It’s been twenty two years since COVENANT ‘s legendary opus ‘Sequencer’, featuring the exquisite ‘Stalker’, was aired.

Further albums followed with ‘United States Of Mind’, ‘Northern Light’ and ‘Skyshaper’ being the most notable. With Eskil Simonsson in charge of synths, vocals, programming and production joined by Joakim Montelius who looks after execution, lyrics and engineering, the pair form the core of modern COVENANT‘The Blinding Dark’ as an album number nine, promises a return to the darker matter of serious futurepop, without being too nostalgic towards ‘Sequencer’.

The production’s motto is “There is No Berlin Wall to defiantly dance on any more”, but the listener is invited into the “void”, which welcomes the “unstoppable Nautilus through the black waters, straight towards the future, never looking back”.

The matters of “confronting the dark side of self” manifest themselves in the advance single ‘Sound Mirrors’. Relating to the sound mirrors from World War Two’s Britain, which were the concrete anti-aircraft installations deflecting the enemy planes, the track touches upon the modern state of Europe as we see today, with refugee problems of mass scale, affecting the Continent’s safety and security while plunging into the nasty depths of human nature. Of course, all the signature COVENANT elements are combined here, including the ominous voice of Simonsson.

Indeed, the deep probing auras are raised immediately on the opening instrumental ‘Fullwell’, and they’re further developed on ‘I Close My Eyes’.

A more progressive, “implosive instead of explosive” and “fuelled by a cold fury rather than a roaring fire”, the cutting sounds resemble shaking off the shackles into the arty, futuristic sound.

The first ‘Interlude’ to ‘Dies Irae’ works as a catalyst for the fusion of Carpenter Brut and Leonard Cohen with the mediaeval Catholic requiem mass. The peculiarities of the track seem to work, thanks to the simplicity of the electronica and a poignant vocal. The second ‘Interlude’ to ‘If I Give My Soul’ introduces a hopeful moment towards the wishful attitude of the latter number, laced with bass and captivating synth.

A more sombre mood is portrayed in a haunting duet for ‘A Rider On A White Horse’. This spectacular cover of a 1977 country hit by Lee Hazlewood, comes as an unexpected turn, proving that even a western track can be revamped as a superb electronic tune. Further proof that COVENANT know their synths, yet do not shy away from further development of their signature sound, lies in ‘Morning Star’. Lyrically, the song mentions the album title over a plethora of disturbingly apt sound variations, opening a brand new chapter for the Swedish masters.

‘Cold Reading’ only reminds the listener that COVENANT are superb at trance-inducing, alternative dance tracks, even as a newly found quintet with Andreas Catjar, Daniel Jonasson and Daniel Myer, the latter returning for ‘The Blinding Dark’, having left in 2013 citing “too many egos” as the reason for his departure.

The tribal, almost “ritual noise”, heralds the closing ‘Summon Your Spirit’, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the latest instrumental works of GAZELLE TWIN. If COVENANT wanted to reincarnate the ‘Sequencer’ sound, they certainly achieved that on ‘The Blinding Dark’, without repeating themselves. The long player definitely puts its predecessor ‘Leaving Babylon’ to shame.

The Swedish maestros themselves described “the dystopian, unforgiving music of the reflective shadows we all carry within us, but often lack the courage to take a good look at” by creating a “triumphant embrace of the strengths and resilience of the soul”.

A triumph it is.

‘The Blinding Dark’ is released by Dependent Records on 4th November 2016 in a variety of formats

COVENANT tour Germany throughout November, please visit the official website for more details and other dates in Europe

Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Chris Ruiz
27th October 2016