and there are places where the “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” becomes mired down by the band’s self-importance. Still, it is unfair to call Kobi Farhi a hairy old Serj Tarkanian. At 67 minutes, the album does overstay its camp-out at the oasis.
The ugliest blemish on the nose of this album is the mastering. There’s no way to get around the fact that this is a colossal example of how to compress your album to the point where only cell phone speakers might make it unnoticeable. It’s a great album. It’s a masterful band. It has 11 good to phenomenal tracks. However, It loses a full rating point because it is a mix and master catastrophe. This is a shame, because the music on the album deserves better. Be warned or break out the old Craig Powerplay eight-track player and listen to it full blast.
(released January 26, 2018 on Century Media Records)
Heavy Music Headquarters Rating:
Watch Orphaned Land – “Like Orpheus” Video