Almost two years after announcing that a new album was in the works, God Forbid is returned to the land of the living with their new effort "Equilibrium." The album raises curious questions, as the particular splinter of heavy metal and hardcore that God Forbid helped pioneer may be nearing the end of its most effective window.
Nonetheless, "Equilibrium" proves that the genre still has blood in its veins and fire in its belly. A well produced effort, the album rages against the chain link walls of sound and fury, while concurrently mixing in a healthy amount of old-school virtuosity and attention to craft.
The stumbling block here is that the album only can show off those facets when it slows down enough to let people see them (essentially, this is the moral of Ludacris' "2 Miles an Hour" pressed to CD.) While I rarely am the type to favor the slow - no, that's the wrong term - the "evenly-paced" songs over the eyes-down, head-first ones, "Equilibrium" uses those as the best showpieces for God Forbid's talent.
In these moments when the band sees fit to release the gas pedal from its stranglehold, the experimentation in differing types of vocals by Byron Davis, coupled with the varying pacing, lets the sounds of the album evolve into a more robust bouquet (all words probably never before used to describe God Forbid. What's wrong with me?) "Scraping the Walls" is the poster child of this effect, as is "This is Who I am," which further expands the formula by breaking down into high-end most pit mayhem.
Speaking of Davis' vocals, it should be noted that his screaming gets old over the course of the entire record. That's probably not his fault so much as it is a fault of the style; there's no singer on this side of the Atlantic, and possibly the planet, that can simply belt out one guttural roar after another and remain compelling. While we're on the topic, there are a handful of ho-hum songs on this record, and they drag down both the momentum and the impact. That's not to say that they're slow songs, but rather they're not very dynamic, nor particularly interesting.
Conversely, the strength of "Equilibrium" lies in the heavy but carefully executed drumming of Corey Pierce. Despite not playing any of the album's great guitar solos, Pierce allows everything else to happen on top of his beats, while also remaining a viable part of the mix.
There are a handful of songs that break the album's general rule about pacing. "Overcome" and its successor "Cornered" both feature blistering openings that balance nicely with the production and rhythmic sense of the "big" elements in the back half of each. These pieces sound more genuine than some of the more generic angry, scream-y fodder.
The album's single "Where We Come From" is the masterpiece of the entire record. It's an instant crowd favorite, mixing all the best elements of the band's raw talent and tempering them against solid pacing. There's a great, flowing solo that is well-crafted and easy to listen to, which is a nice contrast to the pounding and shredding of the rest of the album. It is a song that makes the listener shout "Why can't they all be like this?" in a sense of wonder mixed with a little frustration, particularly in light of some of the other, less lustrous content.
"Equilibrium" is a superior effort to many of the recent albums in this sub-genre, even those of the straightforward, one-track monster DevilDriver. It has its flaws which must be minded, but overall is an album showing the talent of God Forbid to this enduring day. People who don't care for this sect of heavy metal will not have their minds changed, and be advised that you may be paying full price for five or six songs. Still there is talent here, and those seeking to find it will be pleasantly rewarded.