There are a handful of bands that I really enjoy that fall into that atmospheric and symphonic Pagan/Folk/Death type of category such as Sear Bliss, Suidakra, Hellenthon and of course Equilibrium. The German band has just released their 5th full-length studio album on Nuclear Blast. There are still some tremors of line-up instability as the band have now recruited Makki (ex-Suidakra) on bass. Despite the fact that founder Rene does all the song-writing, I feel these constant line-up changes may be impacting the sound of the band. On ARMAGEDDON the bands sound has evolved a little more again, not in a bad way at all but it is another noticeable change.
To start, the album cover is very catchy, no mistaking this for a mellow album with skeletons, skulls and a presumably dead bird (a raven perhaps?) reminiscent of album art from Satyricon (NEMESIS DIVINA) and Kataonia (BRAVE MURDER DAY). The band is slowly integrating more and more songs with English lyrics into the track-list which will be another step towards broader accessibility. Vocalist Robse has settled in nicely to his new role as he growls his way through the 50 minute, 11 song album. The production courtesy of Rene himself is immaculate. All the Equilibrium albums have sounded fantastic to me.
The songs on ARMAGEDDON nicely blend, bouncier folk moments, guttural death, crushing guitars, high-speed swirling keyboards and some very decent atmospheric section. There are some spoken word parts and overall a fairly intense feeling to the songs. As we get to about halfway into the album we get two songs back to back which caught me a bit off guard. ‘Heimat’ is an amazing compostion, but totally bizarre. It sounds like some them music to an Olympic event with an incredibly catchy keyboard line. Then add an almost dance-beat, yes, I know it sounds horrible, but then add the layers of crushing guitar, a very guttural vocal delivery and big section of folk music and you get one strange song, but it weird. It is probably my favourite on the album but admittedly unlike anything they have done before. I could imagine a non-Metal person listening to this song for the first time and saying, ‘Wow this is so nice, it sounds like a TV commercial for a cellphone or a car” and then at the 40 second mark when the guitars and growling vocals kick in they would recoil in horror! The final flourish of folk elements at the 3:10 mark and at the conclusion are the icing on the cake. Up next is ‘Born To Be Epic’ which harkens back to the fun elements of many of their older songs, not too serious. The calliope type sounds on the breakdown during the post-chorus section are just strange but so engaging! After these two perhaps startling but fantastic songs, the band swerves right back into blast-beats with the opening roar-blast of ‘Zum Horizont’. It seems the band is not quite ready to abandon the early Death Metal influence completely! However, the keyboards are moved upfront across the whole album and that may deter some of the purists.
I really enjoy ARMAGEDDON, I don’t think the band have ever released a sub-standard album, but this one may be a bit more polarizing for the fans who were initially attracted to the more Death Metal influenced sound of the first two albums, TURIS FRATYR and SAGAS. I personally really enjoy the evolution and ARMAGEDDON in the next step towards taking this band to the next level of global popularity.
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