Review Summary: A lack of direction and discipline makes The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR both a massive disappointment and a colossal failureMabool
was an unbelievably fresh listen when it was released six years ago. Of course fresh is a conflicted word to use when concerning Orphaned Land, who put almost 8 years of work into the album. One could easily assume that by the time of its release the Israeli four[-hundred] piece outfit would have grown pretty tired of what fans were being newly exposed to. So now, another six years in waiting we've got Mabool
's long awaited follow-up. The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
begs the question of how Orphaned Land can match Mabool
's freshness. How can they re-capture the impact of an album fans have had six years to absorb? On first listen, the answer is blatant if contrived---the solution, it would seem, would be to more or less release the same album over again. As far as aesthetic goes, The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
comes about as close as a Vietnamese knock off. It features many of the same sounds and ideas, but captures none of Mabool
's intangibles and effervescence.
Obviously crafted with all-things-grandiose in mind, The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
falls hardest as a result of its grandeur. Everything from the album's overlong title to its bloated hour and eighteen minute run-time feels like fodder for comparisons, but what made Mabool
so special was how naturally it flowed from point A to point B and how it did so while developing a story that may or may not have mattered to the listener. On The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
, Orphaned Land seem to be throwing things in just for the sake of doing so. As a result, it's a tedious listen; I think it took somewhere around four attempts for me to make it through the entire thing in one sitting. It certainly feels like it took six years to make, but only because it's chock filled with everything from choirs to misplaced modem sound effects (surely a result of enlisting egomaniac and self-proclaimed super-producer Steven Wilson). It sacrifices cohesion and linearity for sheer girth and when it comes to contemporary metal, I'm a firm believer that thin is in. It takes about 15 minutes before we get to “Treading Through Darkness”, the first part of the two-track “The Path”. I'm not sure the wait is warranted---both “Sapari” and “Bereft in the Abyss” are underdeveloped and lacklustre and even “From Broken Vessels” feels out of place sandwiched between what is largely a nonsequitur of an intro and a disposable acoustic 3 minutes of melodrama. Nonsequitur might be the word that best captures the album as a whole, with “The Pilgrimage to or Shalem” (or “The Path – Part Two”) being little more than an extended wank session. A seven and a half minute wank session that undermines its first part, which is easily the best song on the album and a highlight of the band's growing catalogue.
More or less all of the album's faults follow this pattern. I'd call it formulaic, with the key ingredient to its recipe being over-saturation. Whether it's the feeling that every song begins and ends with a middle eastern women singing God knows what (obviously trying to echo the street-singing found on Mabool
) or the fact that its full of 7 minute songs that go nowhere, many of The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
's faults can be chocked up to over-ambition and Steven Wilson's deplorable work as producer. Having made a career out of being in love with his own ideas, Wilson never sees fit to reign the band in and as a result we're left with songs like “The Pilgrimage to or Shalem” and “The Warrior”, two seven-plus minute tracks featuring little more than hair-blowing-in-the-wind soloing, with the latter opening with a nauseating voice-over. Pair those with the album's forgettable opening 15 minutes and we're at nearly half an hour of throwaway, and for what? That's 40 minutes of music with about 8 that aren't terrible, a trend that's sadly present throughout the rest of the album. “Treading Through Darkness” and “Codeword: Uprising” are the only songs I can truly call good from start to finish. Even the best parts of “Disciples of the Sacred Oath II” and “In Thy Never Ending Way” are surrounded by vapid chugging, soloing and displaced crooning---filler in other words. There simply aren't many hooks to be found and with an album as long as this one that makes for a tedious, frustrating listen.
Two and a half solid songs and a handful of memorable melodies scattered throughout 15 tracks and 80 minutes makes The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
both a massive disappointment and a colossal failure. While it's not a consistently terrible album, that fact exists more as a result of the album's crippling inconsistency. When the band is on, they're on, and in a few instances they still show the unbridled potential we hoped they'd deliver on, but as a whole The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
is evidence of a total lack of direction and discipline. The middle-Eastern instruments very rarely fit within the songs, usually popping in as little more than invokers of extended chug sections (meaning that you'll usually hear a pause in the track followed by an out of place middle eastern melody, which is then quickly transposed into down-tuned guitar chugging). Orphaned Land have gotten incrementally heavier and they're more determined to show their technical capabilities, but The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
feels worse for it. The album took six years to make and I'd believe it; not because it's a success, but because it comes off as if they put absolutely every idea they amassed in 72 months of studio work into the album---both in run time and desultoriness.