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Folk metal has been a largely Scandinavian phenomenon; Norway, Finland, and Sweden are three countries in which bands have been offering an unlikely combination of Nordic folk and extreme metal. But Equilibrium is a folk metal band that comes from a different part of Europe: Germany (specifically, Bavaria), and Sagas offers a slightly different take on folk metal. Musically, the differences between Equilibrium and their Scandinavian counterparts are not huge, overwhelming ones; someone who has spent a lot of time listening to Finntroll, Korpiklaani, or Ensiferum (all of which are Finnish bands) should not have a hard time getting into this 2007-2008 recording. But the main thing that separates Sagas from Nordic folk metal discs are the lyrics, all of which are in German and were inspired by Bavarian mythology and folklore. Of course, Equilibrium's Scandinavian counterparts aren't known for writing in German -- Nordic folk metal bands generally write in either English or Scandinavian languages -- and their lyrics deal with Nordic pagan and Viking themes, not Bavarian themes. Nonetheless, the musical parallels between Equilibrium and Scandinavian bands such as Finntroll and Korpiklaani are hard to miss; like those bands, Equilibrium favors an approach that is loud and forceful yet melodic and nuanced. Equilibrium's folk metal/symphonic black metal attack isn't just about intensity; it is also about craftsmanship. Melody and harmony aren't afterthoughts on tracks like "Snüffel," "Verrat," and "Dämmerung"; they are an essential and integral part of what Equilibrium does. Along the way; Equilibrium have had plenty of personnel changes -- and on Sagas, the lineup includes lead singer Helge Stang (who usually favors a stereotypical black metal rasp but occasionally detours into death metal's "Cookie Monster" growl), guitarists Andreas Völkl and René Berthiaume, bassist Sandra Völkl, and drummer Manuel Di Camillo. That lineup has no problem providing high-quality folk metal on the absorbing Sagas.

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