Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs
(Century Media Records)
Amid the countless 'derivatives' of the Heavy Metal genre, Folk Metal has remained a constant, dominant force since originating in Europe circa 1990. Personified throughout by the once unthinkable use of traditional Folk instruments and, in some cases, elements of the long-dormant Folk Rock movement, it rapidly swelled in popularity as groups from England (Skyclad), Ireland (Mael Mórdha) and Sweden (Vintersorg) solidified their increasingly unique tonalities. Among the earliest--and arguably most underrated--pioneers of the sub-genre were Petah Tikva/Bat Yam, Israel-born stalwarts Orphaned Land. Emerging with their full-length debut Sahara (1994), their sophomore effort El Norra Alila (1996) featured a staggering array of Eastern/Oriental influences, leading to the creation of the Oriental Metal sub-genre. Returning with Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, their latest and quite possible greatest effort to date, the group now appears destined for world-wide domination.
On the brilliant Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs (2018), an expertly assembled thirteen song collection of Israeli Oriental Metal, each track, beginning with the maddeningly infectious--and outright exhaustive--“The Cave” (which draws it's inspiration from the Allegory Of The Cave by ancient Greek philosopher Plato) and the shimmering, sitar-fueled tirade “In Propaganda”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. An intentional amalgam of All Is One (2013), ORWarriOR (2010) and Mabool (2004), Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs finds the group re-embracing their conceptual format of yore. Wasting little--if any--time submerging the proverbial average listener (i.e. you, the increasingly faithful reader) amid an all-consuming barrage of soaring vocals and blistering fretwork as well as a staggering showcase of Eastern stringed instruments and vehement backing choirs, they score major points early and often.
Continuing with the gleefully caustic lament “Yedidi” and the Pink Floyd/Porcupine Tree-tinged first single “Chains Fall To Gravity”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of vocalist Kobi Farhi, guitarists Chen Balbus and Idan Amsalem (ex-Armilos and Edenbridge who replaced co-founding member Yossi Sassi in 2014), bassist Uri Zelcha and drummer Matan Shmuely (Distorted, Grave In The Sky, Subterranean Masquerade) steamrolls ahead with a carefully-calculated ease. Systematically stomping, twisting and 'turning' amid each multi-textured excursion, the group punctuates their impressively varied set with a variety of ideals once considered foreign to nearly any traditional sub-genre. Exceeding even the most optimistic of expectations--many of which were unnervingly lofty following the well-deserved success of the previously-mentioned gem All Is One--the group maintains an artful balance between genuine indignation and unnecessarily foolish, over-the-top bombasticisms.
Mixed and Mastered by the acclaimed Jens Borgren (Amon Amarth, Kreator, Sepultura), other standouts, including the awkwardly-titled--yet highly-effective--“Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War” and the equally impressive closer “The Manifest -- Epilogue”, offer a veritable wealth of further auditory evidence in support of the group's already well-documented musical ingenuities. Fortified throughout via guest appearance from Blind Guardian mastermind Hansi Kürsch, Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) and former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs finds the group boldly exploring new levels of anger, protest and, to a certain extent, tragedy. Adorned throughout by stunning artwork from legendary French graphic artist Jean-Emmanuel 'Valnoir' Simoulin (The Black Dahlia Murder, Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost), the group is now poised to embark on a previously unparalleled journey seemingly destined to construe the horizons of the genre.
Still looking for a less than obvious fix that doesn't sacrifice heaviness, intricacies or melody? Rest assured you needn't look any further. While the majority--if not all--of the lastingly memorable wares contained herein are quite obviously not for the faint of heart or weak of constitution (or, for that manner anyone without a truly open mind), what ultimately entrenches the undeniably ingenious behemoth that is the mighty Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs amid the psyche of the proverbial average listener is a genre-defying focus on all things non-traditional. Easily one of the finest new releases of the still young year, love 'em or loathe 'em, this is quite possibly as good as it gets. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself less than enthralled with the veritable wealth of Hip Hop and Pop-fueled banalities that so often pollute the charts and airwaves, then this, my friends, might just be the counter-irritant balm for whatever ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs (2018)
Orphaned Land & Friends (2017)
Sukkot In Berlin (EP) (2015)
All Is One (2013)
The Road To OR-Shalem (2011)
The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR (2010)
Ararat (EP) (2010)
El Norra Alila (1996)
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