Haggard - Awaking the Centuries
Symphonic metal
12 songs (37'42")
Release year: 2000
Reviewed by Alex
Archive review

Once in a while there comes a record which defies the boundaries of the genre and your expectations all together. OK, I heard about Haggard before, so I wasn't entirely unprepared. Still, whatever graced my headphones was a piece of stunning beauty.

Depending on whether you believe the picture or the lineup list in the booklet the band has 18 or 20 members in it. And this is not counting the "special guests" and choir support. Typical metal instruments are present along with the string and wind sections of the medieval chapel. This is only a second album by the German band so far. It does not surprise me it took them three years between the first and the second album as every note of this composition must have been entirely thought through.

In one sentence - Haggard is classical chamber music of the 16th - 17th century being played against the heavy metal background. A multitude of instruments including oboe, violins, clarinet, flute, etc. weave their magic over the supporting heavy guitar and rhythm sections. Haggard uses a lot of classic piano and church organ rather than keyboard synthesizers creating a warm organic feel with their ivory tinkling. European Baroque era composers like Bach, Handel and Lully would create a Melody and then arrange it in many different ways throughout their fugues and inventions. Haggard does the same thing! It may be subtle, but one or two underlying Melodies survive throughout ALL 12 tracks of the album. Vocal choices is where Haggard makes the most claim to be in the extreme Metal category. While the female soprano is quite earthy without the popular these days angelic floating above the music, the male singer growls in a way not very different from Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth . In my opinion, this combination of the Down to Earth Beauty and the Metaphorical Beast works quite well.

A quick run through the tracks. After a brief spiritual church-style intro sung in Russian (!) by an actual Russian choir, the second track presents a beginning to the lyrical story of the album. The whole thing is a very loose concept dealing with Nostradamus fighting the battle against both Black Plague and Church's unyielding ways. In a process Nostradamus' family dies and he, as we all know, prophesizes the future. Things kick in with the third track Heavenly Damnation . The Melody makes its first appearance with the orchestral backdrop. As a sign of things to come the composition is very complex. Production, as it is throughout the album, is stellar allowing you to hear every individual instrument. The rhythm sometimes slips into a gallop with the drummer filling things in nicely. Heavy base and male grunts correspond with the background choir singing in Russian (!) extremely well. Concept albums sometimes tend to use a little narration (see Rhapsody ), and Haggard does too in The Final Victory , only theirs isn't very long and transitions into a hysterical scream in the end. The 10 min long title track is a culmination of the album. After a string section intro an awesome double bass driven section follows. The band throws every instrument in their arsenal at you including an acoustic guitar/percussion part in the middle. The song ends with an almost death metal riff trading things off with a church organ. Guess who wins that battle ?! A couple of short instrumental tracks (one of them reminds me a lot of In Extremo ) wrap around an excellent track In a Fullmoon Procession . Serene piano driven ballad slowly builds up into a melodic doom piece. Female soprano is replaced by that Demon Male in the end as well. Prophecy Fulfilled is probably the closest thing there is to a straight deathdoom on the album. The album ends just like it started with the Russian choir providing the outro.

I would not compare Haggard to any other Metal act out there. They are doing their own thing, and they are doing it very well. In fact, some people may say this is not Metal. I will reply that this is an excellent Melodic Heavy Music that deserves to be heard. The only minor complaint I have - with half the tracks being intros, outros and short interludes, the whole album is a bit short lasting under 38 min.

Killing Songs :
It is one wonderful listening experience!
Alex quoted 94 / 100
Other albums by Haggard that we have reviewed:
Haggard - Tales of Ithiria reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Haggard - Awakening The Gods (Live In Mexico) reviewed by Chris and quoted no quote
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