Categories
Review

COVENANT Magazine’s Favourite Aural Abominations of 2019

One of the greatest things about toiling away in music is the privilege to be exposed to such a colossal amount of record releases up to the minute. A single glance at Covenant’s musical activity over the years reflects a diverse juxtaposition of genres and sounds. Our greater collective and associates are an eclectic bunch. Between the festivals and magazine, we try to keep a keen eye (and ear) on everything under the umbrellas of extreme metal and goth music of all kinds. Though the sounds vary, the essence remains the same.

It may be indulgent, but since we added a bit of value to the world of music journalism this past year, we are also contributing our voices to the surmounting lists that attempt to summarize the last 365 days in music. Our overall top 10 is an attempt to be objective, as it represents just about everything we could all agree on. Below that we asked our staff and various members of the greater collective to lend their individual voices. The results are about as wildly diverse as it gets.

Let us collectively banish the year that was 2019 by celebrating the fruits it produced, and look toward the future of greater things to come!


1 // Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

Surprised? Of course you aren’t. For most bands, touring with Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, and Immolation would not only be high points of their year, but would most likely go on to define their careers. For Blood Incantation, it will probably go down as a foot-note of their 2019, right under the part that says ‘released Hidden History Of The Human Race‘. It is that grandiose of an accomplishment, and a couple paragraphs here cannot hope to begin to encapsulate the grandeur it holds, or do it justice. It enters a rare pantheon of modern records that will be enshrined as all-time classics.

Read the FULL REVIEW

2 // Volahn – El Tigre Del Sur

If a band ever needed a strong statement to not just return to the forefront of attention, but to also crush the lies of doubters and naysayers, it was Volahn, and they have done just that with El Tigre Del Sur. The fact that it is a powerful and proud Zapatista declaration that is so passionately Mexican and anti-colonial makes it very easy to lose sight of perhaps the most important factor when observing this as a recording of music: it is their best material to date. Overflowing with beautiful melodies of blatant Latin influence that are rarely heard in metal music, it often sounds more like the score to a Sergio Leone film than it does to what we think as being “black metal”. Complete with athletic and bombastic drumming, and a brilliant ending that will be remembered for all time, El Tigre Del Sur stands triumphant against all who would attempt to besmirch his name!

3 // Ioanna Gika – Thalassa

Sometimes a record honestly comes out of nowhere and blindsides you like a wayward sucker punch. Thalassa was an unexpected game changer: A shadowy siren from a foreign land with a name that’s even hard to pronounce, crafting a genre that practically doesn’t exist. Ioanna Gika creates a stunning blend of sounds that defy absolutely any categorization. Wavey, ethereal pop that contorts into a fractal of stunning beauty. Certainly not your usual scheduled programming. Hers is a voice from another realm of existence, and the echoes that remain resound through the chamber of your very soul. Keeping up with this album is an exciting exercise, as practically no two moments sound the same. “Interesting” is a cruel understatement. “Masterpiece” is closer to the mark.

4 // Misþyrming – Algleymi

Discarding the melancholy and mystery of 2015’s Söngvar elds og óreiðu, Iceland’s most depraved return on the infamous Norma Evangelium Diaboli label with the indeed orgiastic and ecstatic Algleymi. For a band who had so quickly announced themselves on the world stage with a powerful album and performances at esteemed festivals such as Roadburn just 4 years ago, it is startling to see them kick in to an even higher gear, and return with such vitriol. The future of Misþyrming is all at once a promising and intimidating prospect!

5 // Funereal Presence – Achatius

An archaic crypt flung open earlier this year and the miasma of Funereal Presence enveloped us all once again. The solo project of Negative Plane’s batterer crafted a timeless piece of timelessness. Finally the project fiercely declared independence and boldly stepped out of the shadow. As a tandem release between two of the most clandestine forces in black metal, Sepulchral Voice Records and The Ajna Offensive, the stage was already set for something potent. The first since 2014’s The Archer Takes Aim, the next chapter Achatius dove deeper into a unique sound that manages to amalgamate everything magical about 80’s black metal. An infectious dose of marathon length songs comprising swirling, subaquatic guitar tones, echoing pounding percussion, shimmering leads, and a folkloric spectre ever looming.

Read the FULL REVIEW

6 // L’Epee – Diabolique

Fall back into a twisting, psychedelic void. A wormhole directly back to an imagined 1960’s where devilish French women sing you songs of danger, lust, and abandon. Psyche garage rock never was so delicious. L’Eppe is a combined project featuring the mastermind behind Brian Jonestown Massacre, the husband and wife juggernaut The Limiñanas, and the perfect voice of Emmanuelle Seigner (better known as Green Eyes from the film The Ninth Gate). Imagine the lush tapestry of The Velvet Underground with the indulgent pop sensibility of Serge Gainsbourg and the bouncy irreverence of the ye-ye movement. Now turn it up to a soul-rattling volume as you drive headlong into a night-cloaked desert. You have some idea of what Diabolique feels like.

7 // Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror

The aliens have landed again and this time they brought us another gift from the cosmos: A shady synth pop observation of modern decay. Whereas the universally adored The Demonstration presented delightfully infectious darkness and melancholy, the lens through which Modern Mirror gazes is one of brighter optimism. The hooks are diabolically addictive and the melodies are nearly parasitic. Deb Demure proves once again to be one of the most accomplished songwriters of our age – the arpeggios, the dense layers, the driving rhythms, the sorrowful vocals. Yet in this iteration, Mona D makes his full presence known, taking lead vocals on the album highlight “Oxytocin”. Perhaps slightly less of a heart-wrenching, life-altering affair, Modern Mirror provides a more whimsical exploration, but has launched the space invaders to another level of successful infiltration. A masterful concoction such as this proves that it doesn’t take a human mind to craft a perfect pop album.

Read the FULL REVIEW

8 // Superstition – The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation

Death metal is in a serious renaissance. Superstition is at the vanguard. With a sound that we have championed from the earliest murmurs, Superstition finally struck the essence of pure old(est) school death metal with their first full length. The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation is an endless smothering flow of forgotten ideas channeled straight from the late 80’s Floridian swamps and New York back alleys. Somewhere the disembodied brain of Mike Browning is emanating riffs and structures to a demented quartet in the deserts of New Mexico. It can be the only feasible explanation for a sound that is so wholly unique and realized while also being a perfect homage to an earlier age. So rarely have an absolutely barrage of riffs marched on the listener in all out spiritual attack formation like this. It’s well-worth the possessing enchantment!

Read the FULL REVIEW

9 // Bolzer – Lese Majesty

With the release of Bolzer’s Lese Majesty, we have seen the band through their social media outlets begin to refer to their discography in a different way. Instead of reflecting on it as a demo and two EPs that gradually paved the way for Hero, which indeed at the time did seem like the long awaited full length offering, Bolzer has began referring to each release as an album. Indeed, this may seem bizarre to many, but for a band that has such a concise, quality, and meticulously controlled output- a band that did indeed rise to notable prominence off of the strength of a 15 minute release – it provides a unique lens to look at the band’s discography. This latest release is their second longest, clocking in just under 30 minutes, and it is the the sound of a more mature Bolzer. The scathing black metal of Zeus, Seducer Of Hearts is at the forefront, the muscular death metal of Aura and Soma are omnipresent, and of course the progressive nature and booming clean vocals of ‘Hero’ are applied all at once freely and with a tactical caution. For the past 8 years, we have all witnessed a band gestate and try new ideas while all at once stay within their egregore. Now it is time to witness that band arise to their height.

10 // Camp.30 – Eyes Only

Having risen to notoriety through his work on the enigmatic PLAZA’s Shadow EP (perhaps the single best dark R&B record of all time), Camp.30 is a man unhappy with thought of resting on his laurels. While that project takes what course it might, Camp.30 has branched out and shown that he is capable of the same, if not even richer atmosphere without any vocalist. Eyes Only is rare melody after rare melody, strange harmonies aplenty, and a level of production in electronic music that we at this publication believe is unparalleled. Somewhere between that late-night Toronto r&b sound, and a deeper, more sinister and introspective dark ambient sound lies Camp.30’s magnificent Eyes Only.

Read the FULL REVIEW


COVENANT STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS

Doomscribe

  1. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  2. Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
  3. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  4. Funereal Presence – Achatius
  5. Cerebral Rot – Odious Descent Into Decay
  6. Witch Vomit – Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave
  7. Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling
  8. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise To Power
  9. Devil Master – Satan Spits On Children Of Light
  10. Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race

Colin Scott

  1. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
  2. Diocletian – Amongst the Flames of a Burning God
  3. Formless Master – First Strike
  4. Abysmal Lord – Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal
  5. Deafkids – Metaprogramação
  6. Peter Bjargo – Structures and Downfall
  7. Undeath – Sentient Autolitisys
  8. Baneblade – Oblivion Death March
  9. Mefitis – Emberdawn
  10. Bolzer – Lese Majesty

Loke Atropus

  1. Black Earth – Gnarled Ritual of Self Annihilation
  2. Aesthetic Meat Front – Essence of Rituals
  3. Trepaneringsritualen – ᛉᛦ – Algir; Eller Algir I Merkstave
  4. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  5. Nordvargr – Daath
  6. Halo Manash – Unetar
  7. The Caretaker – Everywhere an Empty Bliss
  8. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio – Let’s Play (Two Girls & a Goat)
  9. Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows – Death and Flamingos
  10. Rattenfanger – Geisserlieder

Ana Krunic

  1. Schammasch – Hearts of No Light
  2. Thee Oh Sees – Face Stabber
  3. Lingua Ignota – Caligula
  4. Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Vitriol – To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice
  7. Yawning Man – Macedonian Lines
  8. Russian Circles – Blood Year
  9. Mgla – Age of Excuse
  10. Vastum – Orificial Purge

N.H.

  1. Consummation – The Great Solar Hunter
  2. Antichrist Siege Machine – Schism Perpetration
  3. Trench Warfare – Hatred Prayer
  4. HAR – Anti-Shechinah
  5. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
  6. Bolzer – Lesse Majesty
  7. Ares Kingdom – By the Light of Their Destruction
  8. Kapala – Termination Apex

Jon Krieger

  1. Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
  2. Schammasch – Hearts of no Light
  3. Mgla – Age of Excuse
  4. Misþyrming – Algeymi
  5. Feif – V
  6. Ultar – Pantheon MMXIX
  7. Zuriaake – Resentment in the ancient courtyard
  8. Aoratos – Gods Without Name
  9. Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings
  10. Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology

Shawn Hache
(Mitochondrion, Auroch, Night Profound)

  1. Rome – Le Ceneri di Heliodoro
  2. Funereal Presence – Achatius
  3. Chthonic Deity – Reassembled in Pain
  4. Ioanna Gika – Thalassa
  5. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
  6. Dreams of the Drowned – S/T
  7. Warmoon Lord – Burning Banners of the Funereal War
  8. L’Epee – Diabolique
  9. Fetid – Steeping Corporeal Mess
  10. Ateiggar – Us d‘r Höll chunnt nume Zyt

Sebastian Montesi
(Mitochondrion, Auroch)

  1. Volahn – El Tigre Del Sur
  2. Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race
  3. Ioanna Gika – Thalassa
  4. Camp.30 – Eyes Only
  5. Bölzer – Lese Majesty
  6. Freddie Joachim – Beyond The Sea Of Trees
  7. Misþyrming – Algleymi
  8. Deiphago – I, The Devil
  9. Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
  10. Totaled – Lament

Zack Chandler
(Auroch)

  1. Witch Vomit – Buried Deep In a Bottomless Grave
  2. Nails – I Dont Want To Know You
  3. Downswing – Frequency
  4. Boy Harsher – Careful
  5. Aphex Twin – Peel Session 2
  6. Suffering Hour – Dwell
  7. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  8. VR Sex – Horseplay/Human Traffic Jam
  9. Mgła – Age of Excuse
  10. Morrissey – California Son

Ian Campbell
(Crooked Mouth)

  1. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  2. Lankum – The Livelong Day
  3. By the Spirits – Visions
  4. Destroying Angel – Making Beds in a Burning House
  5. L’Acephale – S/T
  6. Kinit Her- Fire Returns to Heaven
  7. VR Sex – Human Traffic Jam
  8. Witch Bottle – Forest Spell

Xavier Berthiaume
(Gevurah)

  1. Drastus – La Croix de Sang
  2. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
  3. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  4. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
  5. Mayhem – Daemon
  6. Vargrav – Reign in Supreme Darkness
  7. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise to Power
  8. Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
  9. Blue Hummingbird on the Left – Atl Tlachinolli
  10. Mgla – Age of Excuse
Categories
Interview

BÖLZER front-man Okoi Jones challenges controversy, reveals the source of inspiration, and will never surrender!

We here at Covenant, like many others, were utterly spellbound the first time we heard Bölzer. One resonant strike from the ten-string guitar, one primordial howl, and our hearts were instantly seduced.

The last four years have seen Bölzer appear near and far, bringing their singular two-piece magic to stages in five continents, release records both endearing and polarizing, and receive both the ire and admiration of the extreme metal world.

In 2017, Bölzer came to Vancouver, Canada (the home of our operations) for the second time to appear at Covenant Festival III, and in a swift lightning flash, entranced our festival with their work.

Having run into the duo around the world several times and host them now twice in our city developed a strong camaraderie and mutual respect between Bölzer and the Covenant. When we launched the magazine side of our operation a number of months ago, one of our first goals was to interview either one of these barbarians. In a characteristically candid chat, we’re happy to present to you Okoi Jones’ musings on the source of their inexorable power, neutrality in creation,  past controversies … and adult beverages.

People love to talk, and, however unfortunate, negative topics seem to interest the majority of them more than positive ones. In the meantime, Bölzer just keeps on smashing everything in its path, and moving on to the next target. You guys are now well-travelled men, so tell us- how is the world domination coming?

Hahaha hey Seb, nice to speak with you again!

Well things have not slowed for us this year with the band seeing many successful appearances on various continents and a further number of larger festivals debuted! 2019 is looking up to be a busy one too with new releases planned and fresh Terra Nova to traverse!

It has now been almost 2 years since the release of your long awaited full-length Hero. The great sonic shift, inevitable controversy, and a subsequent rise to power … While, some fans experienced the ridiculous heavy metal phenomenon of “betrayal” at any unorthodoxy, others found a great treasure in the album. It seems to have been a well-executed visionary decision on your parts!! Now that you’ve had time to ruminate and reflect in this recent time of silence … did all go as planned?

Haha you certainly lend a tantalising element of drama to the truth! Thank you?! I think it fair to say I/we simply wrote what seemed appropriate at the time, which was a rather turbulent period for me personally. I intentionally wandered into some new territory prior to entering and whilst in the studio with the intention of challenging myself and in order to ruffle a few proverbial feathers on the way. Wealth or knowledge seldom befall the indifferent and it was a stimulating experience to experiment with other tones for a change. So yes, overall a successful venture by our terms!

Thematically Bölzer seems to wield a mythical voice shouting at the heavens in ritual and lament! While you’ve evolved towards a more formless atavistic lens with each release, are you longing for a more heroic age? What would that look like to your mind’s eye?

The state of this world and its inhabitants ought to be inspiration enough for any conscious person to want to change something. I am increasingly convinced it is a perverse and tasteless dream I am living, hence the escapism via art.

I am far from succumbing to nihilism mind you, the dutiful call of action in the interest of change remains the noblest of causes. Call me a hopeless romantic but anything else would be surrender in my book. A vast majority of our society have no real reason to live aside from earning and consuming, a good healthy dose of hardship and unrest is the best that could happen to them.

The power in your live presence is nothing short of shamanic! Ancient, potent symbols clash with triumphant sounds and mighty delivery. It’s practically a tribal initiation into manhood … Meanwhile, your albums are full of arcane whispers and tones, adorned with art reminiscent of cave drawings … tell us more about your connection to this primordial current and where is it taking the music next?

Sebastian, seducer of hearts…!

A large part of me feels inseparably bound to the past, it is where my spirit seeks solace amidst a present age it understands but simply does not respect. There is something in me, I dare say in all of us that wishes to sing, dance, create (indeed, live!) – and music is the medium with which I manage to express a limited number of these desires with certain degrees of success and satisfaction.

Music carries me away to beautiful places of might and splendour, but it also allows me to experience emotions and visions of a violent nature which reality or its circumstances would refuse me. I can only expect our music to become more potent and honest as this is certainly my intention.

Your lyrics in Bölzer are always short, concise, poignant vignettes. This may be a difficult thing to trace, as it is both something preternatural and intrinsically subconscious, but what artists (musicians, authors, or otherwise) influence this style of speech and expression for you?

This may strike you as strange, ignorant or egotistical, although it would be far from the truth, but I try to remain somewhat neutral or immune as to what influences me when writing, at least on a conscious level. This is essentially a futile exercise given the preternatural and intrinsically subconscious factors, as you so aptly put it, we are subjected to when consuming or registering any form of sensory stimulation. Suffice it to say, I am more influenced by the forces that nature and the animal kingdom display than I am by the nobler deeds of man.

One thing that I really dislike is seeing an artist made to explain themselves. For me, art is meant to be something that transcends mundane interaction and dynamic, so when an artist is forced to explicitly delineate their motives, or thought process, they are intrinsically dragged down in to an uncomfortable plane. You’ve been made to explain yourself a lot recently. Has this changed the dynamic on the way you view Bölzer, and on how people view you?

I could not agree with you more dear Sir! Unfortunately free speech would dictate that also the crudest of minds be given a voice on matters which far exceed their expertise or sensibilities.

I have little against being confronted in a mature manner, but when no regard is shown for the principals of rational debate because the plaintiff is simply incapable of doing so, I switch off.
If anything, it has sharpened my tongue and improved my strength of character.

The world of the internet is a very strange one, and enables people to say a lot of things that they wouldn’t dare in the flesh. It is no surprise to you I’m sure that there are people with things to say about Bölzer online, but have any of these interactions ever transpired in real life?

Haha never, which is rather unfortunate I find, for I should like to shake the hand of a man so honest!

Heavy metal, and otherwise dark, emotive, spiritual music seems to be in this incredible flow-state, where well-informed labels have their niche cornered, great bands have their sound dialed in, and another magnificent release seems to drop on the daily. Do you struggle to keep up with what is coming out? What is catching your ear right now?

I do not make much of an effort to keep up with everything, but anything worth listening to usually makes its way to my ears eventually. Besides, when you miss something relevant it is all the more enjoyable being able to celebrate it without feeling like you are part of the crowd!

I try to refrain from naming specifics because there are often so many but Anna von Hausswolff is superb as are Drab Majesty! I have been keeping up with Enslaved for years now too because they are so good, otherwise digging Whoredom Rife and the latest yet unreleased albums from Obliteration and Paysage d’Hiver

Now, to finally address something important… it is no secret that yourself and Fabian are both fans of fermented barley and hop beverages. Surely the chance to travel as widely as you guys have has lead to some interesting discoveries on this front. Walk us through some highlights here.

Haha that is a hard one, there are simply too many and if you frequent decent bars at home or abroad there is no choice but to be inundated with godly juices.

I often select my beers according to mood or season and if that was not capricious enough there are young breweries kicking up a storm in the scene every month making it very difficult to favour any select names. Nevertheless we were recently blown away by the craft beers available in Lisbon. Portugal is well known for it’s Sagres/Super Bock monopoly and we had been served the stuff since entering the country 3 days earlier so it was a real pleasure roaming around the industrial district in search of institutions independent of Anheuser-Busch. Quimera Brewpub, Dois Corvos Cervejeira and The Beer Station are all highly recommended, offering world class beverages (brewed on site!) and plenty of great tapas with great service to boot.

Thank you again for indulging our over-the-top inquiries, as well as shedding some light onto some deeper (and not so deep!) subjects. Continue the conquest, sir! The final words are yours …

Many thanks for your time, my friend. The endless support you and the Vancouver scene have shown us is forever appreciated! See you on the road soon!


All photos by Shange Lange and Factory Worker Media taken at various Covenant events over the years.

BANDCAMP

FACEBOOK