It has been a LOOOOONG five year wait to see finally see what this lineup of Orphaned Land can do post-Yossi Sassi. In that time frame, your author has seen the band five times live and each time with shock and awe at the band that should be given the Nobel Peace Prize in how to deal with not only the current Middle Eastern crisis, but the crisis of hatred in humanity as a whole. No band on the planet shows more love and appreciation for those we've all taught to hate and works harder towards realizing the goal that should be the one we all fight for as human beings. 2013's "All is One" taught humanity that stripping away the religious and political lines means we are all one people and love and respect should be the norms we strive for. It was album of the year that year for yours truly and it will take a monumental effort for "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs" to not reach that pedestal. Its much to early to tell, but the bar has been set and all bands are on notice.
As previously said, just watching the chemistry of Orphaned Land on stage - I waited (mostly impatiently) to see what "new members" Chen Balbus (guitars) and Idan Amsalem (guitars) brought to the core. On stage, the beaming smiles were infectious and the photographer in me couldn't resist taking endless shots of a band that genuinely loved what they were doing and appreciated the much deserved success the fans have offered them. It has been a long while since a band has driven me to tears on an album, but Orphaned Land's new one has done and and far exceeded its predecessor - a payoff that I strongly believed would happen.
One of the strongest points that makes Orphaned Land one of music's best right now is the ability to tell a story and convey a feeling that is wrapped up in some of the most beautiful symphonic and oriental style metal. No better example can be found on "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs" than "My Brother's Keeper" - which embodies the essence of the band and the message that it strives to get across. You can feel the hurt and passion in Kobi's voice - "It's beyond my prophetic knowledge to understand the reasons those dead messiahs failed again and again and again throughout the dark history of mankind...and yet, I have to go back." The song is a wonderful illustration of the perfection of songwriting in a band that is absolutely firing on all cylinders.
In many ways, "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs" is much darker and heavier than its predecessor - and not simply because Kobi brings back his death growls (delightfully performed on "We Do Not Resist"). It is in the tones, rhythm and flow of the songs underpinned by the pain of the message. This new release plays like a "best of" for the many eras of the band's sound all tidied up by the immaculate production of its newest albums. The beautiful guest appearances from Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch ("Like Orpheus") and At the Gates' Tomas Lindberg ("Only the Dead Have Seen the End of the War" - where he and Kobi trade off on metal's best death grunt duel) only serve to enhance an album that is pure perfection.
Other favorites include the insanely catchy "Take My Hand" (that opening riff intertwined with gorgeous Middle Eastern flair is unmatched in music), the wondrously symphonic "Into Propaganda," the beautiful "Yedidi" ('My Friend') and "Left Behind" with its majestic orchestration.
"Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs" is a roller coaster of emotions that left your author tattered, teary-eyed and all the while beaming with pride. The culmination of a wait for a lineup destined for greatness with the perfect payoff was more than hoped for. The album falls beyond the mere limitations of "symphonic metal" or even "oriental metal" - though the band excels at both. This is a movie soundtrack played out to real life events that have no end, no hope and no easy solutions - though as Kobi points out in the band's live performances - the spark of hatred in a region torn by war was caused by a simple (and stupid) disagreement on one small event in the Bible. We truly have forgotten all humanity with all the "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs" that we let control our lives to the point where we've forgotten the trivial thing that made it happen.