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Orphaned Land Seek Nobel, Fist Pumps on All is One

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Global peace metal… I don’t know, man.  If you imagine the extreme music scene as a grand buffet table spread with the richest myriad flavors, then imagine the socially responsible salads and risotto dishes being largely ignored while bespectacled short-hairs gather ‘round the designer Asian fusion recipes and a crowd of greedy hunchbacks (including me, to be honest) glut themselves on the steaming fried misanthropic zombie grind (and that shit never runs out, or tastes like anything but exactly what it is).  As an art form, metal spends so much collective energy on hyperrealism and unabashed fantasy that any reference to real sociopolitical struggles without the shroud of horror movie metaphor can be a real shock.

Of course, to suggest that an album’s lyrical content is too earnest, too naked in its intent, is to ignore the reasons that many of us embraced this music at all.  In George Carlin’s words, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.”  I’ll speak for myself:  as a younger person I imagined a world with purer underpinnings, but the accumulation of complex truths and some people’s outright wacko psychological states drove me through frustration and anger into base, throbbing hatred.  Does this mean I no longer hope for something better?

All the above meandering is only an attempt to explore why Orphaned Land’s All is One gives me trouble.  Musically, it’s stirring stuff.  The lead-off title track and follow-up “The Simple Man” are all sparkling melodies over a driven chug pulse.  Traditional Near Eastern modalities persistently entwine with Western chord progressions for gorgeously ornamented results.  There are no boundaries between ballad and aggression; within any given song, one will assuredly dissolve into the other and back again.  The first disgusted growl rears out of sixth track, “Fail”, and the emotions roiling through that song certainly merit the momentary descent into death/black tropes.  The songwriting and playing on offer is consistently stellar (including “eight classical violin, viola and cello players from Turkey”), and the vocal embellishments (“25 choir singers”) broaden the album’s scope and impact admirably.

That said, the Israeli Oriental metal routine wears a little thin after forty minutes (and this baby lasts another fifteen); not that it ever feels gimmicky, but it’s the heavy hand on an otherwise easily enjoyable album.  Additionally, All is One sublimates its anger to the point of floating away entirely.  It rides that dangerous line between epically ethnic and plaintive rock theater.  Orphaned Land have been around a while, and they’ve garnered a fan base they can be proud of.  I’ve never quite settled comfortably into albums past, and this one probably won’t turn me around, but that’s no statement of quality… just a matter of taste.

And now I see they’ve refilled the misanthropic zombie grind platter, so I’ll just…

Orphaned Land’s All is One comes out June 24 on Century Media. You can listen to the track “Let the Truth Be Known” here and pre-order the album here.

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