• Mother Earth doesn't need us - A review of Equilibrium's ''Armageddon''

    Equilibrium - Armageddon (2016)

    Equilibrium is a band that has gone through numerous changes since its foundation fifteen years ago. This includes a great deal of line-up changes but also an ideological shift towards more contemporary topics in the lyrics as opposed to the folk legends of yore, heavily dominating orchestral sounds above everything else compared to some more extreme metal inspired records in the early years and a balanced mixture between German and English lyrics while the first records only contained German lyrics. The quintet's new album ''Armageddon'' is light years away from some of the band's party anthems such as ''Met'', ''Die Affeninsel'' or even ''Wirtshaus Gaudi'' and offers more mature lyrics about mankind's negative impact on Mother Earth and an impending downfall of our species, hence the title Armageddon. Instrumentally, this record is clearly dominated by cinematic, dramatic and epic orchestral keyboard sounds. Keyboards were always important in this band but this time, they are really the centerpiece of this record. All other instruments and even the vocals have almost become subsidiary on this record. Still, this risky reorientation manages to work somehow. The orchestrations are truly majestic, the lyrical themes are intellectually inspiring and the apocalyptic atmosphere of this record is only increased by longer instrumental passages and numerous spoken word samples.

    The most representative tracks of Equilibrium's new direction are ''Sehnsucht'', ''Koyaaniskatsi'' and ''Eternal Destination''. The former two songs are two intense instrumental tunes with some cinematic spoken word passages about the dark sides of mankind. The latter tune is the epic conclusion of this record featuring dramatic orchestrations, gripping spoken word passages and sinister vocals that almost work as an additional instrument to increase the gripping atmosphere. The final lyrics of this album closer summarize the intended essence of the entire record and translate to: ''Pick up your last shard - Beyond the clouds awaits the light - Since you need your Earth - However Earth doesn't need you''. It's all about sharing and caring and how mankind needs to take care of Mother Earth to be allowed to stay there. This ecological topic and educational tone might sound too ambitious to some of you but the band treats the topic with a lot of detail, maturity and respect. Equilibrium delivers some food for though instead of the expected entertainment. That's why I could see that this record might be discussed controversially. Some fans might like this new album's intense depth while others could miss the playful and carefree side of the early years.

    As I said before, the keyboards and orchestrations along with the sound samples and lyrics are surprisingly strong and manage to carry the entire record on their own. However, one must admit that the guitar work is less spectacular than usual. The rhythm section is simply present without offering anything memorable. The death metal vocals sound somewhat limited in my book and are often outclassed by backing choirs as in the chorus of the inspiring album highlight ''Katharsis'' or in the epic ''Helden'' that could also come from a Neue Deutsche Härte group. I always preferred Helge Stang's intense blackened vocals over Robse's generic death metal growls but it becomes obvious on this album that a band as ambitious as Equilibrium should hire a more skilled singer who might add to the importance of the delivered message instead of hindering it which results in underused vocals and more and more instrumental passages. Basically, this strong record was conceived solely by band leader René Berthiaume who was responsible for lyrics, mixing, orchestrations, production, recording and rhythm guitar play on this release.

    In the end, I guess this release is Equilibrium's most ambitious yet most controversial to date. Even faithful fans shouldn't blindly purchase this album and check out the group's new ideology and sound before purchasing the final product. Personally, I'm positively surprised by the ambitious, diversified and intellectual use of majestic choirs and orchestrations, vivid keyboard sounds and atmospheric sound samples along with the contemporary, inspiring and meaningful lyrics. This album is one of the most positive surprises for me so far this year and the band's courageous concept deserves more attention and praise in my opinion. The group's risky reorientation worked perfectly for me.

    Final rating: 85%

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