Published on February 14, 2012 for the Hindu Metroplus
It’s not easy being a metal band in Israel, especially when you choose to dare yourself over and over again. Orphaned Land shot a promotional band photo for their latest album ‘The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR’ dressed in the garb of worshippers, with lead singer Kobi Farhi clad as Jesus. “We had a lot of questions asked and a few eyebrows were raised after we released it, but we just explained that this is who we are and this is just another way to express our art. People eventually accept it and learn to see eye to eye with us in most cases,” guitarist Matti Svatitzki says.
The biggest dare the band has taken on is probably through its lyrical themes. For the past 20 years, Orphaned Land has been writing and performing music with the aim of bringing Jews and Muslims together to celebrate their unique style of Middle Eastern-fused progressive metal.
Now, Orphaned Land is all set to return to India – playing at IIT Guwahati on February 5 and in Delhi on February 7, while gigs in other cities are being confirmed. Svatitzki says, “Our last Indian tour was really great, we really enjoyed it. We had three shows in Vellore, Pune and Bangalore, and there was great hospitality and playing there was a great experience.”
A three-city tour has been the staple arrangement for several international bands coming to India since the past year, but the band had intended on much more. “Not everything went 100% smooth (referring to the cancellation of their show in Mumbai); you know how it is. But it was really cool and we enjoyed,” Svatitzki assures.
‘The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR’ was released to mostly positive reviews six years after the equally-acclaimed ‘Mabool’, and still retains much of the style and freshness of its predecessor. This is partly due to the fact that Orphaned Land has been ceaselessly touring countries all over the globe, so they never seem to shake off the prominent style. “We had three full tours, one in the US and one 2 in Europe,” Svatitzki confirms, adding that the touring season had many special moments for them. “One of the tours in Europe was a headline tour of ours, a first for us. We also got to play countless shows and festivals around the world, in places we have never been before, including India,” he says.
This time, however, they seem to want to make an exception: “We hope to start working on new material within a month or so. There are always good ideas, and it is time to start letting them flow. We hope that this time there will be a much smaller gap and that we could deliver an album maybe in a year, we’ll see.”
With regard to musical themes and motifs, you wouldn’t have to go very far down the playlist before you hear the mystical oud strings and the spiritual concepts that thread songs together. “We sing about religion, but we are not a religious band. We sing about different cultures and beliefs, but we never preach anything, except for friendship and unity,” Svatitzki explains.
If their promotional photoshoot was not evidence enough of their political outspokenness, when quizzed about how the government treats them, Svatitzki feels “musicians and artists represent countries in many cases more efficiently than politicians do”. However, despite their strong message, the band does receive support from the government.
The ultimate goal, however, is metal, Svatitzki says: “As a band, we try not to get into that stuff (politics) at all. We think that problems are solvable. We leave the politics for politicians and bang our heads and have fun with our fans for a few hours.”
In the end, it’s certain that Orphaned Land gets more out of touring rather than making statements. “When we are all happy and see beyond the masks, when we see that the so-called ‘enemy’ is just a good kid like us, we forgive and mellow our hearts and feel like there is a good future ahead. People will always need a reason to get closer to each other, and they’ll have our music to help them.”