Review Summary: A flawed but enjoyable Equilibrium album with many experimental changes that will please some and anger just as many
Equilibrium has always held a special place in my heart. They were one of the bands to get me into metal, and several years later their music still holds up for me. I’ll say it now, but I’ve always liked their newer stuff (almost) as much as Turis and Sagas. So if you’re expecting me to hate on this new album because it’s not in the same style as old pre-2009 Equi, you’ll be disappointed.
That being said, in Equilibrium’s newest album, Renegades, they’ve all but completely changed their sound. Even compared to 2016’s Armageddon this almost sounds like a new band, and it’s more mainstream and less folky than ever. Beginning the album is “Renegades - A Lost Generation”, which starts with some heavy riffs before a more upbeat melody on the synth comes in for a little bit right before the first chorus, and then repeating that with slight deviations for the rest of the song. Sometimes dark and heavy, sometimes upbeat and happy, loads of synths, and not folky at all, “Renegades” is a great title track, as it encompasses this album as a whole, sounding as the base of the album, with each following song branching out to put its own little twist in the formula. The opening also shows how much the songwriting has changed for the worse. With only 1 song being over the 5 minute mark (which it doesn’t deserve, more on that later), each song has the exact same structure, with slight differences at best. With each song going: Intro-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Interlude and/or verse-Chorus-Outro (ABABCB), this album sounds the most generic and unoriginal of their discography. It was practically made for the radio, and I can’t help but feel their creativity was restrained from this structure.
It may sound like this is a disaster and all hope is lost. Like Equilibrium has abandoned everything to make generic, boring metal for the masses and the money. But in truth, this album is pretty fun.
The next track is “Tornado'', which along with “Final Tear” are the heaviest and least fun songs on the album. There isn’t much to say about other than them being a slight improvement over “Renegades” (they’re also the most forgettable). “Tornado” also introduces us to the clean vocals, which are prominent in the rest of the album, especially in the choruses. For the most part they’re not anything special, and at first sounded pretty bland to me. But after a couple listens they grew on me, and they have their moments more than they don’t. Unfortunately however, the singular guy doing the cleans is often the only part of the chorus, so they don’t feel as epic as you’d hope an Equilibrium song would be. However, on the song “Johnny B”, a cover of The Hooters, they decided to make the chorus a full operatic chorus, which works perfectly and makes the song catchy as hell.
Moving on, folk metal hasn’t been completely abandoned from this album, as some folk sections are lightly sprinkled in most of the songs, but they are most notable in “Himmel und Feuer” and “Moonlight”. Himmel is a song that was obviously written and recorded sometime around 2014’s Erdentempel that was shamelessly put on this album. It has the exact same vocal style, and is by far the most happy and upbeat song on here. Unfortunately, the joyful melodies don’t have a lot of substance other than being upbeat, and the song ends up feeling boring. Nevertheless, it picks up at the end, but overall a weaker Erdentempel song. “Moonlight” is a much better mix of this album and Erdentempel, having the highlights of both, sporting heavy riffs but also a number of folk sections. Definitely one of the highlights of the album, and is leagues better than the heavy “Final Tear”.
For the first time in Equilibrium history, they decided to feature not 1 but 2 other artists. First there’s the skippable “Path of Destiny” (featuring The Butcher Sisters). If you’ve heard it, you’ll know why it’s worth skipping. If you haven’t, skip it. The other song featuring an artist is “Hype Train” (featuring Julie Elven) which is 50 times better than it’s name suggests. It’s fast, upbeat, and just an enjoyable listen in general. “Hype Train”, along with “Kawaakari” are the most fun songs on the album and the ones I’ve listened to the most.
That just leads the closer, “Rise of the Phoenix”, which I was disappointed to find was just a song similar to the rest that doesn’t offer anything special other than a 2 minute outro that builds up to nothing. It’s sadly the worst Equilibrium finale.
Overall, this album is best when it’s just having a good fun time, and despite how different they are, Equilibrium hasn’t forgotten what made them so popular in the past, as Renegades and Sagas are both albums meant to be extremely cheesy and a good time. In the end, I find Renegades to be more memorable than both Rekreatur and Armageddon. Unfortunately, this album feels the most uncreative of their discography, the new experimental ideas often fall short, and I doubt any of these songs will become any of my favorite Equilibrium songs. If you’re an Equilibrium fan, there’s about zero guarantee you’ll like this album. In fact, I’m sure a couple of you reading this will listen and disagree with everything I’ve said. But if you go into it as a stand-alone album with not to high expectations, just wanting a good time, this album won’t disappoint