Equilibrium - ArmageddonIt’s hard not to be in the mood for some folk metal when I wake up every morning surrounded by towering pine trees and solar-eclipsed mountains. The birds chirping incessantly, the sun patiently ascending the treetops, and the gentle breeze carrying the sweet smell of dew-tickled pine needles. These are the surroundings that make folk metal. And what better way to take in this lush atmosphere than with a new Equilibrium release? Sure, there are bands better suited for my morning cup of coffee, but these Ensiferum and Finntroll worshipers have been delivering quality folk metal for close to fifteen years. 2016 finds them in a dark mood—a mood altogether surprising to a band known for being folking fun. So what happens when the band unleashes Armageddon on its fans? Is it too late to shut this off before the trees catch fire?

First a disclaimer: a “dark mood” for Equilibrium is not like a dark mood for other bands. The goofy synths still rule the roost and there still exists that signature upbeat tempo. But Armageddon is packed with brooding melodies, emotional instrumentals, and general atmosphere of pain and suffering. It all begins with the somber orchestrations of “Sehnsucht”; the track’s loneliness further exaggerated by the Eluveitie-like narration and sets the mood. “Erwachen” follows by not only charges through its starting gate but removes it from the hinges. The track is laden with power, precision, and one of the slickest key-driven choruses on the album; the chorus is big, catchy, and is chock-full of layered, multi-vocalist performances destined to haunt the rest of the album.

“Katharsis” and closer “Eternal Destination” also share these moody qualities. Both are heavy and brooding, but the closer is the climatic representation of the entire album. Though the band is well known for their lengthy closers, the Evergrey-esque “Eternal Destination” is one of the more effective album conclusions of their entire catalog. It may not be as captivating as Sagas‘ “Mana,” but its crushing blasts and emotional atmosphere make it the perfect conclusion to the album.

Armageddon still has a lighter side, however. “Heimat” is a rather typical, happy-go-lucky Equilibrium song with an uplifting attitude and a whole shitload of silly synths. The key work is so sappy it would fit right in on Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s Christmas Eve and Other Stories. “Koyaaniskatsi” is another lighthearted ditty and the most beautiful song on the album. It’s full of hope and acts as the true contrast to the rest of the album. It would even be the perfect album closer if “Eternal Destination” had not performed its duties so well.

Equilibrium 2016

But for all the love I have for “Koyaaniskatsi” and “Eternal Destination,” the track the stands out the most for me is “Prey.” This track is killer and has perhaps the heaviest riff the band has ever written. But this is no thrash epic. It still has all the Equilibrium catchiness and emotion but with a riff fitting for a neck brace. Conversely, my least favorite tracks would have to be “Zum Horizont” and “Helden.” “Born to Be Epic” may have the most absurd lyrics, but “Zum Horizont” and “Helden” are the sore thumbs of the album. A lot of this is due to the keys. The performances and songwriting aren’t bad, but these tracks are fucking odd. The former rolls along pretty well until it encounters the Barnum and Bailey Circus; almost derailing the album with its over-the-top clown trot. And the synth lead midway through “Helden” is so vintage video game that it hurts. But, it gets worse when it transitions into a hopping build suited for a Beverly Hills Cop reboot.

In general, Armageddon is a winner. I love the darker elements, the crushing riffs, and the beautiful choruses stitching this album together. Furthermore, the album has the best dynamics the band has ever put to tape. Normally in the DR5-6 range, Armageddon is allowed to breathe a bit more. And what a difference better mastering makes. This album feels warmer than previous releases and the instruments, orchestrations, and Dethklok-like vocals are better for it. The songwriting isn’t quite to the level of Sagas, but it is on par with 2013’s Erdentempel (which ain’t so bad [I beg to differ – AMG]). But the moodier and more melodic approach works, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on it with future releases.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: equilibrium-metal.net | facebook.com/equilibrium
Releases Worldwide: August 12th, 2016

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  • Goldicot

    As a big fan of Sagas, this is garbage. And I remember liking Erdentempel. It doesn’t even sound like Equilibrium.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      I am quite indifferent to Equilibrium’s output in general, Sagas included. But this is definitely a step down.

  • Feytalist

    I admit that I didn’t think much of the early-release tracks. But I like Equilibrium; they’ve always delivered the fun side of folk, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    They’ll be hard-pressed to top Sagas though, that’s for sure.

  • Diego Molero

    Didn’t liked the embedded track. I like more folkish elements on my folk metal, and this doesn’t do it for me.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Folk metal is supposed to be folky, isn’t it?

      • Diego Molero

        Exactly, and this isn’t folky enough for me.

  • Col_Dax

    There are plenty of reasons to overhype “Sagas” (and, to a lesser degree, “Turis Fratyr” too). But the main reason is the vocal delivery of Helge Stang. With him, they were great, with Robse (never got warm with his voice) they are only good, and that only at times.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I definitely agree. Robse is good but they definitely lost some of their character when Stang left.

  • Reese Burns

    I’m not hearing it on the embedded track, listened a few times to see if it would click, but I just don’t like it

  • mtlman1990

    I take it there is no Mana on this album.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      There definitely is not.

  • Anarchist

    I remember Sagas blowing me away, and nothing released since then has come close to doing it for me. Maybe it’s just the vocal change, but even ignoring vocals it feels like the song writing hasn’t come close to Blut im Auge, Unbeseigt, or Mana, and the musical style just doesn’t have that grandiose, epic feel of soaring over an endless battlefield.

  • Norfair Legend

    The only thing putting me off is the vocals, now, I understand it’s more or less your standard growl but I think it would have benefited if he brought that growl up just a register or two. A little to deep for the music personally.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    You’re right, the vocals do sound like Dethklok. The track above sounds like Dethklok too, if they kept going in the direction of “Volcano” and made it more anticlimactic. Great review nonetheless, Doc.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yeah I can’t help but think of Metalocalypse when I listen to this album.

  • Spear

    This sounds like Amon Amarth plus keyboards. I guess that’s not really a bad thing, but I’m going to miss the Equilibrium of old.

  • ‘folking fun’ huehuehue

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      ;)

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Theses guys are like the cheddar of folk metal

  • The Nerd.

    Did Brendan Small do the vocals? You’re dead right Dr. I half expected to hear “Toki Wartooth not a bumblebee”. Sounds like a good album though.

  • Bryan94

    Sounds decent for me so far, like it pretty much. Damm but i really had a what the hell moment by listening to “Born to be Epic”…Equi turning into Dubstep…but the rest of the Album was very good :).

    The production really stands out though, punchy, warm and lots of air for the instruments :)

  • Dr. Wvrm

    I’m 95% sure that a Fus Ro Dah drops at about 1:10 on Helden. Only the Dah is there on the instrumental track at the same time, but the Fus Ro is clearly there on the complete track.

  • Fuzzybunny

    0:50ish So that is what Richard Kruspe has been doing with himself…. Coaching.

  • TheNihilist

    Ok melodic folk death metal.

  • Tofu muncher

    still waiting for a clip that I can take seriously from this sort of band. This sounds pretty tame which may bode well for my 40something old ossicles. Nice review.

  • OzanCan

    I just gave a few spins and I can see why most people would find this album a pill hard to swallow but personally, i like the track called “Born to be epic”
    I dunno, I guess I am in that mindset nowadays, maybe it’s a phase. Although the band took a different direction, I somewhat enjoyed it. Not bad, but not so great either
    :/

  • kamranayub

    I don’t know, I really like Zum Horizont, that riff you mention gets me, I love it. I’ve been a huge fan of Ensiferum except for some of the last albums… but Equilibrium has always been great and I was worried when I saw they put out a new album. However, I have to say, this album is fucking awesome–I love it. I’ve been listening to it over and over.