Sound — 7
For the most part, the subgenres of metal that contain a strong medieval aesthetic (power metal, folk metal, Celtic metal, etc.) are met with mixed reception amongst metalheads worldwide. While some welcome the mixture of vigorous metal and rich melody from "ye olde times" with open arms, others wince at the inherently uplifting feel and the cheesiness of the jubilant vocals that are common in power metal. While Equilibrium's music is still chock full of exultant folk melodies (folk metal will be folk metal, after all), the German outfit counterbalances the cheeriness with black-metal-inspired growling vocals, which provide an extra bite for the more extreme metalheads to appreciate. With their first album, "Turis Fratyr," Equilibrium's black folk metal style was met with intrigue and praise, and their second album, "Sagas," would prove to be even more critically lauded, with many deeming it the best folk metal album of 2008. However, Equilibrium's third album, "Rekreatur," would be the first falter in their discography (third time's the curse?), with fans and critics feeling that it was an underwhelming follow-up to "Sagas," and that the new vocalist Robert Dahn didn't feel like a cohesive replacement for the band's previous vocalist Helge Stang. Whether this put a dent in Equilibrium's psyche or not, the band would take a few years before going back into the studio, but now, they're back with their fourth studio album, "Erdentempel."
After a near-minute of the symphonic metal intro instrumental "Ankunft," Equilibrium puts their best foot forward with "Was Lange Wahrt," which is a full-bodied progressive folk metal experience; traveling from frantic power metal guitar riffs, to death metal tremolo picking and rapid double-bass pedaling, to a triumphant chorus filled with violins and backing choir vocals, then dropping into a chuggy bridge and proceeding into a new verse with furious blastbeat drumming - all while keeping the main folk melody intact throughout. This song alone sums up the appeal of Equilibrium in five minutes, which acts as a double-edged sword for the album: it's great that the vanguard track of "Erdentempel" is fierce and unrelenting, but it also sets a high bar for the rest of the album, and not all of the following songs reach it. While the folk melodies stay in good form in "Waldschrien," "Uns'rer Floten Klang," "Freiflug" and "Wellengang," the metal aspect of these songs leave something to be desired. Fortunately, "Karawane" contains a nice & meaty riff and some good guitar layering, "Apokalypse" puts the folk elements on reserve and gives the album an ample shot of dark metal energy, and "Stein Meiner Ahnen" contains some exceptional frenzied drumming. Outside the case of "which track rocks the hardest," "Wirstshaus Gaudi" deserves a shoutout for containing the peppiest, jolliest folk-driven chorus of the album - if there was an Oktoberfest in the depths of Hell, this would be the music you'd hear there.
Lyrics — 6
Equilibrium sings their songs in German, but for those that aren't able to understand exactly what is being sung, the fact that it's folk metal shouldn't make it too hard to infer that songs depict tales of fantasy and Medieval narrative; and when you translate the lyrics, that's exactly what the subject matter is. While the songs about medieval sojourns, battles and apocalypse come off as status quo for folk metal, Equilibrium also writes lyrics that are just as festive and joyous as the folk melodies that accompany them, such as in "Uns'rer Floten Klang," "Heavy Chill" and "Wirstshaus Gaudi." "Erdentempel" also includes the very first song Equilibrium has written in English, "The Unknown Episode," though with the song being about a story that would be a playable quest in Midgard, the fact that it's in English is perhaps the most remarkable thing about it.
Overall Impression — 7
Though "Erdentempel" ebbs and flows from front to back, the flows are indeed stronger than the ebbs, and some songs on the album are good enough to be deemed new favorites for Equilibrium fans. "Erdentempel" also manages to be another good example of how Equilibrium strikes a strange but compelling balance between the aggressive metal elements and jovial folk music elements, so it's a good album for those not familiar with Equilibrium. Perhaps the most important thing to consider, though, is that even if it doesn't manage to supersede Equilibrium's critically acclaimed "Sagas," you shouldn't let that take away from the fact that "Erdentempel" is still a decent and notable folk metal composition.