Haggard - Tales of Ithiria
Symphonic Metal
11 songs (42'48")
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

I will always have a soft sentimental spot for Haggard, as Awaking the Centuries was my first ever review for this site. Did time fly by or what? Looking back at my writings now, I feel silly trying to describe which instrument came after which, on the band with 20+ players and multiple vocalists. That album itself, however, is absolutely untouchable. It contains a divine main melody, a refrain of sorts, around which three wonderful compositions, Heavenly Damnation, Awaking the Centuries, In a Fullmoon Procession, were structured. Also, Russian Rachmaninov Choir is absolutely unmatched.

The truth is – I absolutely love this collective, awaiting their albums with great anticipation. Being perfectionists, Haggard does not crank them out every year. One album in four years is all the fans would get, yet for me they are always worth the wait. Tales of Ithiria is no exception.

It is true that Haggard was not the first to bring classical music, and chamber orchestra, into metal. They are not trying to continuously evolve, like Therion, not trying to explore every which way symphonic and metal can blend. Haggard, however, is absolutely true to their formula, medieval symphonic compositions erasing the line between classical music and metal. And speaking of metal, they actually bring it, much more so than, say, new kids on the block Xystus who are trying to perfect the art of musical – rock opera.

Unlike two previous opuses, Tales of Ithiria deals with a fantasy story instead of real life events. This does not mean that Haggard instrumentation sounds any less epic. La Terra Santa sways in the wind, voices taking turns in a dark dance. String section leads off in the title track, but the true grand moment comes when drums and wind instruments arrive. The bell toll at the end of Upon Fallen Autumn Leafs is the proverbial battle cry concluding what earlier sounded like anger overtaken by a Lacrimosa-like sorrowful requiem.

If Tales of Ithiria, the song, Upon Fallen Autumn Leafs and La Terra Santa are your “expected” Haggard, The Sleeping Child and Hijo De La Luna provide new wrinkles, from the opposite ends of the spectrum. The former has the camp of hardened warriors awaken to a folky polka-thrash, while the latter is a Mecano (pop Spanish band) cover, where syrupy Eurovision melody and Spanish lyrics surprisingly fit into heavier context.

Classically trained musicians of Haggard never miss a note. The production is absolutely perfect, if you discount exaggeratedly heavy bass drums. Female soprano will outsing anything in her wake, duets with clean male hero or bottomless slightly distorted Asis Nasseri growl (an acquired taste, I know, but it gives me goosebumps) are also highlights. Mike Terrana shows the way narration is to be done, in a sonic towering manner against the soundtrack background making The Origin the best narrative opening intro ever. If the closer The Hidden Sign truly brought the album to a climax, we would be talking about another masterpiece.

Of course, if you have an aversion to Bach or Handel, can’t stand a minuet or a piano interlude, In des Konigs Hallen could drive you crazy. If that is true and you think orchestration in metal is pompous, it might very well be then that Haggard is just not your thing, which is truly one of your most unfortunate musical losses.

Killing Songs :
Tales of Ithiria, Upon Fallen Autumn Leafs, La Terra Santa
Alex quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Haggard that we have reviewed:
Haggard - Awaking the Centuries reviewed by Alex and quoted 94 / 100
Haggard - Awakening The Gods (Live In Mexico) reviewed by Chris and quoted no quote
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