Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
26th January, 2018 – Century Media
01. The Cave
02. We Do Not Resist
03. In Propaganda
04. All Knowing Eye
06. Chains Fall to Gravity
07. Like Orpheus
08. Poets of Prophetic Messianism
09. Left Behind
10. My Brother’s Keeper
11. Take My Hand
12. Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War
13. The Manifest – Epilogue
That Orphaned Land exist at all is a bit of a story. From a country known to be somewhat inhospitable to metal bands, they had to go on hiatus in 1997 due to the conditions of their homeland, Israel, creating a massive 8-year gap between their second and third albums. Luckily, the band was able to make a comeback in 2001 and have created some of the finest progressive metal in the world since then; notably 2004’s Mabool and 2010’s The Never Ending Way of the OrWarrior. Five years after their last release comes their newest offering: Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs.
This is the first album to feature new guitarist Idan Amsalem, who replaced founding member Yossi Sassi in 2014. While it is always hard for a band to replace a long-time founding member, Amsalem acquits himself very well, working in tandem with other guitarist Chen Balbus.
Orphaned Land’s last effort, All is One, dropped the use of harsh vocals to some consternation from long-time fans. While the album turned out to be very good regardless, there are moments where the harsh vocals could have been used effectively. On Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs, the harsh vocals make a grand return, with At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg lending his legendary growl to the equation as a guest vocalist.
It’s as good as anyone would expect. Meanwhile, the album also boasts other guest musicians in Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian, who bestows his majesty on the song “Like Orpheus”, and progressive rock legend Steve Hackett (Genesis) adds a guitar solo on the song “Chains Fall to Gravity”. However, even with all these guest vocalists, Kobi Farhi still stands out as a revelation. His soaring voice works well with the melodies that are composed for the choruses and he delivers the spoken-word passages with a gravelly passion.
Orphaned Land’s musical ambition is clear as day; the use of lush choral arrangements and orchestral flourishes really gives the music an extra dimension, and songs range from harsh and heavy (“We Do Not Resist”) to sprawling and epic (“The Cave” and “Chains Fall to Gravity”). The spoken-word-driven “My Brother’s Keeper” is a really nice addition as well, bringing to mind early Pain of Salvation.
Orphaned Land have always written albums that promote unity, peace, and understanding, but Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs is, by the band’s own words, “an angry/tragic protest album”. To that end, the band have quite literally censored themselves, bleeping out words in four different instances across the album.
“We basically wanted to use the “beep” sounds as parts of the music. Also as a part of the concept, as if we are trying to deliver a message and being silenced by the system.”
The bleeps are jarring to hear when they come in, taking the listener out of the music and calling attention to the censorship. It is a far more effective way of making a point than simply writing some lyrics about it, which many people would likely skim over and not understand.
Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs feels sincere in its message and the composition is magnificent. Even if you don’t really get into the lyrical themes and just want to enjoy the music, it serves that purpose more than adequately.
Orphaned Land have been very consistent over their career and, while Unsung Prophets doesn’t quite have the feel of a timeless masterpiece, it fits nicely into their catalogue of excellent albums. Definitely worth a few spins for any fan of Middle Eastern-tinged progressive death metal.