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Intervju: Covenant (Joakim Montelius) (in english)

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Jens Atterstrand got an interview with Joakim Montelius from Covenant regarding the new album “The Blinding Dark”, the band’s recent developments in style and concept, his close friendship with Eskil and more..

(Photo: Chris Ruiz)

 

 

 

Hi Joakim! The ninth studio album since your debut back in 1994, “The Blinding Dark” is now in our hands. How does it feel and how has the reception been so far?

– Hi Jens! Yes. What a ride! How does it feel? Well, it’s a good feeling to have finished it and sort of a relief. And many people seem to “get it”, which is also a relief. We didn’t expect it to be so well received.

How would you compare the work around this one when you’re looking back on some other previous albums?

– I think we hit upon something with the working title “The Blinding Dark” that we didn’t quite have for a long time. You could call it a sort of “rallying cry”, I think. We didn’t consciously work on a “concept”, we don’t like that actually, but it almost crystallised by itself. We had a feeling of flow, as if the music pulled us in a direction without us having to direct it, if you get the drift. I think of it as being in sync with the world. For better or for worse. And it was more of a concerted effort than it’s been for a long time. Less struggle internally, more of give-and-take relationship.

You mentioned the relief of such a positive reception of this album even though it might be the hardest one so far to digest for some hardcore fans. You’ve produced a massive amount of club hits down the years. Were you ever worried about the fact that this one didnt include the same amount of direct hits? Did that ever affect you in any way during the process?

– Of course. But we had to do it this way. It’s a dark album for dark times and we wanted it to feel that way. It’s introspective and pensive, not meant for entertainment. I mean, many of our club hits are actually pretty dark too, but this called for a different approach. So even a track like “Cold Reading” that could easily have been made into a dance floor killer, we decided to just hint at it and mix it in an understated way. Musically it’s like a party that gets choked up and fails to have a great time. Just like the real world around us. And like you said, we’ve made loads of club hits. We have nothing to prove in that department any more. It would have been empty and dishonest to both ourselves and our audience to stomp on as if there was nothing wrong. There’s a LOT that’s wrong. But naturally it’s nervous to release such a bleak and dark record. I would still love the music even if no one else liked it, but of course it feels better if people do.

You and Eskil have been friends since the mid-eighties. Do you ever get tired of each other’s company?

– Yes, we’ve been friends a long time. Ofcourse we get tired of each other. We very rarely work together at the same time in the studio, because we argue too much. But we’re like brothers. Eskil is my best friend on the entire planet and we are a good team. There is deep and mutual respect and care.

How has the working process changed since you started out and how has working with new band members like Andreas (Catjar) and Daniel (Jonasson) aswell as the input from Daniel Myer affected things?

– When Covenant started out, we had all sorts of rules and regulations. It could only be the three of us (Clas, Eskil and myself) and we had a lot of “codes of conduct”. No love songs, no politics, only our own music and words, and so on and so forth. When Clas quit the rules dictated the end of the band. But after much deliberation and arguing (sic) we decided to go on. As we took that decision we also opened up to the rest of the world. These days we are five official members and an extended “family” of more than a dozen people. And we really like that. It’s an amazingly talented bunch of people and it’s a real honour to be part of it. It means that we have a much larger palette to “paint” with. And that’s a great thing. Most of the time.

The previously unreleased live favourite “Close My Eyes” has found it’s place in a speeded up new version on the new album. Why now?

– Because it fit in and we found a way to finish it in a way that it deserved.

As I’ve understood you’re not ever on stage yourself anymore. Do you miss it?

– I don’t miss being on stage at all. I always felt uncomfortable with that sort of attention. But I really miss the travels and being on the road with my best friends.

You are a band that has developed a very original and personal sound, but since “Modern Ruin” (2011) I get the feeling that you have started to leave Covenant’s sort of comfort zone more and more. How does that feel? Does it ever become scary?

– One of the rules we established back in the early 90’s was that “change is the only constant” and we really made an effort to evolve between each album, no matter what. So our development is actually in keeping with that intent. And to be honest, it’s been scary all the time. But sometimes it’s scarier. Like with this one. But that’s alright. An artist that feels comfortable is almost always a boring artist.

Great stuff! Thank you so much for your time. Any last words for all the fans out there?

– Thanks for all the support throughout the years. See you in the blinding darkness!

Covenant – “The Blinding Dark”

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Format: (Album) CD, Box**, vinyl, digital
Skivbolag: Dependent Records / Metropolis Records
Releasedatum: 4 november 2016
Genre: Electro, futurepop
Bandmedlemmar: E. Simonsson, J. Montelius, A. Catjar, D. Jonasson
Land: Sverige
Recensent: Jens Atterstrand

 

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(English version below)

Mörkt och dystert

Tre år efter det senaste studioalbumet “Leaving Babylon” (2013), återvänder nu vår svenska stolthet Covenant med bandets nionde album i ordningen sedan man debuterade med “Dreams of a Cryotank” (1994).

Covenant har sedan “Modern Ruin” (2011) velat utforska allt fler nya musikaliska jaktmarker och resan fortsätter i hög grad även på det albumet. Huvudtemat speglar omvärlden just nu, med andra ord är det mörkt och dystert och ljudbilden är bortsett från några undantag relativt komplex och experimentell.

De för bandet numera relativt typiskt starka och refrängstarka klubbhitarna uteblir dock inte helt, vilket bland annat “Sound Mirrors” och den dansanta “Cold Reading” definitivt understryker. Den förstnämnda uppfattade jag som en, med Covenant-mått mätt, relativt anonym låt när den agerade titelspår på EP:n som släpptes i somras, men för varje lyssning har den fortsatt att växa.

“The Blinding Dark” är precis som bandets senaste två album målad med en bredare palett än bandets tidigare material. Covenant hämtar numera sina musikaliska influenser ifrån en lång rad genrer och är alltmer orädda för att implementera nya grepp i sin numera ytterst originella stil, med inslag av såväl oljudsfylld ambient som suggestiv minimalistisk och tämligen opolerad techno. Det tydligaste exemplet på detta är den oväntade covern på Lee Hazelwoods “A Rider on a White Horse” (med gästspel av den svenska sångerskan Erica Lee Lundqvist) som dyker upp mitt på albumet.

Tempot på “The Blinding Dark” är relativt lågt där egensinniga spår, som den mäktiga “Morning Star” och den sorgsna och mycket vackra “Dies Irae” agerar andrum inför låtar som den tidigare outgivna livefavoriten “Close My Eyes”. Den sistnämnda har nu äntligen funnit sin plats på ett album och levereras här i en uppdaterad och något tempohöjd version. “If I Give you My Soul” är i sin tur en akustisk basgitarr-kryddad poplåt som påminner en hel del om senare låtmaterial från akter som Henric de la Cour eller Agent Side Grinder.

“The Blinding Dark” kräver ganska mycket av sin lyssnare och är helt uppenbart Covenants mest svårtillgängliga studioalbum hittills. Det har dock en fantastisk förmåga att växa med tiden, där de intressanta budskapen och detaljerna framträder mer och mer för varje lyssning.

Tracklist

01. Fulwell (02:12)
02. I Close My Eyes (05:52)
03. Morning Star (04:21)
04. Cold Reading (04:54)
05. A Rider On A White Horse (05:21)
06. Interlude (01:50)
07. Dies Irae (04:33)
08. Sound Mirrors (Fulwell) (05:03)
09. Interlude (01:06)
10. If I Give My Soul (05:43)
11. Summon Your Spirit (05:21)

Psychonaut EP **

01. The Blinding Light (07:23)
02. Death Of Ideology (07:46)
03. Death Of Identity (Excerpt) (19:20)
04. Death Of Superstition (06:06)
05. Death Of Spirituality (14:32)
06. Death Of Belief (07:43)

(English version below)

Dark and gloomy

Three years after the last studio album, “Leaving Babylon” (2013), Covenant now returns with the band’s ninth album in order since they debuteded with “Dreams of a Cryotank” back in 19994.

Ever since “Modern Ruin” (2011) Covenant have wanted to explore more and more new musical hunting grounds and the journey continues on this new album. The main theme reflects the world right now. In other words, it is dark and gloomy and the sound is apart from a few exceptions is relatively complex and experimental.

The band’s, by now rather typical, strong, powerful and chorus strong club hits are not completely absent though, which “Sound Mirrors” and the danceable “Cold Reading” definitely underlines. The first one mentioned I first perceived as a, by Covenant’s standards, relatively anonymous song when it acted title track on the EP which was released last summer. But by every listen, it has continued to grow on me.

“The Blinding Dark” is just like the band’s last two albums painted with a broader palette than their earlier work. Covenant nowadays get their musical influences from a wider range of genres and are unafraid to implement new elements in their highly original style, with elements of both ambient noise aswell as evocative minimalistic and somewhat unpolished techno. The clearest example of this is the unexpected Lee Hazelwood-cover “A Rider on a White Horse” (with guest appearance by the Swedish singer Erica Lee Lundqvist) that arrives hal way through the album.

The pace on “The Blinding Dark” is relatively low where wayward tracks, like the mighty “Morning Star” and the sad and very beautiful “Dies Irae” acts as breathers before songs like the previously unreleased live favorite “Close My Eyes”. The latter has finally found its place on an album, and comes in an updated and slightly speeded up version. “If I Give You My Soul” is in turn an acoustic bass guitar-flavored pop song that reminds a lot of recent song material from acts like Henric de la Cour or Agent Side Grinder.

“The Blinding Dark” requires quite a lot of it’s listener and is Covenant’s least accessible studio album to date. However, it has an amazing ability to grow with time, where the interesting messages and details appear more and more by each listening.