If you haven’t heard of the Swedish band COVENANT you have been missing out on what can arguably be called one of the most ingenious, enduring, and addictive EBM bands in existence.
Since teenagers, lead singer and songwriter Eskil Simonsson, keyboardist and main lyricist Joakim Montelius, and computer/keyboardist Clas Nachmanson had shared not only a love of electronic music but of science and philosophy. Their passion is what eventually drove them to form Covenant, the band name they chose to describe their mutual, spiritual bond of brotherhood. From their first single, ‘Replicant’ in 1992, to the present, Covenant has delivered unstoppable electronic dance and industrial tracks laced with heart on sleeve lyrics spread over 6 albums. In 2007, Clas left the band, and a new member, Daniel Myer of Haujobb, came on board joining not only for live performances but also the creation of music for the bands forthcoming new album effectively titled Modern Ruin.
The promised new album prompted a second “teaser” tour, this time of Canada and Northeastern America, with Chicago as the third of 8 consecutive nights. It had been 3 and a half years since Covenant’s last Chicago show and the consent in the house was that of overdue excitement and anticipation. When the few lights supplied to the stage finally went down, we were introduced to a roughly 4 minute long, somewhat ominous musical interlude. hen Daniel arrived on stage giving us another 3 minutes of assorted sounds before Joakim and finally Eskil made their appearance. From the cheers of the crowd, it was obvious their presence had been missed. The band took off into ‘Stalker’, a dark, crushing number that is reminiscent of Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb, who inspired Covenant in the first place. And it didn’t stop there. Songs like ‘Call the Ships to Port’, with its techno rave and catchy melodies, and ‘Bullet’, a song with thought provoking concepts of time and existence, were delivered with blazing honesty as Eskil sang and intensely paced the floor, often stopping to pose intently before bowing to the crowd.
Daniel, with his live drums, brought a new element and added dimension to an already solid ‘Ritual Noise’. But it was during ‘The Men’ that things completely exploded, his energetic batter evoking a pounding urgency that only the dead wouldn’t feel.
During all of this stood Joakim, dark glasses casting a mysterious shade as he bestowed upon us a myriad of rhythms, beats and sounds from his beloved Nord Modular GX2. But often his cool figure would break into fervent yells of distorted words, even flying out from behind his keyboard to dispel them onto the crowd, particularly during the classic ‘Feedback’, and more intensely on tribal beating, static-filled ‘Babel’.
For a brief moment, things slowed down. The achingly beautiful ‘Invisible’ and ‘Silent’, with its deep brooding undertones overlapped by lush strings, was accented by Eskil’s deep, soft voice lending to the songs melancholy nature. All along he had displayed a presence that captivated and spoke of sovereignty, yet he was also able to connect with the crowd in a way not often seen by lead singers. With his intent gaze, penetrating eye contact, and enthusiastic nature he appeared to be equally human as the rest of us and as he continued through the journey of ’20hz’ and the promise of ‘Brave New World’, no one could question the joy or complete satisfaction that was behind his closed eyes and relished smile.
Two new songs were added into the mix. ‘Dynamo Clock’, appropriately named for its heart-pounding, clock-ticking beats, and the bittersweet ‘If I Would Give My Soul’, with its age old question of loves boundaries, both fit in nicely with the bands trademark of emotional lyrics matched with endless dance beats and gave a welcome glimpse of the greatness to come when Modern Ruin finally gets released.
But the shows highlight had to be the stark and powerful performance of ‘We Stand Alone’. Its almost militant marching core and heavily layered whirling keys saw Eskil, at times, become statuesque as he fisted the air, a demanding presence that he shared with the crowd who gladly joined in when handed the mic. It was a great contrast to the flip side of gracious, humble and sincere appreciation that came out during his multitude of thanks to the crowd and as the song closed, a harmonizing moment between Eskil and Daniel that eventually became acapello solidified the camaraderie the band is so well known for.
Covenant’s pulsating performance continued to mesmerize and it was very easy to get immersed in the alluring surge of the music, reveling in the energy of the room, the band, the pure ecstasy of it all. As the band returned for a much demanded encore, culminating in club favorites Like ‘Tears in Rain’ and ‘Dead Stars’, there wasn’t a body in the house that wasn’t moving. Hundreds of feet hitting the floor only added to the throbbing beat. When it was over and Joakim, Daniel, and Eskil each offered one final display of gratitude before departing, there was no doubt of our own gratitude for the night they gave. And as the crowd dispersed, it was clear we collectively all shared the amazing, electrifying and accelerating moments that is Covenant. For those two hours, we stood anything but alone!
by Lori Tarchala
27th May 2010