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Haggard follows up their first album, on which the music certainly lived up to the band name, with a much more dynamic, remarkably much better record. Forty years after Nostradamus came to the world, ending up delivering one of his darkest prophecies: “De La Morte Noire”, the Black Death strikes mankind. Believed, foretold, but who’d suspect it to come already?
Musically there’s no reason to be bored… Haggard masters their blackish heavy metal with grunted vocals, their orchestral string- and piano-laden classical music as well as everything in between. The difference when compared to And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer is that they do use the whole array, changing style every now and then – providing some dynamics when mixing two of the most majestic music genres ever, instead of playing a minute of half-assed metal and then a minute of classical music. Cut shorter, the difference when compared to And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer is that Awaking the Centuries is way better.
There are spoken parts here, a fact, which I tend to loathe. Here, though, they turn out much better than they normally do, because of their somewhat theatrical approach. Well not in the case of Statement zur Lage der Musica, which is the most stupid track Haggard’s ever done. Fortunately it’s one of the shorter interludes, which otherwise tend to be instrumental piano-laden tunes. When, as they usually are, being followed by intros based on the same instrument, it annoys me a little bit. They could be better woven into the musical picture as a whole, but it’s no big deal.
Another fact is that dynamic music is good music. Switching vocalists and type of vocals – from the dominant male grunts, the cleaner male vocals and the female ones, bordering to operatic qualities, that gives you dynamics. Another way to do that is of course tempo switches, but Haggard’s key to success here is having so many instruments available that they can just simply change the orchestration every now and then. Classical string instruments have always sounded well – combined with distorted guitars and piano (an instrument which is used a whole lot on this album), it sounds very well here.
Awaking the Centuries is done in a unique and original fashion, and succeeds in being very special – and generally really good. The downfalls do however exist, and they include the Rachmaninov: Choir and Statement zur Lage der Musica tracks, and some of the more boring parts within the songs. All in all, Haggard’s went from sucking to being good over the time of three years, which is impressive enough. Recommended to anyone who isn’t frightened by the prospect of mixing two such diverse genres.