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Orphaned Land

Vierenhalf jaar na ’All Is One’ komt de grootste oriëntaalse metal band Orphaned Land uit Israël met het nieuwe, zesde studioalbum. De betrokkenheid van bandleider Kobi Farhi met het verenigen van verschillende volkeren en religies heeft de voorbije jaren natuurlijk een ferme deuk gekregen in deze wereld. Dat vertaalt zich in een album waarop zoete vrouwenzang verdwenen is en plaats maakt voor veel woede, frustratie en diepgang (inclusief grunts). Je leest alles over het fascinerende concept en de muzikale inkleuring van ‘Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs’ in het volgende uitgebreide gesprek dat we hadden met de charismatische zanger.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder pagan / folk metal

Your promo trip started in Berlin and right away there, you went to visit a kind of mosque. Was that a place with a special meaning for you then?
Yes, I was in a mosque in Berlin. This is a very special place, because this place was opened by a woman and she runs this mosque. She has got dead threads all over her life and she has to go out with a lot of security, because people want to hurt her, because in a way she is very open-minded. And religion should be very open-minded. I went there because I support these ideas and I support her and I support the way she is. She is a revolutionary. I wrote the new album with the concept of unsung revolutionary. The album is about heroes like her. If I visited her, it would be a great support and she welcomed me very nice. I met the children that are studying there and for me it was very important to do that.

We are talking now four or five years after the former album ‘All Is One’ and the world has sunk into hard times in the meantime. It isn’t getting better, is it?
No, that’s the least you can say. Our album is much more angry because of that and I think we took it to the next level. The production is the better, my vocals are the best ever, the lyrics go deeper and more passionate and the concept I think is very strong, because the world has become a very bad place. That’s why the music turned out this way.

I have to say that the contrasts are amazing! Growls again and smooth melodies…
And it is conceptual again. I feel like this album is like a combination of our concept albums ‘Mabool’, ‘ORwarriOR’ and the sound and production of ‘All Is One’. It is like a combination of all these three albums before in one album, that’s why I feel we reached the maximum result here. We used the ancient story from the Greek philosopher Plato. He wrote an allegory about the cave. Did you hear about it?

Eh… no
He wrote something which is called ‘The Allegory Of The Cave’, because the Greek people killed a philosopher called Socrates. He could not understand how they could kill Socrates. He was a clever man, a white one, with good intentions, how could they kill him? He realized that there is something about humanity: they are living in a cave and they don’t want to go out. If you look at history, many people like Socrates came and every time the people killed them. If you look at Jesus Christ, if you look at Mahatma Ghandi, if you look at Martin Luther King, if you look at Kennedy or prime minister of Israel Rabin, prime minister of Egypt Sadat. They were all revolutionary, even Ché Guevara in South America. All the time these are revolutionary people and all the time the people killed them. So Plato was a kind of prophet in a way, because he wrote it 2500 years ago. This is why we called the album ‘Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs’. ‘Unsung Prophets’ are people like Plato and ‘Dead Messiahs’ are people like Martin Luther King for example. That is the concept.

Nothing really changed throughout history, in other words…
It is true and it is also that people never want to go out of the cave. For example in the Bible the people of Israel, they don’t want to leave Egypt, even if they are slaves and the Pharaoh is controlling them. But they say: we don’t want to go to the unknown. They said to Moses: You say you want to take us to the sea and then to cross the sea and then to cross the desert and you say there is a promised land, but we don’t know. Here we are slaves, but here is my food, my room. So they preferred to stay there. This is the tragedy of humanity, that we are afraid to go out in the light, that we are afraid to go out of the cave. This is the concept of this album. We have been going round in circles for ages.

What struck me is the huge amount of choirs…
It is a choir from Israel, the Hellscore choir from Tel Aviv. That was easier to work with, because it is local for us. Because the album is much more conceptual and theatrical, the choir is playing much more duty. They did an amazing job. But we recorded all over the world. We recorded the violins in Turkey, it is an Arabian oriental violin. Then my vocals and the drums we recorded in Sweden as well as the mix with Jens Bogren and the rest we did in Israel.

In 2014 long time friend and musician Yossi Sassi left the band and I see you had a new one pretty fast after that, also in 2014…
Yes, our new guitarist is Idan Amsalem. It is the first album we do with him, but he already helped us with the recordings of the previous album and used to be a live session guitarist. He is very talented and he even wrote some stuff on the new album. He plays some amazing guitar solos. This new line-up that we have now is really one of the best ones that we ever had. I still feel now that this album is our best album and this is after twenty six years, so this is a great feeling. When you can still produce your best stuff after all these years.

Indeed, one year ago you were touring to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of the band. Do you have special memories on that tour?
The special thing was that Europe is now full of refugees and ironically some of these refugees could see us live now. They could not see us when we played in Israel, because they lived in Syria. But now, when there was a war and they lost their home, and now at least they could see Orphaned Land which was their dream. That was the most special thing to see, that Syrian refugees are coming to our concerts and they could make their dream come true, even after what happened to them. That was great to see. We are Israeli and they are Syrian, we are like enemies, but metal unites us. It is ironically that the war created the situation that made them able to see us.

That reminds me that I have a question about ‘All Is One’. I read a current statement of you about it and you said it is an utopia, but as I remember well, when it came out, you were more optimistic about that idea, or am I wrong?
What I actually said, is: when you look at the front cover of ‘All Is One’, the combination of all religions… this is the utopia, this is the dream, but when you read the lyrics of ‘All Is One’ or the ones of ‘Children’ or the song ‘Let The Truce Be Known’ or ‘Fail’, you see that the lyrics are the complete opposite. The lyrics are the reality and the front cover is the utopia. That is what I said. And the tragedy is… it happens, we unite people, but when you read our lyrics it is not about ‘let’s unite, let’s dance’, ‘let’s be happy’… it is always about tragedies and sad stories. That is the contradiction: the cover is optimistic and the lyrics are tragic. But some people did not understand that. They did not get it. They thought in ‘All Is One’ we just said: ‘let’s hug each other’. It is not the case with Orphaned Land. We are not a white metal band and we don’t say to people to hug each other. We write about very serious stuff and we are more a protest band than a white metal band. We don’t tell to people: ‘you have to go to church, you have to believe in God’. We tell people: ‘you have to go and protest, you have to make a change’. People sometimes don’t get it, because of the front cover. They don’t read the lyrics or I don’t know why…

But now that will change I guess, because you come over as having more rage…
Yes, that is true. So maybe now people will get it.

band imageIn September 2016 you did a US tour with Pain and that was close to hurricane Irma…
We played in Florida just a day before Irma arrived and then we ran away. But everybody was running away, so we had a lot of traffic. We arrived maybe ten hours late to the next city, but we succeeded to do it and we succeeded to run away from the hurricane.

For a change, let us run through all of the songs with your thoughts and emotions, lyrically and musically. Starting with ‘The Cave’…
This is the song that describes the life of the cave and the life of the cave is the allegory. We are all in the cave. Humanity is in a cave, spiritually and in the way we are living. That is why we open with that song, because it was an allegory about humanity. It was written 2500 years ago and it is still actual these days. We are in a cave because of the media and the politicians and everyone with power – even religious leaders – they always kept us weak and they always took us away from what is really important. Newspapers tell us about gossip, about celebrities and they don’t tell us about poor kids. They tell us about reality TV like Big Brother, but they don’t tell us about poor kids. I will give you an example: if you go out on the street and you ask peope just two questions. The first one will be: did you know – it is just a random example - that every year in India 70,000 kids are being kidnapped? Most of them will tell you: no, I did not know about it. Then you will ask them: do you know who is Kim Kardashian? They will say yes. It is because the media puts in our brain the things that are not important and that’s the way to keep us in the cave. They put those drugs in our brains, those unimportant things, things that doesn’t matter. Do you know the book ‘Brave New World’ from Aldous Huxley?

We use samples from his voice in song number eleven ‘Take My Hand’. Aldous Huxley said that the regime in the future will find new methods of propaganda to control you and they will find new ways to make you happy and they will find ways to keep you out of the truth. And this is exactly what he said. He is an unsung prophet, no doubt about it.

George Orwell too…
Of course, with ‘1984’. All these people are big influences. They are the unsung prophets and the dead messiahs are the people who are dying like Socrates. They took position and became revolutionary, they have been fascinated. It is like the lady from the mosque that I visited. She is open-minded, she is beautiful, but there are dead threads in her life. This is exactly what Plato wrote 2500 years ago. We will kill the people of the light, we will just kill them! Look at history. Every time a leader came who was revolutionary, the people killed him. All over the world. Our biggest problem is the education. Our education is fucked up. Things are not going well at all.

What about the second song ‘We Do Not Resist’?
It is about the things that Huxley said, that the government will control everything and that we will not resist against that. It doesn’t matter how they do that and how much they fuck up our life. We are happy and we will not resist. That’s what happened in ‘Brave New World’. The government controls the people to be very happy about what they do. They designed our minds in a propaganda. Even though they are working in the dark, in the cave, they are happy, because they don’t want the light. No matter what happens, we will not resist. This is one of the strongest protest songs on the album. We are trapped in propaganda which is the next song. It is about the hero in the cave. He thinks he is the only one to see what’s really going on, while the others are trapped in propaganda.

Then we have quite a melancholic song ‘All Knowing Eye’…
Yes, it is about the fact that no matter what happens, they are still in this cave. All those dead messiahs, like Socrates or Ghandi, they are crucified. Where is the hidden key they could not find? Why couldn’t they succeed? They were such brilliant human beings! Why couldn’t they prevent the murder? Then it comes to the point where the system has this all knowing eye. They always know what we are doing, like in ‘1984’ of George Orwell. They always know what we do, where we are, what we say… You cannot win, we are all slaves of that all knowing eye.

That’s exactly what is happening in the world with all social media and cameras everywhere…
Of course, the privacy is completely gone. Everyone knows where you are from your cell phone. The cell phone can listen to you all the time. Today they can spy you in a way they couldn’t do in the past and that means that they can also control the people. This is why I called Orwell and Huxley prophets. Everybody sees them as authors. Yes, they wrote books, but they are prophets! They tell us that there are no prophets anymore after the Bible, but yes, there are.

What is ‘Yedidi’?
In Hebrew it means ‘my friend’. It is a Jewish poem, written by a Jewish poet, about one thousand years ago and when he says ‘jedidi’, he refers to God. He refers to God as his friend and ask him why he did abandoned him to be a slave in the cave. That is the purpose of it in the concept manner.

The guitar solos are really emotive and amazing this time, like the one in the next song ‘Chains Fall To Gravity’, also in ‘All Knowing Eye’…
The latter one is a solo from our new guitarist Idan and in ‘Chains Fall To Gravity’ it is a guitar solo from Steve Hackett from Genesis. This is the song that the hero starts to go out of the cave. So the chains are falling on the ground and then everybody is on the cave of Plato. They are re-chained. Just google ‘the allegory of the cave’ by Plato and read about it. This guy, his chains are falling down and he starts to go out of the cave. So this is about his journey from the darkness into the light.

band image

And what happens next? Is that in the next song ‘Like Orpheus’?
In the next song he describes everything out of the cave. This is like the life out of the cave he describes. He sees the world outside and he is very much enthusiastic about what is happening outside of the cave. We have Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian there as a guest vocalist.

Then we have ‘Poets Of Prophetic Messianism’…
That is just a transition part in the concept and it uses the text of Plato by ancient Greek, but it is just like a break.

We rock again up-tempo in ‘Left Behind’…
Yes, this is a song about the people that are left behind in the cave. After he was out of the cave, there are still some people in the cave. So this is their song, people who couldn’t get out to see the light. There is only one guy getting out of the cave, he is like a messiah, the rest is left behind in the cave.

The title ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ sounds familiar…
This refers to the Bible: ‘For I am my brother’s keeper’. It is about Cain and Abel. God asked him: ‘Where is Abel’ and Cain said: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ So I took it from there, but this is about the protagonist who is out of the cave. He thinks about those brothers he has left behind and he asks himself: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ and then he decides that he has to go back in the cave to save them. That’s why the song begins with the words: ‘I have to go back’. Then he got back to the cave, to the darkness where he came from, just to tell his brothers that they should go out of the cave. ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is the way back and ‘Take My Hand’ is where he meets them again. He tells them about the world out there and he asks them to take his hand to come with him to a world where children are not dying and to come with him to a beautiful world where they don’t have to be in the cave. But he feels that he speaks to the wall. They don’t want to go out. Like human people don’t want to change. In the next song ‘Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War’ they speak and it is the song where we have Tomas Lindberg from At The Gates as a guest. He plays the lunatic from the guys and they think that he lost his mind. They think that the guy who was out of the cave, has gone crazy. In the end they kill him, just like they killed every messiah or visionary. At the end of the song, you can hear a lot of people screaming: ‘Kill him’! That’s the end of him and that is the tragic story… like Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, etc… This is the same story all the time.

Then we have the epilogue, which is very beautiful!
Yes, on the epilogue – it is a ghost song - we do a tribute on a Chilean singer that was murdered by the government. His name is Victor Jara. We use his sentence at the end of the album, because he has a song called ‘The Manifest’ and he says there that the songs that will have bravery in them will be there forever. So we end the album with these words.

How did you engage Steve Hackett from legendary Genesis fame?
He actually contacted me, because he wanted me to sing in a song for peace (‘West To East’ – Vera) that he did on his last album ‘The Night Siren’. I agreed. Then he asked me if I wanted him to pay me money or maybe he could play a solo on our album and of course I said: ‘The solo please’. What can I do with money… I mean, money is important, but a solo is better. He did an amazing solo! It was an amazing and outstanding piece of art.

And what is your connection with Blind Guardian?
We supported Blind Guardian in 2015 when we played a tour in Europe. We became good friends and they really like and appreciate our music. That’s how we became friends and Hansi supported us by singing on ‘Like Orpheus’.

How did you meet Tomas from At The Gates?
I met him a year ago in Israel and we sang together on a cover that we did for a Peter Murphy song. So we knew each other and then I asked him and he was also agreeing to do it which was very kind of him.

I think you are famous all over the world in the meantime and sometimes there are prizes coming your way, like you won the UK Metal Hammer Global Award in 2014. Was that something special for you?
Of course, it is always great to get recognition and we share this award with a Palestinian band. That’s amazing. A great event and we were very happy to get this award.

What about the petition for a Nobel peace prize?
This is a petition that our fans started and thousands of people already signed it. This is also a great compliment and good to see.

The artwork is done by familiar artist for you, called Valnoir. Any thoughts on it?
This all seeing eye and the pyramid are also on the dollar bill. The way we designed the cover is like money. It’s like government’s designed money with many details. In a way it looks like the dollar and money. The fist is the resistance.

I also wanted to ask: don’t you have a feeling as if this world is getting more and more extremist in all kinds of ways on both sides?
Yes, I think we are becoming worse and worse on both sides. Both sides are bad equally. I cannot find which one is good, because both are very bad. The only way to fix it is the utopia of changing the education system which I don’t see it’s going to happen. There is more rage and growling on this album, it has a reason! More protest. I think there is a very strong message on this one.

You played live in New York on 9/11 last year. How did you feel that day?
Yes, it was a mixed feeling to be there on that day. I am happy that we played there on that day, and the crowd was very mixed, as always in our shows. It was a very special night.

Are there plans for video clips in the near future?
Yes, we are going to have a video clip for our new single on the seventh of December. It is the song with Hansi Kürsch ‘Like Orpheus’.

And further plans for the near future?
We are going to tour in February and March. We will have twenty shows in Europe and then probably we will have another tour in the Fall and the end of the year. Well, we hope that people will like our music and come to our shows.

Are there any wishes you have for the New Year?
I just want to wish everyone to watch a little bit less TV and to read a little bit less newspapers and to open their minds and see what’s going on. There are many bad things in the world and we have the power to change them if we let ourselves go from the television and reality TV and from gossip, mongers news and stuff like that and I hope that people will get the message of this album and will read the lyrics and will enjoy this album. And I hope to meet everyone on our shows.

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