Israeli metallers Orphaned Land bring intimate unplugged tour to the UK
Israeli metallers Orphaned Land have been on my radar for several years now, I’ve caught them playing full electric sets and I’ve seen them play festival sets. But the opportunity to see the kings of Oriental metal play a stripped down unplugged show in my favourite venue was just too much to pass up.
All of the bands playing tonight are playing acoustic or stripped down sets, and for the majority this stripped and restructured approach works. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for openers Even Flow. It took me well over an hour to find some of the band’s music online – naming yourself after one of the most famous tracks of the grunge era is not going to help people find your music, guys.
Their brand of progressive, albeit somewhat uninspired rock is interesting enough for casual listening, but when it’s stripped back it loses any kind of dynamic. The four piece do their best to power through their thirty-minute set, but it never really takes off.
After the short interval it’s the turn of German opera metallers Molllust. They drift on to the stage looking like extras from Interview With A Vampire, and come minus a drummer and bassists – which in some ways is handy because between two violinists, a cellist, a pianist and a guitarist, they only just fit on the stage.
They power through forty-five minutes of hauntingly brilliant and sharply-executed chamber music. With pianist-turned-vocalist Jankia’s powerful and charming voice, the band leap through tracks from their new album In Deep Waters. The crowd don’t quite know how to feel about this performance, but with the numbers ever growing the band begin to get some interaction.
It’s guitarist Frank Schumacher who adds an air of theatricality to the performance; his spindly vampiric appearance feels ever more eerie as he stalks the stage and at one time takes a full on jaunt into the crowd. Pair this with dual violins and some warming cello and you’re onto a winner.
During “King Of The World“, Frank decrees himself as such, dons a crown, and proceeds to wander the stage in his overly exaggerated movements, stopping to pop open some champagne and take a turn on the keyboard. The set even sees time for a cover; a slightly rearranged version of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s “Ave Maria” – a really beautiful rendition makes the band shine.
Having gone back and listened to some of the fully electric tracks they stripped down for this performance, I have to say that they suit their stripped down personas so much more. Their is an air of delicate theatricality that becomes lost in their electric forms.
Despite the billing offering up 3 bands tonight, it really should be four. As the set up for Orphaned Land is completed, we’re introduced to the Stimmgewalt choir. Hailing from Berlin, this acapella outfit act as backing vocalists for the headliners’ performance – but before Orphaned Land come to the stage, Stimmgewalt treat us to a couple of tracks that range from haunting and dark to whimsical drinking songs.
As Orphaned Land take to the stage, the crowd erupts and frontman Kobi Farhi gets to work. His white-robed messianic presence becomes almost hypnotic as the band burst straight into “Simple Man” and “All Is One“, with backing from the choir and Kobi’s voice soaring. If anyone thought tonight would be a subdued and mellow affair, they couldn’t be more wrong. Iden flits between guitars and bouzouki, whilst Chen shreds his acoustic guitar like a mad man, and the band are intent upon making sure we all leave here with a smile on their faces.
Such is the nature of Orphaned Land’s music that sometimes it requires a little back story. “Let The Truce Be Known“, the tale of the famous impromptu WWII Christmas cease-fire, is expanded upon, and such explanations allow the true power of the songwriting to be felt.
Following shortly after, “Brother” is based around the very beginnings of Islam and Judaism; how they came from the same foundations but lost their way. The poignancy of lines like “That kid on the mountain, – what was his name?” are delivered with real mastery, and the fan favourite becomes something of a singalong.
Orphaned Land re-appear for an encore of two final tracks: the beautiful and heart wrenching “The Beloved’s Cry” – a tale of lost love and despair – and finally “Norra el Norra“, a brilliant finale that has the crowd of their feet, dancing along for the last time.
Orphaned Land are a band who, no matter when or where they’re playing, inspire unity with a special kind of energy that is seldom found in unplugged shows. It’s even more seldom to see a band truly deliver something special when performing their hits in a completely different style., but this setting undoubtedly suits Orphaned Land just as much as an electric gig. Happily, both styles allow the band to bring out tracks both old and unplayed from their back catalogue, and the addition of the choir only adds to the emotion and intricacies of the songs.
But the one thing to take away from this performance? All Is One.