Review Summary: Masterfully crafted.
There is not any solitary component of Equilibrium’s sound that stands out alone; no singular portion of the music that a listener can contribute the success of albums such as Erdentempel
to. Instead, what Equilibrium have perfected with their fourth full-length release is a successful amalgamation of black metal, folk instrumentation and symphonic elements, all of which equally build towards the goal of constructing an undeniably grandiose atmosphere throughout Erdentempel’s
run-time. This is not simply a black metal album sprinkled with frilly folk music and basic orchestrations, no; over the course of this album it becomes increasingly apparent that intelligent songwriting and structuring are the greatest assets that the band members possess. None of the songs feel crowded or overly dense, despite the combination of genres and their respective musical connotations. Perhaps the most rewarding feeling garnered from experiencing Erdentempel
is the undeniable sense that everything was included for a reason, not merely thrown in to improve a lacklustre performance. The symphonic and folk elements exist in order to effectively improve upon the incredibly solid black metal foundation laid down.
In fact, any of the individual components would easily be enjoyable on their own. The black metal back-bone hits just as hard as expected for a band in the genre, with the low growls and screams of vocalist Robert Dahn perfectly complimenting the heavy framework courtesy of guitarists Andreas Völkl and René Berthiaume. The drumming on Erdentempel
is exceptional, oftentimes proving to be the driving force on a number of tracks such as ‘Stein Meiner Ahnen’. The drumming is frenzied and maintains a speedy tempo for the rest of the band. Unbelievably, despite all the other instruments, not to mention the competition of the additional folk elements and the symphonic features, the bass guitar is not only audible, but effective. It is not uncommon with metal albums for the bass guitar to be hidden too deeply in the foray of instruments so as to be useless; however, this is clearly not the case for Equilibrium, who make it clear right from the onset with the first ‘proper’ track of the album Was Lange Währt’, which begins directly after the short introductory instrumental ‘Ankunft’, that bassist Sandra Van Eldik will be utilised to his full potential. Clearly, guitarist and producer René Berthiaume had a specific sound in mind here that he was hoping to achieve, and from the evidence presented on this album, it seems as though said vision has been successfully realised.
The folk instrumentation is beautifully tranquil, providing a soft Yang to the black metal Ying. Fruitfully implementing a plethora of folk instruments (predominantly optimistic flute playing) alongside keyboardist René Berthiaume’s folk influenced melodies, Equilibrium provide an ethereal experience while juxtaposing exquisite beauty with harsh, heavy aggression. ‘Uns'rer Flöten Klang’ has very strong folk elements, which is unsurprising considering the tracks title translates from German to ‘Our Flutes Sound’. Another standout track in the folk department specifically is ‘Wirsthaus Gaudi’, which contains an upbeat flute segment that transitions into a very danceable piece with a jig-like aspect to it, accompanied by a touch of gravelly growling; it is not unlike something fellow blackened folk metal giants Finntroll might have crafted.
While the black metal and folk elements, intertwined as they are, serve to give the album both balance and contrast, truly it is the symphonic aspect that offers up what would be considered the ‘epic’ quality of the album. Utilising a full range of symphonic instruments and techniques, Equilibrium have truly removed the constraints that most bands place on themselves. With their trifecta of differing musical directions all pointing towards the one album, nothing is off limits. Soaring orchestral epics such as those displayed on ‘Wellengang’ place this album out of reach from what the majority of artists are able to create. Every emotion is accounted for, whether they lie within the realm of the dark, brooding metal component, the delicate folk instrumentation, or the larger-than-life symphonic creations.
The true beauty in an album such as this, however, lies in the care that has been placed in the details. This could refer to the well-placed vocal harmonies accompanied by piano on ‘Heavy Chill’, or alone on 'Freiflug’. The heaviest track on the album, ‘Apokalypse’ contains some of the darkest chugging and deep, vocal layering, creating a truly evil atmosphere, but again, what sets it apart is the details, such as the orchestral elements and the strange addition of a solemn child’s voice. ‘Karawane’ exhibits a truly serene folk segment wedged between the foreboding walls of black metal, creating one of the most breathtaking moments on offer. Vocalist Robert Dahn also unleashes a first on this album; ‘The Unknown Episode’ which is the only song in the Equilibrium catalogue to contain lyrics in English instead of German. The track is also one of the best on the album, a perfect number to end on. Or so it would seem, as bonus track and epic closer ‘Aufbruch’ is one of the most beautiful folk metal songs I have had the pleasure of witnessing. Approaching twelve minutes in length, this monolith of a track beautifully captures all the greatest instrumental qualities of the band and features them throughout its length. An embodiment of the genre if ever there could be one.
What Equilibrium have crafted on this album is true magnificence captured and transformed into an aural experience; an experience that is not limited, but expresses itself through a multitude of instrumental means. A must for pursuers of auditory adventure.