About Me

Interview with Orphaned Land

The year 2023 celebrates several worldwide events such as Warner Bros. and Disney turning 100 years old, the coronation of King Charles, and even both Australia and New Zealand co-hosted FIFA Women’s World Cup. Still, not all these events were acknowledged by everyone. The Gaza Strip witnessed a military strife between Israel and the Hamas, forcing the Gazans to flee from their land.
Kobi Farhi, the heart and soul of Orphaned Land, conversed with Metal Imperium about what’s happening currently in the Middle East, sharing a few stories and giving us some comfort with the new upcoming live album A Heaven You May Create, set to be released in December.
Apart from the horrors in the Middle East, the lead singer shared with us the foundations of the band which evolved from Death/ Doom Metal to a more Progressive and Folk genre, combining different music styles. A son of the Holy Land and warrior of the light, Kobi is also a big fan of the Portuguese music culture, incorporating Amália Rodrigues and even Zeca Afonso when writing his music.
A Heaven You May Create was developed last year with Chamber Live Orchestra and Hellscore Choir, in Tel Aviv, and celebrates the 30th anniversary of Orphaned Land. The purpose of the album is to shed some light in these darkened times we’re facing, as well as to present a more symphonic concert from the Israeli band.

M.I. - Orphaned Land’s sound and style changed since the early 1990s from Death and Doom Metal to incorporating today more Progressive and Folk genres. Did the band feel the need to explore different music styles to become today one of the greatest metal bands of all time?

Well, when we were younger, let's say in the early days, we were really into Death Metal, growling and stuff like that. Things like Deicide and Sepultura were a main influence for us, and then there is this natural development, I think that happened. You still like the albums of Deicide and Sepultura, or Death, or At the Gates, but you start to listen also to some progressive music like Porcupine Tree, Opeth or Pink Floyd, and find yourself after a few albums always asking how you want to develop. You don't want to repeat yourself. You don't want to copy paste yourself, so this is some kind of a development that it's a part of what you do. I've always been a researcher of music. I always like to research music from every place. So, even in Portugal, I'm a very big fan of Fado Music and Amália Rodrigues, but I also researched about the music of Portugal. Not a lot, but there was some research, for example I have records of Zeca Afonso in my house and some of the Portuguese movement back in the days where Portugal was overcoming the fascist regime. 
I'm a very big fan of Portugal for succeeding to change their regime without spilling a drop of blood. This is especial for me coming from a very bloody country, where people are being killed, where hate is so huge. This is a very inspiring thing for me and I always search for the music that were the soundtrack of this part, so I just gave you the example of Portugal, because you're from Portugal and this is always something that is interesting for me and somehow affects the way I write even though our songs will not sound like Zeca Afonso. You will not hear it in our music but it's there in my research, and if it was Deicide and Sepultura back in the days, today with the development, with me asking questions and trying to evolve, it's going to many directions and it affects our music or my writing of lyrics in many ways.

M.I. - I must confess that you’re the first non-Portuguese musician that I know of who actually owns records of Zeca Afonso.

It was also fascinating for me to know that the Revolution started in Grândola, Vila Morena.
So, it's fascinating for me, because I research humanity and I'm a fan of humanity. When humanity is inspiring and the fact that Grândola, Vila Morena was the song, the queue to start the rebel or the change of this is very fascinating for me. I have it! I was in Lisbon, and I went and researched, searched for these songs. I also spoke about it a lot of time with Fernando, my friend from Moonspell, and it's interesting. I mean, if you were from Mexico, I would speak to you now about the Mexican figures that are inspiring me. I'm not an expert of every country, but I definitely love that research, to find how music succeeded to do these things, and this is definitely an inspiration and an engine for me, for my writing and stuff. So, you're very welcome. I'm privileged to explore these amazing artists of Portugal.

M.I. - In your very first years (1991-1992) you were called Resurrection, but changed to Orphaned Land. Is the band’s name a homage to the singer Yehuda Poliker?

Yeah, you are completely correct. We started as Resurrection, because we wanted to play Death Metal, but we were very bored, very fast. All the bands had this “tion” ending back in the days such as Mortification, Addiction, Suffocation and we were Resurrection, and there was another Resurrection in the USA anyway, so we thought it's a very boring name and we should find something related to our land and the actual events that were happening in our land, Israel and the Middle East. 
Of course, Yehuda Poliker, in one of his songs, was Orphaned Land in Hebrew, and we thought that the combination of these words, Orphaned Land, for a land that is considered to be the Holy Land or the Promised Land. We thought that this is a very nice contrast to the dream or to the pathos of the place versus the bloody reality that the land is always into.
So, we thought that this could be a very good start to be with a name that reflects the place that we are going to sing about and the place that we are going to show our feelings and stuff. I think it's still up to date a very relevant name to those lands of the Middle East, and Israel in particular.

M.I. - Still, from those early times we only have the 2021 compilation. Do you plan to bring back that old school Orphaned Land or is it something to be treasured?

I think it will be treasured for life. We sometimes go back to the early days if we celebrate a decade for one of the albums. So, we played the whole album, but this is something to treasure. We are running forward, there is still much to write about and to do, and if someone wants to go back, you can always do it. In our career, it's a long timeline of more than 30 years now.

M.I. - With already 6 albums, do you agree when we say that Orphaned Land is described as Oriental/ Middle Eastern Metal? If yes, which bands or musicians would you include in this category?

I think that we established a complete genre in the metal music, even if it's called Oriental Metal. 
I remember back in the 90s we used to write on our posters “The first Oriental Death Metal”. We felt that we are doing something new. There were many bands from Scandinavia, from Europe, from America and from South America, and we felt that we were the first one to come from the Middle East. So, we felt that we are establishing a genre and I think that today you can find quite a few bands that are playing this genre. If it's Myrath from Tunisia, or Arkan from France, or Aeternam from Canada, they're Canadians, but they have a lot of Moroccan members and Arabian influences in the band.
You have more bands from Israel, from Arallu to Subterranean Masquerade, that are also using these elements, and many more, that I cannot even remember the name, from the Arab world and other places. I once did a compilation called Oriental Metal, and I put a lot of bands from that genre in there, and it has developed a lot more during the year. 
So, I think we could be considered as the fathers when it comes to metal music. People did it on rock music and stuff before we did, obviously, but I think in metal music we're definitely the fathers of that genre.

M.I. - Sahara (1994), El Norra Alila (1996), and Mabool – The Story of the Three Sons of Seven (2004) are pretty heavy albums. How easy or challenging was it for you to start a metal band back in Israel in the early 1990s?

It was quite easy; you take countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. Israel is a paradise compared to these countries if you are a metalhead. We were considered satanists, but the police never arrested us. 
I mean, if you do it in the Arab countries, you could really get in trouble. So, we had some stigma of people who slaughtered cats, which we didn’t, but we had the freedom to do it. We had the freedom to wear those shirts, we had the freedom to buy those shirts in the shop, and we had the freedom to do concerts and to grow. Israel is a democracy. In a way, there is some kind of freedom of speech here, and we never had a big problem being a metal band from Israel. The only problem that I could think of is the fact that you need to go to the army for three years when you are 18 years old.
You start your band when you're 16 years old. Then, two years pass and you’re 18. You need to cut all your hair, to wear an uniform and to go to the army. For three years, not for a year or half a year. So, three years is such a long time to destroy everything that you did, so those were very challenging days for us. Some of us didn't do the army service. I did partly the army service, but I always knew back in the days, because we started it when we were 16 years old, I knew that this is my life project. I already knew that I found my mission, and I knew what I wanted to do. There was no way I would let anyone disturb it, not even the army.
As mentioned, we were called the cat slaughters and stuff like that and, of course, the music was never played on the radio. We were considered to be freaks, but it was a social thing, and for example, if you go to the Arab world, the police can burst into the house of a metalhead and put him under arrest, because they would find metal CD's, or symbols of Satanism in them, though in the Arab world metalheads actually spent some time in jail, because of their musical taste. Can you imagine?

M.I. - You also lend your voice in “Alma Mater” to the Portuguese metal band Moonspell. Would you consider any future collaboration with them?

Their lyrics are rooted in Portuguese culture, such as Orphaned Land in Israel and Judaism.
I'm a big fan of Moonspell. I think that they are a treasure of Portugal, and actually one of their most favorite albums for me, apart from Wolfheart, it's the album that they did in Portuguese. I think Portuguese fits so much metal music. It has this, I don't know, it just fits. I really love to hear it when Fernando growls in Portuguese and I will always be happy to collaborate with them. I love the conversations that we had about everything, about life, or philosophy, or anything and if they would ever invite me to do anything, I will be here and accept it, of course. I really think that they are great, really. I love them very much.

M.I. - Nowadays, it’s hard to look up and act normally with what’s going on in the Middle East. The upcoming live album A Heaven You May Create (2023) set to be released on the 1st of December hopefully will shed some light on this darkness. With this album would you like to bring some light and inform us about the issues that are happening right now, and give the world some comfort?

I surely think that the music is there to bring comfort and to bring light to people in dark times. We are in very, very, very dark times in the Middle East, in Israel, or Gaza or anywhere else. There are a lot of bad energies, and people who are simply dark and evil, and many infants are paying with their lives, because death is everywhere. 
I'm literally living in a landscape where children are dying and where people are killing each other, whether if it's Israelis or Palestinians. There are Palestinians who think the Hamas, for example, that we should all be exterminated. You can even find people who are like the Nazis today and the things that the Hamas did on October 7th was so barbaric. It really awoke in our souls the very old trauma of World War 2, and the Holocaust we are all in. 
We are all post traumatic in a way from those events and seeing the way they killed in cold blood innocent people. It was not armed soldiers, it was not a battlefield. They simply came into a village and slaughtered everyone. The old, the ladies and they even molested the bodies. They did horrible things. I don't know if I want to describe it, but they did things that human beings should not do. I think the capability to do it is only if they are brainwashed to think that we are nothing but cockroaches, or mouses, or I don't know and that's the way people would look at the Jews back in the days. 
There is the retaliation, Israel will not sit tight and now they are hunting Hamas and many children in Gaza will die, many people will die, and the innocent people are always paying the price. This is tragic, this is a tragedy, and the biggest tragedy is that there is not a good way to solve this problem. We could say that Hamas would release the kidnappers, but they even hold nine months baby. How could you kidnap a nine-month-old baby or an 85-year old grandma? Why? 
It's just crazy, not to mention the international law. This is not like you took a soldier and you want your soldier back. They could today release all the kidnappers and it will be a ceasefire, but they will not do it, because they never cared about Jews. I think they don't even care about the life of their own citizens. I cannot understand this ideology and I'm sorry for the Palestinian people.
So, these are very dark times. I don't know when or how it will be over, but as you said, music is very important in those days. I'm happy that the album is going out in this era, and I'm happy that the name of the album is a heaven you may create, which is the message
I think that it will bring some light and comfort and even if it's a small break for people to just put their headphones and songs can hug you if you need. I saw many times people shedding a tear, I saw many times people crying, putting their hands towards the sky, and closing their eyes. Music is a gift and gifts like music are very needed in these darkened days here in Israel and the Middle East and anywhere else.

M.I. - This live album was recorded in 2021, in Tel Aviv, with Chamber Live Orchestra and Hellscore Choir, and celebrates 30 Years of Orphaned Land. Why choose a live orchestra?

Well, I think that if you sum up 3 decades of a career you always ask yourself what is the next level? What do you want to do next? Where do you want to put the highest point of your career? Metal bands during the history always like to work with symphonic orchestras. If it's Metallica with the S&M albums or many other bands, Septic Flesh and many more. I don't know if Moonspell ever did it, but for sure it's something that will do.

M.I. - They are going to do it next year.

Yeah, they will not say no. This is something that metal bands wants to do. We thought that this could be the highest point of our career in the 30th anniversary to make such a big bombastic show with a live orchestra that we'll create some new versions with rearrangements for some of the well-known songs of Orphaned Land. That was really something that we wanted to do. 
It's a very ambitious project with more than 60 people on stage, and when we thought about what should be the next thing that was the thing that came into our mind. It was in a very complex timing, because it was the COVID-19 period, but we are happy. We were very lucky that the show was on the day that all the restrictions were gone. So, we were very lucky to have a full house in a hall that it's considered to be the Hall of Fame of shows in Israel, and it was the first time that metal music has reached this Hall of Fame. It was a very, very special occasion to a 30-year anniversary celebration.

M.I. - It’s like traveling through the band’s history and greatest hits, an authentic emotional journey. Do you have a favorite song?

Well, you know, what they say they're all my children, but every song plays on a different nerve, and I like it if the songs are angry.
I’m feeling connected to it, if it's emotional I feel connected to it. I really liked that we opened the album with the 16 minutes in a row of “Mabool” and “The Storm Still Rages Inside”, which was a very crazy opening for the show, because you could open it with a hit and four minutes and then take a break, but it was an opening playing 16 minutes, two songs combined together with a long solo or the theme song from one of the most beloved concept albums of Orphaned Land. This is something that we never did, so it was very nice to do it in the beginning. Maybe, I would mention this, because it was different from what we would usually do on our shows.

M.I. - You even toured with Palestinian bands in the past, you were also awarded by Metal Hammer Magazine, and acknowledged them as brethren. Being from Israel, can we say that Orphaned Land stands with Palestine and not with the Hamas?

You are right. In the past we toured with a Palestinian band, I think that we are still probably the only band, the only metal band in the world who toured with a Palestinian band. 
When we got the award, we shared it with them. If all the Israelis and all the Palestinians were like us you would have peace tomorrow. We didn't share the whole land together. We lived together on a tour bus, we toured together, we ate together, we made coffee to each other, we did laundry together, we played shows together and that was an example of how it is possible. I have nothing against the Palestinian people. I wish them all the best, they are our neighbors. I want our children to grow together, to prosper, to spend some time together, to travel with each other, and to experience humanity and life.
 This is what I basically want for both Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, I stand against Hamas and I have nothing against Palestinians. Unless, those Palestinians are supporting Hamas, and then I think that those guys would want to kill me, but I don't think that most Palestinians are like that. I don't want to think that. I don't want to believe that, and I know from my experience that there are many kinds of people. The problem is that not all the people are Orphaned Land and Khalas, the Palestinian band. The problem is that you have many movements and many kinds of people. You have Hamas, you have extremists in Israel. Hamas is calling for the elimination of Israel. Hamas doesn’t care that I'm into peace. They would slaughter me and my family, if they could, and I don't think that I should reach my hand for peace for people like that, because they will cut my hand.
I still hope that one day it will be possible to do it. I want to believe in it for the sake of our children and for the sake of our families. I'm not happy when innocent Palestinians are getting killed. I feel very moved, inconvenient and unpleasant when it happens. It's a tragedy to see children trapped in between bombs and stuff like that. This is a complete failure of the humankind, if that situation still exists. It's unbelievable how far technology went, and science went and still kids are being trapped between bombs or being slaughtered by terrorists. 
Even in Australia, they shouted gas the Jews and I think that the war has made a lot of anti Semites raising their heads and getting out of their caves, and this is really a pity, because antisemitism should have gone from the world. Israel is not the inventor of war. Israel is not the only country who went to war. Actually, Israel, conquered less territories than Portugal did in the past. Israel never conquered as many territories as the Portuguese, the French, the British, the Americans, or anyone else. The casualties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not the biggest amount of casualties on the world, but somehow Jews are always having the privilege to be the worst guys on the planet, and that's not fair. That's something that people should condemn, and that's something that I would expect the Portuguese to stand against, because I know the Portuguese, I admire the Portuguese, they should not allow the vandalism of any synagogue, of any mosque, of anything, but it's always the synagogues to be vandalized. 
First, the Jewish cemeteries and everything like that, and the Jewish people does not deserve it, because Israel is at war. I strongly fight antisemitism and I'm strongly disgusted by anti-Semites who do all these horrific things. Yeah, we are at war. Yeah, innocents are dying, nobody is denying that, but making the Jews such monsters, it's purely not fair.

M.I. - No war is good and doesn’t bring any ending to conflicts. As a Jew, do you feel the foundations of Zionism are witnessing hard times with the Israel-Hamas war?

I feel that even before the war, there were a lot of inner conflicts in Israel. I think the regime of Netanyahu for many years, he’s been 16 years [in power], if you combine all together, it's 16 years of his regime. I think it tore up the Israeli society into pieces, divided all the people, before the current Gaza war. 
The feelings and the atmosphere were as if we were in some kind of a civil war already. All the leftists had turned into traitors and he simply destroyed everyone who said anything against him. If it was people who were right wing, they immediately categorized as left wing. He weakened the army, the police, and the court, everything under his power became weaker, and the feeling was that the country is torn apart. That's beside the war. The war, in a way, united all the people in the cause, and why does this war need to happen now? Not that I justify his regime, but waking up to a morning where so many people got slaughtered in their houses, in their beds, being innocent people, not armed soldiers or something like that had really brought a lot of chaos and sadness and desperation to the country. 
The people feel that everything is in danger now. It was already before and people are really depressed. I mean, it's hard to tell, it seems like people have an opinion about everything being from everywhere in the world. We're from that region and it's even hard for us to understand or to figure out where this is going and stuff like that. I think the existence of Israel is important. I think that Israel was formed by the Zionist movement, that's what happened actually that Zionist movement was to find the house, a purpose, for the Jewish people after decades of persecution, Holocaust Pogroms and stuff like that. The UN resolution from 1948 has divided the country into two countries and, of course, the Jews accepted it, and the Arabs didn't accept it, which led to wars that the Arab lost refugees have been created, and so on and so on. These are all the causes and effects of wars and everything. I am Israeli. I'm not a big supporter of the Israeli family, but I do want Israel to exist and I do want Israel to live in peace with its neighbors, but in order to have that you need a partner on the other side that is willing to do it. Israel did peace with Egypt, gave back a territory which was much bigger than the whole territory of Israel, just for the sake of peace and for the assurance that Israel will not be attacked. I do believe, as an Israeli, that Israel would do the same thing with the West Bank and with those territories if there would be some sort of guarantee that Israel will not be attacked by those territories, because I think that Israel aspires to peace more than its aspiring occupying territories or ruling other nations. I don't believe that this is something that the people of Israel want. They just don't want to die. They don't want to have war and it's hard to do it with people like Hamas. I do believe that some good leadership will come at the end of this war. 
I don't know when this war will end, but I think that there will be some elections in Israel, and this is the end of the Netanyahu regime which could be good news because maybe new leaders will rise up. Maybe they will find a way, maybe they will have a partner on the other side and, who knows, maybe Israel will be a peaceful place to live in and we will live in peace with our neighbors and with ourselves, but it's very hard to predict it at the moment.

M.I. - The Gazans in the Gaza Strip will unfortunately remember the 7th of October 2023. Do you believe after COVID-19, the world changed drastically? 

I think the last years are horrible, starting with the COVID era, moving to the disasters of the climate changes, seeing that all these catastrophes in the world, if it's big floods or big fires or some things that you didn't see. In this amount, in the past, so it's COVID, the climate changes, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and now the war between Israel and Gaza, and it seems that the powers of, let's say, the Cold War in the past, if it's the USA or Russia, or the West versus the East, it seems like these things are really boiling and boiling and boiling and everybody thinks that the next thing will be a World War. I think that the recent years have been very tough. You don't have a minute of break. COVID was a disaster, just the sentence “Keep your social distance”, which is something that is not so social, and things like that. I think that social media have poisoned society much more, because everyone is now having a microphone, and usually you don't get to see anything positive on those, or any positive comments on social media. It's very rare to find it. It's very rare to find a decent conversation or a conversation of understanding. It seems like everyone is deaf and still talking so much and writing so much. Sometimes, I wonder what's the point. So, I don't know. Recent years have been really terrible. The only good thing in the COVID era that happened was we succeeded to record and play the show of our 30th anniversary. That was the only thing.

M.I. - Orphaned Land goes on tour to Latin America in 2024, and playing in Chile for the first time. Portugal will be expecting you in January! It’s been a while since you played for us, and we’re dying to see you!

I'm looking forward to coming to Portugal. I love this country, as I already told you, it's the music, the history, the wine, the food, the people, of course, above anything else. I'm looking forward to come to this beautiful and peaceful country, it's always inspiring for me to spend some time in Portugal, and I can't wait to meet our fans, to play our music, to celebrate life and good music. Can't wait, actually!

M.I. - Thank you very much for this opportunity! I wish you all the best of luck in the world and awaiting your return to Portugal. Would you like to share any message with our readers, your fans, or even with the world?

I would like to tell your readers that we can't wait to see them in our shows and that we hope to meet on better days. I would like to ask them to, before they shape an opinion about anything, we should all know, that there is an old saying that there are three sides to every story. It's my side, your side, and the truth. There are always so many ways to see the things and there is no black and white in conflicts and innocent people always pay the price. That's a fact, but there is no evil or good. Everybody is wrong when there are wars, everybody is wrong or innocent people are dying. If you want to shape an opinion about anything, not only about the conflict in Israel or Gaza, just read the whole history, talk to people from both sides, try to understand both narratives, and you will see that everybody is right, and everybody is wrong. That's what I have learned. So, I would say to people to do that and because their opinion always counts and influence everything in the world. We live together in the same world, and we are all human beings, and I can't wait to meet you all and play music for you. This is what we know the best.

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Questions by André Neves