The third in Morbid Angel
’s legendary trilogy of death metal mastery, Covenant
, is a highly potent assault that deftly combines the fractic speed of the early albums and slower, sludgier sections that hearkens back to the slower material on Blessed Are the Sick
. For the most part, while this is a bit less consistent than Altars of Madness
, it is nonetheless an incredible album worthy or your listening time.
The overall songwriting style in many ways hearkens back to the faster style of Altars
, in some ways, but this album has its entirely own vibe that separates it from the previous MA works. Covenant
is, in some ways, one of Morbid Angel
’s darkest albums, not lyrically but sonically. Quite a bit of this has to due with the deep, organic production job, but really, most of this is in the highly aggressive, more straightforward and less elaborate approach (compared to Blessed Are the Sick
). The point is that while this is more straightforward than the previous album, it is by no means a regression on the band's part.
Performance-wise, every member is at the top of their game on album – Trey Azagthoth performed all the guitar tracks on this record – the first time pretty much the band formed that Azagthoth had performed in this manner – and he does nothing short of a great job here. The riffcraft on here is, for the most part, absolute excellence – twisted and churning, still retaining some of thrash influence. The lead guitar work is also excellent in that Azagthoth style – lots of absurd yet somehow memorable shredding leads, with a strange sense of melody (such as the guitar solo that appears at 1:38 in “Sworn
to the Black”). David Vincent’s vocals are pretty effective for this album – a deep grunt that is completely intelligible; they’re nothing spectacular (like the vocals for Altars
…) but again, they fit pretty well with the general tone of the album – for the most part, more on that in a minute. Lastly, Pete Sandoval’s drum performance is peerless on this record, with a lot of crazy fills and some really varied beats that accompany the guitars extremely well.
As for the songs – “Rapture
” starts things off extremely well, with that intro tremolo riff and the accompanying double-bass assault perfectly working as a foreboding approach before the verses. “Pain
Divine” is one of the faster songs on here, more than a bit reminiscent of Slayer
at times. “World of Shit
” and “The Lion
’s Den” really showcase how effective the slower, sludgy parts are when juxtaposed with the faster blast/thrash sections. “Vengeance
is Mine” and “Blood
On My Hands
” are a pair of thrashier songs, very reminiscent of Slayer
at times with the riffwork.
“Angel of Disease
” is one of the best songs on here, but at the same time it is completely out place – this song was written in 1985/86 and the rest of these songs were written in ’92 and ’93… the punkier rhythms come off as out of place on here, as well as the guitar tone (different tuning from the rest of the album) and the vocal approach. Regardless of looking like a sore thumb, “AoD” is one of Morbid Angel
’s absolute finest songs, with some incredible thrashy riffs and a practical overdose of soloing. (I’ve never bothered to count up how many leads are in this song, but its easily in the double digits)
Really, the only time this album falters is in the last two songs – “Nar Mattaru
” is an ambient interlude that goes on for a bit too long for the ideas that it has, and “God
” is the band’s attempt at a sludgy doom metal song – it’s not totally bad, there’s some great riffs in this song, but the song is practically ruined with that clean vocal “Bow to me Faithfully, Bow to me Splendidly” part, which just sounds out of fucking place and closes the album out pretty poorly.
The production is easily the strongest the band has ever had – the guitar tone is deep and devastating; murky and bass-heavy while still retaining great note definition. The drum sound likewise is perfect on here – the toms are very full and crisp sounding on here and the bass drums are not triggered whatsoever, and the album sounds better for it – the kickdrum sound is deep and punchy, the way a bass drum should sound. The only minor downside is the snare drum sound – it’s a bit loose and slack-sounding, but this is really just a minor complaint on my part. Bass is, for the most part, drowned out by all the other instruments.
the fact that the album ends on something of a weak note, Covenant
is an incredible album overall. Like most of this band’s work, this album comes highly recommended.