Released: 2004, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Orphaned Land’s MABOOL is a smashing triumph, an impressive creative achievement and may be on the short list of the best albums of the year. This band, from Israel, began sounding very much like a black metal band that incorporated traditional Jewish and Middle Eastern elements into their music. I loved their first album, SAHARA, and MABOOL, now their third album, proves they have gotten better with time. They’ve changed direction into a much more accessible and less traditional metal sound, but the offerings here are still excellent even for old school Orphaned Land fans, who may agree with me that MABOOL is their best album.
MABOOL is subtitled “The Story of the Three Sons of Seven (The Flood),” but don’t let that scare you--while it is a concept album, its source is not merely the Old Testament. Orphaned Land has creatively blended flood and creation myths from numerous cultures, some Judeo-Christian but many not, into this expansive story. From the first track, “Birth of the Three,” the band manages to stay on message and deliver it in a very catchy and aurally pleasing style. There are thick guitar riffs, punishing speed, great melodic sections, intriguing instrumentation changes, and some good old fashioned black metal growling mixed in with such things as Native American-sounding choruses, Arabesque intros (“Ocean Land”), a female a capella solo sung in Hebrew (“A’salk”), and even an orchestral-sounding cello and violin section (“Mabool”). There is so much going on here in so many places that you will find yourself giving this album your undivided attention, listening in rapt suspense to hear what’s going to come next. Not all of it works all the time, but enough of it does that the album quickly spins together an overwhelming epic atmosphere that carries you through to the end.
The musicianship is top-notch. Guitarists Yossi Sassi and Matti Svatitzki are excellent, and drummer Avi Diamand keeps everybody on track flawlessly. The production is also phenomenal, and that’s totally key given the number of instruments, time changes and other unusual features of this album--thankfully you can hear it all, crystal-clear and with the expansive depth that a sound this big deserves. Imagine getting a very good and well-respected metal band together and sending them on a mission to play the entire soundtrack of the movie “Gladiator” in a metal style, and you might end up with something whose style and overall feel approximates what MABOOL is like.
I’m very glad to see that Orphaned Land are beginning to take things to the next level, and I hope MABOOL proves to be a tremendous success for them. Certainly it has the potential to be. This is an exceptional album, and even if you’ve never heard Orphaned Land before, you’re in for a treat. This is great all the way around!