The Israeli progressive metal combo Orphaned Land will be releasing a brand new opus called "The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR". The long waited fourth album gives a massive journey into the Middle Eastern metal with obviously folk music approach involved. The album is based on an interesting concept. Even though it is already some years having passed by since Mabool, the Israeli metallers have returned with a strong and brilliant album. Therefore, it is about time to have an interview with Orphaned Land in Metal-Rules.com and chat with the guitarist Yossi Saaron Sassi about the new album.
Good day to the holy land and the Orphaned Land camp, how is the life going there at the moment in Israel?
Hei, what can go wrong in your life when you are about to release an Epic album after you’ve put your sweat, blood and tears into it for few years?
NEW ALBUM- “The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR”
Well I think it is pretty logical to start the whole interview by focusing on the new Orphaned Land album “The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR” being the fourth output of Orphaned Land, some time passed by since the previous album “Mabool” which saw the light of day back in 2004, how come it took some more than a few years to come out with the new album?!
We always take our time with our creation. My initial composition (the main riffs of the songs) may take few days or weeks to complete, yet after that we begin a long journey to build the concept, attach the lyrics to the music, find what we want to do special in this album etc. It’s a neverending way, literally. Yet somewhere down the years we find a spot where we stop and feel comfortable with releasing the Best product we have in our hands at that moment
Did the writing process of the material of The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR differ somehow from the old ones, or do you mostly pen all the material on your own and then gather together to check out what each of you has composed and created and then start rehearsing and putting pieces together ?!
I do most of the writing and arrangements, yet once the basic riffs are in place, we all put our minds into the process and give feedback. We all have a say on everything evolving the band, from riffs through graphics up to where we’re heading as a group, yet naturally each has its relative strength and emphasis. My emphasis and main contribution is on the composition itself, Kobi is mainly into the lyrics and concept, Uri is the master of Graphics (did our Logo, album cover and more), Matti is my fellow-axeman and a Great mind on everything really!
Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree has been responsible behind the mixing desk and as well for several keyboards parts on the album as far as I know, I bet some money this question must be asked and will be asked tons of times for sure, but how did he end up mixing up the fourth Orphaned Land album, was he already aware of the material of Orphaned Land before ?!
Steven Wilson and Orphaned Land met years back in a show and we began to correspond; he truly sees Orphaned Land’s uniqueness and musicianship. He played the keyboards and Mixed the album in London, at his home studio. We met from time to time for work meetings in Israel and he saw the creation from early stages as it evolved. Steven also speaks about this experience in the Documentary movie that we did (www.aheavenyoumaycreate.com). He states it was a challenge for him to mix this complex album.. he he .. but the final result shows he handled this challenge great.
Did he come up some refreshing ideas and tips for you how some songs could be arranged differently or how the album could sound or some other valuable tips which kind of opened your ears and eyes ?!
Steven is a great guy and a respected musician; we had a great learning experience from working with him. He did have some cool ideas in the mixing stage, but he wasn’t involved in composition or anything of that sort.
He has worked with various and different artists and bands from Opeth to Yoko Ono, was it somehow interesting and fascinating to work with a person who has such a wide and variety working background with different names ?!
Steven is a brilliant mind, everything he touched in this album turned out to be better. We clearly gained from his experience, and it was a first experience for us to involve someone "from the outside", since we’re used to produce and manage our creation solely, internally.
I have always felt when listening to Orphaned Land it is like a journey thru the middle eastern culture and obviously the same feeling will rise up again if I have figured out I am having the same vibe as the album is what you know to except from Orphaned land and songs are based on the concept consisting of three parts ?! How do you view and could you tell more about the story of three parts?
‘The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR’ revolves around a hero, "the Warrior of Light". This hero isn’t someone specific, but could be the listener of the album himself, as this album deals with the problems we are facing in our lives every day. Especially here, in the Middle East, we feel that we are trapped in a loop of confusion and darkness. Living in this region, we see that year after year nothing changes. People continue to die in useless wars and we are trapped in a bloody circle. ORPHANED LAND has been around for almost 20 years and we continue to sing about the same subjects and stories, because after 2 decades we are still living in a tragic, orphaned land. To fight this tragedy we have chosen a peaceful, yet powerful weapon: our music.
Apparently the title of the name refers to the concept as well?
True, OrWarrior means "light warrior" or "warrior of light", representing a conceptual hero of the battle of light versus darkness.
What kind of process is to create such a massive package consisting of various styles from progressive metal to the middle eastern folk and then create and write such an interesting concept to meet all what Orphaned Land stand for and above all what fans are expecting from you ?! Do you find somehow challenging or benefit and joy?
The Making Of ORwarriOR was a long journey, full of High moments of all kinds, and it was luckily documented into a Documentary called "a heaven you may create" (www.aheavenyoumaycreate.com), which follows us in the process of making ORwarriOR a reality, through the highest creative moments down to the boiling pressure, confusion and tired-full nights.. It was filmed and edited by our drummer, Matan Shmuely, and provides a look behind the scenes of making an Orphaned Land album, both technically & sound wise, and both emotionally and inner-relationships wise.
You can catch a short trailer of it here – www.youtube.com/user/OrphanedLandTV
LYRICS AND MUSICAL JOURNEY
You tend to ladle all the inspiration from ancient Middle Eastern culture, I mean it is a rich and fabulous culture seen from a guy’s point of view who lives in Finland, it is like a never-ending source of inspiration for the music lyrics, how do you view that?
Living in the Middle-East, especially in the country where All monotheistic religions emerged from, is of course a fruitful source of inspiration for both lyrics and sounds. Only in Jerusalem itself we can find many places, books and people that we can research, explore and interview in our creation process.
Regarding the lyrics, I assume it would be reasonable to deal with them a little bit, cos it plays an important key in the Orphaned Land. Could you tell more about the lyric side of the albums in general, how do you usually start writing them ?! Do you need to be in a certain mood?
Kobi is more into the lyrical side, but I can tell you that in general, the lyrics are never completed, nor even started, before the musical patterns are there. The process of Adapting the lyrics to the melodies is a lengthy and most fulfilling task.
Do you try to reflect the political atmosphere of the Middle East in the lyrics ?!
I wouldn’t say we are political in any way, but we are certainly trying to make people see that we are all the same – down under, people are people. Hate has no place where different minds meet. You can disagree but not fight. We use music as our weapon in this journey.
Do the religious aspects and symbol play somehow an strong part in the lyrics ?!
Yes, in some albums probably more than others, but we do give place to the symbols of religions in our lyrics. As part of our creation, we always read deeper and deeper into the holy writings of all religions, everything that excites us and looks fascinating and relevant to our lyrics for a specific track can find its way there.
I am sure the new promo pic will definitely cause the divided opinions and assume you may have got some of them, but when looking at the pic it gives an impression of Orphaned Land wants to be a metal band unifying people together despite their religious background ?!
Exactly! We always adored and researched all monotheistic religions. The band photos show Jesus, muslims and orthodox jews praying together, while the jews pray like muslims on the floor, and the muslims hold the jewish bible in their hands.. and you will see more pictures of this sort.
We respect and explore all beliefs; this is part of who we are as people.
TIME GAP BETWEEN ALBUMS
Orphaned Land has released albums quite rarely since the debut album Sahara came out 1994 as El Norra Alila came out 1996 and then there was a huge gap before Mabool 2004 and now the latest one. Presumably there must have been a lot of other things like the army coming up to ruining Orphaned Land?
Like I said earlier, we always take our time with our creation, so until we get it right we will Not release it. We had several release dates internally that got postponed since we wanted it to sound like we dreamt it. To add on that, of course life in the middle-east aren’t the easiest.. you live your life between wars, army obligations, periods of uncertainty.. and of course, each has his own personal life. Some of the delays had to do with personal affairs each of us had to go through, whether its fatherhood, academic studies, or a broken heart… I went through all of the three… he he
In general does the writing and composing process and work demand a lot of time from each of you, cos as stated above the music of Orphaned Land is a like journey for a listener ?! Do you try to reach the perfect quality in the music?
Oh yes.. we always looks for the perfect things that we want in our music, whether it’s a specific sound or an arrangement change that appeals to us… there a great notion about this quest for perfectness in our creation in the Documentary called "a heaven you may create" (www.aheavenyoumaycreate.com ).
Even though the albums have come out after a long gap, but however Orphaned Land have not been forgotten that easily. Hmm loyal fans and fanbase or good luck or The band has created something magic which is remembered amongst the metal fans worldwide ?!
Our fans are simply AMAZING. In fact, Our Fans are the reason that Orphaned Land is still alive today. Even in long periods where we released nothing, They come from all over the world – Arabic countries, Europe, USA, Japan, South America, All over the world,- write us, send us great warm words on our creation and give us the energy we need to move forward.
If I would create a New band today, I would wish for the Fanbase quality and devotion that Orphaned Land has today.
When you started out a long long time ago, I still remember how you named for example Dark Tranquility, Paradise Lost and even At The Gates which have influenced you in the beginning. Even though several bands of the early 90’s were the important ones shaping how Orphaned Land sounded back then, but however the musical inspirations and influences have been expanded and obviously you try to explore new musical territories to your approach?
Since we’ve been around for almost 20 years, surely our inspirations dwell both in many metal bands as well as traditional and other types of music. I personally listen to many artists of many sorts. I love metal in every age, its my favorite music always. I think Metal makes you focused. Especially good old-school death metal. If you need to relax and get "out of focus" a bit, there are many artists out there to provide that, from Pink Floyd to many unknown traditional music artists I follow.
How do you find it necessary and important to be influenced by other bands and music nowadays, do you think finding own recognizable style is as well important for bands like Orphaned Land?
Orphaned Land were always pioneers, we never tried to follow a pattern or give the audience something general, we sound like Orphaned Land, not like other bands. This has a price in having to listen to the album few times probably in order to "digest" it. Its not an easy first listen, but over time, the richness of the album is revealed and the deep layers of the creation that we included begin to float. My inspirations come from many source that I myself am not even fully aware of probably, but at the end of the day, its "The Orphaned Land Sound" that guides me.
How about Porcupine Tree then?
Most of the Orphaned Land folks are huge PT fans, I myself found their music just lately and I must say it’s unique and inspiring. They have some epic tracks that I adore…
But the Middle eastern music approach has had a strong impact on Orphaned Land as widely known, but have you considered doing an album on your own just featuring the local middle eastern influenced music?
We do include middle-eastern influences everywhere in our creation, both acoustic and in the metal songs. In the long process on making ORwarriOR we combined session musicians such as The Arabic Orchestra of Nazareth (Violins, kawala and Nay flutes etc), Percussion, female vocals in Yemenite and more.
GLOBAL METAL AND TOURING
Orphaned Land appeared on the Global Metal document being one hell of a great document indeed. Well typical question, how did you end up on it?
We met Sam Dunn and the guys back at our Performance in Wacken 2006 when they were shooting for "a headbanger’s journey" I believe, the story and music of Orphaned Land fascinated them and we kept in touch ever since. Naturally, when Global Metal was invoked, we got invited to be part of it. The crew came to Israel, interviewed us, filmed us Live etc.
Did you get more and needed attention toward the band for example Salem was on it as well?
There were other israeli artists, not salem, but other more Active bands today in the Israeli scene. We have a HUGE metal scene with many Great bands, I believe some of them will breakout soon to worldwide acknowledgement.
Orphaned Land have toured and gig all around; several festivals in Europe and tours with such as Paradise Lost etc. However where does Orphaned Land fit better – open air festival or gloomy smoky club !?
True, we toured probably 50 countries, from the USA or Mexico with Kreator through Turkey open air stadiums and all over Europe. We are Rock musicians. This means that while a DJ does everything to satisfy his crowd, a Rock star does everything to fulfill his music and spread his creation, no matter how many people are out there. For me a show is a show – I go on stage with the same enthusiasm and energy for 50 people in a small club in an unknown ville somewhere in Europe, as well as 60,000 people in Wacken.
Is experiencing Orphaned Land on the stage one kind of magical and cultural experience for a listener being on your gig or a metal gig ?! (well I saw you at Wacken, but damn schedule I had to run between two stages to see you and Morbid Angel at the same time and that pissed me off and a little bit, heh ).
Sorry you had to run between Morbid Angel and Orphaned Land.. he he .. yes, sometimes in festivals you get hard choices, I know.. I think the experience of listening to us is different, both when played live acoustic or Live electric set of songs, because we combine so many middle-eastern sounds and elements, a lot of arabian scales and harmonies.
When the album is out, you will hit the road again to reach new fans and new territories, do you have any idea about the touring plans yet ?!
Yes! Final dates will be announced soon, but be sure to see at least a European Tour and a US tour coming soon…
All right I for one thank you for your time and interest to do the interview. I truly hope to witness Orphaned Land again without running two stages again … But the last words are yours…
Kiitos Arto! ! Time for the "Warrior of Light" to rise on the wings of Middle-Eastern Metal!
See you all on the road soon!