With every release it astounds me even more how effortlessly Equilibrium straddle that gap between Pagan/Folk Metal and Melodic Death Metal whilst always staying so unique. Years ago it was a sizeable void between the two styles before Equilibrium bridged it from one side and Eluveitie propped it up from the other side, blurring the lines forever. They are of course two totally different bands when listened to back-to-back but both set out with the same ethos – let’s chuck some folky bits into Melodic Death Metal, that’ll be fun – and it is!
Whilst Eluveitie are probably more a Folk Metal band with a Melodic Death Metal attitude, Equilibrium are surely a Viking/Melodic Death Metal band at heart that just love to ramp up the Pagan/Folk side of things just to keep it all fresh and original. That originality always shines through on every Equilibrium release, they never shy away from doing something unexpected, daring, or just plain daft if the mood takes them. And somehow, six albums in, “Armageddon” has even more surprises, from this band still so full of energy, vigor and imagination, just striving to be unleashed.
This time around we have the customary epic intro and then get launched headlong into a three tracks chock-full of their own brand of aforementioned up-beat Melodic Death Metal tinged Viking Metal. For the uninitiated – Bodom, Skyfall, Catamenia, Turisas and Amon Amarth all spring to mind…but then, as is their want, they chuck in a big old pagan/folk curve-ball and it sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the album. Subtly though on “Armageddon”, the tempos kind of shift gradually in the same way that the folky bits creep in and out – it’s quite a fluid thing. Everything is massively embroiled in epic arrangements of course with great big slabs of attitude and intensity, but the overall feel of the album seems to be a little more towards continuity, rather than juxtaposition, which makes the whole thing flow as well as any previous Equilibrium album before it.
Actually, when I say the folk elements creep in, they are used for maximum effect, but yet quite sparingly at times (at this point I just have to mention the fabulous ‘Born To Be Epic’ – Equilibrium in full Viking Metal mode that without warning stops abruptly to introduce a kind of synthesized pan pipe effect playing one of the happiest little riffs I’ve heard since Battlelore’s ‘Buccaneers Inn’. It completely throws you!), reiterating that this is a listening experience that’s impossible to predict what’s coming next. For example, there’s a manic Finntroll/Korpiklaani type up-tempo track, but with a Bavarian twist (‘Zum Horisont’), but then on the flip-side there’s ‘Prey’ – as pure a slice of Viking tinged Melodic Death Metal as you could hope for. A track that (like it’s successor ‘Helden’, which also throws in some bizarre 80’s synth-pop just to keep you on your toes!!) utilizes a chorus that has such an epic, melodic backing that you could swear it is clean sung, even though it isn’t. There isn’t any obvious clean lead vocals on the album this time around, but with melodies as strong as the ones in ‘Erwachen’, ‘Prey’ and ‘Helden’ for instance, you just don’t need them, the aggressive harsh vocal that “Armageddon” sports throughout just works perfectly.
Equilibrium have their own take on their own crafted sound – they are unique. They make you smile, yet at the same time exude huge power and aggression. They are uplifting whilst even sometimes managing to be poignant (like in the grandiose 7 minute closing track ‘Eternal Destination’). At times they are Viking Metal, Pagan Metal, Folk Metal and Melodic Death Metal – sometimes all at the same time! But they are ALWAYS Equilibrium, and they are always utterly enjoyable.
(9/10 Andy Barker)