A Big Shout Out
Israel’s folk metal pioneers Orphaned Land need no introduction. Formed in 1992, they’ve been active for more than 20 (there was a hiatus between 1997 and 2001) years and giving us prime examples of folk metal. They take their time between releases but one can always be sure that the next Orphaned Land records is going to be amazing. And we’ve assured of that once again when they returned with Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, 5 years after All Is One. This is an utterly impressive album that is crafted passionately and diligently. I’m not at all hesitant call Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs their magnum opus. Since this was the case, an interview with them was a must. We had a chat with the lead guitarist (also bouzoukist, pianist, and xylophonist) Chen Balbus.
Congratulations for your new album Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs. What was the creation process like?
“Thank you :) I feel that it was a seriously long and beautiful journey, full of ups and downs. After all, it did take 5 years to release it ;) The music was there for a long time, I’d say just months after the release of AIO. The thing that took us lots of time was to come up with the concept and how to make all that music a one-piece-album.”
Who or what are the Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs? How did you come up with the title?
“Those Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs are all those who tried to revolutionize the world, change the aspects of men for the greater good, something against the system, the machine. Just like Martin Luther King or Victor Jara and many more who tried to speak the voice of reason, and for that – assassinated.”
How challenging is it to blend together heavy metal and traditional music in your songs? Do you have different approaches to composing different styles?
“Honestly? Not that difficult, gotta say. Blending them sounds perfectly normal to us. Personally whenever I heard those melodies and tunes as traditional ones – I imagine how they would sound with metal guitars. They are already metal ;) Just add the Western rhythm section :)”
Who are your musical influences? Which bands and/or artists do you think your fans definitely check out?
“I’m mostly influenced by the Western world, such as Guns N Roses and so on.
Of course, each one of us in the band grew up in Israel and you just grow up on those Oriental tunes, the folk songs and it’s part of us. Whether it’s Greek, Moroccan, Balkan, whatever :)”
Let’s talk about the lyrics. You’ve already talked about a few sources of inspiration, be it on FB or interviews. Can you tell us a bit more about your influences? Had you already decided on a concept before you’ve started writing the lyrics or has it taken shape as you’ve written the lyrics?
“Like I said, the music comes first :) Later on we figure on the main concept which is the story (the difficult part) – once we have that? It flows very fast, since we have the order of the songs by the story and fit the lyrics to it as we go.”
“We Do Not Resist” is quite an angry song that says “enough is enough” (at least to me). Was there a particular event which led you to write that song or is it simply because our messed up world has showed no signs of getting better over the years?
“It’s a chain of events that the world just doesn’t get any better. It’s a big shout out to what’s happening and to what we really pay attention to instead of paying attention to the things that are really important.”
We hear Hansi Kürsch on “Like Orpheus” as a guest vocalist, singing beautifully as always. How did that idea come up?
“Hansi is a great friend of ours and as we toured with BG, he fitted perfect in the story of Orpheus as Greek Mythology say that Orpheus sang so beautiful that everyone was absolutely charmed. Hansi sings Like Orpheus for us. We always knew that we wanted him to sing for us :)”
In 2015, you’ve toured Europe, playing an acoustic set. Have you ever considered making a completely acoustic album?
“It crossed our minds :) Maybe in the far future, who knows.”
What are the criticism and the praise you most often get about your music?
“Some would say it’s divine and that they’ve never heard something so inspiring, touched their hearts, even in a faraway land without those kind of problems that we experience. I’m excited to hear and see what our music manages to do to and for people.”
You’ve announced an extensive European tour and a couple of dates in Japan. Are there any other tour(s) being planned?
“Oh yeah, the new album will probably take us everywhere :) as long as we’re alive.”
Unfortunately, you haven’t been able to play in your neighboring states. But I want to ask about Turkey as I’m from there. Your last concert here was in 2015. Is there any chance we will see you guys this year?
“I sure hope so – wherever we have the demand, we will gladly come.”
Thank you very much for this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?
“Be good to one another :) We all live on the same planet.”