Who on earth are Equilibrium?
A good question. Equilibrium are a pagan metal band from Bavaria, Germany, who sing almost exclusively in German, and who remain relatively unknown outside of their country.
So why on earth should you care?
Simply because this is something very different. Pagan metal, a combination of traditional folk music and extreme (often black) metal, is nothing new. But rarely has it ever been done so well, and rarely does it admit of such a wide range of influences. Incorporating soaring power metal riffs, tribal drums, blastbeats, mixed vocals, and slightly bizarre ‘jungle sound effects’, this is certainly a band that keep you guessing.
But the main reason I’ve picked out this album is that it may just be possible that bands like Equilibrium are about to have their day. For the last few years the popular metal scene has been dominated by metalcore that, at its worst, has begun to suffer from the same dull uniformity and predictability as the punk scenes that did so much to inspire it.
At one end of the spectrum, deathcore may have helped re-energised a genre, but it’s yet to produce any real greats (correct me if I’m wrong!). Fans who are growing increasingly bored of ‘core’ (be it metalcore, ‘moshcore’, or whatever trendy name has been made up this week), may well be hoping to discover a band that will inject some energy back into the traditional metal that was their first love. Pagan metal bands are poised to seize this opportunity.
Leading the charge are Equilibrium, with their third album, Rekreatur. Released last month the album errs more towards a symphonic or power metal sound than their previous album, Sagas, whilst still retaining the black-metal inspired growling vocals and epic feel that planted that album well within the pagan metal genre.
The lyrics are, as you might suspect, rooted in Germanic mythology. Of course we’ll have to take their word for that (unless you’ve been practicing your German), but it’s not difficult to envisage the type of ideas that the band have in mind, especially as the album contains a wealth of material that would sound right at home in the movie soundtrack to a timeless epic. Many of the arrangements are unashamedly over the top, but coupled with the interspersed gutterals and snarling vocals, just add to the compelling otherworldliness that may strike those of us not used to hearing anything that isn’t recorded in English.
On top of this, the album reunites us with the distinctive guitar-work featured on the previous albums: short, truncated (and often surprisingly subtle) refrains that ensure that the other elements of the band’s sound are given full opportunity to impress, whilst at the same time managing to unite all the disparate parts into something that is unmistakably heavy metal. Nowhere is this more true than in the single ‘Der Ewige Sieg’.
There are many highlights that I could mention, but ‘Der Wassermann’ is a particular favourite. Exemplifying both Equilbrium’s ability to combine the catchy with the epic as well as their willingness to experience with different influences.
Special mention must also go to album closer ‘Kurzes Espos’, a thirteen minute instrumental that goes a long way to proving the compositional skill with which Equilibrium construct their songs. A fitting end to an album so full of both moments of drama and frantic excitement that even when we lose the distraction of vocals, there are still precious few moments in which you’ll be anything but totally captivated.
– Phil Henderson
Robert Dahn – Vocals
Rene Berthiaume – Guitars, Keyboards
Andreas Völkl – Guitars
Sandra Völkl – Bass
Tuval Refaeli – Drums