Some purists decry what they see as half-assed experimentalism in some modern metal as an aesthetic dead end and as a trend that prizes novelty over the perfection of form dictated by the unwritten laws and constraints of whatever sui generis subgenres a band aligns itself with. Unfortunately, I was cursed with a funny bone, a belief that exploration can often trump orthodoxy, and have never been much interested in the comfort and faith that purism provides and requires.
Plus, you never know what’s gonna come of anything. If Chuck Berry had known that his innovations would someday give birth to the Boredoms, he probably would have videotaped them. And if Israel’s Orphaned Land, beloved by Arab and Israeli alike, manage to service the long-overlooked segment of society that are fans of Fiddler on the Roof, Ofra Haza, and death metal with their album Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven, then all I can say is hurrah for the Holy Land!
I happen to enjoy their mixture of Jesus Christ Superstar choral work, death-barking, epic Semitic desert riffs, Mideastern folk warbling and plucking, triumphal hi-diddle-diddle-la-la-la-la choruses, temple-mount rock-god solos, and a cappella prettiness mixed with spoken-word portentousness. Heavy metal is folk music, so combining it with trad ethnic hootenanny action makes perfect sense. And there ain’t nothing half-assed in the way that Orphaned Land go about it. Do I care that the three sons pictured on the album cover are a snake, an eagle, and a lion, and that these animals represent Judaism, Islam, and Christianity? No, I don’t. The song is the thing. What Orphaned Land do make me think about is that metal—and music!—is a land you are free to roam, even though there will always be people who choose to stay close to home working the same plot of ancestral soil year in and year out.