REVIEW: EQUILIBRIUM – “Renegades”
Equilibrium is a band that epitomizes the term ‘hard-working’. While folk metal has been burgeoning for the past decade with many bands seeing great success, Equilibrium has diligently labored hard in the background, slowly plying their trade in their native region, but never really sharing in the monumental international success that some of the genre forebears have experienced. The band’s latest album Renegades looks to rectify this as they aim to stamp a lasting mark on the genre by bringing their music to new audiences globally.
As an overall package, Renegades is a marked step-up for Equilibrium. The overall musical direction and song structure certainly reflect the more personal nature of this record, with underlying themes such as fear, progress, and triumph being at the forefront of the band’s writing. Each song carries with it an authentic familiarity that is reflective of personal experiences and easily builds a connection with the listener.
It is important to point out that the band has taken a bolder path with this album having it largely sung in English, a stark difference to their previous releases. This definitely allows those unable to speak German the ability to appreciate the lyrics, and is a bold endeavor to reach a wider audience. While this has been a transition Equilibrium has slowly been making over the last few albums, it was quite surprising to see almost the entire album presented in English this time around.
Musically speaking, Renegades feels much more complete than any of the band’s previous offerings. While initial listens might seem like the album is different from their past offerings, the nuanced guitar work, and rhythmic drum and bass patterns mirror and expand upon the band’s ever-evolving style. Dual guitar combination of Dom R. Crey and René ‘Berthammer’ Berthiaume have definitely furthered their already well-established blend of fast, catchy and melodic guitars, cultivating a sound that is familiar yet advanced than that on previous albums. The inclusion of new keyboardist Skadi Rosehurst is also well felt across the album. Tracks like ‘Tornado’ and ‘Himmel Und Feur’ thrive off their key sections, while others such as ‘Path of Destiny’ are given an almost ethereal feeling through their keys. Additionally, certain songs like ‘Kawaakari – The Periphery of Mind‘ have that electronic-infused dubstep sound that the band has previously experimented on in the past, and this wouldn’t be pulled off nearly as well live without the inclusion of a live keyboardist.
Composition-wise everything that Equilibrium has done previously has been elevated to a higher level on Renegades. While opting less for the faster-paced songs and focusing more on the grandiose folk tracks the album gives the album a very epic feel to it. Already released single ‘Renegades – a lost Generation‘ smacks of the heightened fist-pumping energy that the band has previously offered, but is one of only a handful on the album, with tracks like ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ which embrace the softer more melodic and grandiose side being more common.
Vocally is where this album feels most divergent from its predecessors. While Robert ‘Robse’ Dahn continues to shine with his harsh scowls providing the strong and powerful delivery that he is well known for, the inclusion of new bassist Martin ‘Skar’ Berger who provides clean vocals in most choruses definitely shakes up Equilibrium’s sound. The band has made comprehensive use of Skar’s vocals on most tracks and this may be something that will catch long-time listeners off guard. It certainly works, and is very thematic with the direction being taken on this album, but is definitely an interesting gamble from the band who have seemingly gone ‘all-in’ on these clean style choruses without having tested the waters first. Whether the fans embrace this method of vocal delivery could be the biggest determining factor around whether or not this album will be successful, and this will only become apparent in time on a per-listener basis.
The album does feel short. That could be due to their only being nine songs running at 42 minutes duration, and just when it feels like it is hitting its stride it ends up finishing. While this is completely understandable side-effect in keeping the album nice and compact, it does leave the listener feeling moreish and craving additional tracks at its conclusion.
Embodying everything that Equilibrium has worked for over the past two decades, Renegades is an album that is destined to bring them greater exposure. Staying true to their roots, but changing the formula just enough to keep their music feeling fresh and innovative will definitely work in the band’s favor and should bring new fans along for the ride. With a renewed focus on their overall sound and armed with tracks that are sure to generate greater interest outside their native lands, Equilibrium certainly looks poised to elevate to new heights with this record.