"Nexus Polaris" (Nuclear Blast; 1998)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Covenant are Norway's unique contribution to the death metal genre. Covenant's style of music has less to do with classic death metal elements and more to do with a solitary style that they've seemingly created - cosmic dark metal.

The heavily classical keyboard influenced "Bizarre Cosmic Industries" is like a good summer movie - it takes you someplace you've never been before. "Planetarium" may be the disc's hardest song as the character stands in stupefied awe of the universe. "Bringer Of The Sixth Sun" is the most Scandinavian sounding song and one of the more accessible tunes I've heard from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. "Planetary Black Elements" speaks of a wildly chaotic infinite universe in decline as an euphemism for humanity's failure to avoid repeating history's past.

The best tracks are "The Sulphur Feast" and "Chariots Of Thunder." Each track combines the best features of death metal's sinister mood, Iron Maiden-ish galloping rhythms, Yngwie Malmsteen's classically influenced guitars, and Covenant's own cosmic style. "The Sulphur Feast" features long resonant keyboard flourishes with classic power metal guitar riffing - a true gothic masterpiece. "Chariots Of Thunder" may just be the best song I've heard in years - it is unparalleled in its ability to cast a spell of fear due to the sinister vocal delivery and warnings of the demise and destruction of all things leads to an eventual rebirth. The razor-edged blasts of the intense, claustrophobic musical symphony is the perfect ending to this ground-breaking disc.

The guitars and bass cover a wide spectrum of metal history without being too derivative. The keyboards and synthesizers recall B-movie space epics sometimes bordering on being intentionally super-conscious, yet always charming. The vocals are gruff without being too guttural; the additional use of a female voice adds a theatrical element that is perfect for the scope of the disc.

There are some weak moments, however; "The Last Of The Dragons" and "Dragonheart," although epic and engaging in their own right, feature over long stretches of double-time bass and drums which is a bit irritating at times. 

The band members are very disciplined and allow each other the opportunity to shine with long stretches of instrumentation. This kind of collaboration allows for the individuality of each member to really stand out without detracting from the songs. The music is never sonically cluttered and the inventive arrangements are as refreshing as they are exotic. The lyrics frequently describe, either literally or in metaphor, spiritual journeys disguised as space travel.

"Nexus Polaris" was produced by Siggi Bemm (Moonspell, the Gathering, Samael); the production is superb and attention to detail allows for hearing all the intricate musical nuances.

Covenant are Nagash on bass and vocals, Hellhammer on drums, Sverd on keyboards and synthesizers, as well as Astennu and Blackheart on guitars. Sarah Jezebel Deva contributes vocals as well.

Note: The band changed their name from Covenant to The Kovenant in the late 1990s to avoid confusion with other bands with similar names.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2000 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Aug 2018 10:36:35 -0400 .