It’s no secret that right now my favorite band in the world is Orphaned Land. And if it was a secret, I guess it’s not really a secret anymore. Orphaned Land does what no other band alive does and they do it so very, very well. Mabool was fantastic, but 2010′s The Never Ending Way of OR’WarriOR was my record of the year and is really my standard for what a modern progressive metal record should be like. The mix and production from Steven Wilson was excellent, the song writing was tremendous and it’s one of the very few records over about 45 or 50 minutes that I can even handle these days. So I was super pumped when I got a promo copy of the band’s DVD The Road to OR-Shalem. I’m not a huge fan of DVDs, as I’ve said in the past, but this one is definitely worth your time, both as fans and non-fans.
One thing that has happened recently in DVD trends in metal is that instead of doing a monster box like Amon Amarth did, bands have been going home to their home crowds and filming there. So we got Amorphis in Finland last year and Sonata Arctica there this year. And that’s great! But this is different. Having Orphaned Land play a club show in Tel Aviv makes this DVD truly special. First, because the band can interact in Hebrew, but also because the fans are just so fucking die hard and the feeling is immense. While the direction of the DVD is pretty good but bordering a bit on frantic (so many fast cuts, it’s like Steve Harris edited it himself), part of what makes this DVD so cool is just the crowd that’s so in love with this band.
Depending on how long you’ve been a fan of the band, the setlist might be a bit of a bummer, on the other hand. In the main, edited concert DVD there’s only a handful of songs older than Mabool, and most of that appears to have been pushed to the bonus material (and one of them is performed by Steven Wilson, ”and the rendition is a letdown), which could be seen as a bit of a shame. As I’d have preferred that they just played ORwarriOR from start to finish and then done the songs from Mabool as the encore, I wasn’t too upset by it. And the band was in such good form that it was less about what they were playing and more about just watching them play, which is a blast.
Seeing the band’s personality live is part of the fun of this because I’ve never seen them live. There were a few things that stood out for me. First, Yossi Sassi Sa’aron, the lead guitar player, has to be the happiest man alive. It’s kind of a weird thing, but watching him play, you get this feeling that he just can’t think of anything else in the entire world that he’d rather be doing and it’s a bit infectious, even if it’s a tad silly. This is not to say that Kobi (vocalist), Uri (bass) and Matti (rhythm guitar) aren’t awesome to watch, but Yossi kind of steals the show for me (followed closely by drummer Matan who is a true showman, given that he’s behind a kit). In any case, the band plays with great precision and passion that coupled the way that the crowd reacted.
DVDs are often made by their extras, however, and I really thought that The Road to OR-Shalem was made by the documentary and the extra songs that weren’t included. Yehuda Poliker‘s tracks with the band were very cool, and Matan’s drum solo was actually really entertaining. But the documentary was probably the most interesting. First, seeing the old footage from back when these guys were just pups (they were so little!) was definitely cool. But also, hearing them express their influences and how they came to the point where Orphaned Land went from being something pretty alright and fairly interesting to being something really amazingly unique and cool (the difference, in my opinion, between El Norra Alila and Mabool). Hearing, too, their views on religion and politics (something that was expressed in my interview with Kobi as well) was interesting. And getting to hear it expressed by all the members of the band and their Arab Muslim fans was definitely cool because it is what makes this band not only awesome but transcendent.
The Road to OR-Shalem is something that every Orphaned Land fan should probably own. It’s a really great production with a fantastic setlist, cool surprises and catches the best band in metal in 2011 at the height of their career. In a globalized world, Orphaned Land is spearheading a movement of smart, interesting metal with a very different feel from it’s Northern peers and that’s what makes it so damned special. This DVD encompasses and embodies that. It’s a very cool package, and I rarely say that about DVDs or live albums.