London / Borderline, Tuesday 22nd of November 2011

Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

The story of the Israeli Prog/Folk Metal outfit Orphaned Land is not that of an average band. Apart from the fact that they both hail from and operate in one of the most dangerous areas in the world, they were among the first to incorporate Middle Eastern elements and oriental scales in their music resulting in a style and sound that many of their peers and imitators have tried to copy, none of which have achieved any significant success. Last year, Yossi Sassi (guitars) and co released their best effort to date, the fifteen track opus “The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR”, and it for the promotion of this very album and the subsequent live CD/DVD “The Road To OR-Shalem” that Orphaned Land decided to once again visit Europe, this time for a one month tour – one advertised as the first Oriental Metal tour ever. Having really enjoyed both last year’s performance at the London Underworld performance at that at Hellfest earlier this year I knew that missing this show was simply not an option and having arranged to do an interview with Yossi, I found myself quite early on inside this small venue with the quite unusual layout.

Venues tend to be by definition fairly busy places, however I did detect an unusual commotion while waiting my turn to interview Yossi and I soon found out that this was due to the fact that, with the exception of drummer Piwee Desfray who is apparently the proud owner of a French passport, the remaining members of the Tunisian quintet Myrath were declined entry to the UK due to Visa issues, much to the disappointment of both their fans and a few childhood friends that came to tonight’s show especially for them. The first band to hit the stage was the French Hardcore/Punk quintet Artweg – a band which consists, amongst others, of two vocalists and whose approach to rhythm and melody is totally different when compared to the remaining bands on the bill. The band’s sole release to date is last year’s “Artweg” EP and, though on paper they should not have hoped for any positive reaction from tonight’s crowd, Chimea’s passionate drumming together with the dual vocal attack by Mugen & Akonit ensured a very warm round of applause when the band left the stage thirty minutes later. Arkan may be a Parisian outfit but the background of its members ensured that many Algerian and Moroccan elements were incorporated in the bands’ Melodic Death Metal set – one that was predominantly based on this year’s Season Of Mist sponsored release “Salam”. Being both visually and musically closer to the headliners, Arkan received a warm welcome from the start, and the mood was further enhanced by Sarah Layssac’s ethereal presence and commanding vocal performance throughout the band’s set.

It was around 21:00 that the first few notes of “Halo Dies (The Wrath Of God)” filled the air and the members of Orphaned Land found themselves struggling to fill every inch of free space available on stage, the Borderline not being the most band-friendly venue in London. Did that deter them from providing a top notch performance and enjoying themselves? Certainly not! When not performing his trademark riffs and flamboyant solos, guitarist Yiossi Sa’aron Sassi kept himself busy by either waiving or throwing smiles at the audience, at the same time that the small in stature Matan Shmuely was pounding the living hell out of his drum kit, the ‘Jesus lookalike’ frontman Kobi Farhi was leading the band by example and the duet Matti Svatitzki (guitar)/ Uri Zelcha (bass) were keeping things tight on the right side of the stage. The material performed during the first half of the band’s set was equally divided between “The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR” and its equally loved predecessor “Mabool” (2004), much to the crowd’s appreciation. When the Lebanese dancer Johanna Fakhry first joined the band for the amazing “Sapari”, the stage became ever more cramped but somehow the band managed to pull it through, leading to a grand round of applause and the same applied to the equally impressive performance of “The Path Part 1: Treading Through Darkness”. It is amazing to see how harmonious this band is on stage, whether they are performing their material with surgical precision or teasing each other, making tonight’s performance feel more like a gathering of friends rather than just another gig in London. One very funny incident took place during the introduction of “The Warrior” when bassist Uri Zelcha ordered drummer Matan Shmuely to acquire a very uncomfortable position behind his drum kit so as to enable the audience to see the video that was accompanying the song through a tiny projector screen that was positioned behind his back, much to our overall amusement. "El Meod Na'Ala" was presented as a song conceived at a synagogue, when the then young members of the band were attending prayer while wearing Slayer t-shirts, and was accompanied by a beautifully-performed bouzouki theme by Yossi, leaving “In Thy Never Ending Way” to close the band’s main set. When Kobi and Yiossi returned to the stage a few minutes after having left it, they came to perform a short acoustic version of a Myrath composition as a dedication to their missing colleagues, followed by an equally moving version of “Orphaned Land – The Storm Still Rages Inside”. The crowd’s participation throughout the show was commendable and it became even more impressive when the classic sing-along opus “Norra el Norra” was performed, and by the time the equally loved “Ornaments Of Gold” was heard, all you could see around you was a sea of smiley faces!

As I mentioned earlier in my review, last time I saw Orphaned Land live in London was last year when they performed at the London Underworld - a show which was amongst the best of 2010. Naturally, I assumed that this time around the band would be given the opportunity to perform in a bigger and better equipped place – not being downsized to a venue the size of Borderline. I want to believe that the only reason that such a decision was made was as a result of having more high profile bands like Morbid Angel also performing in London on the night rather that an indication of Orphaned Land’s current popularity. Anyhow, those of us who were lucky to be at the Borderline on the evening of the 22nd of November witnessed not only an amazing show but also the first ever Oriental Metal tour in Europe, making this gig among the absolute highlights of the year. Cannot wait to see this band live again!

Orphaned Land Set List

Halo Dies (The Wrath Of God)
Birth Of The Three (The Unification)
Olat Ha’Tamid
The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins)
In Thy Never Ending Way
From Broken Vessels
The Path Part 1: Treading Through Darkness
Ocean Land (The Revelation)
Vayehi Or
The Warrior
El Meod Na’ala
In Thy Never Ending Way

The Beloved’s Cry
Orphaned Land – The Storm Still Rages Inside
Nora El Norra
Ornaments Of Gold