Hailing from Sweden, Covenant was formed in 1986 by the trio Eskil Simonsson, Joakim Montelius and Clas Nachmanson. They began this project while they were in school together as they began to experiment with electronic music and noise. They released their first album Dreams of a Cryotank in 1993 and later released their stellar album Sequencer which helped to kick start their strong and admirable musical career. 2010 brought about a change in the lineup with Daniel Myer (Haujobb, Destroid, etc.) joining with the release of their album Modern Ruin. Continuing to work and create with their artistic talents, the band pulled together a new album in 2013 despite another lineup change with Daniel Myer moving on to focus on his other projects. With nine albums and a number of singles and EPs released, they continue to move up the ladder as leaders in the electronic music scene. They certainly have a career worth being proud of as they continue to pack dance floors and crowded venues all over the world with their club-tracks and excellent concerts.
Their music is originally influenced by electronic legends Kraftwerk and Human League, yet they've gone way beyond that and have helped to redefine and evolve the electro-pop and EBM genres to the point that new electronic groups try to reach the status and style of these legends. With their plethora of albums and maxis, they manage to blend so many elements of Industrial, Noise, EBM, Techno and Synthpop, all layered and finalized with Eskil's droning, sometimes monotonous and robotic while other times completely melodic and beautiful vocals.
If you're just hearing and getting into this band, definitely hook up with their back-catalog of music and of course, enjoy selections on Gothic Paradise radio.
The Blinding Dark & Sound Mirrors (single) - Reviews
It's been another few years and this band just keeps on going with more great music. As with past releases we have a great new single here to present as well as a stellar album that shows the diverse and experimental side of this band. The single gives us five new tracks including four mixes of "Sound Mirrors" and a bonus piece while the album presents us with elevent new selections including a couple of short interludes and a few new classic Covenant hits.
Sometimes I wonder where to even begin with a legendary act like this as I approach another review of their work. For those not familiar with this project, the single "Sound Mirrors" is a perfect introduction to their solid electro-pop sound. It presents us with all the layers and elements that make a song recognizable as a favorite Covenant track. The perfect mix of that 130-135 bpm dance beat and layers upon layers of pulsating electronics and loops building synths for a powerful and melodic sound. This track is presented with 3 additional remixes including by Faderhead, Daniel Myer and Iszoloscope. Faderhead gives it a little bit more of an electro-industrial edge and more pronounced beat as well as speeding up the tempo ever so slightly. Daniel Myer gives us a bit of an experimental and minimalistic twist as you might expect from his other projects. Iszoloscope really brings out the experimental noise side with powerful distortion and interference layered over the distantly echoed vocals. The bonus track "In Theory" is a bit of a mid-tempo piece with various experimental elements and noise layered in with mostly spoken word vocals.
As we turn our attention to the album we're presented first with a new favorite "Dies Irae", that serves slightly as an introductory piece to the album with slowly building loops of various samples mixed in as a backdrop to the pulsating synths and a mid-tempo yet moving beat. Still perfect as a slower paced dance track, the deep and heavy vocals vary between monotone and melodic for another captivating piece. This gives way to "Sound Mirrors" which creates the first section of the album while a short two minute "Interlude" with unintelligible distorted vocals over analog synths and various distortion and noise mixed in.
The next section is made up of a variation of different styles across "I Close My Eyes" which is more of a staple mid-tempo piece and a quick favorite, while "A Rider on a White Horse" includes rare female backing vocals on this slower down-tempo piece and is a bit more on the experimental and eclectic side for this group. "Morning Star" digs into more of the experimental electronic sounds while the rhythm and tempo build back up to more of a classic mid-tempo dance track making it also quite ecelectic in and of itself. This finally circles back to more of a typical melodic electro-pop piece in "If I Give My Soul".
At this point we're presented with another short "Interlude", this one being entirely instrumental yet overall less experimental and just simply a short mid-tempo instrumental electronic piece. However, this also marks the final segment of the album that I like to call the experimental noise segment. While "Cold Reading" builds up to a powerful, dance-friendly electro-pop track, the echo and various layers of reverb and distortion on the electronics lead us into the avant-garde. "Fulwell" is simply static for just over two minutes which leads us to "Summon Your Spirit" which besides the percussion is also mostly just distortion and static to wrap up the album.
Overall the mix and dynamic nature of the album across all of the various styles from melodic dance-friendly electro-pop to experimental noise is something quite expected from this group. Yet, all in all, for me it's the more melodic pieces that are the favorites and classics that keep me coming back for more from this band. Highly recommended for fans new and old alike, plenty here to enjoy.
Leaving Babylon - Review
It's hard to believe it has been three years since Modern Ruin, it seems like the tracks from that album and other recent releases still have that "new" feeling, but here we are with great new music on this album. The album features nine "official" new tracks with a bonus piece in the form of "Leaving Babylon II". With these pieces we have another great set of new classics from this band as they continue to experiment and grow while relying on the structural styles of the past for a truly recognizable sound as Covenant.
Having been a fan of this band for many years, I had some idea of what to expect, a little bit of experimental distortion and noise, a few solid club tracks, maybe a ballad or two and a few pieces in between. That seems to be the formula for success with this band and wit that formula we definitely have another successful album here. Kicking off with the title track in the form of the solid, heavy electronic sounds we've grown to love, mixing a mid-tempo beat and a robotic style w/ the droning, minimal lyrics and monotonous vocals give it a cold, hypnotic feel. This merely sets the stage for what will be the dynamic nature of the album. The tempo and intensity picks up as we move on through the album w/ the up-beat piece "Thy Kingdom Come", followed by the hit single "Last Dance" and moving on through "Prime Movers" before slowing down with "I Walk Slow" as a beautiful ballad and almost as an interlude or break from the club-friendly pieces. It picks right back up with "For Our Time" and drifts on through "Ignorance & Bliss" and the trance-laiden "Auto (Circulation)" before dropping off with the slow-paced finale piece "Not to be Here". "Leaving Babylon II" is a droning, ambient piece while still maintaining a mid-tempo beat, it really drones on for nearly 10 minutes and truthfully I don't think I've listened to it in it's entirety yet.
I usually listen to each album at least five or six times before trying to pick out favorites and trying to pick them apart for a review. With this album I was almost immediately able to pick out highlights and they've stuck with me each time I've listened. The opening track is definitely a stellar piece as previously described, it's a great intro to the album and a nice example of dark, brooding, heavy electronics while remaining cold and distant w/ the robotic effects, creating an excellent track. "Thy Kingdom Come" infuses some classic goth elements w/ the harpsichord sound at the beginning and then moves right into the classic electro-pop sound that this band is so well known for. The melodic layers of electronics over a steady beat as a back-drop to Eskil's solid vocals. It's no surprise that "Last Dance" was chosen as the first single from this album and no surprise that it shot straight to the top of the DAC for 8 weeks. This piece is a signature "Covenant" track with all the great elements of powerful, dance-friendly electronic music with emotionally laiden lyrics and vocals. "I Walk Slow" is a nice ballad-like piece, yet not all you would expect from a typical slow selection like this... unless you're familiar with Covenant! If you are, then it's no surprise that halfway through the song we're greeted with earsplitting, experimental noise for about 45 seconds or so before dropping right back into the somber guitar and vocals to finish out the song. "For Our Time" is a moving, yet somber piece for a very emotion-infused electro-pop track that may have you shedding a few tears while you're dancing in the rain to this piece. "Ignorance & Bliss" is definitely a solid highlight on this album, while at first it takes a little bit to get started (nothing a good club mix couldn't fix for the dance floors), once it gets going, this piece will knock you off your feet, or rather get you on your feet dancing. The moving beat and catchy rhythm aren't even the best part though, the magic kicks in when we hit the chorus each time with a beautiful, melodic approach featuring some soaring guitar that really just brings it all together perfectly for a spellbinding track. Finally, as the album comes to a close "Not to be Here" shows the band can really pull off a good ballad, despite all the experimental electronics they manage to infuse here and there, similar to "The World Is Growing Loud", this piece is a great way to wind it all down, rounding out another great album.
I don't think there's much more I can say, this is a great album. Obviously most of the album stood out as favorites, while there are a few I could certainly live without and not lose much sleep over, we really have a great collection of stellar pieces here. Overall it shows how this band can continue to create great new music without losing anything they've gained over the years in terms of style, quality and creativity.
Modern Ruin - Review
This is our first taste of this band under the new lineup with Daniel Myer in the group and the first album in several years. The new lineup doesn't seem to have changed the landscape of the album too much from what fans might expect. Presented in the form of eleven selections forming something of a concept or thematic album based on the title, we have an excellent work encompassing all of the experimental and electro-pop styles we've grown to love from this band.
The album kicks off with the title track as a sort of experimental introductory piece to the album and to the excellent single "Lightbringer" featuring Necro Facility. This single was also released several weeks ago with five different remixes, though the original and radio edits easily remain the favorites for me. Also presented on this maxi is a remix of "Beauty and the Grace" which the original appears on this album as well, and the bonus track "Never Seems to End" which is definitely more on the experimental side, not really much of a "song".
So back to the album... the short break between the intro and "Lightbringer" is about the only break on the album. All of the tracks blend together well making it really best to listen to the album all together in it's entirety as they all mostly fade and blend together well from start to finish, setting the mood and overall theme up well. This helps so that the brief interludes and instrumental pieces become more meaningful and enjoyable rather than just as filler on the album.
As far as favorite selections go, the aforementions "Lightbringer" is definitely one of these and it's easy to see why it was chosen as the first single from this album. Immediately following this piece is the hard-hitting "Judge of My Domain" which sports a myriad of layered synths and robotic vocals mixed with those that help to provide that trademark sound that is Covenant. This is definitely a dance friendly piece after the long, dreamy intro that slowly builds up to the heavy beats and electronics. "The Beauty and the Grace" comes up a bit later and is another stellar track on this album mixing various dreamy synths over a slowly building, almost subtle beat with the somber vocals that also build, creating an excellent track with tons of emotion and dynamics. Hearing the original version brought new hope after the disappointing remix presented on the aforementioned maxi. Along with these highlights, other dance-friendly pieces that I think most fans will enjoy are the heavy-hitting "Dynamo Clock" and "Beat the Noise" which are almost anthemic in nature. Similarly "Get On" is catchy and has some classic synth sounds that should appeal to many listeners.
The inclusion of various experimental sounds have always been a part of Covenant, these continue to be a major part of the album in the various instrumentalpieces and definitely in the final track on the album. When I was first listening to it on a system with smaller speakers, there's a high pitched synth that remains steady throughout the track that's just at that pitch to set the nerves on edge if not balanced by a thick heavy bass. With that balance it does prove to be a nice piece and another great ending to a memorable album, highly recommended for fans new and old.
Skyshaper - Review
After a silence of four long years we're presented with this latest full-length album from these legendary artists. It seems that while the band has spent much of their time touring, it paid off to take some time off and then re-double their efforts by locking themselves in their studio and concentrating on releasing this album. The music contained on this album is incredible, including a broad range of tempos, intensity and styles.
From the very start of this album you know that this album is destined to be a classic with the powerful single "Ritual Noise". This piece takes all of the powerful club elements of their past hits and packs it into one piece sporting robotic vocoded vocals, pounding club-friendly rhythms and smooth, deep, melodic vocals. This becomes the template for the standard EBM, dance-friendly pieces on this album including "Brave New World" and "The Men". The diversity on this album includes an excellent drift into electro-clash with "Pulse", full of moving beats and plenty of bleeps and analog styles. "Happy Man" follows suit with even more bleeps and fun electro-clash sounds, but in a much more quirky manner, giving the title of the track solid meaning with the lyrics.
Like previous albums there are plenty of experimental elements on this disc including the quirky "Happy Man" which is completely out of style for this band, but they manage to pull it off perfectly. Others that are more subtle and darker include the dull, and totally unnecessary piece "Sweet & Salty" along with the moving pieces "Greater than the Sun" and "Spindrift". Each of these latter two pieces may not be the most attractive to EBM fans, but they are dark and moody that should appeal to most fans. Personally, I could do without "Sweet & Salty", but the rest of the album makes up for it.
As a finale to this great disc we're brought to the only ballad on this album, and it's a great one for sure. "The World Is Growing Loud" is the title of this piece and it's brilliant in it's smooth rendition, thoughtful lyrics and excellent vocals. After the powerful dance tracks, quirky electro-clash and brooding experimental pieces this ballad is a perfect way for the album to end.
Ritual Noise - Review
This is the first single from the band's 2006 album Skyshaper and is instantly a smash club hit. Sporting six tracks this maxi has about what most maxis have, a few remixes of the title track, some good, soom bad and a couple of "b-side" pieces. As a teaser for the fans this set expectations for the new album very high based on this excellent club hit single.
Let's take the title track remixes first... The "Edit Version" kicks off the disc with a choppy, shorter version of the title track without really much variation from the original, I guess kind of like a radio edit, but you can notice the edgier, choppier motion of this piece. We then have the "Main Version" which is the smooth, driving, solid electro-pop club piece that makes this single the powerful hit that it is.nbsp; The "Version S" sports a trancier feeling with slowly building, swooshing synths throughout, vocal loops and long introductory driving beat loops that extend the track out a good 45 seconds longer than the "Main Version". The "Terence Fixmer Remix" finalizes the disc and leaves much to be desired, especially coming from this legendary EBM composer. This remix completely tears the track apart, adds a powerful synth loop and puts it all back together, and finally after 2 minutes a beat is added that adds some semblance of rhythm, but the vocals and everything else is all mixed into a messy jumble of noise that's very hard to listen to.
The two additional tracks on this single actually end up being more like space filler than anything innovative or interesting for fans to enjoy. They took their more experimental side and cranked out "The Island" and "XRDS". "The Island" slowly moves along with somber moods and experimental hooks and vocals are finally added, but they're more ballad-like vocals that don't really mesh well with the underlying music. "XRDS" picks up the pace a little and is only slightly less experimental and the vocals at least mix well with the underlying music presenting us with something a little more worthy of this group.
Northern Light - Review
Fans of this band, get ready, because you're about to experience another masterpiece by these electronic greats. At first listen I was a little bit disappointed, I'm not sure what I was seeking, maybe a full album of tracks like "Tour de Force" or "Leviathan", a couple of my favorites, but as I've listened to this album over and over again, the variety, melancholy and overall mature sound have really grown on me.
At first, you think you may be in for a monotonous adventure in robotic electronic music as it opens with "Monochrome", which features deep, monotonous vocals and driving rhythms. This is meant in a good way as you can just let yourself go and be hypnotized by the beat and music. This slowly fades and gives way to the very moving track and first single from this album "Call the ships to port". The driving beat backs the somewhat melodic vocals, yet still maintains that electronic feeling lulling you into moving wherever you are. This should soon be a classic from this album. The other great moving track on this album that slowly builds with synth loops and deep vocals similar to some VNV Nation songs is "We Stand Alone", this song builds into another nice electronic club anthem with a lot of driving force. "We Want Revolution" manages to jazz up the rhythm and tempo a bit for yet another great club classic.
Apart from previously mentioned 3 or 4 somewhat danceable tracks, most of the rest of the album is really quite mid-tempo and almost dreamy in some aspects. The hypnotic and melancholic song "Rising Sun" is a great favorite of mine to let the music just take me away in a dreamy state. With many of the other tracks as thoughtful ballads, such as the beautiful "Invisible & Silent", those fans of good electronic music that want a break from the pounding beat have an excellent treat with this album. Several other tracks follow this style and even a little bit of experimental elements as in the final track "Atlas".
With 14 tracks, a few nice club anthems, some great melodic mid-tempo tracks and a bit of experimental music all thrown in for fun, this is a nice album and a definite "must-have" for the synthpop fan.
Label: Metropolis Records