So not that long ago, during a Retrospective piece on their second album, Sagas, I mentioned that I’d been listening to a lot of German folk metal vets Equilibrium while re-reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Well, those books being the lengthy bastards that they are, I’m still re-reading them. And thus, I’m still listening to these guys, whom I’ll defend to the death as the ideal companion music for fantasy-based reading.
With four full-lengths to their name so far, Equilibrium’s got plenty of material to choose from in compiling these kinds of lists. Hell, you could pick nine from Sagas alone and it’d be a pretty damn good list. Ultimately, I culled from all four in creating my playlist, so here it is: the Nine Circles ov Equilibrium.
“Waldschrein” (from Erdentempel, 2014)
With an intro of chirping birds and a rooster crowing, “Waldschrein” is almost too fitting a song with which to kick off a playlist. (Or a morning.) The refrain may leave a bit to be desired, but the steroid-enhanced folk melodies that precede it do more than enough to cover for it. It’s a jaunty little gem of a tune.
“Unbesiegt” (from Sagas, 2008)
The first of what ended up being just three songs from my favorite Equilibrium album hooks you in right from the get-go. (Those damn synth flutes, man!) The true highlight, though, ends up being Helge Stang’s mid-song howl of “Ich bin unbesigt!” (“I am undefeated!”) Listen to this thing, and you’ll end up feeling the same way.
“Met” (from Turis Fratyr, 2005)
Bouncy verses, the most thunderous refrain on the entire album, and a run-time of just two-and-a-half minutes. Exactly what you’d expect from a song about mead, right? If you’re just looking for a quick burst that sums up what Equilibrium’s all about, “Met” is the song for you.
“Der Wassermann” (from Rekreatur, 2010)
As a mid-tempo folk-metal tune, “Der Wassermann” has it all: a quiet, natural folk-sounding introduction; those fantastic, Equilibrium-patented synth swells; and an altogether excellent refrain. And then, it speeds up! After a mid-song shock of adrenaline and a key change, this thing somehow becomes even more kickass.
“Mana” (from Sagas, 2008)
As an instrumental closer nearly twice as long as Sagas‘ next-longest track, “Mana” presented Equilibrium almost too many opportunities to let us down. And to the band’s great credit, they acted on exactly none of them. The song absolutely destroys each and every one of its 16-and-a-half minutes. And as I mentioned in that Retrospective, those windy synth shapes about halfway through? Pure sex.
“Fahrtwind” (from Rekreatur, 2010)
“Fahrtwind”—say that out loud without cracking a shit-eating grin—is pure adrenaline from beginning to end. The rev of a motorcycle engine sets the tone, and the song never really lets up, hustling through the rest of its almost-five minutes at 90 miles an hour. And the chorus? One of the most triumphant in the band’s entire catalogue.
“Blut im Auge” (from Sagas, 2008)
“Blut im Auge” was the first real taste I got of Equilibrium, and it’s still my favorite. Throughout its four-and-a-half minutes, it attacks you from all angles: with its melodic, folky lines, with its absolutely relentless pacing…with just about everything the band’s got in its arsenal. And those howls in the bridge? Easily then-vocalist Helge Stang’s finest hour in the band.
“Freiflug” (from Erdentempel, 2014)
If “Freiflug” doesn’t give you all the feels, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t really know if any of Equilibrium’s songs could be described as “arena ready,” per se, but this would probably come closest. The verses are surprisingly nimble, but it’s that powerful chorus that’ll really make you dig out your lighter.
“Kurzes Epos” (from Rekreatur, 2010)
And of course, I have to include the band’s other major, album-closing epic. Is the pace-changing middle section a bit long? Yes—so much so that I’ve begun to question whether the song is actually better than its Sagas counterpart, “Mana.” (Retrospective be damned!) But the thematic alignment between the beginning and end parts make for such an incredible catharsis that you’ll find a way to overlook it. It’s an incredible way to bring down the curtain on the album, and on this playlist.
These nine were exceptionally tough to pick. On a different day, I could very easily have found a way to sneak in “Wellengang.” Or “Der Ewige Sieg.” Or “Heimwärts.” The band’s just that deep. Anyway, that’ll do it for me. Check back later for the usual!
Keep it heavy,