With a huge back catalogue spanning over more than two decades, ORPHANED LAND has earned their notoriety for their solid body of work. Yet as fans know, coming from Israel they’ve always had more to their mission than to just make great music. Their experimental sound, accompanied by an unapologetic attitude to combatting hard issues, has brought them to greater heights than just a band- they are pioneers in peace keeping and inspiring those who are truly need their hearts lifting. Here, as their latest album Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs is about to drop, we spoke to frontman Kobi Farhi about transcending cultural boundaries, the philosophical tone of the album, and just why is it that metal has been the genre to stand up in the face of such adversity in the current Arab climate?
Hi, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. First up, how are you feeling about the new album? Are you pleased with what you have created?
Kobi: Hi, sure, my pleasure. We’re very happy with the new album, feeling it’s our best one actually, from composing, to the concept, the production and the performance of each and every one of us. We always aim to take ourselves to the next level, it takes some time, but it always works in the end.
With such high expectations on your music, does it put pressure on you creatively or does it inspire you?
Kobi: To produce our album it’s a lot of pressure, since there are so many things going on. Orchestra, choir, various instruments, complicated concept and that on top of drums, bass, guitars and vocals. Making an ORPHANED LAND album is an exhausting experience but also enlightening and fascinating.
You’ve worked with guest artists Steve Hackett, Hansi Kursch and Tomas Lindberg on this album. Could you tell us how you feel about having them appear on the record?
Kobi: It was great working with this two genius and so different singers. We’re friends with both of them. In Greek Myth it says that Orpheus’ singing was so beautiful that even the stones and the earth loved his voice, in this song the hero lives the cave of Plato for the first time and he describes his revelation with singing, and he sings like Orpheus, and a modern Orpheus for me would be Hansi, so he was us perfect for it. With Tomas, I needed someone with a voice of lunacy, a crazy character as this is the song where they kill the hero. I always loved Tomas‘ growls and thought they are very special, we are fans of AT THE GATES for many years and I think he played a perfect role in this song. Steve was writing me an email asking me if I wish to sing on his album, well, Steve Hackett is a rock ‘n’ roll legend! Of course I agreed to do it and West To East is an amazing song, I am a big fan of his works since GENESIS till his solo albums of our times. When I was done and delivered my recording Steve asked me if I want to get paid or if I may prefer having him recording a solo for the next ORPHANED LAND album. Of course I jumped on that solo thing, as a solo will be eternal, and you cannot measure that with money. And I think he played one of the most beautiful solos on this album, I am very proud on the result.
This album is a toweringly powerful experience. What does the huge scope of Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs signify?
Kobi: It’s a mirror of our human behaviour, it’s a wake up call, we like to let people think about what we offer on our stories, but if someone is there for the good music alone, that’s fine too. We are still those naives who thinks they can do a change.
Of course, we all know that it’s a harsh time to be in the Arab world right now. Do you feel the impact of being such a huge Israeli band in such a climate? How has that impact changed over the years to now?
Kobi: Many people are being brainwashed about Israelis, especially the Middle East. Yes there is a conflict and the Israelis are no saints. But it was a system of the Arab world to turn all hate towards Israel while their leaders were ruling for decades. With that said, we are the most popular Israelis among Arabs, we have many fans all over the Middle East and we are proud that with those amazing people we are building a bridge of understanding and better dialog. Metalheads rule!
The reach of ORPHANED LAND’s music has always been global and has a great resonance between cultures. Do you think that you could have achieved that harmony in a different genre or do you think metal and the metal community have a lot to do with it?
Kobi: Sure, I see the metal community as one of the most coexisting scenes in the world. Of course there are also bad stories but if you’ll take statistics from all festivals from every genre, you’ll see that metal is as peaceful as the rest if not more. People always stereotype metal people by the way they look, and you don’t want to know the amount of metalheads over the Middle East who are considered to be Satanists. ORPHANED LAND is doing with metal music much more wonders in terms of peace than any government or religious authorities.
There’s the obvious reference to Plato’s ideas within this album – what is it about this specific mindset that drew you to write about it on this record?
Kobi: It took me years to realise this concept, I knew about the allegory of the cave, I knew Plato wrote it after the Greeks killed Socrates, what I didn’t realise that it is a prophecy! Same as the Greeks killed Socrates, every great leader and a revolutionary that came into our world was assassinated too. Can be from Jesus Christ (I do not connect Jesus to the Christianity that came to our world 300 years later) to Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Che Gevara and many more, you can find a whole lot of dead messiahs in every country/culture during time. It is something about our human behaviour that Plato was seeing, he wrote it 2,500 years ago but it’s a prophecy. They teach us that prophets and messiahs are biblical expressions and figures, not something we will have in our times, which is not true! I found this idea when I was looking at our world and thinking about our problems. People know the ass of Kim Kardashian more than they know about someone named Plato, people want to be famous more than they want to actually create and say something. We think that religion or politicians or the media are our problems (well, they are) but the real problem is us. We do not resist, we do not want to live the cave, we just don’t care, we are drugged with reality TV, gossip news, brainwash and the wrong education system. Look how much progress humanity gain with technology, science, medicine and more, but between human beings, we are always at the same mistakes, again and again. I hope this album will let people think and will open some eyes.
Your subject matter tackles the dark and light in the world. When composing, how do you balance that in the sound of your music?
Kobi: Simply with feelings. You can reflect anger, sadness, light, darkness, naivety or hope with sounds and voices.
Is there a particular song on this album that you feel will resonate most strongly with fans or is the album more a complex intertwining of thoughts and ideas they might contemplate?
Kobi: I think the album is at its best as a whole journey, I love concept albums when they are like this journey or a soundtrack. We always have a hard time when we need to pick one single, cause our music is so eclectic, and that song alone, cannot represent the whole album.
ORPHANED LAND have quite the acclaim for the positive force you are in the world. How does it feel to have such recognition for your work?
Kobi: It’s very flattering and it’s beyond words I can describe. That feeling that you gave hope to some hopeless human being. Our fans even opened a petition to nominate us for Noble Peace Prize, that’s also embarrassing, but looking at our world, we are happy to be on the side the spread hope.
Relating more to the album name, it’s very striking. Broadly speaking, is this album for those unsung prophets of our time, prophets of peace?
Kobi: They tell us that prophets or messiahs are biblical figures, related only with religion but that’s not true. Plato’s allegory of the cave (the story of our concept here) it’s a prophecy about human behaviour and it was written almost 3,000 years ago. There are many prophets in our times and in every times, Aldous Huxley & George Orwell are just two names that many people might find easy to know and agree, the TV series Black Mirror, it’s a prophecy, and those are just random examples. Messiahs are coming very often to their people and always ending up dead, we don’t call them messiahs as in our times it’s different definitions, but what are the differences between Jesus Christ or Mahhatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King or Che Gevara, they were all fighting for a better world for their people, did enormous changes and ended up being executed to death/assassinated. They are in a way dead messiahs and Plato predicted this will happened to them when he understood the human behaviour after the ancient Greeks killed Socrates and then he wrote the allegory, such an unsung prophecy.
Finally, what are your highest hopes for both Orphaned Land and Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs in 2018?
Kobi: I hope the album will take us to a new level, I hope many people will find this album important and refreshing light in our darkened times.
Thank you for your time, all the best from Distorted Sound for the album and the year ahead.
Kobi: Thank you for telling our story to your readers, all the best!
Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs is set for release on January 26th 2018 via Century Media Records.
For more information on ORPHANED LAND like their official page on Facebook.