Equilibrium - Armageddon (Nuclear Blast Records)

Equilibrium's sixth studio album Armageddon is triumphant pagan metal for the modern age.
Release Date: 
12 Aug 2016 - 12:51am

With Armageddon, German pagan-folk-metal band Equilibrium deliver their classic grandiose sound but with some significant innovations that make their sixth studio album their strongest yet.

Equilibrium’s sonically characteristic coexistence of profound aural landscapes with a kind of energetic playfulness isn’t lost on this album. One of the most striking departures from previous releases is the thematic content of Armageddon. If Erdentempel (2014) was an uplifting masterpiece of historical escapism into the heroic twilight, Armageddon is thematically situated for the most part in the present.

The title of the opening track Sehnsucht aptly describes the overarching theme of the album, a nostalgic yearning for understanding of what the world has become. A quote by Albert Einstein about the state of the world frames Sehnsucht and the following ten tracks as an interrogation of modernity through the eyes of the modern pagan, in the typically grand-yet-self-aware style familiar to fans of Equilibrium.

Erwachen is resoundingly heavier than the usual Equilibrium track. The increased presence of guitars on this track is, in my opinion, a solid development and makes this one of the most musically powerful songs on the album. Track 3 is Katharsis, which is indeed a cathartic release of the energy built up in the ‘awakening’ (Erwachen). The use of an acoustic dobro and wistful descant renders this track slightly melancholic over thundering orchestration. Its theme of ‘artist as mirror of society’ and the need to keep evolving and purging falsehood breaks the fourth wall of the album in a way that Equilibrium, to my knowledge, hasn’t done before.

Heimat opens with frenetic violins, then waxes and wanes in dynamics to deliver a bold reinterpretation of an antiquated term – ‘Heimat’. The ‘homeland’ is rendered to mean the precise opposite. The message is that ‘homeland’ is not just where you were born, rather it is intrinsic and can be found anywhere if one allows themself the freedom and courage to engage with new experiences.

The English lyrics of Born To Be Epic, with its tripped-out lyric video and anthem-style refrain, are entirely in keeping with the nature of the song. René Berthiaume has reasoned the use of English language for Prey, which appears to depict the struggle between the duty and freewill of warriors, as ‘finding a new dimension’ lyrically and to an extent this is evident in the directness of the chorus’ statements, though one cannot help but imagine how German-language lyrics would have resonated with this track and perhaps rendered the message of defining ‘freewill’ in war and violence more complex. Overall, the song is structurally paired-back to profound effect.

Zum Horizontobviously draws upon Slavic-inspired folk elements in a fast and merry excursion back into the folk past and Rise Again features a rustic flute in a style more familiar from Equilibrium’s earlier releases. While there are far less overt folk musical elements on Armageddon, the pagan-metal message is given more room to expand.

The last three tracks of Armageddon deal again with the contemporary. The content of Helden is a celebration of video game culture so those immersed in the gaming community will likely relate to the nuances of these references. It is a light-hearted interlude before Koyaaniskatsi narrates the primal yearning for humankind to return to a deeper connection with animals and nature through quotes from Stefan Hertrich’s book Wenn der Wald Spricht [When the Forest Speaks]. The interplay of spoken-word lyrics with epic composition is striking and powerful.

The final track, Eternal Destination begins as a mournful, desolate soundscape, that gradually builds into inspiring overtures and the album ends in very Equilibrium style: a truly epic scream and energetic blast into a celestial choral fade-out.

Aramgeddon is a sophisticated delivery of an overall strong narrative that provides some very engaging new directions for Equilibrium. Armageddon has potentially a more diverse appeal than Erdentempel, [2014], Rekreatur [2010]and Sagas [2008]. It’s still fun, epic and uplifting in classic Equilibrium style but the message has a more serious edge.