Friday, 9 April 2021

Covenant "Nexus Polaris" (1998)

From The Kovenant to Covenant, as we roll the years back you undoubtedly noticed the change in name. This is down to a dispute with an equally named Swedish EDM artist who won the usage rights. Upon their next effort, that transition was made alongside a rebranding in image and presentation. Nexus Polaris, the groups sophomore effort, would then be re-released under the new and handy renaming. Interestingly their debut would receive an peculiar re-recording that attempts to shed the original music of its genre cast tone and rewrite much of the synths to try and capture the genius that first erupted here. Perhaps the magic was in that original record but this is the moment where a unique brilliance emerged from the cast mold of the then young Symphonic Black Metal sound.

As hinted at, the magic lies in a more elaborate sense of what the symphony could be, similar to Arcturus on paper, yet arriving with a different alien personality. The records eight tracks blaze with the roar and bite of ferocious Black Metal, mostly propelled by the rumbling barrage of Hellhammer's legendary percussive style. He debuts with the band here, unleashing his busying three arm style to propel the aggressive side with a dense layering of drum and cymbal strikes. Alongside him the vocals too deliver howling and wretched screams atypical of the genre but most notable is Lex Icon's withdrawing to a snarling throaty growling of his cosmic unworldly lyrics. This toned down temperament aids the balance of extremity and musicality the songs exude.

Snugly fit between the battering drums and gleaming synth work sit these subtle distortion guitars tinged by a Thrash Metal pacing. Arriving with melodic inflections and the occasional blistering guitar solo, they act a keen bridge between forces, the unifying element to give rise to the symphonic theme and anchor the aesthetic in aggression. Rarely are they the main focus but every riff chugs away choppy rhythms and grooves to see the theatrics on there way.

Front and center is the symphonic aspect. Where the genres artists once mirrored the general direction of their darkly music with gloomy and majestic Casio keyboard tones, Covenant strode to bring a cinematic experience. The awe and wonder can be felt in an instant, as The Sulphar Feast warms up with its shimmering acoustic guitars and it plunges into blast beats, Sarah Jezebel Deva, once of Cradle Of Filth, lends her wicked voice with an operatic presence that signifies much of the compositional genius to come. Rather than complimenting tonal aesthetics, the keys take charge as the lead direction of these thematic songs, often tinged with a carnival flavoring.

 Along the journey many keyboard instrument sounds feature, from the expectant choral synth tones to bright pianos and even an accordion on one song. It orchestrates wonderfully with an astral sense of wonder and touch of madness to tie it keenly to its extreme delivery. Its keen writing that packages big themes into simple repetitious melodies rolled off one another to keep that galactic sense of scale. Also featuring a few "electronic" tones in brief stints it does signify where the band may go but in this instant sits with me as a wondrous piece of music its hard to find fault with.

Its been such a long time this record has been with me, blowing the dust off again the magic hasn't weathered a fraction. Appreciating it once again I am particularly fond of Chariots Of Thunder, the first from the album I heard. The song has a leveling of elements as all its instruments feel integral to one another where the rest of the record dove heavily into its wonderfully bizarre and cosmic orchestration. Its a fair temperament to close on and always gives me an emotional stiring that the end of a powerful movie might do. I love it, a true classic!

Rating: 10/10