My job brings me very often into the fascinating lands of Middle East, and as consequence I’ve always had a particular fondness for those groups that are able to infuse in their music the elements from the culture of that area. Therefore, it’s easy to understand why I alway looked with extreme interest to Orphaned Land, the Israeli metal band that many define as “the pioneers of oriental metal”. Unfortunately, however, too many times their work appeared to me something like a wasted opportunity. The concept followed by this band has always been intriguing and full of potentialities: to mix together Jewish, Arabic and other Asian music influences, then use the expressive capabilities of progressive metal as a glue. In addition to the musical aspect there was also the beauty of the message of universal peace and unity that these musicians have always conveied with their songs. But, as already mentioned, the result didn’t always lived up to the expectations, and the potential also. An aspect that sometimes has been lacking in their work was the capacity to merge the folk elements of their music in the structure of the songs, rather than just playing – with metal instruments – musical pieces that perhaps would have been even more expressive without so many distorted guitars. After all, this is the unstable equilibrium in which operate all the artists who try to fuse together expressive languages that were born from extremely different origins: it is easy for one of the two styles to prevail over the other, transforming the result into something extravagant but not very homogeneous. And because of that, after the initial curiosity of listening to new instruments and nice oriental melodies, many of the songs produced in the past by this group were soon forgotten. There were always, however, peaks of creativity that suddenly have made the band to re-emerge from the average mass of the ethnic bands, keeping alive the hope that eventually the final moment of maturity would come.
Has this moment fnally arrived with Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, the new album released by the band in 2018? The answer is not completely affirmative, yet, but we are definitely a span higher than the most recent productions of the group. The LP shows in fact an impressive stylistic consistency and the songs transmit an emotional power as we dind’t feel from them since many years ago. And coming back to the subject of the fusion between different genres and cultures, finally we have a sequence of beautiful “oriental metal songs” rather than just simple metal songs that imitate oriental music. Said in other words, in many tracks of the album we see that the specific dynamics of Middle Eastern music are guiding the development of the song, both in the riffing sections and the choruses.
Speaking abuout the music, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs offers a nice combination of progressive metal and folk. The music is extremely accessible and melodic, but like the Arabian dates that grow on the palms in the desert of the Middle East, sweetness here is never cloying and it fills the body with vigor and energy.
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs was released on January 26th, 2018.