Haggard - _And Thou Shalt Trust... the Seer_
(Serenades, 1997)
by: Alvin Wee (9.5 out of 10)
It has to be something special, when the advertisement looks more Beethoven than Bathory. Haggard is a 15-headed family hailing from Munich, Germany, with more than half of the members schooled in the classical tradition. So, lovers of violins, violas and violoncellos, listen up: here's one kick-ass slab of unpretentious "classical metal", owing more to early My Dying Bride than the shallow "gothic" kitsch floating aimlessly around today. It's pretty hard to classify this wondrous mix of elements, as Haggard sucessfully fuse traits of doom, goth, pure classical, death and folk into an awe-inspiring cauldron of musical sorcery. Imagine classical interludes more authentic than Therion, sweet soprano crooning and doom-filled passages of melodic death/doom, throw in a couple of latin chants and folk-tunes and you have probably the year's best avant-garde work. Unlike the multitude of synth-based bands which rely on electronic means to create a symphonic effect, Haggard uses actual instruments like the harp, oboe, flute and clarinet, not to mention the usual string instruments, to create an extremely intimate atmosphere, avoiding the artificiality that usally accompanies the over-use of keyboards. There's more to music than instruments, and Haggard prove themselves worthy lyrically too. Delivered in a myriad of satisfyingly deep growls, clear singing and chants, the lyrics focus mainly on biblical and historical concepts like the crucifixion and witch-burnings. In fact, the different "chapters" weave a loosely connected tale of the Inquisition and the events that accompanied it. As if the well-penned English phrases weren't enough to impress, I was enraptured by the exquisite German poetry that adorns most tracks. Sung in perfect rhythm and tune, the effect is stunning to a German-speaker, creating a most memorable aural spectacle. Volumes might be written about Haggard's music, but only hearing is believing, and any self-respecting lover of music should check out one of the most amazing new acts today. The next album should, if nothing goes wrong, easily obtain a perfect score.

(article published 8/7/1998)

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