ORPHANED LAND – The Never Ending Way of the ORWarriOR (2010)

Wow, and I thought Ihsahn’s latest solo album was great (well, it is, but…). Who would’ve thought I’d find an even better album the very next day? To be fair, though, I kind of saw this coming; I had both Ihsahn’s After and this, the long-time coming new album from Orphaned Land sitting on my desk, and I just so happened to tackle the Ihsahn album first. But I had a feeling the newest Orphaned Land would top it, and it does. I remember back to 2004, when Mabool was released – it was the band’s third album, and it could not have defined “breakthrough” more if it had tried.

To begin with, no one had really heard of the band (prior to Mabool, they had released two albums on Holy Records that went largely unnoticed), and they seemed to generate a mystique that made them all the more fascinating (they’re from Israel! they treat spirituality seriously! they mix prog and death metal and Middle Eastern folk and yet sound nothing like Melechesh or Nile!). We obsessed over these things, and the album was quickly granted entrance into the pantheon of prog-metal classics. Now we have this, The Never Ending Way of the ORWarriOR; silly title aside, this is a monumentally progressive album. It’s an 80 minute suite of epic after epic, where Arabian elements work right alongside elements that are more…well, Western. It’s divided into three chapters a la Pain of Salvation, and none other than Porcupine Tree sonic architect Steven Wilson produced it. It’s simply astounding. I’ve listened to the album three times now, and I can’t really pin down the specifics. It’s the kind of album that’s so huge and inviting and executed so perfectly, that it’s really easy to get lost in. It ends, and you wind up enchanted. And then you want to listen to it again.

As I hinted at earlier, the only thing that’s really wrong with The Never Ending Way of the ORWarriOR is the title itself; sure it’s tied into the concept of the album, but not necessarily so; that is to say, the album doesn’t sink or swim based on the title. But the music – you can sense the dedication that went into everything. It took the band six years to compose and arrange Mabool, and I’m guessing it took a similar amount of time for them to do this one, too. But even if it didn’t, it doesn’t change the fact that this is some of the best progressive metal you’re likely to hear all year. Sorry, Ihsahn – you still rock, buddy.

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