Orphaned Land – Mabool (The Story of the Three Sons of Seven) (Century Media, 2004)
In 1997 ORPHANED LAND signed with Century Media records, and took a break from writing music. Having heard their earlier material, I think this is the smartest thing they could’ve done. While their early stuff isn’t bad, it sounds like their ideas hadn’t coalesced into anything fantastic.
Seven years has done wonders for this band. Their brand of metal has been created, mixing the hypnotizing sounds and rhythms of Arabic instruments, with good ol’ Western heavy metal. The blending of these two is done incredibly as you wind through the excellent concept record that is Mabool (which means ‘whirlpool,’ in Hebrew). The guitar playing is interesting, proficient and at times very reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN, with straightforward two guitar melodies and leads. Time changes and key changes riddle this album and making it interesting to listen to, since they hardly ever rehash the same idea more than once.
The keyboards, while peripheral, add a dimension to the music while not drowning it or saturating it thickly. There is only one major keyboard solo, which is actually an excellent piano solo at the end of “Norra El Norra”. They also use a choir and strings to add atmosphere and intensity to their music along the lines of WINDS, without coming across as cheesy or overdoing it like THERION.
The vocals are very good, staying clean without being cheesy and carrying excellent melody over sometimes very difficult passages. While sometimes the lyrics seem a bit weighty and unwieldy, he manages to maintain good rhythms and complex wordings that add a little spice and variety to the music, which makes it all seem that much more dynamic. The growls leave a little to be desired, in my opinion. While the rhythms are excellent and interesting, the vocals just aren’t extreme enough at times, they seem a bit weak and often I feel like they don’t carry the music as well as they should. Female vocals are also employed in several areas, using them in the more traditional sounding “Arabic” ways, and they are used to incredible effect! The haunting melodies of half steps and voice breaks always leaving me longing for more, and give the music a mystical feeling that could’ve been left out, but would’ve been missed sorely.
Concept records, as we know them, either suck or rule in my experience. Rarely have I encountered a concept album that I felt somewhere in between on. This is no exception. While undeniably “Hebrewcore” with very strong religious undertones and concepts that link back to the Torah (plus, the judicious use of Hebrew as a narrative language), they manage to link it together to make even a secular fellow like myself not angry with them for it. These guys nail it right on, using a story and narration to lead you through the twists and turns of an excellent album.
I’ve been trying to come up with negative things to say, and the only thing I can think of as that these guys could stand to enlist a better drummer for their next recording, though they may be short on metal drummers in Israel, so I won’t hold it against them if they don’t.
Fact is, if their next record is as solid as this one, Orphaned Land will soon have a following that rivals some of the biggest bands out there, because of their incredible talent and fresh style. – Jim Bob The Enforcer