If there was ever a list of bands which should be much bigger than they are, then Equilibrium would definitely be pretty close to the top on that. The sextet (yes, there’s 6 of them now) from Germany have been putting out consistent release on consistent release for the best part of 15 years now and has become beloved by many fans of “epic folk metal” the world over. Since the release of previous album Armageddon, the band has had a change in the ranks with the addition of bassist/clean vocalist Skar and keyboardist Skadi Rosehurst as well as somewhat of a “re-brand”.
This re-brand becomes apparent with the first track on the album, “Renegades – A Lost Generation”. The once prominent orchestras have instead been replaced by synth pads and the cheesy riffs are now solid rhythms and leads. And, no, it doesn’t sound like it’s missing anything. If anything, the track feels much more solid and is still “Equilibrium”. The following track continues that trend and includes the rather impressive clean vocals of new addition Skar. Whilst initially it might appear a touch jarring to hear them instead of lead vocalist Robse’s harsh vocals, they sit nicely and provide a perfect contrast.
“Himmel und Feuer” combines the new elements introduced in the earlier tracks and the traditional elements that make up an Equilibrium track to excellent effect. German lyrics and the singing of Robse marry up with the excellent keyboard parts from Skadi and additional harsh vocals from guitarist Dom (R. Crey) in such a way that makes it easily one of the best tracks on the album.
“Path of Destiny” is where things get a little strange. Whilst it is a good song and the section featuring The Butcher Sisters is interesting, it is just a little too off. “Moonlight” takes things back to the new normality with some of the folk instruments from previous releases making a small return in places. The track also proves to be another excellent showcase of all the singers in band with the last chorus in particular having some excellent clean vocals from Skar.
“Kawaakari – The Periphery Of The Mind” continues the “Skar show” with the majority of the vocals on the track coming from him – including the harsh vocals. Whilst his harsh vocals are not as earth shattering as Robse’s or melodious as Dom’s, the annunciation is excellent and perfectly fits the music. “Final Tear” takes a much darker turn than on previous tracks with tremelo picked minor riffs and a spoken word section which hits home evermore in these times with the line “the real power belongs to the people.” Add in some excellent drumming from Hati and cracking guitar playing from Rene (Berthiaume) and Dom and you have an excellent track.
Bringing back some of the driving synths from earlier tracks, “Hype Train” is a track that can only be described as being similar in vein to “Born to be Epic” in terms of epicness. Yes, it is incredibly cheesy and not what some might consider “true Equilibrium”, but it is a cracking song and one that you can’t help but get into. With the right audience, this song will go down a storm live.
Ending the album, “Rise of the Phoenix” continues the trend of having the longest song at the end of the album. Whilst it is not of the same length as tracks like “Mana” or “Kurzes Epos”, it is still longer than the other tracks. However, it does not feel long and rounds out the album perfectly with old and new elements joining together perfectly. Like “Himmel und Feuer” it is one of the best tracks on the album and a worthy track to end the album with.
The question that no doubt will be in many Equilibrium fans minds after having heard the singles the band has released from the album is the following “Is this the same Equilibrium that made ‘Blut Im Auge’?”. The simple answer to that question is no. No, this is not the same band as all of the members bar Berthiaume from that time are no longer in the band.
The more complicated answer is to say yes but not in the way you think. The simplest way to explain what’s happened is to liken it to a remodeling of a house. Yes, there’s new bits and pieces and it might have a new vibe but the old is still there. It’s just been updated and presented differently. This is the same that’s happened here. The old Equilibrium is still there, just not in the places you might expect to see it. And that, in my opinion, is what makes Renegades great.
Renegades is released on August 23rd via Nuclear Blast Records.