Orphaned Land – The Garage, Islington
Following my earlier encounter with Norwegian Black Metallers Satyricon in Belfast next stop was the Garage in Islington for some Arabic influenced metal. Orphaned Land along with three supports for £13 promised a pretty good value for money evening and so it proved to be.
The Mars Chronicles
Opening band from France, The Mars Chronicles arrived to a sparsely populated venue at 7:15 and played a 30 minute set of alternative metal. The band, named after a short science fiction story from the 1950s, have an interesting stage presence with the band decked out completely in white including faces and hair. Formed in 2012, their set consisted of tracks from their first EP. Opening with Constant Show and then plunging into the 8 minute progressive track Abyss, there was certainly energy and enjoyment on stage. Guitarist and vocalist Devy Diadema possesses a decent voice, and supported by guitarist Yann Morvant, bassist Sebastien Ollive and drummer Morgan Berthet, the band are certainly watchable. Musically it is quite hard to put them in a category, but if you forced me I think of bands like Pain of Salvation or Junis. Their sound is complex with aggressive passages followed by periods of melancholic melody. Finishing with Scars Of Age and then Hell Is Born, where they were joined onstage by Yossi from Orphaned Land, the band were musically tight and honed, as you’d expect towards the end of a 40 date tour. 6/10
A quick changeover followed and then it was time for Khalas from Palestine. The band are a mix of Arabic and oriental combined with more traditional heavy metal such as Sabbath with a sprinkling of System of a Down thrown in for good measure. Bursting with energy, the band ripped through a thoroughly entertaining set with tracks from their first EP and their latest release, Arabic Rock Orchestra. The next member of Orphaned Land to make a guest appearance during the evening was bassist Uri Zelcha who joined Khalas for a song towards the end of their set. A few of the crowd were clearly Palestinian and were having a great time at the barrier and as the band got into their stride the majority of the audience responded with much dancing and clapping along to their infectious style. Very much worth checking out. 7/10
Next up were Klone. I last saw Klone supporting Gojira in Cardiff in 2012 and to be honest I couldn’t remember much about them. However, this time I was impressed. Progressive metal is probably the best way to describe them; similar to their countrymen but with a slightly lighter feel although tracks such as The All Seeing Eye have elements of death metal about them. By now the crowd in the Garage had swelled to a couple of hundred and frontman Yann Ligner soon got heads nodding around the room. Guitarists Guillaume Bernard and Mika Moreau were excellent, trading the odd solo and riffing as if their lives depended on it. The band played a mix of tracks including a couple from their 2012 release The Dreamer’s Hideaway which increased in both heaviness and intensity and by the end of the set drummer Florent Marcadet and bassist Jean Etienne Maillard were deep in Gojira territory; yes, there was some Duplantieresque drumming which threatened to move internal organs. The by now customary appearance by a member of Orphaned Land featured lead singer Kobi Farhi who traded vocals with Ligner. A solid performance from a technically excellent band. 8/10
And so to the headliners, a band I have wanted to see for some time. Orphaned Land are an Israeli outfit who really fuse a wide range of influences in their music. They combine traditional metal with death, doom and progressive elements as well as Middle Eastern folk and traditional Arabic elements to create some very intricate and interesting music. The band have been in existence since 1991 with three of the members having been there from early on. Lead singer Kobi Farhi is the obvious focus of the band, delivering both clear and death vocals throughout the evening. He is a tall man, clad in Arabic robes and has a very strong on-stage persona. Interacting with the audience throughout, he explained the meanings of many of their songs, emphasising that Orphaned Land are not a religious band. He did talk a little about the conflict in the Middle East, but for the majority of the evening let their stunning music do the talking. The band opened with Through Fire And Water and then the title track from this year’s brilliant All Is One album before Barakah from their last release, The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR. The band made clever use of some backing tracks to ensure that their complex sounds could be reproduced, including the use female vocals and keyboards that feature heavily on their more recent releases. Long-time guitarist Yossi Sassi played the entire evening with his double neck guitar and bouzouki combo, adding some of the Arabic elements as well as a number of blistering solos in the heavier songs. Bassist Uri Zechla headbanged and beamed all evening whilst combining with drummer Matan Shmuely to hold the band steady as the set progressed. Orphaned Land dipped back into their 2004 release Mabool next with The Kiss Of Babylon before returning to All Is One with The Simple Man and Brother, which Kobi explained was about Palestinians and Israelis living together. The audience was truly international, with Syrians, Israelis and Palestinians making up the majority of the front row. At one point Kobi did list the nations who had fans present in the audience which also included Greeks, Russians and Bulgarians. He missed out Wales but at least we know that we were represented! (As we always do! Editor) The pace didn’t let up and the band continued to plough through the songs with Birth Of The Three from Mabool followed by an assortment of tracks from ORWarriOR and then the Syrian conflict inspired Children from All Is One. The one down side of the evening then arrived in the shape of a rather poor drum solo which as is usually the case was tedious but mercifully short. The band were then joined on stage by members of The Mars Chronicles and encored with Norra El Norra/Ornament Of God before leaving to a huge ovation from the very happy crowd. Overall, a very strong performance from a band that are 20+ years into their music career. 9/10