Orphaned Land // All Is One
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — The title refers to the tempo
Label: Century Media
Websites: orphaned-land.com | facebook.com/orphanedlandofficial
Release Dates: US: 06.25.2013 | EU: 2013.06.21-25

All Is OneLittle has been new in the world of heavy metal for a long time. While the scene continues to crawl up its own ass with retro-this and retro-that and a naval gazing focus on the music of the past while waiting for new and fresh material, Orphaned Land has been one of the few bands that has branched out. These peacenik Israelis have been doing their own distinctive brand of ‘middle-eastern’ melodeath that breathed life into a scene. However, the band’s slow output has been a constant thorn in the side of their label, and after blowing the world out of the water with The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR, there was increased pressure to get a record out in three years. Orphaned Land delivered, and All Is One is that labor of love (and label pressure).

You’d be forgiven (by Jesus, no less) for being skeptical of a new Orphaned Land record after only three years instead of 5 or 6. When a band has a successful way of doing business, the #1 rule should be “don’t fuck with the model.” Forcing Orphaned Land to produce a record in three years instead of five does just that. I was not alone in expressing my worries. While I wasn’t worried Kobi updated the official Facebook to say they wouldn’t have any growls on the new record, there were others who saw that as a bad sign: “don’t fuck with the model!” they screamed. “We’ll wait!” they wailed. One assumes there was gnashing of teeth and sackcloth involved.

All Is One certainly doesn’t start out badly. The title track and introduction is more meta and self-referential than previous work, but it rides the same syncopated rhythm for four and half minutes without much happening. While Orphaned Land always had a message of peace, All Is One is the most bold-faced in its approach (ham-handed, some would say). They’ve thrown the concept record out the window and written 11 easily accessible tracks about the Israel-Palestine situation and the need for peace. This is admirable, and the record is much more easily accessible for the non-metalhead. There is no song called “The Path Part II: 8211 – The Path to Or Shalem,” and growls are heard only on the sixth track “Fail,” which is also one of the few places where the band reaches a metal pitch.

Orphaned Land 2013

Instead, All Is One is largely mid-paced Arabic influenced hard rock and big ballads. Surprisingly, it’s the ballads that are the highlight of the album. The smooth and emotionally poignant “Brother,” a song that is a letter from Isaac to Ishamel, is tremendously moving, using all the drama of piano and orchestra to maximal effect. Coming out of the mouth of an Israeli, it’s pretty amazing to the hear the words “Forgive me brother / You did nothing wrong but took all the shame / I suffered myself but I am to blame / The Lord blessed us both, but we still fight and claim / That kid on the mountain, what was his name?” Its followup, “Let the Truce Be Known,” is less emotionally poignant, but also a powerful song that uses the Christmas Truce as a lyrical base. “Children,” the final track, is an epic that pushes on the mid-paced metal feel but is largely ballady in its own way, as well.

The “oriental” [Edward Said is spinning in his grave.Angry Sociology Guy] feel here gets played up in a number of places as well—maintaining that swooping Arabian orchestra from ORwarriOR that was so effective—in “The Simple Man,” and the intro to “Through Fire and Water,” which has a sweet feel and beautiful writing. On the back-to-back tracks “Shama’im,” which is in Hebrew, and “Ya Benaye,” which is in Arabic, All Is One wanders about as far from metal as Orphaned Land has ever gotten—sounding like something that could probably be played on the radio without problem in countries that previously banned the band. Unfortunately, to quote the estimable Mr. Franquelli, some it sounds like it could be playing in the background of a tacky Tel Aviv tourist shop.

KobiBetween these two different feels—the highly ‘oriental’ flavored songs and the ballads—there are two metal respites: “Fail” and “Our Own Messiah,” which are both really great tracks. Still, one gets the feeling that the metal was an afterthought here, and they never really commit to the feel. Instead, they focus on their much more accessible sound and this, for listeners who loved the band’s eclectic take on metal, is going to be problematic. The record ends up feeling repetitive by the time you make it to “Shama’im” and “Ya Benaye,” and I pretty much have to fight to make it to the draggy “Children.”

Try to think about Orphaned Land‘s musical variation as a normal curve. What made Orphaned Land records so entertaining was their ability to walk between the heavy melodeath pieces and fill those out with amazing, delicate and entertaining variety. This contrast is what makes Mabool and ORwarriOR so good. But what it needed was all that variation—to the very tails of their sound-curve, so to speak—in order to really hit home. “From Broken Vessels'” crunch needed “His Leaf Shall Not Wither,” to be effective. “A’salk” needed “Mabool (The Flood)” to really feel like part of the same beautiful art. These contrasts made for entertaining, intellectually stimulating and enjoyable music. It was emotionally poignant and artfully done.

All Is One ends up being a perfect title for this record, because it describes the music. The teeth are gone and the record falls flat because of it. While there are some really, really good songs (“The Simple Man,” “Brother,” “Fail,” “Shama’im”) the flow drags. At 54 minutes, All Is One feels longer than ORwarriOR by a year. By the time the listener makes it to the 8th or 9th track, one starts to wonder whether or not the band used the same click track for every song. The inspiring variation, the epicness that required choirs and Arabian orchestra falls flat. The picture is monotone and the record becomes repetitive. It’s not the metal is gone, per se, it’s just that by taking out the contrast, the painting becomes a lot of grays.

When will bands (and labels) learn? Don’t fuck with the formula. 

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  • Mike Eckman

    Wow, I just got “All is One” yesterday and I am loving it so far. This definitely is the most accessible album they’ve ever released, and the death vocals have been turned to a minimum, but I think this is a great record! It doesn’t have the epic-ness of Mabool, but I applaud them for not trying to make a sequel. I haven’t had it long, so I cant come with a list of things that are great about it, but after my first listen yesterday (while installing a ceiling fan in one of our bedrooms), I am surprised to see this getting a 2.5 rating.

    • I liked it more at first. It actually wore off pretty quickly.

      • Mike Eckman

        We’ll have to see how it holds up to repeat listenings. I’ve only had it for one day, but at the very least, this album deserves a rating a lot higher than what Lonewolf got!!!! :)

  • shmoo69

    All i can say is ‘oh bugger’. Looks like i’ll be playing AEnigma over and over for a few more months.

  • MRDi

    I was waiting for that review. And I knew that your opinion will be quite similar to mine. Well, I am really disapointed with this album. I mean it would be kinda neat and OK if another band recorded it. I expected much more from Orphaned Land. And now I am thinking about going on their live show in my country. I was sure about that one week ago. Now I am confused.

  • RilesBell

    Great album! I think (as your review implies) most fans of the band will be disappointed in their new sound. But as someone who didn’t enjoy their past output I really love this album. Very accessible tracks that will probably reach an entire new audience.

    • That’s a way to look at it. But I loved what they did.

      • nunka

        You call their previous sound “eclectic,” I call it “cheesy.” They’ve significantly toned down the cheese factor since ORwarriOR, that much is certain. I can understand the boring argument, though…

        • I thought this was way more cheesy. The whispering and some pretty forced lyrics. This is cheesier than their previous material IMHO.

          • nunka

            I rarely pay attention to English lyrics from non-native-English-speaking metal bands, because the vast majority of said lyrics are ESL gibberish. Even the ones that sound cool (e.g. Enslaved, Opeth) are usually pretty nonsensical. For my own sanity, I ignore the words and focus on the sound of the vocals and how they interact with the instrumentation. So any increase in lyrical cheesiness here is really not a factor for me.

            I went back and listened to Mabool and ORwarriOR again to make sure I’m not just batshit nuts (maybe I am, but that’s beside the point). The cheesiness is definitely there. “From Broken Vessels,” for instance, has a few moments of that Linkin Park-esque distorted vocal backing garbage at the beginning of the song. “Barakah” and “In Thy Never Ending Way” have the silly whispers. But here’s the larger issue. I’ll lose every AMG point I have for saying this, but I dislike many of the experimental aspects of progressive metal. In particular, the tendency to play scale-crossing riffs that don’t fit the rest of the song is very grating. “Hey, let’s play a few wild and crazy scales out of nowhere! That sounds cool, right?” No, thank you. At times, it seems like the band can’t keep one melody going for more than 30 seconds. They’re all over the place, flexing their prog muscles at every opportunity. From an album perspective, sure, that gives things an interesting flavor. But many of the individual songs feel disjointed and incohesive thanks to the insertion of strings and guitars at very odd moments. ORwarriOR sounds like a mixture of death metal, Middle Eastern orchestration, and Dream Theater (frankly, I’m surprised you mentioned Paradise Lost and didn’t point out the DT influence in your review), and that’s just not a very pleasing sound most of the time.

            I won’t deny that All Is One sounds more like rock than metal most of the time, or that it has a more boring sound overall. But I disagree that that is a bad thing. They were too progressive before, too rough around the edges, to the point of being less enjoyable musically. Their earlier work is good, there’s no doubt about that. I just prefer the more digestible power/symphonic metal sound of the new album. To each his own, man.

        • xReWxpilau

          How on earth you consider Mabool as cheesy, not to mention compared with this release, is beyond me.

  • Daniel Figueiredo

    These guys are amazing live, and pretty humble too. After the show they stick around the fans, talk and take pictures with everyone.

  • Soze

    This bored the willies out of me. Switched it off halfway through.

  • Eddy Ferreira

    Yeah i got bored of this record within a couple of listens, but thankfully….New Gorguts song fixed the disappointment with this album!

  • Its strange… I really had a hard time with their last album (ORwarriOR — worst album title ever btw), I felt it was way too overblown and they couldn’t match their execution with their ambition. There were a few great songs on there but everything else was missing the mark, and I wondered at how I couldn’t relate to your perspective of the album (I recall you giving it a perfect score too).

    But this new album, I’ve loved it from first listen… in fact I think the title track might be one of the strongest songs they’ve penned to date, just a perfect mix of what I love about them. The ballad “Brother” is another gem as you pointed out. And I love the rockin’ feel thats popping up on a lot of the songs — maybe I’m crazy but the new album has some of the more interesting guitar work on any OL record to date. I think the new blood really helped the band.

    Today I went back and started re-listening to ORwarriorOR and I’m finding that its not as bad as I remembered, I guess I’m softening to it.

    • Yeah, you’re wrong, but I can understand that you are just not in possession of my perfect information. In any case, this record bores me senseless. Great songs that I love, but as a record it falls flat. ORwarriOR was fucking brilliant, despite the silly name. Still my standard for 5 star reviews.

  • Jeffrey Ghelman

    I give it
    8/10.

    Summary:

    -The new guitarist is really cool, gives greats back and solo melodies all over
    the songs.

    -Vocals go from light to screams across their songs.

    -Wider ranges of accessibility

    -Songs are moderate length 4:00-6:30 minutes

    -Retains old style in some parts, but definitively changed to something new.

    They only have 1 “brutal” song this time which is named
    “fail”, has a slow start the first minute & half, then it becomes
    really good until ends, there are very few scream songs that i like from OL othat than 1-2 of their many. “All in one” feels like a symphonic/power
    metal song, something new to the band. Has the typical Hebrew-traditional heavy
    folk and thrown prayer songs.

    I think this album ends as one that is directed to listeners that might not have fully liked the original OL style, and hoping to positively impact their general fan base.

    • And my point is that they got successful doing what they did well. By changing it up to be more accessible, they created a record that doesn’t shine or show off what they’re good at. Instead, there’s a few good songs, but it’s bad album. A disappointment.

      • I usually agree with your takes on most things, but there have been exceptions to that and I guess this is another. I can understand you not liking what you hear, but I don’t get whats making this a “bad album”. Is it mainly the tempo criticism you were discussing in your review? Or the lack of growls?

        • It’s flow. The record isn’t “One”. ;) There are good songs, but the record as a whole is boring and the writing is subpar. And yes, the heavy parts not being there is definitely a problem.

    • xReWxpilau

      New guitarist and new drummer too (Matan Shmueli). Matan has played with them live since the release of ORwarriOR, but Avi Diamond (drummer on Mabool era) was the one who wrote the drum parts and recorded them for ORwarriOR. Matan used to be Avi’s student (this is how he learned to play the ORwarriOR parts so accurately), and so was I, that’s how I know all this :)

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I can really see why there still isn’t a record of the month of May. Every record seems to be a dissapointment this year…

    • Agreed!

    • nunka

      Not every record! Omega Arcane kicked ass, and that was in May. One can hope…

  • OzanCan

    I can’t wait to listen to this album. What I gathered from your review, even though the low score, this is the thing I need nowadays.
    I’ll definitely go and see them on Oct 16th m/

  • Whoa I had no idea this was coming.. and my hopes are immediately dashed.

    Orwarrior was perfect and has become one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s a shame they messed with that. I’ll still check it out because I’m sure I’ll really like parts of it.

    • xReWxpilau

      Last 2 tracks are awesome, the rest is Kumbaya and hippie Eurovision material

  • Brian Kelly

    it shouldnt take 5-6 years to make a good album. i dont think 3 years is unreasonable. how long does it actually take to write a full cd with lyrics & instruments, a few hours a day for a few months, or less? then putting it together in a studio for a few months. im sure it didnt take beethoven 6 years to write an entire symphony, he probably wrote it in a month or something, probably less. i havent listened to this yet but i think when bands like orphaned land & opeth who usually mix heavy & light make a cd that is all light, or lighter, it takes away the dynamics and makes it less interesting & on a metal website we obviously would prefer things heavier than lighter.

    • I agree on the time thing… but not all lengthy time gaps are spent purely writing a new album like Axl Rose or Wintersun. A band like Blind Guardian tours for two years on each release — and that coupled with a good year and a half of writing/demoing/recording/release prep for a new album does end up being four years (as is their tradition).

      As for Orphaned Land, I went back and took a look at the time between Mabool (2004) and The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR (2010), and they spent the time between 2004-2007 doing a great deal of touring and festival appearances year after year. The excessive touring may have been to make up for the seven years it took to actually release Mabool but it should be noted that the album did blow up in a big way in Israel and the Middle East. Probably was a far more lucrative option to milk the crap out of that record on the live show front. They spent 2007-2009 writing and recording ORwarriOR, doing festivals, and having to delay the mixing because they had to work around Steven Wilson’s schedule. The album was released in January 2010.

      So three years between ORwarrIOR and All Is One is a substantially shorter period of time, and maybe we can only again guess at what the reasoning is. Perhaps the lessened success of ORwarriOR commercially speaking compared to Mabool sent them back to the drawing board sooner? Or similarly they realized they had gone too long in between those records and lost some fans in the process and they feel the need to stay engaged in their audience’s attention span more often.

      • xReWxpilau

        I don’t the reason, but I do remember that right after ORwarriOR’s release, Kobi has posted on his facebook that “OL’s fans won’t ever have to wait for an album for so long” or similar wording.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Even when I agree with almost every aspect of this review I must say I’m Shocked. Yes, the contrast between raw vocals and extreme riffs with the folk/arabic counterparts DOES diminish the attractive of this album. But nonetheless I find it simply outstanding. I do also believe that it’s not as marvelous as “Mabool” and “ORwarriOR” (which, BTW, took me some time to fully appreciate it).

    You say: ” There is no song called “The Path Part II: 8211 – The Path to Or Shalem,”” and that’s exactly what I tought (literally). But hell, ‘Brother’ and the title song chills me every time, particularly the first one, with one of the most beautiful drum work I’ve heard in years. And even when the arabic and hebrew songs do feel kindda cheesy, I can’t find the album boring. In fact, I can listen to it hours and hours. There is no doubt the album it’s their most accesible effort to date, but that does not mean they’ve given quality away.

    Anyway, just wanted to give my tiny little point of view. I felt the same thing with the Amorphis “Circle” review, which I still think it’s a great album. Let’s hope that these guys keep making good music!

  • “At 54 minutes, All Is One feels longer than ORwarriOR by a year.”

    This is true, one of my main gripes with The REALLY NEVER ENDING Way of the ORwarriOR is that it could have benefited a lot from some judicious self-editing, since it lacked some tonal variety that really grated my own personal metal sensibilities. And I really wanted to like that record since I thought Mabool was impressive but I just couldn’t “get into it.”

    This album lacks any teeth and I completely agree that their songwriting has suffered a lot, and it’s a sad statement for the actual standing of the music business, creativity should never be rushed.

    Edit: Also, they should fire the person that made that album cover, it’s almost a trace over ripoff of that Disturbed album that I don’t really wan’t to remember it’s name. And no one should ripoff a Disturbed album cover, of all things.

    • Zadion

      It seems fair to complain about ORwarriOR’s length, yet I use it as the archetype that all long albums should reach for. It was incredibly diverse, hitting many different styles and themes, and never once became boring through the entire album.

      All Is One is the very opposite.

  • Zadion

    On my third listen, I can agree with every complaint pointed out in this review, though I’d give it a higher score. The only songs that do absolutely nothing for me are the ones between “Fail” and “Our Own Messiah,” and even they aren’t really BAD… just not for me.

    In fact, that’s my number one complaint of the album so far. Too much use of foreign lyrics. In past albums, their use of Hebrew/Arabic was done tastefully and at the perfect moments, but in this album it almost feels like… a gimmick.

    “Brother” gave me chills upon my first listen. Might be the best set of lyrics I’ve read in a very long time.

    • Brother is a truly brilliant song in my opinion. The lyrics are really, really good.

  • Berel Dov Lerner

    Their strongest songs have always been covers of traditional Hebrew liturgical songs (Olat Hatamid, Sapari, Nora El Nora…). I haven’t heard the new album yet, but I understand it lacks such songs I listened to Shamayim over Youtube and it does sound a lot like commercial “oriental” Israeli music. If you know Hebrew, the lyrics just sound impoverished compared to something like “Olat Hatamid” (written by the great medieval philosopher and poet, Ibn Gabirol).

  • Tristan gummow

    Its rare I would agree with AMG but All Is One was disappointing for me. Its almost like they were trying to hard on the message the delivery was an after thought