Formed in the early 1990's, the Israeli band Orphaned Land was not only another metal band, as they was naturally creating a sound identity of their own, adding elements typical of their region. Besides the musical barrier, they also broke cultural obstacles, reaching with their music and messages a faithful audience, independent of creeds, religions, genres and other factors. (Confira Versão em Português)
The band celebrates 25 years with the release of a great new album, soon falling in the graces of fans and critics, who waited for a record of unpublished ones more than 5 years. And completing these celebrations, re-released in special edition their debut, "Sahara". And for fans of Brazil, this 25-year celebration is even more special, as the entire catalog of the group is being released here via Shinigami Records.
We talked with guitarist Chen Balbus, who told us a bit more about the new album, "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs", the 25th anniversary of Orphaned Land and more. Check out!
Road to Metal: To begin with, I would like you to talk about these 25 years of Orphaned Land, a band that broke many barriers through their music, reaching audiences regardless of beliefs, religions, language or other factors. I would like you to talk about the band's achievements and if you imagined, at the beginning, that your music would reach so many people around the world.
Chen: I would say that no band that made it somewhere ever thought that they’d get this far. You just start off playing the music you love and do what makes your heart feel good, speak about what you think is right..and suddenly you realize it does have some effect on people. you’re never prepared for that.
RtM: And for the future of Orphaned Land? What would you still like to accomplish with the band?
Chen: The ultimate and classic dream is to keep growing. Never actually want to see myself in an office from 9 to 5 everyday. Besides doing what I love forever? I hope that our message will break the boundaries and create some effect out there. We wish to enlighten the world.
|"We don’t have to like one another or to believe anything we don’t want to - we just have to live together on the same planet. it’s not that hard."
Chen: There are many ways to promote peace. the more public they are - the better to use them for great causes like these. Whether sports, music, or any kind of act.
RtM: 25 years of band well celebrated with re-releases and, of course, with the excellent new album. "Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs". It was 5 years before its release, and it was worth the wait. What are the main factors of delay for this album? I believe that you did not want to give a deadline, to flow naturally, delivering the best songs possible, and, maybe, also to coincide with this 25-year celebration.
Chen: We were very fortunate this time to record most of the stuff at Idan’s studio in Israel. Having that free time and not going to the studio with a deadline made it all easier - Just taking our time till we feel good with what we put out there. You don’t want to be stressed about how much every minute will cost you and that can cause a rushed album.
RtM: I also believe that you are satisfied with the final result of the whole production, as well as great songs, everything sounds fantastic, and surely composing an Orphaned Land album is complex and requires a very well-kept production.
Chen: Thanks! we’re very happy with the final outcome. It was worth the wait and the reviews, the fan reactions just proved us that we were right to take our time. Rather than just having another album that we’re not happy with and does not stand out as previous ones. We always want to top previous work.
RtM: I would like you to tell us if have a main concept on the album, and the main inspirations to compose the entire work? I saw that you use Plato's allegory of the cave as an inspiration too.
Chen: Yes, we have! There are many Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs throughout the history that were silenced or opposed by the government, those are the ones who had their ideals and tried to revolutionize the world, such as Victor Jara, Martin Luther King and many more. Every time some guy wants to bring an actual solution - he’s murdered with his idea.
RtM: Speaking a little about the songs, the opening with "The Cave", which refers to, brings in its lyrics the phrase that gave the album its name, appearing at the end "Those unsung prophets and dead messiahs will fall" along with another great phrase "We choose to live in this darkened cave, far, far away from the light." I would then like you to talk a little more about this song, and those specific phrases, which tell me a lot about the album title.
Chen: This song is my personal favorite out of the album since in my taste - it sums up the whole album. Musically and lyrically. As well it was the first song that was chosen for this album (started as a 3.45 minute song and ended up 8:30. This song has all of the elements of the album.
RtM: "Chains Fall to Gravity" is another very strong song on the album, bringing Steve Hackett as a guest, I would like you to talk about his participation, and of course, about the lyrics, which has a passage that I really like: "When a messiah is born, it's like blooming of a flower rising in the netherworld, waters of hope, falling on an orphaned land."
Chen: Steve wanted to have Kobi on his solo album and asked Kobi whether he wanted to get paid or to have a guest solo for our album. The answer was obvious!! This track, being about 9 minutes long and very prog - it was the track that would fit Steve Hacketts style perfectly. This song refers to the hero, the messiah, the prophet that got out of his chains and leaving the life he knew at the cave for the world outside.
RtM: Another highlight is "Like Orpheus", music that already deserves classic status in the discography of the band. It also brings another guest, Hansi Kursch, another element that helped make this song very special. So, before we talk more about the lyrics, I'd like you to talk about Hansi's participation and how did the idea come to have him in this song?
Chen: We were good friends for a long while with Blind Guardian’s guitar player, Mr. Marcus Siepen, which lead eventually to us touring together. We’ve had so much fun together on tour as all of them are awesome down to earth guys. During that time we were composing UPADM and we knew that the track ‘Like Orpheus’ is pretty much made exactly for Hansi. Luckily he agreed and did it with pleasure.
|"The band started just as a metal band wanting to play metal music, but then the thought of being like every other metal band was...pretty boring and not original."
Chen: Thank you, first of all! The idea behind this song is obviously about inner enlightenment - where people don’t realize beyond what they already know. In the story context it’s where the hero is out of the cave and understanding that there’s a whole new world outside he never knew about, since he was trapped in the darkness of the cave. Just like those Jewish boy and Muslim girl - they don’t know that they are both into the same things, they are in their own cave, far away from the light.
RtM: "Only The Dead Have Seen the End of War" is undoubtedly another high point and important part of the album, bringing the participation of Tomas Lindberg. I would like you to also tell us more about this song and about Tomas' participation.
Chen: Our hero in story is sentenced to death by the people of the cave. While the hero has news news about the world outside the cave and tries to enlighten his friends - they refuse to believe him and call him a lunatic - thus eventually killing him. They are ok with their life in the cave. Tomas Lindberg fitted perfectly for the role of the lunatic crowd with his crazy scary growls and shouts.
RtM: Returning to the celebrations of 25 years, your first album, "Sahara", received a special relaunch, and it, as all the discography of the band, are being launched here in Brazil finally. Before we only had access to the imported copies. Could you tell us a bit about Sahara's relaunch and, maybe difficult question, what is your favorite song on it?
Chen: Each of those albums are part of Orphaned Land history and responsible for shaping OL through the years. As we are growing bigger as a band - people usually get to know that latest albums and we’d like them to know each period of the band.
Out of ‘Sahara’ I would pick - Ornaments of Gold which we play a fragment of it during every live set as the final song for the set. It holds that OL spirit in my taste.
RtM: An element that marks much the personality of the band, is this mixture of Metal with typical rhythms of your country, besides you also use to sing using different languages at various times. I would then like you to talk about how you were thinking and forging that musical personality of the band.
Chen: That something that just happened very naturally. The band started just as a metal band wanting to play metal music, but then the thought of being like every other metal band was...pretty boring and not original. Thus the idea to combine what is natural for us was born - and it just happens naturally as Scandinavian bands would talk about Vikings and use their folk instruments, lets say.
|"Every time some guy wants to bring an actual solution - he’s murdered with his idea."
Chen: I wouldn’t say much has changed since then, since we have the same conflicts again and again. I truly believe that Israel is trying to be at its best for the world and for ourselves. It’s one of the only countries (if not the only) that will allow and embrace Homosexual people without killing them or pretty much allow you to speak your mind regardless where you are from. Arabic people who choose to live here sometimes live better in Israel than in their own countries.
RtM: And it would also be interesting to pass on your view about the conflicts in the Middle East.
Chen: As long as the term ‘land’ & ‘Borders’ still exists - war will probably continue. People refuse to understand that none of that matters. We don’t have to like one another or to believe anything we don’t want to - we just have to live together on the same planet. it’s not that hard. Everyone wants to imply their rules upon the other and that’s what creates war.
RtM: Chen, thank you very much for the interview, I've been planning to do it for a while, and it's great to have done such a special occasion for the band. I hope you will return to Brazil and South America soon. Make room for your final message to the fans from here.
Chen: Be good people, respect one another.
Orphaned Land are:
Kobi Farhi: Vocals
Uri Zelha: Bass
Chen Balbus: Guitars & Saz
Idan Amsalem: Guitars & Bouzouki
Matan Shmuely: Drums & Percussion
El Norra Alila (1996)
The Never Ending Way of OrWarrior (2010)
All is One (2013)
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs (2018)