When bands collide there’s often an unholy mess or else the distillation of something wonderful to behold. Fans of Orphaned Land may already have guessed which way this one was likely to go. Since re-establishing their recording career a little over a decade ago with Mabool more or less everything they have produced has been subject to the kind of inspiration and rigorous quality control that seems to pass others by. True, the drifting world music passages combined with the sweetness of some of those honeyed vocal melodies and the plundering of eastern chords will either thrill you to the very core of your soul or send you recoiling all the way back to your favourite Lamb of God album. But anyone who picked up Orphaned Land’s All Is One and Amaseffer’s Exodus – Slaves For Life (from 2008 and still their only recording effort until now) and enjoyed either of those is in for a real treat here. Cancel the rest of your summer listening schedule – because you will not be able to get this off your stereo.
The combination of metal and eastern melodies has always been such a tempting big red button to press. But whereas Melechesh pedal metal in the form of a giant, crushing Sumerian war machine, fellow Israelis Orphaned Land are more like curators of the finest, musical bazaar. Now some of the following might increase your yearning to hear this album or put you off entirely. But let me assure you, like much of Orphaned Land’s music it’s absolutely possible to listen to this and not have biblical leanings one way or the other. So here we go. Their progressive shimmering and knack for addictive choruses clearly made them the obvious choice for a project to create a biblical-metal theatre production in Memmingham, Bavaria in Germany. Where else?! Director Walter Wayers wrote a play and just needed someone to write the soundtrack and songs to fit his new, modern, perspective on Abraham, Kna‘an (also known as Canaan to those who last paid attention to any of this in second year religious studies), and the three often conflicting Abrahamic religions which stemmed from there. And so it was that this musical project – a collaboration between Orphaned Land singer Kobi Farhi and Amaseffer’s Erez Yohanan was born.
In some ways, Kna‘an sounds like a modern day Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber stage production for grown ups (here about a bloke called Abraham rather than Joseph and a certain Technicolor Dreamcoat) – and let me emphasise the ‘grown ups’ bit. Because while there are addictive hooks aplenty in here, the traditions are definitely rooted far more in the progressive world music of both bands rather than the happy clappy, sing-a-long feel good of musical theatre. Still not put off? Good, because for those so inclined there plenty to get your teeth into here. And I don’t want this review to fall too much into an apologists report back from the fringes of prog-power metal. Because this album doesn’t need that and is far from an easily digestible platter of to demolish with your box of Tesco cheese crackers.
It encompasses evocative, melodic verses like Naked – Abraham; the theatrical Prisoner; the rousing, metal infused Akeda; and the Gladiator soundtrack call-back of The Vision. If that’s not enough to tempt you in let me just say this probably ranks as my favourite so far among the Orphaned Land’s discography and Amaseffer’s sole effort. But it is a slightly different offering: whereas so many of their releases are rooted so firmly in a respect for the eastern tradition and the roots of sounds from across the region, there’s a gloss here that I’m guessing has come from their theatrical endeavour – as if caution has been thrown to the wind and they’re all writing for the audience rather than to satisfy their inner artistic spirit.
Metal comes in all sorts of shades these days and this would definitely test the boundaries both thematically and musically for some. But, whatever the formula – it works wonderfully and I for one cannot get this off my stereo. I can hear the influence of both bands but, whatever the relationship, it’s created something that borrows from the two bands and transcends both. Highly recommended for prog-power metal fans and anyone addicted to eastern melodies – this might just be the release you’ve been searching for all these years.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)