Amid the countless ‘offspring’ of the Heavy Metal genre, Oriental Metal has remained as one of the most underappreciated forces since originating (arguably, at least) with the Orphaned Land demo The Beloved’s Cry in 1990. Personified throughout by the influence of Arabic, Jewish and Middle Eastern Folk music, it slowly grew in popularity as artists and groups from Jerusalem (Melechesh), Lebanon (The Kordz) and Morrocco (Lazywall) soon followed suit. Re-emerging with their full-length debut Sahara in 1994, the Petah Tikva/Bat Yam, Israel-born icons would continue issuing a series of well-regarded releases (perhaps most notably The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR in 2010 and Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs in 2018). Now, with the entirety of their c -ollected works painstakingly detailed via the massive, rarity-laden 30 Years Of Oriental Metal Box Set (2021), the group’s multi-dimensional, genre-defying approach will receive the recognition it still so rightfully deserves.
On the brilliant 30 Years Of Oriental Metal (2021), an expertly assembled eight disc, ninety-six (!) song Box Set collection of genre-re-defining, ‘Oriental’-infused Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the wryly-titled, albeit highly-effective, gem “Blessed Be Thy Hate”, the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing denouncement “Flawless Belief”, the relentlessly pummeling “The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins)” and the Steven Wilson-fueled “Disciples Of The Sacred Oath II”, immediately set the pace and tone for what soon follows in it’s yawning wake. Wasting little–if any–time submerging the proverbial average listener amid an all-consuming barrage of often soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and a staggering array of Eastern stringed instruments and vehement backing choirs. Scoring major points early and often courtesy of both well-known classics and obscure gems alike (i.e., “Aldiar Al Mukadisa”), the initial auditory offerings are as mind-blowingly immersive as they are thoroughly satisfying.
Continuing with the delightfully steel guitar-tinged “New Jerusalem”, the rumbling, multi-dimensional “In Thy Never Ending Way” the Kobi Aflalo co-penned jewel “Let The Truth Be Known” and the thunderous, arguably self-explanatory lament “Our Own Messiah”, the airtight combinations of vocalist Kobi Farhi, rhythm guitarists Matti Svatitzki and Idan Amsalem, lead guitarists Chen Balbus and Yossi Sassi, bassist Uri Zelcha, keyboardists Itzik Levy and Eden Rabin, percussionist Yatziv Caspi and drummers Sami Bachar, Eran Asias, Avi Diamond and Matan Shmuely (ex-Grave In The Sky) steamrolls ahead with a unnervingly sickening ease. Deftly punctuating this career-spanning set with a variety of lyrical and musical ideals once considered entirely foreign to virtually any traditional sub-genre, the group exceeds even the most optimistic of fanboi expectations by maintaining a hauntingly artful balance between hard-earned indignation and unnecessary bombastic dramas.
Undeniably exhaustive in its overall scope and execution, other standouts, including the piercing statement- of-intent “The Cave” the all-too-brief, Jens Borgen-Produced ‘instant classic’ “Poets Of Prophetic Messianism” the seething “My Brothers Keeper” and the equally impressive, thought-provoking closer “Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War” (all from Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, 2018), offer the listener the opportunity to vicariously partake in the entirety of their catalog. Exploring unparalleled levels of anger, protest and tragedy, this colossus of a collection is completed via a an autographed, hand-numbered certificate of authenticity and, perhaps most notably, artwork courtesy of French graphic artist Jean-Emmanuel ‘Valnoir’ Simoulin (The Black Dahlia Murder, Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost). Seemingly poised to forge ahead with a previously-unparalleled audio-visual journey, only time will tell if the group is able to achieve the global success they so rightly deserve.
Still looking for a less-than-obvious ‘fix’ that doesn’t sacrifice heaviness, intricacies or melody? Rest assured you need not look any further. While the majority–if not all–of the lastingly memorable wares contained herein are quite obviously not for those uninterested in broadening their musical horizons, what ultimately separates 30 Years Of Oriental Metal from the equally well-heeled compilations of their few legitimate contemporaries is a much-welcomed focus on all things non-traditional. As refreshingly dynamic and imaginative as they are mos- h-inducing, love ’em or loathe ’em, this is quite possibly as good as it gets. Needless to say, if you’ve once again found yourself unable (or, at the very least, apprehensive) to wholeheartedly embrace the veritable wealth of ent -ertaining, yet entirely benign, banalities proffered beneath the Clear Channel ‘New Metal’ banner, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.