Thursday, August 22, 2013

Equilibrium - Waldschrein (EP) (2013)

Oddly enough, 2010 feels so far gone. Only three years have passed since the release of the last Equilibrium album, "Rekreatur," and yet it somehow feels like an eternity. Things have changed since then, with vocalist Helge Stange leaving the fold to join Israeli/Russo band Arafel. But with the departure of a member comes changes in sound, vision, and the creative process. So as the days have ticked by in those three years since, the shape and structure of the band has changed along with it. Now that the circle is once again complete and a new album is in the works, it seems like the right time to open the doors to the factory, and give the fans a look at what has been going on behind the scenes. This isn't just a crowd pleaser of throwaway nonsense in hopes of distracting us all with something shiny. On their new EP, "Waldschrein," they take a refreshing approach to that tour, taking a look at the past, the present and the future of the Equilibrium catalog.

With the title track, the band brings renewed energy to the table. The folk influences are at the front of the mix, as secondary instrumentation provides so much of the main melody. But, somehow, they manage to pair that with the same galloping heaviness that made them a force on their previous efforts. The musicianship has been ratcheted up, and new vocalist Robse Dahn sees his voice fit like a glove in the verse and chorus sections. It bodes well for what is to come, while still nodding to what has passed. That, in particular, applies to the newly recorded version of "Der Sturm" that follows. Having replaced former vocalist Helge Stange's voice with that of Dahn, there is a new dynamic at play. he is not a carbon copy replacement, but a step in a slightly different direction, albeit similar. As with the original, crushing guitar riffs take the lead, propped up by the sea of kick snare combos. It is songs like this that defined the previous era of Equilibrium, and can help to redefine it for future releases.

Having never before seen the light of day, the unreleased "Zwergenhammer" is a standout on the EP, for a variety of reasons. First, coming from older sessions, it has a different aesthetic than the other material presented. But it also is the most bright contrast, with rigid divisions between the melodic folk and melodic death styles. The two trade turns, almost in a tug of war where no one pulls, and they merely agree to pass the rope.It makes one wonder how this track, from whatever session it arose, never made it to an album, EP, or compilation. But the true brilliance of this release comes in the monumental cover of the "Skyrim" main theme, titled "Himmelsrand." Complete with chanting vocals, Equilibrium have managed to redefine the epic, by simply making it more epic. The production work is a key hear, bringing crystal clarity to a mix that is ready to rip at the seams. Capping it all off with an acoustic version of the title track, which might be one of the most intoxicating folk riffs we've heard to date, and the line has truly been cast.

Despite the out of sight, out of mind, attitude of the modern music industry, Equilibrium have never really left our consciousness. Their previous albums, from "Rekreatur" all the way back to "Turis Fratyr," always creep back into our players, and dominate our speakers. Even after three years, seeing their named scrawled across the top of an album was enough to reignite that fire. A mixture of new and old, past and present, and a look into the future, "Waldschrein" might be exactly what the EP business could become. It allows us to enjoy what the band is doing right now, and gives us the unfair ability to contrast and compare with what came before. Because, after all, it is that rise from the humble beginnings that makes the music hit home even harder. With a new album slated for 2014, a renewed sense of heavy and heavenly, and an single track already burned into our frontal cortex, it would seem Equilibrium have returned. Onward and upwards!


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