The Israeli progressive/folk metal band Orphaned Land recently released their latest album, Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs. Guitarist/keyboardist Chen Balbus fills us in on the record and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: What led to the five plus years span between studio albums?
Chen Balbus: Writing random music would be the easiest thing, I know (laughs) but we didn’t want to bring just another album that will be meaningless, I’d say. We wanted to bring something that would really stand out, something that would top anything we did before. Those things take time.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs compared to previous Orphaned Land albums?
This album consist of a new lineup which involves both me and Idan (Amsalem, guitar), the new guys on board. Although I’ve participated already on All Is One, it was a new combination of minds to bring out this album. Luckily this time we had both Idan’s and my studio which allowed us to take the time more carefully and listen to the music over and over again until we maximized every aspect of the album.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
There are so many, but I would say that the day Kobi (Farhi, vocals) told me about the concept of the album would be the strongest one. The music existed for a long while and we waited for Kobi’s concept idea, and I think it was pure genius and one of the strongest ideas for a concept album.
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed on this one?
Since you have both me and Idan who are the new guys, obviously some stuff changed due to our different influences. All of us really like to explore different elements on our music from each album. We used again the Orphaned Land Orchestra which has become our trademark sound, some new keyboard sounds with quarter notes, the electric saz, and so on.
What inspired the lyrics this time around?
The lyrics always come from our daily lives and the events around us. We wanted to open people’s eyes to what’s really happening in the world. So much stuff happens out there while everyone chooses to stay in their comfortable place in silence. We eat everything the media feeds us, and we wanted to wake the world up. The allegory of the Cave by Plato was the perfect way to tell that story.
How did Steve Hackett, Hansi Kursch and Tomas Lindberg’s guest appearances come about, and what impact do they have on the record?
Steve wanted Kobi to sing on his solo album and asked Kobi if he wanted money or a guest solo. So, obviously the choice was a piece of history is better than money for nothing. (laughs) Hansi is a great friend of ours and as we toured with Blind Guardian, he fit perfectly in the story of Orpheus as people say that Orpheus sang so beautiful that everyone was absolutely charmed. Hansi sings Like Orpheus for us. Tomas Lindberg filled in as our idol as we love At The Gates. His voice is unique and refers to the lunatic crowd that wanted to kill the antagonist in our story.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
I truly believe this album will change something out there. This is by far the strongest OL concept and I believe it will spread the message to a larger crowd than before. That depends on our wonderful fans to show their love.
You have a European tour coming up. Any plans for a North American tour this album cycle?
Definitely! planning lots of new shows for y’all.
What is Orphaned Land’s level of awareness/popularity in North America compared to Europe and other parts of the world?
Last time we’ve been there was a long while ago, I think 2013. But I gotta say that once we were there, it was the most awesome welcoming ever! So many people and gifts!
Is there an Orphaned Land album that at the time of its release may have been overlooked or underappreciated, but in retrospect holds up very well?
I’d say that the first two OL albums are jewels of history. Sadly not recognized that much today, but they are the beginning of the journey and a new genre.
What has been the effect of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?
There was no real effect besides provoking when it was unnecessary.
Orphaned Land wants to bring peace and unity through music. Have current world events made you less optimistic that this is possible?
Mankind can always be disappointing throughout history. But then again, you need not drown in this and be the optimistic one and act for change rather than sitting back and accepting the situation for how it is.
Is there anything the average metal fan can do to help bring about change that will result in a more peaceful world?
Everyone, regardless of what they are can do something. You just need to act.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Be good to one another. We all live on the same planet.
(interview published February 2, 2018)