Review: Covenant – Leaving Babylon

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You know what’s brave? Putting on a show in London and hiding the band members among dancers as a conceptual art project, so that no one can tell if they are even in the room. Like The Knife did. You know what else is brave? Including a 76 minute spoken word CD with your new album, featuring poet Helena Österlund intoning in Swedish over a Middle Earth soundtrack. Take a bow, Covenant – the Skånian hard-electronics band that is best known for its futurepop stylings. Breaking with conventions can be controversial and alienate fans who are set in their expectations; but, for those with an open mind, following a band on its journey can be an interesting and head-expanding experience.

Don’t worry – Covenant haven’t lost the plot. What they have done is expand the boundaries of their new album, Leaving Babylon, in new and unexpected directions. There are still intense sequencer patterns and thumping drums, but the album is book-ended by tracks at the experimental end of pop. Their name is Covenant, not Conventional, so it doesn’t hurt to indulge a little exploration – especially when the tracks at the core of Leaving Babylon are such high-quality, edgy material.

covenantleavingbabylonTake Prime Movers, which is a gothic aerobics instructor’s dream: dark, stabbing bass; a euphoric lead and a growling vocal. It brings the feeling of the album back into the normal fan’s comfort zone. There should be no complaints arising from tracks like Ignorance and Bliss, either, with sparkling pads and lush choirs draped like muslin over a pulsing bass and galloping rhythm track. Likewise, Auto Circulation is custom-designed to be dropped into a late-night mix – a heady concoction of filters and tension.

The stand-out song on the album is a more complex affair. For Our Time might be too dark for daytime radio, but don’t be surprised to hear it on a soundtrack in a cinema near you: it’s moody, elegant, and tailor-made for that spot when the hero realises he’s all alone in the world. This is Covenant’s sweet-spot, and they hit it so neatly that you can easily forget that you’ve still got a 76 minute spoken word CD to listen to.

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