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Equilibrium - "Sagas" (CD)

Equilibrium - "Sagas" CD cover image

"Sagas" track listing:

1. Prolog auf Erden (3:38)
2. Wurzelbert (4:53)
3. Blut im Auge (4:44)
4. Unbesiegt (6:19)
5. Verrat (6:04)
6. Snüffel (5:44)
7. Heimwärts (2:32)
8. Heiderauche (2:31)
9. Die Weide und der Fluß (7:21)
10. Des Sängers Fluch (8:03)
11. Ruf in den Wind (4:52)
12. Dämmerung (5:54)
13. Mana (16:21)

Reviewed by on September 7, 2008

"A metal album should never sound like an episode of Miami Vice looks. "

Equilibrium is an odd choice for the name of a band that created an album as over the top and grandiloquent as “Sagas,” which meshes polka, folk, and extreme metal in percentages that most certainly don’t equate to an overall balance. All the lyrics and vocals are entirely in the band member’s native German tongue, and the strong polka influence of their national roots shines through in every song. German metal fans who want a connection to their heritage in their music might find something to love here, but anyone who didn’t grow up thinking that Polka was a legitimate form of music will be left unsure as to whether they should be scratching their heads or giving that confused laugh where they are pretty sure a joke was just made, but they didn’t quite get it.

The opening shot, “Prolog Auf Erden,” shows a lot of promise with its extremely epic qualities that sound like something that would be playing during the final boss of a hundred plus hour role playing game experience. The pan flutes, violins, and other folksy instruments work well within the framework of what is essentially a symphonic black metal track, and never get out of control or overtake the music. The vocals will be pleasing to fans of the European metal heavy weights who throw folk, melody, and issues of national background into their music like Amon Amarth, Dimmu Borgir, or Amorphis. For some reason the growling vocals are held down much lower in the mix than the instruments however, which gives the more flamboyant aspects of the music more of an opportunity to take over the album.

After the slick opener, the credibility of the album quickly goes downhill. Every song has a triumphant attitude, as though the musicians just got back from kicking some serious ass in battle and they are then going to party like its 1699. What could possibly be more metal than that? The problem is that the theme gets so overblown that all of the brutality of metal is stripped away and replaced with something that is so upbeat and positive sounding that it crosses the line into cheesy and even surpasses that, moving into a whole new level of bombastic attitude that is hard to take seriously.

While the hits on the album are decent, the misses are catastrophic, such as “Unbesiegt,” which evokes images of a Jamaican resort with shots of the palm tree littered waterline just as the sun is going down and bikini clad ladies with really big hair who are busy looking hot for guys in gray suits with huge mustaches and who are definitely all packing heat. Oh yeah, and there’s cocaine in their briefcases. A metal album should never sound like an episode of Miami Vice looks. Extreme overuse of the pan flute keeps the beach theme going strong in many of the songs. If metal doesn’t work out for these guys, there are plenty of Jamaican resorts who could use their music for commercials. “Sagas” isn’t all over the top cheese, though. There are moments, like in the song “Verrat,” where the band crafts some incredible hooks and heavy riffs with only minimal synthesized sounds or folk instruments, and the black metal comes out in more force.

Equilibrium’s sophomore album has a lot going for it, but unfortunately they got a little too carried away with the folk elements and forgot about the metal. Like a kid in a candy store, they were probably having a lot of fun while recording the album, they just didn’t think about the terrible stomach ache that all of that excess would be causing afterwards.

Highs: Cool folk elements blended into metal

Lows: Takes a cool idea and takes it way too far, the folk elements simply get out of control

Bottom line: A fun album by talented musicians, but overall the music is so ridiculously over the top that it really can’t be taken seriously.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)