UNSUNG PROPHETS & DEAD MESSIAHS
Century Media Records
With a career that spans more than a quarter of a century, and with only 6 full length albums released so far, Orphaned Land is by far Israel’s most renown metal band. Combining folk elements with a solid metal soundscapes and religious / political lyrics, “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” (out on January 26th, via Century Media Records) is firstly a very powerful statement on the current state of the world, and secondly a very diverse and well-crafted metal masterpiece and the band’s best and biggest production to date. Commenting on this complex album, singer Kobi Farhi said:
“Our music has always been a combination of anger, tragedy, protest and joy. We can't wait for you to hear the 13 brand new tracks of this album. As always it will be very eclectic, no song sounds like the other and the whole album is a one big musical journey. We feel that this album takes our feelings to a new level of anger, protest and tragedy. The cover speaks for itself and it was made as tribute to the way governments design their money. Enjoy!”
We do not resist
All knowing eye
Chains fall to gravity
Poets of prophetic messianism
My brother's keeper
Take my hand
Only the dead have seen the end of war
The manifest – epilogue
Conceived and written as a concept album, “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” is a re-telling of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, which states that people live in cave, entertained by the shadows they see on the walls, killing anyone who tries to lead them out of cave, out of the darkness, out of their comfort zone, so to say. As such, the unsung prophets and the dead messiahs the title refers to are the revolutionary persons who have tried to make humanity see beyond the shadows, some of whom being killed for this, as Aldous Huxley (author of “Brave New World”), J. F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Che Guevara. This is a ‘protest album’, a wake-up call, that urges us to leave the cave and enjoy the sunlight and freedom.
“Those people who are revolutionaries, leaders, they are always ending up dead. They are like the dead messiahs in a way. This is a mirror to humanity to show them that we always blame religion or politicians, but it's the people who do not change. It's the people who prefer to stay in the darkness. This is a concept album and a very big protest that we have about it."
The album doesn’t waste time in getting to the core of the problem as the opening track, suggestively titled “The Cave”, deals exactly with man’s unwillingness to see beyond what he is directly told and shown. Starting off with ethereal female vocalizes which serve as a sort of intro to the album, the listeners soon find themselves immersed in a captivating tale filled with middle-eastern melodies, heavy guitar lines, clean vocals and death metal growls backed here and there by a choir, layered instrumental, but above all meaningful lyrics. Up next, the band brings in the big guns with (death) metal anthem “We do not resist” where the guitar lines and the growls work with the lyrics to paint a vivid picture of the modern world. The following two tracks, “In propaganda” and “All knowing eye” are more mellow, with the first being a folky track, on which the band’s Eastern influences have a chance to shine, while the second is a ballad with an incredibly soulful guitar solo. “Yedidi”, the odd one out on this album, is a traditional Hebrew song / prayer, directed to God, in which He is asked why has He forsaken mankind. This oriental track works perfectly with the narrative of the album, this being the moment when man looks to the Heavens for answers.
“Chains fall to gravity” is a prog-oriented ballad that features Steve Hackett (from Genesis) on guitar, and I consider it to be the centerpiece of the album as it shows man’s decision to leave the cave. I love the build-up of this track, which starts with a slow pace and gradually develops into a full metal piece. “Like Orpheus”, featuring Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, is probably the catchiest song on the album, and, lyrically, it shows the way out of the cave, which can be compared to Orpheus’ climb out of Hell (hence the title). “Poets of prophetic messianism” is another borderline instrumental piece where a choir sings the two Arabic lyrics. The intense yet heavy “Left behind” and “My brother's keeper” represent a cry for the ones that are still in the cave, in darkness. The music is more heavy and aggressive on these tracks and Kobi switches between cleans, growls and spoken parts (on “My brother's keeper”) to give the songs different dynamics, while the folk elements blend with the guitars and drums. “Take my hand” has a certain marching vibe to the drum pattern and it speaks of how the one who has seen the light wants to get the ones still in the cave out in the sunlight, but to no avail. “Only the dead have seen the end of war” is probably the heaviest track on the album as it features some harsh vocals from Tomas Lindberg (from At the Gates) which complement and complete Kobi’s growls. It wraps up the narrative of the Plato’s Cave as the one who wants to liberate the people is killed, which was the fate of any other peace-maker in our bloody history. “The manifest – epilogue” explains who are the unsung prophets and dead messiahs, and closes the album with a quote from George Orwell’s “1984” that leaves the listeners with some food for thought.
Overall “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” has a good pace with softer, almost acoustic pieces, in between the heavier, more aggressive ones. One of the things I enjoy mostly about it is its variety, where no two songs are alike, yet there is a definite Orphaned Land stamp on each of the 13 tracks. Also the concept of the album is very relevant to the current situation, making “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” an intense, emotional and intellectual listening, with a lot of meaning behind the lyrics. I’m not going to say it’s album of the year, as I am still waiting for some releases, but it’s not far from that title either.
I rate it with a solid 9 / 10.
Follow the band on-line:
Kobi Farhi – lead vocals
Uri Zelcha – bass
Matan Shmuely – drums, percussion
Chen Balbus – guitars, piano, xylophone
Idan Amsalem – guitars, bouzouki