Century Media, 2004
There is no better place to start than with the album that I believe is the greatest musical creation. Its variations, inspirations and cohesiveness make it unique in the music world. No where will you find combinations this daring - in short, a mixing of oriental music with metal. But in saying that I would be neglecting so many other influences from progressive metal to classical music, acoustic, spoken word and choirs. I could keep going. And it's not that Orphaned Land are the first to do this sort of thing - mixing genres is quite popular in metal these days - it's that they do so flawlessly so that when listening to it every segment appears to be a natural continuation of the previous one.
When listening to an album you may ask what the purpose of releasing it is. Does the band just want to get their music off their chest? Is it something that's been done before but this is supposedly 'fresh' and more exciting? Is it political? Or maybe they just write damn good songs? For Orphaned Land it seems they release music in a hope of uniting people, by area, race, culture, music and religion. Based in Israel they are at the centre of religious conflict, this is shown in their albums. They tread the dangerous line between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, aiming for a peace between them all... and in a sense they succeed. Their concerts in the Middle East are notable for their assembly of fans from different religions - a potent mix in this area. But all the fans appear to get along, a common love of the band peacefully uniting everyone. This music has the power of unification like no other band. This is deeply religious - it is a concept album loosely about building the ark - but it is worldly. Metal is tainted by its connection to satanism and atheism, but the metal community is made up of people from all religions. With Mabool, Orphaned Land manages to secure the attention and praise from all places. This is its charm.
Some people may find the array of elements in this album overwhelming, and this may certainly be true, especially on the first few listens. But once you've taken in the album and discovered its structure you will hopefully understand my view on the perfect balance of the album. Only in Mabool does 'death' metal flow into rhythmic "na-na-na-nas" and from that into the hauntingly beautiful voice of Shlomit Levi. Only here do choirs sung in Latin and English fit so nicely between riffing and soloing. In most of the songs there is a solo, generally from a guitar or keyboard/piano. The four minute guitar solo in The Storm Still Rages is a highlight that matches the best of progressive metal, and moving into the painful lines of "Hear your orphaned child" at the end of the song - and virtually the album - make for one of the most moving moments in music history.
This is a story. This is religion. This is history. This is unity. Most importantly it is music, and from that it is art - in the most perfect sense. There are no faults here. It is not too long, not too indulgent, not too biased, and not too pretentious. People may name bands like U2 or The Beatles or the Rolling Stones as the greatest ever, and they certainly were some of the most influential, but none of them could create music like this, and that's because no one can. Francois Chateaubriand said that 'the original writer is not he that does not imitate others, but he who can be imitated by none'. And that is why Orphaned Land stands alone.