Covenant haven’t always gotten the fairest of shakes over here at Ink 19. I must shoulder some of that blame for turning my nose up at one of their earlier records and encouraging a former reviewer or two to do the same. But fuck it if I didn’t eat my own shitty words earlier today; this new Covenant platter is really growing on me! Fuck it, though, if the music is good, I’ll choke down whatever stupid nonsense I said.
Things seem different this time around. Covenant seem to be snaking free of the twin snares of rave and industrial music, shedding the dead-end skins of aggro and darkwave for a more cultured and European approach to their music. It’s harder to pin down, more stripped and raw, quieter, slower — electronic music shaped like beautiful ice sculptures. It’s so poised and dignified now, not in a posey way, but in a confident way; certain of its artistic mission. The only antecedent I can readily pluck out of Covenant’s sounds now is Depeche Mode circa Violator, a more detached Depeche Mode. In fact, the vocals sound a lot like Dave Gahan having an out-of-body experience. And that certainly ain’t a bad thing.
“Call The Ships To Port” is a fucking barnburner of a dance track, worthy of Apoptygma Berzerk in their prime. Pounding syncopated beats and these crystalline keyboards rush along at the speed of light, as disinterested and unhurried vocals oversee the whole rush to oblivion. It’s an effect not unlike David Bowie’s cocaine zombie on “Station To Station.” Excellent. One of those songs that will have you playing air synth on the chorus, if you know what’s good for you.
“We Stand Alone” is another potential anthem for the dancin’ youth. If kidz like to dance in the ruins of Versailles wearing red lace corsets, that is. Perhaps they do. I do dig how Covenant turned the booming rave keyboard convention on its head, drained of all hedonism, reverted into just another facet of alienation that the singer is trying to purge. And the drums are like a palpitating heart. Could have been in the soundtrack to The Ninth Gate, which was a good film, ok?
“Rising Sun” is another good’un •- kind of like a deep house Kraftwerk. Seriously, I’m beaming with pride here. “Winter Comes” is another choice cut, and if I may editorialize for a moment here, Covenant is totally on the right track, keeping the winter theme in the album title, cover and several tracks. What else should a cold, emotionless, robotic act sing about? Ice, snow, frost, miles of silent crystal expanse! It makes perfect sense, and we’re all alone with our frostbitten little hearts in the end anyway. It’s a minimal mid-paced number, powered along by echoey clockwork drums and Faberge egg synth washes. This is so perfect, Covenant is not rushing for anyone, they’ll end the track when they feel like it. And the dissonant, one-finger keyboard riff that ends it is so rock and roll. More air-keyboarding ensues.
But — “it” doesn’t work on hamfisted returns to form like the dunderheaded “Revolution.” From the cringeworthy lyrics to the clichéd Nitzer Ebby instrumentation, the less said about it the better. “Bullet” is a little too ho-hum as well. Luckily these clunkers are few and far between. “It” really works on songs like “Scared” which uses an insistent downtempo electrobeat along with some minimal synth washes to suggest perpetual forward lines, like the blue Tron lights that trail the people mover over the Jacksonville skyline. And the same handful of lyrics repeat over and over again. It’s a gorgeous, shimmering, airtight drone. Nothing is left to chance. It’d be a 5 am club classic.
Metropolis Records: http://www.metropolis-records.com/