Everyone who was around back in the day, remembers that Haggard was supposed to come to Croatia in 2008. That didn’t happen, and it took another 10 years for them to stumble upon the city of Zagreb again. On Monday, the 29th of October 2018, it finally happened, and with Haggard came two Italian support bands.
The venue was looking different for this concert. The second floor was closed off, the big bar was empty, but the ceiling was decorated with all sorts of lighting equipment. Pretty interesting, in contrast to the fully packed and dimly lit Boogaloo we all learned to love. The crowd… Well, the crowd wasn’t as present, but it didn’t matter. It was a relaxed evening with music as the main objective, and not moshing or getting piss drunk (well at least the first part).
First off were Eternal Silence, a sympho metal band from Italy (not to be confused with other bands from around the world sharing the same name, I found at least three doing research for this article). They were founded in 2008 and have since released a demo and three full-lengths.
As an opener for a poorly sold concert isn’t very easy, but I have to give props to the whole band. They held up their spirits and gave their all. From start to finish, they banged, jumped and fooled around on stage. They gave off the vibe as if they had more energy than the crowd and they sure as hell were having more fun. with tightly packed riffs and a female-male vocal combo, they did everything by the books. Too bad the listeners weren’t more active (or at least present), so their whole gig looked clumsy at times, since the band wanted to interact with someone. That someone just wasn’t there.
Next off were another band from Italy called Sound Storm. Active since 2002, they have three full lengths under their belt, in addition, some singles, an demo and an EP.
If I have to be honest (and I do), I have to say this band gave me an huge Epica vibe in the start. Male and female vocals, two guitars, keyboards, it was all there, the whole symphonic ordeal. Luckily for me, they weren’t as pop-ish as the recent Epica material. No drawn out choruses, no keyboards on wheels. Since they aren’t a go-to band for the local metalhead, it was a new experience for almost everyone, but a great experience at that. I only wish I could have seen them in front of a crowd who knew all the songs.
Around 22:30 came the moment, Haggard finally climbed the stage. I can say with confidence, these people are metal veterans. Active since 1989, almost thirty years. That experience really shows. They owned the stage, owned the venue, and owned the crowd. Every step, chord, kick and stroke was well planed but relaxed. They played their most complex pieces with ease, even throwing in some jokes, comments and directly talking to the small crowd. The music was just mind-boggling, but the charismatic Asis Nasseri really made the whole band shine. All the jokes, different cover songs, it was all great, but what really struck me was the speech before the last song. He called everyone forth, closer tot he stage, thanked in Croatian, and commented on the state of metal bands in general. He said that Haggard aren’t rock stars, but won’t just escape the venue after the last note was played. In his mind, the after show meet and greet is an essential part of the concert experience, and they want to deliver. We even got a sneak peek at the new material, and went away with a promise of Haggard returning to Croatia in “much less than last time”.
I’m still in awe of this concert. Even tho I dislike symphonic stuff in general, this was plain awesome.