Armageddon Review

artist: Equilibrium date: 08/25/2016 category: compact discs
Equilibrium: Armageddon
Released: Aug 12, 2016
Genre: Symphonic Folk Metal, Pagan Metal, Electronic
Label: Nuclear Blast
Number Of Tracks: 11
Equilibrium seek to augment their folk metal sound with some electronica characteristics in their fifth album, "Armageddon."
 Sound: 7
 Lyrics: 6
 Overall Impression: 7
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overall: 6.7
Armageddon Featured review by: UG Team, on august 25, 2016
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Sound: As is always the case in the realm of power metal and folk metal, Equilibrium's sound may be a polarizing niche of metal based on its triumphant and cheery melodies, but their choice to include blackened death metal sections and unapologetic growling vocals as a sonic contrast help keep them from being overly jovial. Though this formula of theirs hit peak acclaim in their 2008 album "Sagas" and led to the consequential downtick of intrigue in 2010's "Rekreatur," Equilibrium kept themselves from stumbling further down with the respectable folk metal offering of 2014's "Erdentempel."

Prior to the release of "Erdentempel," Equilibrium would part ways with founding guitarist Andreas Volkl and founding bassist Sandra Van Eldik, and with founding lead guitarist Rene Berthiaume having more control and responsibility composing the band's new album, "Armageddon," it results in some changes in the band's sound. Berthiaume opts for more synth usage in certain areas, and while this comes off in the fairly passive form of shinier textures heard in the opening "Sehnsucht" and the serene outro of "Koyaaniskatsi," they take the spotlight in "Helden," sculpting a trance-inspired intro as well as chiptune breaks later on. And though "Born to Be Epic" also uses trance-inspired synth stabs, the odd structure of its bouncy chorus comes off inspired by dubstep, sans the glitchy noise.

While this noted rise of electronica presence in "Armageddon" may be ambivalently - if not negatively - received by some folk metal purists, Equilibrium's folk metal formula is still very much the driving force in the album, ticking in the boxes of dominant string melodies (in "Heimat"), folksy but synonymously-styled flute melodies (in "Erwachen," "Katharsis," and "Rise Again"), supportive but cookie-cutter choir layers at almost every turn (though they get their moment to shine closing out the tough symphonic metal ender "Eternal Destination"), and mood-heightening shift modulations at the ends of "Heimat," "Rise Again," and "Koyaaniskatsi." Though this instrumental hierarchy ends up burying lead guitar riffs at times (straining to be heard on their own in "Erwachen" and "Katharsis") Equilibrium reserve some moments for strong metal energy via staunch blackened metal sections, forcefully fleeting in "Zum Horizont" and in the end of "Prey." // 7

Lyrics: With the previous "Erdentempel" containing the first song that Equilibrium wrote English lyrics for, they bring forth more English lyrics in "Armageddon," and though the tough guy shtick in "Born to Be Epic" is cheesy more than cheeky ("I walk on fire alone / And still consider it cold / I call volcanoes my home / When they erupt I see gold") and the revival of a slain warrior in "Rise Again" is bland, the message of soldiers questioning their reason for war in "Prey" is a poignant one that goes beyond the Medieval setting. As for the German lyrics translated, one can find themes in tune with the album's title, prophesizing the end of times by unforgiving nature in "Awakening" (roughly-translated lyric: "Only when the last hawk flying because we see the finiteness / And when the last river provides, then the end is near") and the allusion to global warming in "Eternal Destination," as well as mankind’s own undoing in "Katharsis" ("Humanity abolishes itself, a question only of time"), but in another case of cheekiness, the typical folk metal narrative of questing heroes in "Helden" breaks the mold with references to video games like "Secret of Mana" and "Super Mario Bros." // 6

Overall Impression: Like all other niche subgenres of music, folk metal may set itself to be unique at its core compared to more conventional subgenres, but it's uniqueness oftentimes renders itself into a compositional template that easily falls susceptible to uninspired derivation. With that being known, Equilibrium's effort to mix up their folk metal sound in "Armageddon" is one that may not drastically freshen up their style, but their awareness of not wanting the album to display only more of the same is an admirable attempt. And given that these flare-ups of electronica influence still don't derail the main folk metal engine, it manages not to be too jarring to the sensibilities of folk metal listeners. // 7

- Sam Mendez (c) 2016

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