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coverpic flag Norway - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 18 - 04/12/98

Nexus Polaris
Nuclear Blast

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...

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