As far as creative aspirations go, a quest to unify the troubled territories of the Middle East while espousing a message of peaceful commonality between the seemingly incompatible credos of Islam, Christianity and Judaism must surely rank as one of the most astonishing.
And yet, over 22 years, Orphaned Land have proudly and purposefully used their experiences as citizens of Israel to make music that strives to be a force for good. Of course, when most musicians try to bring people together under a vast philosophical umbrella constructed from love and hope, the results are either musically weak or lyrically nauseating, and yet somehow Orphaned Land have also managed to pull off the neat and noble trick of making records that exhibit great depth and ingenuity.
As frequently glorious as it was, 2010’s Steven Wilson-produced The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR was so complex and grand in scope that many of its charms became buried beneath a surfeit of imaginative effervescence. All Is One seems to represent deliberate refining and simplifying of the Israelis’ vision.
Clocking in at a far more manageable 54 minutes and comprising 11 elegant jigsaw fragments, it offers a more welcoming doorway into the band’s world of thunderous progressive metal, Middle Eastern folk melodies and instrumentation, and lyrical themes that belong to the same storyteller tradition that once informed the evolution of all those aforementioned faiths.
Sonically, All Is One is a more rounded, contemporary sounding record than its somewhat eccentric predecessor. From the opening choral splurge of the title track it never ceases to align itself with its creators’ metallic roots, yet there is also a sense that classical music, opera and even musical theatre have sunk into frontman Kobi Farhi’s compositional process. At times, Farhi seems to fulfil the role of benign narrator, most notably on epic closer Children, while at others his scabrous roar melds seamlessly with the intricate melodic motifs and lavish arrangements that are so precisely but warmly executed by the band.
This is not prog metal that dwells on notions of technical prowess or overt complexity: there is an overriding sense of artistic completeness, as if an elaborate and portentous tableau is being rendered in vivid colours by men for whom enlightenment via music is nothing less than a divine vocation.
Whether or not Orphaned Land can bring peace to their world is a moot point: All Is One delivers its own truths and pleas for sanity with the greatest imaginable grace and power.