|A Covenant of Thorns|
Scott-David Allen is the soloist that creates and presents us with A Covenant of Thorns. While he has been creating music for several years, it was 1998 before we saw anything from this project with two short EPs. Shortly after, in May of 1999 the album Hallowed and Hollow was released as a full-length album. Over the next few years selections would also appear on a few compilation CDs. Fall of 2004 would see the release of the long-anticipated sophomore album which presented a more mature and subdued style in If The Heavens Should Fall. It would be more than ten years before we would hear from this artist again, but finally in 2015 we were presented with The Fields of Flesh and then again in 2016 with Forgotten.
As I sit down and try to describe the music of A Covenant of Thorns, I think of the somber moods of darkwave music and the electronic elements of synthpop. Taking a page out of the book of Depeche Mode's history and combining his own somber lyrics, moods and styles, a unique sound has developed and is presented. While not something you would immediately think of for a dance club, many club-friendly elements are present in the aforementioned style as well as similarities to The Cure and others. The music presented on the discography is a great collage of these styles and great additions to any music lover's collection.
Forgotten - Review
I guess after a ten year silence Scott-David had a lot of ideas bottled up because it's only been a year since the last release and we already have this six-track EP to enjoy. Of course having any new material is a nice treat, but on this latest work we see a slight change start to build in the music and so we have another set of creative and new tracks to enjoy here.
From the beginning of the EP we are introduced to a slightly edgier sound with the harsh electronics providing the introductory note to it all. Appropriately named "Oblivion", the harsh electronics give way to a moving beat layered with heavy electronics, though immediately any fan will recognize the sound we've grown to love over the years anchored in a solid mid-tempo synthpop style and fronted by Scott-David's vocals. We get another taste of this harsher sound on "Negative", with a dark and brooding mood accented by the slowly moving percussion and backing guitar that is a rare addition for this artist. Other pieces where the edge in the music comes off a bit includes the thick layers of pulsating rhythms and layered synths for a really nice electro-pop piece in the form of "Shadows". This piece is what I would call classic A Covenant of Thorns sound. "The Most Beautiful Girl" is another that sits well within these bounds while the final two tracks on the album bounce between the edginess of other pieces and that classic sound from earlier releases. While not really standing out, they do lend to an overall completeness to the album, especially in the dark moods of "Never" which slowly brings the EP to a close.
While it's great to have new music from this artist and a couple of tracks stand out as great additions to our collection, this is by new means the best work we've enjoyed.
The Fields of Flesh - Review
I had pretty much given up on hearing anything new from this artist when out of the blue I was presented with this six track EP. It was definitely a nice surprise to hear more from this project and even better was to hear that the talent and creativity was still there across these selections. We hear all of the great styles come together on this album from upbeat synthpop styles to the somber moods and dreamy soundscapes with the melancholy vocals and lyrics. While it's not very long with just the six tracks, it's great to just have something new from this long-time favorite in these genres.
As the opener to the album we're greeted with the dark and moody, yet upbeat title track for this album in "The Fields of Flesh". The smooth vocals glide over the heavy electronics and moving beats to create one of the most dance-friendly pieces in this set. The haunting synths soar over pulsating, heavy bass and other background electronic loops for a perfect dichotomy between moods and moving rhythms. The variety in across these pieces is great as we're thrust right into the mid-tempo piece "On Any Night But Tonight", again presenting us with smooth and melodic vocals over the somber music. This mix creates a mood that is dripping with raw emotional power as we drift and slowly fade into "Waiting" with even more somber moods and a slower rhythm. As if on queue to rescue the listener out of the deep, somber moods of these tracks we're presented with "Sanctuary" which builds up to a powerful and moving piece. The dance-friendly beat gets the pulse and body moving again while still ripe with emotion and powerful feelings that gives the music life and a palpable pulse. As we start to wrap up this short collection, the tempo and overall mood slows down again with "Porcelain" taking on a mid-tempo rhythm and giving way to the soft, yet throbbing, heavy finalie piece "An Echo of Something". This brings the EP to a close perfectly, leaving the listener recalling the emotions and feelings of why this project has been such a favorite all these years.
There you have it, short, yet full of great material and another powerful masterpiece for fans to enjoy. Hopefully we'll have something more sooner than it took this latest album to come out.
If The Heavens Should Fall - Review
This was definitely a long-anticipated release for me ever since I first got my hands on the debut album Hallowed and Hollow. After enjoying that first work so much I was longing for more great music from this artist and this release delivered exactly that. From the minute I started listening, the emotions and feelings portrayed in the first album came flooding back as the music seems to pick up right where we left off so many years before. The mood is a bit more somber overall, yet the style and pace of the album remains solid and consistent.
The title track kicks off the album with a subdued dance-friendly beat and the solemn vocals carrying the thoughts and feelings of the lryics to the listner's soul. Each track follows this pattern in one way or another. The intensity varies from song to song as "State of Mind" picks up the passion slightly with the varied electronics and stronger vocals. This all progresses further still with "This Decay" and it's thicker layers and pulsating rhythm. With these few tracks as an introduction, the album becomes a full collage of these sorts of somber moods. I think this album and the previous works become to synthpop what female-fronted ethereal music is to gothic music and related genres. The smooth flowing nature of each song builds and penetrates the soul. The lyrics are neither brooding nor angry, but intelligent and structured well enough to maintain the listener's interest.
While most tracks maintain an upbeat, yet restrained mood and style, there are a couple of tracks that drift right into deep ambience. "Alone In A Crowd" is a beautiful ambient work with background noise of a seemingly distant crowd and the beautiful piano backed by ambient textures. This is a real instrumental masterpiece in the ambient genre. The finale to the album uses more of these ambient textures with Scott-David's grave vocals. This eight-minute track is a wonderful way to wind up this great work.
Once again the talent, the music, vocals and lyrics all come together to form a nice piece of work. This album is highly recommended for those that enjoy the somber moods of electronic dark wave music.
Hallowed and Hollow - Review
I'm going back quite a few years in reviewing this album, but it's well worth the time and effort. I've picked up bits and pieces over the years and have been very impressed by the tracks I've heard. But now that I have it all together in a nice cohesive work, it really blows me away with mostly raw, emotional power. Because the power of this music doesn't come out in overpowering rhythms or angry noise, but in somber and emotional lyrics, vocals and musical elements. Mix Depeche Mode, The Cure and Beethoven together and you have the somber elements I'm talking about.
"Love Crooked Love" kicks it all off with the prominent synths and a dancey beat. This is probably one of the catchiest tracks from the album and most dancefloor friendly, even though the heartbroken feeling still permeates the music. Each track is like a drug as it moves you in and out of conciousness or mood-altering states. From the upbeat music of "Empty Exorcism" to the soft, instrumental and dreamy rhapsody of "Home", the prominent emotional and dreamy elements are there, pulling at the heart and soul of each listener.
I have many favorites on this album, but above all I just wanted to touch on two of them. "Purgatory" is a moving track that is seething with this powerful emotional energy, yet presented in a somber mood through subtle electronic elements and the smooth vocals. The lyrics speak volumes as you listen and relate quietly to the pain expressed. The final track, and probably one of the most thought-provoking songs on here is "Never Fade Away". This is also one of my favorites with it's pulsing synths and dreamy sound as you drift off with the music.
This album leaves me excited for any new material that we can expect from this artist. I highly recommend this to any fans of the artists I've mentioned as comparisons above. You won't be disappointed with this album.