Awaking the Centuries
Released: 2000, Drakkar Records
Reviewer: Ice Maiden
This was one of those albums that raises that age old question—what exactly is “heavy metal?” This second full-length release by the 16-member German band Haggard successfully blends a Russian renaissance choir, baroque-sounding classical music, medieval folk music, soaring female soprano, spoken English, German, Latin and French, and melodic almost Swedish-sounding death metal instrumentals and vocals. A typical sound? I think not.
“Awaking the Centuries” explores the life of Nostradamus, the 16th century French seer. When you think about it, this is such a fitting theme for a metal concept album that I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. Each song in the album deals with an era in Nostradamus’ life. With an amazing and powerful prelude by a Russian choir, the first song starts with the tormented keening of two women praying for salvation from “la peste”—the bubonic plague or “Black Death” that took the lives of so many. I mean, how fitting—a death metal song about the Black Death. Like I said, the album is practically writing itself.
Nostradamus was originally famous for helping to cure his neighbors from the plague. Though he saved hundreds of his neighbors, Nostradamus was unable to save his own family. Stricken with grief, he spent the next six years wandering through France. It was during this time that he started to realize that he had prophetic powers, and wrote the “The Centuries,” the poetic quatrains that supposedly portend the future. Again, the songs in Haggard’s second album track this history, culminating in the title track where Nostradamus, realizing his awakening power, recognizes the dark personal impact of being able to read the future.
I think Haggard is very successful in blending so many styles of music, and acoustic and electric instruments, while still delivering a powerful death metal punch. My only criticism is that the heavy parts could happen a little more often than they do, which is why I didn’t give the album a “4” rating. Still, for fans of that style of metal that mixes genres (e.g., Tristania and Sins of Thy Beloved), this is definitely an album to purchase. It is beautiful, dark, bombastic, and melodic. It is also amazingly complex—which is probably why it took this band close to three years to create it.
It’s interesting to note that according to historians, Nostradamus was viewed by the ignorant and close-minded people in his society as a creature of the devil, babbling in cryptic, evil verse. Hmmmm—kinda reminds of present-day society’s view of death metal, don’t ya think?