Late last year, while in Israel, I was fortunate enough to interview Orphaned Land and then stick around to see them in action at a concert in Tel Aviv. It was a great experience and I walked away feeling very excited for the follow up to the 2004 album, Mabool. And now, The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR is finally out.
The first thing I noticed was the incredible rise in production value. While Mabool was an amazing album that was a musical journey, the sound quality was often a bit painful and piercing. But not on The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR. With Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Opeth, No-Man) behind the mixing board, the overall sound quality rose dramatically. Each instrument is clearly definable and the subtle ambiences are beautifully placed in the mix.
Opening up with “Sapari”, Orphaned Land lays out EXACTLY what it plans to present you with over the rest of the album: Strange rhythms, singing in multiple languages, epic melodies and one hell of a rocking attitude. The contrasting timbres of female singer Shlomit Levi versus male singer Kobi Farhi create rich vocal harmonies that sound larger than just the two of them.
The production holds through the rest of the album and, man, the rest is one hell of a trip. There are so many changes musically that I almost felt like I needed to take notes. On top of that, the album lasts almost the full 80-minutes that a CD offers and the average track length is around five or six minutes. As a result, it is really hard to get through this album. The constant musical changes are often so surprising as to be worthy of a good head scratching. The complex and intricate instrument layering is so elaborate; it’s like trying to untie a knot that always presents more knots.
But let me be very clear here: The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR is a great album. However, it is completely exhausting to listen to. The band advertised this album as a musical journey and they did not lie one bit. By the end of the album, I was unable to listen to music for about an hour because I needed a break. I say this not feeling upset about it. Rather, I think it’s a testament to how deep and intelligent this album is. But try and get through it in one go through.