Okay, so first things first I guess, I’m going to explain exactly what we’re doing here.
Regular readers know well enough my obsession with music, and it makes make an appearance in some form at least once in my regular posts in the form of Song of the Day. Worry not though; this column won’t replace that feature, and you will still get clued in on my daily soundtrack at the end of each post. This is merely an expansion, a creative outlet if you will, so that I can post about music whenever I want, though probably at least once every two weeks. I’m still undecided about the exact schedule, but there’s time to figure that out later so I’m not going to worry about it now. Also, since we're still working on the design of the blog, this column will be posted on the main page until Aliza and I figure out how to create a section on the blog I can continually update, as opposed to the About page or the Q&A. When we find a way to do it, these will all go there, but until then please bear with us.
As far as topics go, music. That’s it. Whatever is on my mind at the time that’s related to music is fair game, whether it be a review or discussion on an album I’m really enjoying, or why I believe that heavy metal can absolutely be for everyone (that’s what I have lined up for next time by the way). Really, that’s the singular guideline. Keeping that in mind, I guess one can consider Diary of a Music Nerd and Jewsic prequels to this column, especially given that the former post provided the column’s name. These posts will generally be shorter (YES THEY WILL) than my regulars, except obviously for this one, due to the two paragraphs I’ve written introducing the column.
Okay, now that we’ve got the mandatory official business out of the way, let’s talk music! This week, I bring you the biblical flood. No, really. Welcome to Mabool week everyone!
There’s an Israeli metal band I mentioned in Jewsic named Orphaned Land (first encountered by yours truly circa 2007) that in 2004 released an album called Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven. At its core, it tells the story of the biblical flood, but vocalist Kobi Farhi and the gang have taken some serious artistic liberties with the tale. Actually, they’ve done more than that; they’ve fused several tales together.
The basic story the album tells is one of the Seventh (seven is a mystical reference to God), who was split into three angels that represent the three religions of the descendants of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The angels were forbidden to unite, yet they did so anyways and were immediately cast down to earth to fight each other until they could prove themselves worthy of re-entry into heaven. All this is said in the lyrics of the first song. I’m not sure if this is from the Kaballah or anything, but it seems like a pretty accurate allegory for what’s going on these days. The interesting thing is that Orphaned Land's message is about the three getting along and coexisting, so I think the concept of this track serves to further convey that message.
Where the story starts to get biblical is when the angels try to convince humanity that a flood will destroy them all unless they repent from their sinful ways. They fail in this quest and the flood comes and destroys the earth.
The album itself is made of 12 songs totaling just over an hour in length. The first I already described, and the next seven songs deal with the sins of man, the punishment God will send, the angels’ unheeded warnings, and the construction and boarding of the ark. A personal favorite from those songs is The Kiss of Babylon, arguably the heaviest track on the album, which has some awesome crunchy guitars, some great back and forth between Kobi and Shlomit Levi, who provides all the female vocals on the album, and a keyboard bit that will forever remind me of the old Wario games on Gameboy. Another favorite is Norra El Norra, the track I mentioned in Jewsic that got banned from my friend’s Shabbat table, which a reimagining of an old Sefardi pizmon that creates the perfect mix of traditional Jewish “niggun” and metal anthem. The album opener is also quite good, a seven minute piece that sets the stage musically and lyrically for the rest of the album, but where the album really shines is on the last 4 songs, which combine to form a 23 minute epic about the flood itself.
Track nine, The Calm Before the Flood, is a haunting yet beautiful acoustic guitar driven instrumental piece that gives off an aura of exactly what the title suggests: the tension, disquiet, and despair before an impending storm. It then leads into Mabool, the title track, which starts off as a string piece and then transitions into a heavy, growl laden crusher of a song that still holds its own melodically. Lyrically, the song describes the power and destruction of the flood, with sounds of thunder and rain running in the background. Interspersed throughout the verses are quotes from the actual text of the Torah read by Kobi. This song then bleeds into my favorite track on the album, The Storm Still Rages Inside. This nine minute song has relatively few vocal parts, and when Kobi steps back from the microphone, you can really hear the band shine. Soaring acoustic guitar and string melodies combine with a crushing main riff, creating a song that’s equal parts heavy and melodic. The guitar leads in the middle are not too overpowering to overshadow the rest of the instruments, but they still showcase lead guitarist Yossi Sassi’s talent. The song ends with a prayer to God, chanted by an all female choir, asking Him to help his people to dry land since “the storm still rages inside.” This fades into the album closer, Rainbow (The Resurrection), which is another acoustic instrumental featuring the Oud, a traditional Middle Eastern guitar-like instrument, that, in direct contrast to The Calm Before the Flood, sounds hopeful, as if the music is signaling that the time to rebuild has come. If you have 20 minutes to kill and you like music, which I imagine you do since you’re here reading my music column, I highly suggest listening to those four songs one after the other, as they truly form a masterpiece.
Overall, this album is spectacular, and now is the time to be listening to it, as Parshat Noach is this week. Hell, a few friends and I have a tradition to do so. If you like metal, melody, and Middle Eastern influences, I highly suggest picking it up at your earliest convenience.
So this concludes my first post as a music reviewer/blogger, and since this is the first time I’ve done this, I am totally open to any constructive criticism, since I’d like to make this as good as possible. So here’s to a good week and more music happenings soon!
“Lord pray tell save thy child
The storm still rages inside
Lord guide them
Unto a dry land, Amen.”