Review Summary: One of the best metal albums ever, Mabool takes Israeli folk music and mashes it together with some of the tightest and greatest metal sounds in modern music.
I know next to nothing about metal. I can’t tell you the difference between death metal, black metal, doom metal, and all those other metal subgenres. Progressive death metal with a tinge of doom? What in God’s name is that? I never explored metal and I only get into it every once in a while when a really special and unique band comes along. I really don’t like good metal that is just metal. Emperor just doesn’t sit well with me. It needs something else to it like acoustic sections, a great clean vocalist, or maybe some Israeli folk music. Orphaned Land happens to have all three. Mabool, on its surface, looks more like a concept album about Noah’s Ark. With tracks titled Building the Ark and Mabool (The Flood), it seems almost inevitable that the album revolves around that timeless Biblical story. However, the first half of the album sets a slew of different characters. It tells the story of three sons, whom the band describes as symbols for the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As they fail to prevent more war based on the differences of their religions, God forces them to face the flood.
A typical metal album could easily cover this concept, but Orphaned Land takes the album to a new level with the addition of Hebrew and Arabic lyrics amongst various Israeli folk instruments mixed in with incredible metal sound. Their metal sounds much like Opeth, mixing angry growls with perfect clean vocals. The band almost never resorts to the stereotypical double-bass fury with ambiguous drop-D power chords. Even when the double bass enters, the instruments have some sort of noticeable melody, brought through with the excellent production. Orphaned Land also possesses a great synthesizer sound, which floats on top of everything in whatever voicing suits the song best. Halo Dies (The Wrath of God)
goes through the different metal sounds of the band perfectly, switching tempos and feels masterfully. The song opens with a midtempo headbanging fest with excellent clean vocals. The use of Middle Eastern instruments add a great originality to the sound. This builds to a double-bass climax, seemingly representing God’s wrath with the change to growled vocals, climatic synthesizers and ambient sounds of crashing and destruction. Still further, the song picks up even more tempo with a lightning-fast Eastern influenced guitar riff. This is just half the song and the song continues to go through various different changes including a much softer acoustic section.
However, the album’s strongest point may lie in its variety. Mabool hosts a slew of acoustic and softer tracks, one of the best being The Calm Before the Flood
. It features a solitary acoustic guitar going through a great chord progression. As the guitar switches to a clean electric sound, beautiful synthesizer swells and strings add to the atmosphere of the song as faintly, the wind can be heard off in the distance. While not technically challenging, the song serves only to work as its title. Orphaned Land proves they create the most beautiful music as well as the most brutal. It is this contrast that allows the band’s sound to never tire and gives the album incredible replay value. Even the acoustic tracks possess variety and contrast, as Rainbow (The Resurrection)
stands as a nearly polar opposite to The Calm Before the Flood
. Where Calm Before the Flood
was more brooding and anticipating, Rainbow is a release of emotion and tension. A much happier (major keyed) acoustic guitar sings over the background noise of birds chirping. It makes a great, subtle ending to the epic proportions that Mabool takes on itself. Meanwhile, A’salk
, the first acoustic track of the album, is true Israeli folk music. A woman sings in a foreign language over ethnic percussion and a Middle Eastern stringed instrument.
Every track on the album is phenomenal, whether it be the symphonic metal of Mabool (The Flood)
or the subtly beautiful Norra El Norra (Entering the Ark)
, which ranges from the best mix of Israeli folk and metal possible to a wonderful piano solo that ends the song on a fade. The hard-hitting opener, Birth of the Three (The Unification)
shows some of the best vocals on the album as well as some of the album’s heaviest moments. However, nothing compares to the epic standards of The Storm Still Rages
. The longest song on the album, it features excellent lead guitar that takes a huge solo for the first half of the track, although vocals add in on some sections of the song. The lead guitarist realizes that a shred fest for nine minutes would suck, so he plays much more tastefully, only reaching his full speed at the climaxes. However, the true climax of the song comes at a huge angelic choir ending, used in the same manner as dredg on their closing track The Canyon Behind Her.
Mabool stands among the greatest metal albums of all time due to its consistency, variety, and overall excellence in musicianship. The harmonies, the vocals, the overall production, and everything about the album reaches for perfection. The album is surprisingly easy to listen all the way through, especially with its stronger ending. The last five tracks of the album are some of the strongest songs I’ve ever heard and make the album never tire because it is always getting better. This album belongs in the hands of anybody who listens to music.
The Birth of Three (The Unification)
Halo Dies (The Wrath of God)
Norra El Norra (Entering the Ark)
The Calm Before the Flood
Mabool (The Flood)
The Storm Still Rages
Rainbow (The Resurrection)