Equilibrium are on their own musical journey – an epic one obviously, but it’s one that is increasingly keen to defy musical tags and labels. It seemed to start with 2016’s “Armageddon”, which saw them nudging slightly away from their previous Pagan Metal influence and basically sporting an ‘Epic Folk Metal’ tag because, well, really nothing else fitted. So just to upset the…equilibrium (sorry…) even more, “Renegades” strides out even further – the shackles are off and Equilibrium are on the move!
This album might just divide their fans, it all depends I guess on what you like about Equilibrium and whether there is enough of that ingredient still inherent in their 2019 sound to appeal to you. It’s a progression from “Armageddon”, it’s still Epic, it’s still Metal and yes, it’s still Equilibrium…just different. There’s clean vocals mixed with the harsh on many tracks, which is very well done, but an obvious step towards courting more mainstream appeal. There’s a real mix of styles – some that Equilibrium have recently added (Children Of Bodom are still evident for instance, but I hear more latter-day Bodom than earlier for the first time) and some new (Nu?) Metal styles, which at times sound a little confused, like a band desperate to change but maybe trying to do it a little too quickly.
The production is HUGE (Equilibrium are, after all ‘Born To Be Epic’!), and undeniably heavy, but a top New York producer will certainly make things more…modern and American than previously displayed and that’s what we have here. ‘Kawaakari – The Periphery Of The Mind’ for example, incorporates a Metalcore approach coupled with a deliberately memorable clean-sung chorus – Equilibrium never needed catchy choruses before but clearly this is an area they now want to embrace! Also clangingly noticeable is the rap-core section to ‘Path Of Destiny’ courtesy of The Butcher Sisters, which also shows the band’s willingness and desire to push the boundaries further – it seems to work with the rest of the song, but I leave you to decide whether this is a good thing or not… The synths break through the guitar on a different level than they have before, but this approach was initially explored on parts of “Armageddon”, so probably this could be seen as a further expansion. Historically, I’m reminded of the attitude and reaction to In Flames’ “Re-Route To Remain” in more ways than one…
So is it all a step too far? Well, no – if a band wants to explore different horizons it’s totally up to them – it’s their career! OK, some long term fans will probably struggle with this album, there is a part of Equilibrium that just isn’t there any more, it doesn’t fit with their new vision. It’s a progression that will appeal to new fans, and hopefully still has enough glimpses of their past to keep die-hard followers interested…and who knows how many of them. Equilibrium are still unique, still have their own identity, but are on a new path. Join them or don’t – the choice is yours. Personally, I really enjoyed their back catalogue and really liked “Armageddon”, unfortunately I’m not very enamoured with “Renegades”, but that’s just my personal taste, so as always, check a few tracks from the album out for yourselves and make up your own minds.
(5/10 Andy Barker)