Welcome to the latest instalment of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. I hope you are still sticking with it and enjoying my posts so far. If not, tell me. I might not do anything about it, but at least you can get it off your chest. It might make you feel better.
If you are enjoying this series and are one of those people who have been spreading the word about it, then I am truly grateful. You might want to question your lives and whether you have better things to be doing – but for me, I appreciate it.
I know I have said this many times within this series but 2018 really has been a strong year for my kind of music. Around every corner has lurked another gem, either from a well-known source or from a completely new location. However, today’s post might be the strongest evidence yet to back up what I am saying. So sit back, relax and discover who sits in the number 13 slot for 2018.
As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-14.
But now, on with the show…
‘Unsung Prophets & Undead Messiahs’
Century Media Records
Score of Much Metal: 9.8
This is one of those make or break moments within this year’s list. Some will agree, but others may take a sharp intake of breath before sending me hate mail. Indeed, if you’d told me in February that by December, the new Orphaned Land record would fall short of my top 10 albums of the year, I’d disbelieve you. I was certain at the time that I was listening to a nailed-on contender for the top spot or maybe the top five. By April or May, I had no reason to change my mind.
However, 2018 has – for my tastes – been extremely strong. And so it becomes a surprising reality to find myself writing about this excellent album so soon in this series.
At the end of the day (to use such a toe-curling cliché), the fact is that I haven’t returned to ‘Unsung Prophets & Undead Messiahs’ as much as I thought I would. I had plenty of opportunities and it does remain a thoroughly entertaining and engrossing listen whenever I choose to do so. But more latterly, there have been lots more records that have found themselves being picked first. That, ultimately, was the sign for me that perhaps the gloss was wearing ever-so slightly.
However, I don’t wish to sound negative because Orphaned Land have created an incredible record here and no-one should be under any illusion that the music isn’t out of the top drawer. Indeed, I still think that it stands alongside ‘Mabool’ as the Israeli’s best recording to date. There are some incredible songs within the record and the gravitas of the lyrics cannot be argued with. It is a very ambitious album with a great flow, if perhaps just a smidgen too long if I’m being overly critical.
To quote my review of 23 January 2018:
“One of the most striking things about this record is the wonderful symbiosis between the influences of east and west. Or more accurately, Middle East and west. For Orphaned Land, the utilisation of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation and melodies within their progressive heavy metal framework is not new and has, to a certain extent been ever-present. However, on ‘Unsung…’, the bar has been raised…
In many ways, despite the undeniable complexity of their ambitious song structures, it is the marriage of East and West that makes them so ‘progressive’. Equally, it is the strongest and simplest metaphor for what Orphaned Land are trying to achieve; there’s absolutely no reason why the East and West can’t co-exist and enrich each other. And the music proves it, as electric guitars and synths duet with the oud, saz, bouzouki and other authentic Middle Eastern instruments.
Another big strength to ‘Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs’ is the use of motifs and the reprise of certain melodies as the album develops. They act as anchors in the sand, golden threads that guide us through the myriad of events within the record. In so doing, I find that my affection for the album is increased, as is my overall enjoyment.
If defy anyone to remain untouched emotionally by this and the preceding twelve tracks. The power, the sincerity and the gravity of the subject matter makes it almost impossible. And when it is wrapped up within such beautiful and engaging music, it becomes yet more powerful; a force of nature. ‘Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs’ is an exquisite body of work, almost certainly their best yet, a tour-de-force of intelligence, beauty and sincerity.
Read the full review here.
If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:
And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years: