HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Orphaned Land - Mabool
(Century Media)

Together now for more than a decade, Israel's Orphaned Land have a stunning medium/major label debut here. Picture Into Eternity, Opeth, Borknagar and Katatonia infused with a somewhat predictable middle eastern music influence - they even use bazukis, sazes and ouds - but damn well done. The musicianship here is exemplary, as is the band's choice of riffs, vocal styles, transitions to choruses. The fact that lyrically, this thing is a heavy, heavy multi-disciplinary biblical concept album fits well with the musical world tour, but it's not hard to come off feeling like you're in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall with a big beard, or on a lighter note, sitting down to eat in a Greek restaurant, the latest news regarding the Palestinian struggle playing on the TV in the background behind the house band. I mean, this is really, really ethnic 24-7. Add to that the fact that the album was recorded in five languages plus a Paul Chain-like self-invented one for Christ, er, sake, and, well, let's just say The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur are cereal commercials compared to the epic proportions of Mabool. One must make note of System Of A Down's mix of nu with middle eastern sounds as well here, although that's as far as the comparison goes. If Serj rocks to a ragged ragga beat, Orphaned Land quite prefer Therion and Marillion.
Rating 8.5

Tim Donahue - Madmen & Sinners

I would suspect crack drummer Mike Mangini would not be happy with the final cardboard box drum mix on this thing; it's definitely different, yet expected from Japan-based fretless axe whiz Tim Donahue, who has proven over six releases his penchant for the bubbly, bulgy, dangerous, surging, fuzzy, organic and unpredictable. Madmen & Sinners is definitely all that, an almost ragtag and chaotic collection of fresh ideas, given unification by the man's co-codification with none other than James Labrie, who sings the whole thing, having laid down his tracks at his home in north-central Ontario. Through bursts of synth-attacked prog, fluid shred, acoustic balladry and even Gregorian chants, Donahue has proven himself the ultimate madman... I wonder deep down what LaBrie really thinks of the final result as well. The album is definitely crazy, alive, uncalculated, which actually might have come as a nice, stinging slap for James given his serious and seriously appointed main gig.
Rating 7

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