Orphaned Land headlined the Sophie Lancaster Stage at Bloodstock 2018 on Saturday August 11th. I caught up with frontman Kobi Farhi to chat about what makes him tick as he assembles a plethora of inspiration which then become a complex multi-faceted recording of Orphaned Land.
Israel’s breakthrough band Orphaned Land – the pioneers of Oriental metal – have returned with All Is One and an in-your-face message for everyone to embrace:
“People should be judged by their hearts and inner sincerity, not their religious beliefs.”
Three years have passed since the release of The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR (Produced by Steven Wilson – Porcupine Tree) and in that time Orphaned Land have toured the world, brought their message to the people, and almost 20 years into their career, continue to cement their reputation as band with a purpose. Something beyond melodic death metal, black metal and folk metal, Orphaned Land doesn’t base their music on myths that other bands sing about; they focus on situations in the real world that are happening right here, right now. You’d be hard pressed to find any other musicians in Israel that have influenced so many people in outside the country’s borders, and in the eye of opposing religious views Orphaned Land are, in many ways, considered enemies. There’s no escaping the fact, however, that the band’s music has broken down those barriers and unified a community. It wasn’t a new age band or a jazz band that brought people together; it was a Middle Eastern heavy metal band called Orphaned Land.
This has been acknowledged by the fans, who did the unthinkable and started an online petition in 2012 to nominate Orphaned Land for the coveted Nobel Prize. Many metal fans felt strongly about the band’s commitment to inviting the Arab world to listen to their music in spite of resistance and outright bans from Arab League countries. Thousands of people from all over the world have since signed the petition.
“I could never imagine in my wildest imagination that one day an Israeli band would be followed by thousands of Muslims from all over the world,” says frontman Kobi Farhi, noting that Orphaned Land are the proud recipients of four Peace Awards issued by their Turkish brethren. “If we do a show in Istanbul, Turkey – which is the only Muslim country where we’re allowed to play – people come all the way from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan just to see us. These are enemies that are fighting each other coming to see us as one group of people. I’d say that historically the Jews and Arabs are brothers because we are all descendants of Abraham, but the conflict and the differences are so big that we’ve forgotten that. Discovering the fact that our music is the instrument to remind people that we are all one is shocking to me. I never imagined that blood enemies would open their eyes because of it. That’s why the title of the album is All Is One.”
Orphaned Land’s lyrics are politically charged most of the time according to Farhi, but not from the point of taking sides. The band is committed to reflecting the political situation in their corner of the world, but they never claim to be for or against any one point of view. All Is One continues their tradition of working and writing as a collective, and if fans go back and explore Orphaned Land’s lyrics from the ’90s (Sahara – 1994, El Norra Alina – 1996) they’ll encounter the same themes and concepts as presented today.
“The music is just played better and the concepts are made stronger now,” says Farhi.
Fans will never hear one Orphaned Land album sound like another. Some patterns on All Is One are Orphaned Land trademarks, but the band is always open to experimentation. This time out, for example, Farhi’s growls are almost non-existent. In addition, the songs as a whole are catchier and shorter compared to previous outings, and more “in your face.” That said, by no means has the band gone commercial. Not even close.
All Is One was mixed by the critically acclaimed Jens Bogren (Kreator, Amon Amarth, James LaBrie, Devin Townsend Project, Opeth) and was recorded in three different countries: Israel, Turkey and Sweden. Ironically, countries that are Jewish, Muslim and Christian respectively, which strengthens the Orphaned Land message of unity through music. Over 40 musicians were used to flesh out the sound of All Is One, including 25 choir singers and eight classical violin, viola and cello players from Turkey. Farhi, for his part, considers All Is One “the greatest album we’ve made to date.”
“We felt that we’ve done very complex albums in the past, we’ve proven that we know how to be the most complex band in the world if we want. But this time we had the feeling that, coming from a very complex region, it’s time to make an album that would be fun to do and fun for the fans to hear. A lot of the songs are very sad and tragic, but they’re a little easier to digest the messages in the lyrics. We wanted to make an album that’s easy for any metal fan to understand the lyrics from the very first listen.”
“Our feeling is that we were able to bring our music to a new level on All Is One,” says Farhi. “I hope the fans will feel the same way.”