Norway - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 18 - 04/12/98
Heavy metal got ridiculed out of the rock press some 20 years ago,
but HM survived successfully by entering a parallell musical
universe. Today, HM is still very much alive, and has grown into
a complex web of sub-genres, with black metal being (arguably) the
most extreme one so far. And Covenant may have their musical roots in
infamous Norwegian black metal, but they seem to have crawled up
from this mother of all dark cellars to an attic full of
(possessed) toys, inspiring them to expand into other HM-related genres.
This is Covenant's second record, I think. In Times Before The Light
was released in 1997, and was still tagged by the critics as black metal/thrash, though
in combination with adjectives like orchestral, melodic, pompous and majestic.
Nexus Polaris obviously continues this development towards the more
listener-friendly and ear-catching, incorporating elements from all over
the metal history. For instance, I wouldn't be surprised to catch Iron Maiden
fans nodding (uh.. banging) their heads recognisingly to some of Covenant's
guitar riffs. And the melodic / symphonic qualities in Covenant's music
aren't exactly new, either, but this record combines the new and the old
in a rather adventurous way, with state of the art production
and tight playing all over.
I doubt that the members of Covenant consider their music
to have any humorous elements, but when I hear things like the almost jodeling synth solo
above the polka-riff in the middle of Planetary Black Elements, I'm left uncertain. And a couple of
other riffs are so HM-cliche (like those in Bringer
Of The Sixth Sun), that
it certainly makes me smile. If I were to point out a weakness with this album,
it has to be the piano-sounding keyboards parts. These solos are irritatingly
naive compared to everything else, being made
up mostly by using tones of simple minor/major chords, where there
instead should be some more frantic classical soloing.
Over to the vocals. They're somewhat rooted in death's growl-scream
tradition, but Nagash's voice often has a theatrical twist to it that makes it
more enjoyable, somewhere sounding like a cross between a
dark cartoon figure and the schoolmaster from The Wall.
The at times quite dominating female vocals are sung by Sarah Jezebel
Deva (from Cradle Of Filth), and are colourful counterparts to the above,
even though she's not trusted to sing any lyrics. While she adds an
epic feel with her beautiful, symphonic 'aaaaaa...s', Nagash
delivers all the messages.
Which leads us to the lyrics. What can you expect lyrically
from a group with member names like (in addition to the ones mentioned
above) Blackheart (guitars), Hellhammer (drums), Sverd (Norwegian for
'sword', keyboards)? (There's also another guitarist named Astennu, but
I don't know what the hell that means.) Well, if there's any satanism in
the lyrics, it is well concealed by the heavy use of dark, apocalyptic,
horror-fantasy symbolism. Anyhow, the lyrics fit well into the
symphonic thrash theatre that Covenant delivers here.
As for evilness, it would fit The Addams Family
better than The Exorcist. And that's a compliment...
Copyright © 1998 Knut Tore Breivik