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Good, but please get rid of the growling clown - 70%

Observer, April 16th, 2008

When I saw Galileo’s face on the cover and the tracklist (which mentions an Adagio amongst other classical stuff) I wondered whether these guys were simply the usual lame band who pretended a classical approach and then threw the keyboards all over the place or they were really something different. Hopefully I was wrong and I’m glad I got it because it’s a good album, although it does not quite reach the “awesome” status.

Haggard is one of those bands that you cannot classify. Having so many members and a vast array of classical instruments with little to almost null presence of guitars, you wonder whether this is metal or not. I feel it’s more like a classical music group who tries to put some metal moments in the mix.

The album features everything: pompous and precious classical songs, real instruments (I had enough of synths for the moment so it was a pleasure to hear the real stuff), strings and amazing percussion, a traditional song (Herr Mannelig, which by the way is the best version I’ve heard so far) with italian lyrics and operatic approach, like most of the album, and some decent metal moments. However, those metal moments are just too spread across the album and they sound too similar. Not really bad until you start analysing things song-by-song. That’s where you start finding the weak points.

For example, “Per Aspera Ad Astra” (featuring a tenor that should’ve been the main vocalist for the entire album) and “Of A Might Divine” sound way too similar and the same applies with “The Observer” (which contains one of the most memorable moments of the album) and “Eppur Si Mouve”. This is the quartet of songs with metal parts, being “All’inizio é La Morte” the remaining one, also a great opener (Profundis Clamavi!).

However, the biggest flaw of this album lies on the metal-driven songs, more specifically, the growls/grunts by Asis. The guy can sing decently but he ruins it most of the freaking time with his lame growling and horrible pronunciation. Sorry, but you don’t sound aggressive or heavy at all and the only thing you get is people laughing at the music. Sounds childish, corny, unfitting, and ridiculous! It’s like a douchebag yelling in the middle of an orchestral session. He has to stop such a clownish attitude and start singing properly because it detracts from the whole experience. Else, they better get rid of him. NOW. It's not good when you pretend to be serious and you get laughs.

You can understand what he says most of the time but the lyrics aren’t precisely brilliant and they could’ve been more polished as well since the booklet differs quite a lot compared to what you hear. Bad editing there.

Therion already proved in Secret of the Runes that you can make a whole album with a classical approach, a choir as the vocals and still remain metal with incredibly fucking good guitar work (Mushpelheim comes to my mind), solos and insane drumming. Here, it seems that the metal component is forced in the middle of the classical instruments. It simply doesn’t work properly. And that damn growling…

So, we have the three pretty instrumentals, Herr Mannelig and a short version of Her Mannelig that, once it’s done, features yet another classical piece. That makes six classical songs (two in one) and five metal songs. This serves to explain the metal component is either too watered down or completely destroyed by the amazing classical parts, which are indeed the best stuff here, especially when the classical vocalists kick in and Asis finally shuts up.

To sum it up, the album leaves a bitter taste whenever you hear some of the “metal” parts. It hurts, because this could’ve been so much better and probably an instant classic with a more competent singing and guitar work. It’s not bad; it just fails to fulfil the expectations given the ambitious approach they took.

Let’s hope their next album fixes these issues but, given Asis is one of the prominent band member I don’t think this will change much. I only hope he at least starts singing...