Review Summary: Fantastic German symphonic metal
In 1997, German death metal band Haggard was unleashed upon the metal scene with their debut, And Thou Shalt Trust The Seer
that pushed the boundaries of what death metal could accomplish. At the time, the idea that symphonic and neoclassical music could be combined with death metal was not something that many bands had experimented with, despite the popularity of bands such as Emperor and Dimmu Borgir in the neighboring black metal scene. With their debut, Haggard, and more specifically, their lead songwriter, Asis Nasseri, further proved that these two genres could be combined successfully. After an acclaimed follow up album, one would guess that for Haggard’s third release their sound would continue with the trajectory that the band started with their debut and further their sound into even more grandiose territory. Luckily for us, Haggard accomplished this to great effect on Eppur Si Muove
and ended up crafting one of the best albums in their small, but consistently excellent discography.
One of the first things that the listener encounters when listening to Eppur Si Muove
is the neoclassical aspect of Haggard’s music, or more specifically neoclassical without any metal to go along with it. In fact, the first track on the album, “All'inizio è la morte”, actually contains no metal to speak of until the three minute mark when the usual guitars and drums kick in. While this may sound like the music is being drawn out for no apparent reason or that the band is using interludes or ambient in their music to build atmosphere, this is not the case. In the first three minutes the listener is enveloped by a variety of different music including an epic symphonic section with a choir singing that leads into a spoken word part with, what I assume is a narrator (The lyrics are in a variety of different languages so it's hard to tell), speaking over some medieval sounding acoustic guitar, a flute, and a harpsichord. After this, the song continues into a symphonic section with a female singer before finally bringing in the electric guitar riffs and drum work one would expect from a metal album. The song continues on with excellent riffs and harsh vocals provided by Nasseri alongside the aforementioned neoclassical elements. It is absolutely amazing hearing all of these different elements combine and work together, resulting in what I can only describe as beauty, which is not something that one typically associated with a metal album.
The rest of the album continues on in a similar fashion with the symphonic sections and metal sections coming in and out of the music and often intertwining. As far as the metal aspect of Haggard's music goes, they do a great job here with their performances. All of the harsh vocals are handled by Asis Nassari and they sound great. His vocals utilize a lot of low growls with the occasional raspy shriek. Overall His vocals fit perfectly with the music, sounding similar to other legends in the genre like Dan Swanö. Thankfully, his vocals are easily understood and the lyrics, which are about Galileo, are nice to be able to understand, as they add to the theatrical feel of the music. Nassari also handles the guitar work on the album alongside a guy named Andreas Hemberger. The guitars often play riffs that provide bottom end to the orchestra as opposed to anything too mind blowing, but there are plenty of quality riffs and solos to be found here. A lot of the riffs are usually pretty melodic since they mimic what the orchestra is playing which adds to their memorability. The drumming, handled by Luz Marsen, is executed well, but is restrained to keep pace with the orchestra. There aren’t any lightning fast blast beats here or ridiculous fills, but the drummer does a good job with the music that he's working with and throws in some double bass work which is always a nice touch. The bass, handled by Robin Fischer is completely inaudible, which brings me to the album’s main problem, the production. The production on Eppur Si Muove
, is to put it bluntly, sub-par during the metal sections. For some reason the orchestral parts sound great, but the rest of the band sounds all muffled. On top of that, the guitars emit quite a bit of static which sounds a bit rough for the sound that Haggard is going for here. On top of this, the production on the metal parts is also inconsistent so these issues affect some songs more than others, which can be a bit distracting. Despite this, the production is nothing the average metal fan couldn’t get past if they enjoy the music itself.
Unlike most of their symphonic metal peers, Haggard is one of the few symphonic metal bands that utilizes a full orchestra opposed to the typical keyboards and synthesizers found in the genre. On Eppur Si Muove
, this orchestra was comprised of twenty-four people excluding the four metal musicians that play on the album. As a result, the symphonic aspect of the music always feels genuine instead of the “cheap” or “cheesy” sound that some bands get criticized for. On the album, the listener will often hear classical instruments such as violins, clarinets, pianos, cellos, flutes, and organs among a variety of other instruments. I am no expert on orchestral music, so I cannot elaborate much on the playing outside of “it sounds good”, but it all sounds like top tier musicianship.
Much like the two albums that came before it, Eppur Si Muove
does an excellent job of combining two genres of music that would seem incompatible at first glance and furthering the progression of Haggard’s sound. Despite this, the album is not for everyone. Aside from the inconsistent and awkward production, Haggard will likely not appeal to people who are looking for an exclusively metal focused album due to all of the symphonic sections. Listeners who are looking for a heavy or “brutal” album will likely not find what they are looking for here as the album is neither of those things, despite the death metal tag. For any fans of progressive, atmospheric, or symphonic metal, this album is a must as it stands as a shining example of what genre splicing is all about and just how good the result can be. The album may also be worth a look from non-metal fans due to the reduced emphasis on the extreme side of metal and the abundant experimentation with other genres of music.