German folk metallers Equilibrium have recently released their 5th full-length album, which they have entitled ‘Armageddon‘. It has already entered the German album charts at position 5, and has become a strong contender for a personal top 10 spot for 2016.
Upon hearing the three main singles prior to the full album release, what initially struck me, as a fan of the band since the release of ‘Sagas‘ in 2008, was that there was was a slower tempo and less of a folk element across all three tracks. At first, despite enjoying all three, this worried me as I feared the possibility that Equilibrium had exchanged their signature silliness for seriousness.
And, indeed, the album does begin in this manner, with tracks ‘Erwachen‘ and ‘Katharsis‘ sounding slower than the opening tracks of any previous Equilibrium albums, with a more symphonic approach to the melodies, rather than just lead guitars providing them. Still, they are enjoyable tracks and have an anthemic feel to them.
However, 4th track ‘Heimat‘ is where the album really begins to pick up, with an almost Disney-sounding melody, it provides a very uplifting feeling throughout and I find myself moving to this track every time, thanks to the rhythmic drumming of Tuval ‘Hati’ Refaeli.
One of the best tracks from Armageddon has to be the bizarre, yet brilliant ‘Born to Be Epic‘, the lyrics of which are somewhat parodic of overly used clichés in a lot of power and folk metal bands’ themes and lyrics. Lines such as ‘I walk on mountains of ice, and still consider it’s warm‘ are clearly sang by Robert ‘Robse’ Dahn in jest. This leads into a reggae-inspired pan flute section which is completely bonkers-sounding, especially when coupled with the utterly strange animation in the lyrics video for the song. Still, however, I cannot help but feel that the song sounds better when the tempo is increased (try listening to the song on YouTube at 1.25x speed).
The pace really does pick up during tracks ‘Zum Horizont‘ and ‘Rise Again‘, with a fast tempo, proper folk metal elements such as violins and flutes and even some blast beats! These tracks are certainly going to please the long-term Equilibrium fans who may not be sold on the new approach, as they are similar to the band’s older style. The tracks certainly brought a smile to my face, and my initial fears of the whole album being too similar to the 3 singles was eradicated.
‘Prey‘, in fact, sits well at this point in the album, bringing a good dose of variety to the album after the two fast and folky songs that came before. René Berthiaume and Dom R. Crey’s chunky riffing and the epic symphonic score make for a great track which has a short section with some more blast beats. This leads nicely into the uplifting and anthemic ‘Helden‘, which at first, comes across as any other regular Equilibrium song, that is until you swear that you just heard Super Mario jump half way through the track, which then leads into a full blown retro sounding 8-bit bonanza, confirming you are not hearing things!
‘Koyaaniskatsi‘ sounds a lot like an outro, despite being the penultimate track, with a great feel-good melody leading the track forward. There is even a section that reminds me of ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?‘ from The Lion King soundtrack around the 3 minute mark!
Album closer ‘Eternal Destination‘ was one of the 3 singles I mentioned earlier. It has to be the heaviest Equilibrium song of all time, with a melancholic melody introducing the track, followed by a huge chord progression that hits you with a lot of power. The riff that follows as the vocals kick in is beastly and you can feel the passion oozing from the band. The music video combined with the very powerful outro section is enough to cause a lump to form in the back of any throat as the song deals with the subject of war. This is certainly the darkest and most melancholic song I have ever heard from the band, and clearly shows a new musical direction.
Where in the beginning I was dubious that ‘Armageddon‘ would be a rewarding listen, I am now certainly a huge fan of the record and actually appreciate a slight change in style, whilst the roots of the band still perforate through in their new approach. Some die hard fans of Equilibrium are no doubt going to be disappointed with the change, but I can also imagine that the band would have risked growing stale had they not introduced some new elements to their masterful brand of epic melodic folk metal.
Equilibrium will embark on their European tour with Heidevolk, Finsterforst and Nothgard from 22nd September 2016. Make sure you make one of their shows and catch the brilliant new material live.