June 17, 2014 Equilibrium – Erdentempel (Album review)
In a world where the pagan/folk explosion has saturated a once exclusive genre, it is not easy anymore to truly distinguish oneself within pagan metal’s bloodied and battle-tested realm. Equilibrium formed back in 2001 in Munich, Bavaria, deep in the heart of heavy metal’s adopted country of Germany. They released only two albums over the course of their first decade of existence, and things did not really get going for the band until 2010. One look at their biography shows the list of former members to be three times the size of the roll call of the present. Such instability might have destroyed a lesser band, but Equilibrium eventually solidified their lineup and released another very good album. Soldiering on to the present, the band releases their fourth full-length – and third for Nuclear Blast – entitled Erdentempel.
Four years in the making, Erdentempel is the brain-child of main songwriter and guitarist René Berthiaume. The first word that comes to mind when listening to opening song “Was Lange Währt” is richness. A sound that is equal parts Ensiferum, Finntroll, and Hollenthon, Equilibrium’s template of sound would put them equally at home on a Paganfest tour as it would in the middle of a power metal package. The vocals are indeed harsh, but the band employs robust gang-sung choruses to rousing effect. A very strong keyboard presence helps carry adventurous riffs throughout, reminiscent of the sound on Oceanborn, the most rollicking of all the works of Nightwish. Unlike the Finns, Equilibrium incorporates some pretty vicious blast beats into their sound, giving it a far more varied tone with respect to tempo.
Folk melodies and traditional German song structures are peppered significantly throughout the twelve songs of Erdentempel. Equilibrium also uses a strong clean singing, for instance on “Waldschrein”, much like what Ensiferum are known for. Songs like “Uns’rer Floten Klang” sound like their melodies were conceived some time before the invention of the printed word. The ancient structures are modernized with equal parts professionalism and genuine respect. A masterful production fails to diminish the traditional melodies, leaving no doubt that these songs will cause many a charlie-horse live; audiences will jump till they pass out. The aforementioned song even has an upbeat flute solo in its midst, adding to a plethora of keyboard tones and orchestral flourishes quite capable of taking the listener outside of our drab modern world.
Most of the songs retain this bouncy, melodious joyousness, but “Heavy Chill”, by contrast, affords the listener a chance to do just that. Its heartening ‘whoa-oh-oh’ bridge, however, ensures the slower pace will not also slow the pulse. Equilibrium intersperse various bird sounds throughout the song, weaving the calls of loons and such into the listening experience flawlessly. Clearly the appreciation and wonder of Mother Nature is close to their hearts. This is just one of the many endearing qualities of this type of music.
Only the grimmer “Apokalypse” features a more darkly metal edge to it, the happier keys and flutes more muted. Equilibrium throws a bit of a lyrical curve ball on closer “The Unknown Episode”, which is sung entirely in English. Softly spoken vocals and a robust chorus will give non-Germanic fans a chance to sing along without having to invest in Rosetta Stone. Bonus song “Aufbruch” clocks in at 11:16 and is a powerful, soundtrack-like epic without vocals; a must for fans of fantasy gaming and metal alike.
There will be plenty of people who whine that this album and this band are too ‘fun’ and their music is too silly to take seriously. Those people are missing the point. Erdentempel kicks copious amounts of ass and is metal as hell. The record, and Equilibrium in general, are a great example of the hybridization of folk metal with power metal. CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.