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
Premiere

SATURN’S CROSS returns with lo-fi, noir video for “It Has Begun Again”

Covenant inner-circle dark synth act Saturn’s Cross returns after months of silence with a video for the opening track of 2018’s This Is Going To End In Blood. 

Directed by Max Montesi, the flickering, dark video clip features an extension of the shadowy deals, devious encounters, and urban decay that haunt the Saturn’s Cross egregore. A frightening aura of something undoubtedly malign, but hiding in plain sight. Perhaps even alluring …

Released in October with no warning or indication if its coming, This Is Going To End In Blood blends a 80’s synth sensibility with a strong futuristic darkwave feel, enhanced with a contemporary dark R&B production style. The album is available on Saturn’s Cross bandcamp or digitally through Covenant Records.


Directed, edited, and produced by Max Montesi. Staring: Chelsea Black, Culain, and Saturn’s Cross

BANDCAMP
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Categories
Interview

TCHORNOBOG vomits forth a spectrum of art onto a synesthetic tapestry of sound & colour

An individual’s perception of the world around them plays a foundational role in all that they are and, in turn, what they do. But what it is that we process, and to what degree, varies with every one of us, as individual brain chemistry is as particular as a fingerprint. Such is the beauty, or utter horror, of our own organic makeup, and what feeds into our feelings of individuality: a lack of absolute boundaries, consistency, or what we know as logic. Our sensory experiences entangle one another, influence each other, like characters all their own. It’s this tendency for rampant micro-mutations of the brain, also known as synesthesia, that has served as the impetus for many an artistic impulse.

The black creative heart of the cancerous spawn that is Tchornobog, Markov Soroka, drew the eyes and ears of the extreme music world back in 2017 when the band suddenly emerged with its self-titled debut – an all consuming maw of creative vision, whose sound was as bizarre and nebulous as it was strangely natural.

It felt right, especially when augmented by its stunning visual and lyrical direction, which all fed into one another in a perfect union, driven by Soroka’s own neural crossroads. “Sound and color have an intense place in all that I am.” Soroka explains. “It’s inexplicable at times, but certain noises bleed various colors in my head like a melting panorama. These colors transfix themselves in scenery, landscapes, scenarios.” This tendency for association between senses is by no means rare. In fact, nearly every person has their own particular coding for their reality. “The most common example I can think of is folders. In the typical school systems of America and the world, our schooling was divided into subjects, and often was the case that we had different “colors” for different subjects. This also happened with me, as math is red, science is blue, geography green, and so on.”

A bizarre phenomena of the brain, synesthesia is not uncommon; however, Soroka has not only recognized his own peculiarity, but has come to grasp it like a medium in and of itself. “For me in particular, as mentioned above, this phenomenon manifests itself in my head as color through sound. At times it’s obvious: Sacramentum’s Far Away From The Sun is a very foggy blue that turns into a night into a far away forest on top of a mountain overlooking a river. The best way I can describe it further is that when I hear sound, it’s as if a sonic ‘clay’ is being molded in my head, slowly. The more I meditate on it, the more it becomes a sculpture or some monochromatic being.”

 

The comparison to clay rings true in Tchornobog’s sound, which flows like a semisolid entity in the midst of perpetual transformation, and due in large part to the production, the many parts that go into each song feel as one conglomeration. The lyrics, too, mimic the nature of the music in its ceaseless onset of feeling that abandons logic shackles. “[The lyrics are] very much a stream of consciousness.” confirms Soroka, giving credence to lines such as, ‘sensory overload nightmare’ or ‘lungs replaced with eyes’.

 

“Tchornobog was an entity born through intense fixation of anxious mentalities that was wrought from a red/orange “clay” that slowly morphed to have slimy, black edges. It is as if the landscape, which is not of this world, was slowly being eaten by the blackness.” As Soroka illuminates his frame of mind, the gorgeously apocalyptic cover art for the album, by the master, Adam Burke, becomes more than simply a visual to compliment the music, but an extension of the music itself. “Red is a multi-faceted color to me, in regards to emotion, and the ones it touches on are quite easily explained: love and anger, frustration. These meditations, over the course of nearly a decade, were plucked from the impetus that was the “Eternium” project, and this is how the project came to be.”

Sound is color, is emotion, is phrase. Like a neural web, the many disparate elements of Markov Soroka’s own existence inform one another, and in turn, his art. Perhaps it is his awareness of his own brain chemistry that has made Tchornobog a truly striking work that feels as fresh as it does intensely horrific. And much like a mutual relationship between two organisms, Markov and Tchornobog feed into each other in a profound, cathartic way. “[Tchornobog is] a means to expunge demons and anxiety, which is quite common in this genre. Love and anger, often when together, a vehicle for existentialism, and is the red core of the project. The fixation on these emotions and color created an introspective, almost bodily type of foundation for the project, and this is what I try to explore with this.”


Photography by Lillian Liu Photography. Live photography by Void Revelations.

Witness Tchornobog in the flesh at Covenant Festival V, July 5th in Vancouver BC. And be sure to dive deeper in Markov Soroka’s prolific & demented world …

MARKOV SOROKA
FACEBOOK

Categories
Interview

KYLE MORGAN: nomadic maniac behind ASH BORER, SUPERSTITION, & VANUM pushing American black & death metal into the next frontier

Ash Borer is a name that seems to have been lurking through the Pacific Northwest for an infinitely long time, with appeal and demand for booking from all corners of the regional heavy metal world, and even beyond.

It should come then, as no surprise, that the mind behind Ash Borer is one capable of great and intriguing variety, from punishing black metal, to meditative soundscapes, to introspective cascadiæ, caustic death metal, and even releasing as art.

Having twice welcomed Kyle Morgan to Vancouver in both Ash Borer and Superstition, we figured it was time to better understand the influences and aspirations behind one of the leading minds and one of the most prolific people modern American metal.

Kyle: no one seems to really know where you are from- or at least I can’t tell anymore. Can you settle this for me, and give a brief timeline of where your projects have been situated? I feel like my chronology is all kinds of fucked up.

I’ve moved around the country at a maddening pace for the last 10 years or so, with projects arising in every location. Between 2007 and 2012 I was in the upper reaches of the California Coast working on ASH BORER and CEREBRATE. Since then I’ve primarily been haunting Northern New Mexico other than a brief relocation back to the Pacific Northwest in 2014-15. PREDATORY LIGHT was formed in NM in 2013, though has partial membership in the PNW as of 2014. VANUM was conceptualized as early as 2010, but materialized in a more physical capacity in 2014 with myself in the PNW at the time. SUPERSTITION is the newest project that I’m involved with, formed in 2017 in New Mexico.

In 2016, Ash Borer released The Irrepassable Gate to the all but unanimous consensus that the band had released its masterwork. Now, with two years to reflect on the album, and the fall out there from, did the album complete its desired effect?

I am extremely proud of that release – it is the culmination of everything we have wanted to do as a band since we formed nearly a decade ago. Compared to earlier works it is a bit of a shift in tone towards a more overtly malevolent din, without sacrificing the explosive, dynamic nature that has always defined our sound.

When we started the band, most of us were in our late teens or early 20’s and in some ways lacked clarity in terms of what we were hoping to accomplish with the project, which served us just fine at the time, as what we lacked in vision we more than made up for in feral intensity. Which in my opinion is what makes our very early releases most successful (of course, there are some good riffs there as well!). However, over time it becomes necessary to distill this huge range of influences and ideas to its essence, which in my opinion is what The Irrepassable Gate is. It is the sound of Ash Borer: what we were chasing all along.

Both Cold Of Ages and The Irrepassable Gate have titles with an almost onomatopoeic effect in regards to the sound. COA is severe, cutting, (obviously) cold, and with a very shrill tone to it. TIG, on the other hand, has a majestic, deep, rich sound, and an ominous overtone that definitely makes it feel like there is no turning back. Talk to me about what happened between these albums that allowed, and made way, for the differences between them.

I tend to think of Cold of Ages as our “true” black metal record. Earlier releases had explored a more melancholic and hazy sound, still rife with harrowing darkness but not as an exclusive focus. When writing for COA we were more interested in exploring and expanding upon the darker, colder aspects of the band, as well as to deny ourselves the pleasure of easy musical payoffs to some degree (in terms of warmer passages and huge dynamic shifts primarily). It was also written and recorded during a particularly bleak winter, which certainly forced its way into the songs themselves.

For most of the members of Ash Borer, the 4 years or so between COA and The Irrepassable Gate were heavily focused on touring as well as seeing many other projects to fruition. Going back to the previous question, while focusing on so many other projects slowed the writing process down a bit, it also contributed to the distillation of the Ash Borer sound. Certain sonic characteristics, types of riffs, chord progressions, etc. couldn’t just be lazily thrown into the mix to provide us with enough material for an LP, instead we had to really spend time thinking on what makes Ash Borer “Ash Borer” beyond just a collection of riffs and drum patterns. This process necessitated a longer gestation period for the album as we have no desire in rushing things or putting out an album that we aren’t 100% satisfied with.

In terms of the sound of the records differing, we have always demanded of our recording engineers that an album’s production suits the atmosphere of the material, and have in depth discussions as a group about the more esoteric end of sound prior to beginning tracking, even if that results in an unorthodox sound compared to whatever production trends are in vogue at the moment. As you mentioned, the material on COA is sharp and severe, so it required a matching production, while TIG has what is essentially the opposite approach to production, again matching the material. We avoid working with engineers who have a specific sound associated with them, preferring to work with individuals who can also immerse themselves in the material and make calculated production choices that fit the music. No discussion about this end of the band (or any of my projects really) would be complete without raising a glass to Andrew Oswald who has recorded most of our material, as well as Randall Dunn who recorded TIG.

Going a little further back in time, the Predatory Light full length was released shortly before that to a great reception as well, but the band didn’t seem to capitalize on that wave of momentum with festival appearances. Were you busy with Ash Borer during this time?

We did do a fair bit of touring around the release, though limited only to the Western US. There was a small DIY tour of the SW/Southern California/Mexico, followed by a performance at Eternal Warfare festival and a short tour back through California with Mortuary Drape. We’ve since done another small tour of the PNW and a festival in Texas as well. All performances were well received and the MD13 shows in particular were insane.

While we have not managed to do very extensive touring outside of the Western US, the project isn’t going away any time soon and will continue to tour and release new material as time and logistics allow.

What is going on with Predatory Light now?

We’re (slowly) working on material for a new release. No specific timeline exists for that as of now but based on the rehearsals we’ve had I expect this to be the most psychotic and psychedelic material to date!

Another horribly demented project with which your involved is Vanum. There is a lot of ways to approach questions regarding Vanum, but I want to spend some time on the lyrics here. Whereas Ash borer’s lyrics are not easily available, and Predatory Light’s are heinous, short, punishing vignettes, Vanum’s lyrics and grand, verbose, and bearing an almost royal majesty to them. What is the essence channeled in to Vanum, and what are the influences (music or beyond) that are exclusive to Vanum, and left from your other projects?

As opposed to other projects which all have their own lyrical/thematic focuses, the lyrics for Vanum are meant to be victorious and empowering, rather than dark/frightening/evil. They focus on the individual’s place and potential within a world where myth still lives. A huge range of thematic influences exist, but Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell are two writers that are frequently referenced. It’s also worth mentioning that I am not the primary lyricist in Vanum so for a much more in depth look at Vanum’s lyrical inspirations and the philosophies behind them there are several other interviews out there with Michael Rekevics that explore this more fully.

Musically, Vanum is heavily influenced by the more triumphant and tragic sound of early black metal, with an emphasis on exploring the melodic commonalities that tie so many of our favorite records together, despite them coming from different places and different times. The early Hellenic sound, Bathory (Blood Fire Death in particular), and early Eastern European cults all share similar melodic sensibilities to my ears, and are the primary music influences on Vanum, at least in terms of other metal bands. That said, I rarely sit down with the goal of writing anything that sounds specifically like any of that, my goal is always to write a song that sounds like Vanum,but those are common points of reference for what we’re doing.

As outsiders, there is perhaps some confusion, or at the very least association, in many minds between Psychic Violence, Vrasubatlat, and Fallen Empire. Can you walk us through some history and context?

Psychic Violence started in 2010, initially with the sole intention of releasing the debut Ash Borer record on tape, as we were not affiliated with any outside labels at the time. Of course it has grown since then, and now is somewhat active on a consistent basis in order to showcase the exploits of like-minded conspirators and collaborators. This year we have released music by Vilkacis, A Story of Rats, Turia, and Sanguine Eagle, with more to come relatively soon.

R.F. of VT is a close friend and bandmate in one project, and Michael from Fallen Empire is a personal friend as well, but on the label end of things VT/FE/PV don’t have much to do with each other outside of the odd split release or performance in which bands from both rosters play together. One exception is that recently Fallen Empire has been brokering records at a pressing plant in the US, we’ve gone through them for a few releases now (as has VT I believe), but that’s a business relationship rather than an artistic or esoteric one.

Psychic Violence has an impeccable look and feel, clearly releasing only high quality, and carefully curated releases. Tell us what you look for in a project before you put your name on it.

I don’t take submissions and tend to only release music created by a small number of friends and collaborators. If a project is going to be of any interest to me in terms of releasing their music, it is created by people I already have a close personal bond with, and who’s music I have already expressed interest in. In terms of the aesthetic, I have fairly uncompromising (also limited) aesthetic interests when it comes to this sort of music, so I choose to work with artists who share a similar vision and don’t mind me being involved with the design end of things, as it is important to me for my releases to have a fairly consistent appearance, with respect to different artists of course. I stay out of the way in terms of guiding anything sonically as I respect my artists’ musical process and wouldn’t be working with them if I had any doubts about the quality of their output.

One of the worst kept secrets in the metal underground world is that you play in Superstition. When the demo dropped recently, it fucked MANY people directly in the ass (myself included), and though I try to stay away from blatant comments in an interview, we’ll just go ahead and call it a masterpiece. Let’s really zoom in on this one- specifically what old school releases are influential for the band (’cause it sounds like it came out in 1988), and what’s up next?

Ha! Thanks (I think). The reception to Surging Throng of Evil’s Might has been overwhelmingly positive across the board, and we’re very excited to continue spreading our plague across the globe with more tours and releases planned for the not-too-distant future.

Our primary influences are strictly limited to very early death metal from the Americas. Specifically, Necrovore, Morbid Angel (mainly Altars/Abominations), Incubus, Nocturnus, Mortem, Sepultura, etc. are major points of reference. For most of us this just happens to be the style of death metal that we’re most interested in listening to, and happens to be one that is hugely underrepresented these days, at least in the US where everyone is (currently) obsessed with mimicking early Finnish and Swedish bands. Of course we are also inspired by the likes of Goblin, Coil, Klaus Shulze, etc. in terms of creating a haunting sense of space for music to exist within, and those projects are hugely influential to the synth/ambient based material on the demo.

As for what’s coming next, we’re intensively writing for an upcoming LP that will come out on 20 Buck Spin. By the time this interview is public there will also be a new promo tape that you can buy of 2 new songs that will be on the LP in non-demo form. Plenty of touring with follow the release of the LP next year.

To close things, could you please tell us what does the rest of 2018, and 2019 hold for a man with so much on the go?

On the creative front, Vanum will have a new full length coming out in the Winter, either late 2018 or more likely early 2019, which will be followed by a sizable European tour in the Spring of 2019, as well as North American performances throughout the year. As mentioned above both Superstition and Predatory Light are writing for future releases that will be out in the not too distant future. As for Psychic Violence, we’re about to send the Sanguine Eagle dual LP releases to press, which are an absolutely monumental pairing of records. Easily some of the best black metal to come out in the last few years. Everything besides that has to stay under wraps for the moment.

Thanks and hails to Sebastian and The Covenant!


ASH BORER

VANUM

SUPERSTITION

PREDATORY LIGHT

PSYCHIC VIOLENCE

Categories
Festival Interview

KILLTOWN DEATHFEST’s mastermind DANIEL ABECASSIS gives a taste of life on the road and behind the scenes at Europe’s best death metal festival

We first met Daniel Abecassis off Vancouver’s Main St. in a hidden, locals-only bar called The Narrow. It was December of 2013, and we had met to discuss how operating a tour booking agency for underground death metal actually works, and to better understand the logistics involved. Since then he’s taken a few Covenant circle bands on the road, and put them on both of his past festivals.

A lot has happened since that night 5 years ago: Killtown Deathfest has been laid to rest, resurrected, countless tours have taken place with many now-pivotal bands putting their stamp on the old continent, and Daniel Abecassis has been reconfirmed time and time again to be perhaps the most important behind-the-scenes individual in this tight knit, yet massive scene.

We caught up with Daniel to help give our readership and all rabid fans of this genre a better perspective on what he does, and the answers are nothing short of elucidating. Enjoy!

I think we should start with something that will lay some good groundwork for the reader. To a lot of people, the logistics and dynamics of what you do is confusing. Some people think that tours for bands who have a decent following, but may not be tremendously “popular”, are more luxurious than they are. Other people think that these tours are a lot more punk than they are. Can you walk the readers through your process – from the starting point of a tour, to piecing it together, to how an average day on the road would look?

Hey! First off let me introduce myself. My name is Daniel Abecassis and I’m running Killtown Bookings and I’m part of the collective organizing Kill-Town Death Fest (KTDF). I’m based in Copenhagen, Denmark and so is the Killtown Bookings office and the festival.

I had quite a few ideas about touring life – like you mention in your question above – and some of them turned out to be true, but most of them didn’t. A lot of people romanticize touring and tour life, but from my perspective it’s mainly a lot of work, but of course good times and fun too. When I’m on the road I usually work up to 20 hours a day. Usually the day starts early and we get to bed at a very late hour. I drive during the day sometimes just a few hours, but for the most part 6-10 hours per day. Then you arrive at the venue for load in and setting up the stage and then sound check. While the bands are doing that I’m usually trying to catch up on some emails if I have a few hours. Then its dinner time, then doors and then the show. Usually there isn’t much time for sightseeing or walking around the town, so you end up seeing endless kilometres of highways, gas stations, venues and hotels… Not super romantic. And then there is the question about the girls. A lot of people think that there are a lot of girls at shows and that they are always running after the bands… Well maybe I’m in the wrong scene, but there isn’t a lot of girls running after the bands I tour with and not that many present at the shows in general. It is getting better with the male/female ratio, but there is still a long way to go. In general I don’t see a lot of band members hooking up on tour, so girlfriends out there who are really worried about their touring boyfriends (or the other way around) you don’t need to worry that much …

Since I book, drive and tour manage the majority of the tours I book – which is around 10-15 tours a year, I’m usually on the road up to 6 months out of the year. That’s tough and straining both physically and mentally, but I still really love what I’m doing and I’m super passionate about the bands I work with and the culture I’m promoting. I’m very picky with what bands I work with and I always try to curate my roster after the bands I’m listening to at home and that I think deserves more exposure here in Europe. So far I have been really blessed with most of the bands that I’m into contacting me and wanting me to work with them, so I cant complain about how things are going.

I have plans to expand Killtown Bookings more. At the moment I have Andrea Vissol working with me based out of Brussels, Belgium where he is running Killtown Bookings Belgium. There are also ideas to open up a branch in Germany and possibly also a Killtown Bookings North America at some point …

How did everything get started for Killtown Bookings exactly?

Killtown Bookings started after we did the first edition of KTDF back in 2010. Since we were flying in bands from around the world, more and more bands started asking if we could provide touring options for them. I had been booking shows locally since the early/mid 90´s and done my fair share of touring – mainly through the punk/DIY network – so I was familiar with how shit works, but had no real experience as an international tour booker… The first two tours I booked was for Funebrarum (us) + Undergang (dk) and Sonne Adam (il) + Cruciamentum (uk) back in 2011. Both tours went really well despite that I had to figure most things out while booking the tours. Everyone I got in touch with were super nice and supportive and within long I had mapped out the DIY death metal underground promoter scene of Europe. The budgets were very unrealistic cause I had never worked with tours with bigger budgets before but it all worked out fine in the end and all costs were covered and the bands still got to walk home with some cash.

After the pretty good start with some strong names it just took off from there. Daryl Kahan from Funebrarum designed me a logo (based of the KTDF logo) and did a website for me. At that point I had just finished my bachelors degree in political science and history at university, so I was kinda at a crossroad where I had to decide if I would go with the booking or with an academic career. I decided to go with opening my own booking agency and make that my primary work occupation from day one. I was lucky cause it worked out more or less from the beginning and it still does.

Let’s talk about something current. Kill-Town Death Fest has had an aura of mystique and a cult following unlike any other festival in recent memory. When it was laid to rest in 2014, the world cried out that it was all too early, and the plethora of people who did not get to go have grumbled ever since. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, KTDF is back from the dead. Why was this the right time to do this?

 

We decided to quit doing Kill-Town Death Fest back in 2014 due to a couple of different reasons. Mainly we felt that we had achieved what we set out to do which was promoting the best of the contemporary underground death metal scenes of Scandinavia and Europe in general. We had reached a point where in order for us to maintain a high level in our programs we needed to book bands we had already presented earlier on. The UG death metal scene seemed also to take a dive around this time compared to the wave that was happening when we first set out back in 2009/2010. We didn’t want to keep booking the same bands over and over again, so we decided to call it quits while we were ahead.

Last year we had a meeting in our association Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme (Underground Music Promotion) and decided that the time felt right to pick up where we had left off. In the 3 years that had passed when we had the meeting a lot of new and interesting bands had emerged – especially in North America – so we decided to turn our focus towards the North American continent. A lot of really good new, young bands had started putting out demos and releases on some of the labels that we have always worked with like Dark Descent Records, 20 Buck Spin, Profound Lore Records, Parasitic Records and Me Saco Un Ojo to just name a few.

So we set out to book the line up for what would be become “The Resurrection” of Kill-Town Death Fest. Through my booking agency I’m often in contact with a lot of the contemporary bands and David has a lot contacts throughout the world through Undergang and Extremely Rotten Productions, so the line-up came together relatively smoothly being booked mainly while I was on the road where we would communicate online in the KTDF collective. The outcome turned out quite spectacular – also for us. We had a meeting a week before we were supposed to start the announcements and sat down and compiled the whole line-up and wrote it out on paper. Since we had all been scattered and never had time to sit in the same room, the outcome came as quite a surprise to us. It turned out to be really good! We ended up having booked 12 bands from North America – a few old ones, but mainly fresh new young bands that have never played Europe before. Besides the 12 from North America, we have bands from Asia, the Middle East, South America and Australia and of course quite a few Scandinavian and some European bands. There are a few bands that have played before on there, but the majority of them have new releases since they played last time. We have a lot of special appearances from bands that have never played Europe before. Derkéta is a band we have tried to get over since years and I’m really stoked that we are able to host them for their first and so far only Euro performance ever! Also after trying for about 7 years to convince Runemagick to rise from their ionic slumber, we finally managed and can proudly present their first live show since 2005! Also we have the great honor of hosting Mortem from Peru´s first Euro show since 2004! Hyperdontia from Turkey and Denmark will play their first ever show at KTDF and Wormridden will play their first ever Euro show. Other special one off /first Euro performances worth mentioning are Sempiternal Dusk (us), Mortiferum (us), Cemetery Urn (aus), Ascended Dead (us), Triumvir Foul (us), Fetid (us), Scolex (us) and Torture Rack. Necrot will also play their first much anticipated Euro show before embarking on a month long Euro tour. All in all there is a lot of special performances you won’t see anywhere else. And that’s a deeply rooted part of the concept.

Our focus has always been on making a spectacular and varied programme with contemporary live acts from around the globe. We aren’t doing this to make a profit – we just want to promote the best bands that are around plus try to make some unique unforgettable live moments that will hopefully go over in history. Speaking about money – everyone in the organization and the crew working the festival (beside the venue staff) are all volunteers and working 100% for free. None of us in the KTDF collective has ever made a cent – all profit if there is any will proceed towards next years edition. Our motivation is promoting bands from the underground that we think are great and deserves a platform of exposure. That’s what we set out to do back in 2009 when we first started discussing this and hopefully that’s what we have created and achieved. We try to make a festival that isn’t part of the typical festival circuit where the same bands tour around all summer and play all festivals. We are a niche festival that only focuses on UG death metal combined with our Gloomy Sunday concept where we end off the festival with a chjll sesh afternoon/evening with the best of doom/death and funeral doom bands we can dig up.

So can stoners, sludgeheads, and doom worshipers the world over expect a similar reanimation of Heavy Days In Doomtown?

Heavy Days in Doomtown (HDDT) was the sister festival of Kill-Town Death Fest and was put to death back in 2015. It was organized by a different group of people under Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme and I was also part of that collective. The idea to HDDT came about after a trip to Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands back in 2011. After I came home me and my partner in Killtown Bookings at the time Nikolaj Jakobsen agreed to start a DIY doom/stoner/sludge event build after the same model as KTDF. We formed a collective consisting of friends from our immediate circle and was comprised off 2 Danes, 2 swedes and 1 American. We were all living in Copenhagen at the time we started, but after the first two editions the majority of the collective was spread out across the globe again – making it somewhat more complicated to work as a collective. But we continued as we had set out to do 4 editions of the fest based on the 4 elements; earth, water, fire and wind. HDDT I though IV were all huge successes and became larger and more popular than KTDF. Mainly because of the style of the festival which had a much more popular and broad appeal than KTDF.

It was sad to put it down in 2015, but at the same time it opened up for a me to put a lot more focus back on my booking agency. Also the amount of Roadburn copy-cat festivals were exploding so we felt that there was no need for the festival anymore since there were so many good curated festivals out there. Quite the opposite turned out to be the case for KTDF since there are no other (or at least very few) festivals solely dedicated to underground death metal. Every time I was out on a tour people would come up and ask me if or when KTDF would come back. That happened so often and so many times that I started thinking about that there is such a high demand out there for that exact festival concept and that it has a very special place in many people´s lives. For me personally that was one of the main motivations to doing this again along with missing the craziness of being responsible for such a massive production with just a few other people.

As for your question if HDDT will ever return; Never say never, but I have hard time seeing that happening for all the same reasons that we put it down in the first place.

What is the part of all of this that you enjoy the most?…and the least?

I’m a nerd about organization – I love to create events, to curate them, to make them come alive aesthetically, to promote them, to see them flourish and get their own lives and to experience the rush of the actual event itself. I’m not a musician myself and I’m not a person who enjoys being on a stage and center of attention. I prefer to be in the background and make sure that things work out and that everyone is having a good time. I have always been a worker and worked hard with music since I was very young. I have worked since the mid 90´s with stage building, rigging, backlining, security, graphic design, catering and bar-tending – everything that had something to do with music. I also started promoting shows from a very early age – already at 14 I booked my first show with a friend and then just did it on/off from there up through the 90´s, but always very low-fi and very underground. It wasn’t until the early 2000´s that I started doing it more seriously, but always 100% DIY without earning a single cent at any time. The first time I ever made any money with a tour or show was when I opened up Killtown Bookings in 2011 after having been promoting shows at that point since 1993…The downside of this life is that I don’t really have a life… Well I love my life, but there isn’t much time for anything else than work and touring – which is what I do all day every day. Weed and vegan food is what makes all this manageable for me – so if that’s provided at a show – which it usually is since people know me by now – all is good and I have zero complaints!

The list of tours you’ve put together reads like a death metal fan’s wet dream. What was the tour you’ve done that excited you most as a fan?

As mentioned before I try to only work with bands I’m really passionate about. I hate work for the sake of work – I want to curate the bands I work with so there is more to it than just a business transaction – I want to form friendships, to get involved and invested and want to see the bands playing every night. If a band or a tour isn’t like this I loose interest very fast and I really try to avoid that. I don’t like to bring highlight some bands over others, but of course I have crossed path with and been so fortunate to work with bands or people who have really inspired me over the years listening to music. One tour that was very special for me was when Tau Cross asked me to work with them on a tour. I’m a big Amebix fan since I was a young crustie and to work with and being on the road with Rob Miller was a really cool experience. Also having Michel Away from Voivod and Jon from Misery in the van was something that 14 year old me never imagined would happen. I have toured with so many amazing bands over the years and I’m really stoked and proud about the majority of tours I have put together. I’m really fortunate to be able to wake up every day and get to deal with bands whose vinyls are in my collection and spinning om my record player every day.

When you look ten years down the road, what do you envision as part of Killtown’s set up? What are you working towards?

The future looks quite hazy… Not just because of all the heavy weed smoking, but just because life is unpredictable. As I have already mentioned I have always been passionate about music and the music industry – at least to try to change it for the better – so I would have a hard time not seeing myself still working with music. If I don’t then something drastic will have happened and I hope that wont be the case… I just turned 40 and that was a weird milestone to pass, but not much has changed personally in the 25 years I have been involved with music. Im still as passionate and motivated as I have always been, so hopefully it will be the same in another 10 years. A family would maybe slow things down a little and keep me from touring constantly, but there is nothing pointing in the direction of that happening anytime soon… I really hope my taste in music wont get outdated or I will adopt a shitty(er) taste over the years. Would be awful if I would be sitting managing sell-out bands just to make a buck… but again I don’t see that happening ever!

At risk of attracting more business than you can handle, what would be some dream tours for you?

Not sure to be honest… I work with the bands that I care for and my experience is that when bands get bigger the focus change from being a band that loves to play and perform to a focus on money. The more money the better. And then my job is just to sit and make money for a band that isn’t passionate about what they do anymore… That’s of course a bit black and white and of course there are bigger bands that are cool and passionate about what they do, but the bands that aren’t have none of my interest. Of course I hope that some of the bands I work with will rise to prominence and have success because of their music and hopefully also my work. At the moment I work with a couple of bands I see great potential in; Blood Incantation (us) and Slægt (dk). Both fairly new young bands, but both storming forward with massive potential in each their own way. Lets see what the future holds for them (and me…).

Thank you Daniel! You’re doing the devil’s work and we applaud you eternally. You’ve said quite a bit here already, and we think this will be a very important read for ALL underground death metal fans worldwide. So at this point we’ll let you have the last word!

Thanks for the interest in what in I do and for reading through all my gibberish about myself and the stuff I do. Keep an eye out for tours coming across Europe and maybe soon on the other side of the continent. Maybe see some of you out there on the road.
Cheers,
A//E


The Resurrection of Killtown Deathfest is slated for execution on September 6-9, 2018 in Copenhagen at Pumpehuset. It’s been long sold out so if you were hoping to go … well, you’ll just have to kill yourself.

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Categories
Interview

MATRON THORN: the void philosophy of magic and inverse creation from AEVANGELIST’s leading enigma

Today we have the unique pleasure of speaking with one of the most enigmatic figures in the extreme metal world. Coupling a bizarrely tangible aesthetic with exceptionally unforgiving, unapproachable music, Matron Thron has made a name for himself with a compelling and unique atmosphere in a genre that so often celebrates copying, and even direct clones.

Thorn is known most widely for his seminal work in Ævangelist, the entirely alien and unforgiving death metal entity that has been terrifying the world for 9 years now. Ævangelist rose to prominence for fusing the Morbid Angel school of jagged, fungal death metal, with overwhelming, foreboding gothic and post-punk sensibilities. Coated in a dense fog of reverb and paradoxically methodical yet uncaring production values, their sound quickly became instantly recognizable, and remains a love-it-or-hate-it subject to nearly all who have heard it.

Thorns origins in music available to the public, however, can be traced back to the equally outre and unnerving projects Midwinter Storm and Benighted in Sodom. It is from the seeds of these galvanizing, cold-hearted expressions of suffering that the root work for one of metal’s most important contemporary musicians have blossomed.

A second article, cataloging all of Thorns’ enormous past output will follow, but for today enjoy a mind-bending look at exactly what inspires Reuben Christopher Jordan.

The first thing I would like to know is the surroundings and influences that went in to the forming of Ævangelist as a vessel for manifestation. Paint a picture of that time in life for us.

Before Ævangelist, there was a void, a greater need for expression beyond avenues and concepts previously explored. The central idea was always to take some very real, almost tangibly real, facets of certain mental health disturbances that were emerging at the time and transmit their effects into audial frequencies as maybe experimentation, maybe therapy, maybe malice towards others. Either way, this transmission was received, and suddenly a broken world became a catalyst for the ultimate masterwork of art.

So in this context do you view Ævangelist as the lesser or greater of evils? Is it a therapeutic outlet, or is it something all together more abstract simply brought about through a liminal period?

In the beginning, our own motives were forced into question by the sheer volume of distressed and troubled reactions there were to our music and messages. It was, however, vital to preserve the authenticity of the art, and in doing so it required that we view the role of Ævangelist on this planet as something pure, something transcendent, something of evil in nature. Real evil is like an unstable chemical. It can’t be included and mixed with most things, and even to its admirers it is fearsome and caustic. Despite this, art is art, even if its visage is ugly. Ugliness can be next to godliness.

So, in regards to people’s responses to ugly art… this may be a futile case of overthinking, but there is a marked change in how… demented… Ævangelist’s sound became after Omen Ex Simulacra. What necessitated making such an obscure, impenetrable project even more abstract, and frankly insane?

Each release made us more self-aware, and the more self aware we became, the more reductive our efforts became to express something so profound; every release is only a starting point, a hurdle to jump, a summit to claim and surpass. After Omen Ex Simulacra, we began to understand the philosophy of inverse creation, creating the means to destroy, and how much freedom we actually had when we kept little commonality with others who simply want to have “a band”. Nothing to object with there, but that is simply not enough for us, simply not enough for the fullness of the glory of our sacred muse.

Now we’re really starting to get in to the things that I’d like to ask you. To me, Ævangelist has always had this feeling of an intrinsic set of laws within the madness, like an overarching and ever-present mythos of beings, rules, empires, magical workings, and detailed dynamics that exist only and exclusively within your music and art. With no explicit attempt to make it “logical” to anyone (though without going out of your way to convolute it) can you attempt to delineate some of the forces at work within your music?

We recognized early on that our cause was driven by a supernatural force we refer to only as “the muse”. Thus, it communicates through what we do, speaking through– or perhaps even in spite of –us, its origin is unknown and it appears to lack empathy for all but certain individuals that have chosen to hearken to the holy vibrations of it’s voice as it echoes throughout the universe. Certain images were designed on par with the constellations and a system of divination, even a language with an alphabet and syntax were invented from this lengthy series of divine inspirations.

From that last question, this feels like a good point to get in to Ævangelist’s sigilwork. Where many personal sigils have a clear line of influence (visibly) in line with the powers they call upon, Ævangelist’s sigils are as equally alien as the forces that they serve as the conduit for. What is going on here?

The muse that delivers inspiration through Ævangelist is formless and manifests in the cascading arabesques closest to my limited human comprehension of its ultimately praeternatural presence and ambiguity. It is utterly unknowable, however its emanations do affect us all as dreams, as deja vu, as premonitions, as near-death experiences. The sigils are a direct visual representation of that, straddling a line psychologically between eerie nostalgia and madness itself. And madness is profound as the firmament of the universe. Sigilwork draws upon these tenets of faith to create spiritually charged symbols to stoke the imagination and seize those emanations.

This hiraeth you’re speaking of… what is this forgotten time? What happened there? What is the primal impulse, and eventual objective of this gathering, charging momentum?

Creation


Does Ævangelist then hail the creating essence, or look for a weak link in the karmatic chain?

They, and I identify them as ‘they’ because their voices speak as many, they want us to construct their pantheon here in the Garden of Aidenn, perhaps to mock our Gods, perhaps to satisfy their own arrogance and erect in bravado a monolith to shadow over all others, and leave barren the soil from which fertile dreams once sprung, those same dreams that taught men that the universe was infinite and there were no absolutes; it seeks to rewrite creation and instill a primeval essence within man, and that is fear. Fear of true, radical evil as a living organism greater than ourselves. Perhaps the muse wants to warn us, or beckon our surrender out of mercy for our fate. Either way, what you may view as eternity is a looming shadow that bides it’s time on the fringes of the multiverse, writhing with an ever growing hunger for the very creation we seek.

Using creation as the bridge here, talk to me about your visual art work. As it is the medium more commonly associated with creating, as there is a physical end product, does any part of your process mirror the aforementioned metaphysical dynamic?

First, I would not want this to be understated; all creation is inherent magic, the origins of which we’ve adapted to use rationality and logic to explain through the sciences and mathematics, but to no discernible end. The unknown, the unknowable, the vast rift between us and divinity is bridged when we submit ourselves to the possibility of higher planes of immaterial existence that though do not govern us, they abide and coexist, occupying the same spacial realms and beyond. These are transcendent concepts that should be met with veneration and wonder, but also with humble fear. Creation of art is a mirror to these concepts, and in fact all art, before it is manifest, originates from the same hidden universe as the fruition of life itself, and it takes many forms dependent on the caliber of faith carried by the dreamer, the illusionist, the artist. Manifesting art is bringing something through a gateway into our tangible universe, the conjuration from one dimension to the next, this is one of the oldest and most fundamental forms of magic.

Something I want to ask you, in regards to magic in its fundamental forms, is who were the important magicians to you in your fundamental years? This could be more obvious (read: occultists) or the choices could be more clandestine (poets, writers, actors, painters, etc). Most importantly: why?

The symbols and glyphs occurred organically, before I had any context for their true strength or purpose. When I was about ten or so, I was already drawing them, and I attended a private Catholic school prior to being eventually expelled. One of my teachers was enamoured by my strange drawings and introduced the concepts of cosmology, skrying, and sigilcraft into my developing spirituality, something that would heroically eventually cost her employment there, it being a religious learning facility and all. Her name, fittingly, and most perplexingly to this day, Ms. Divine. Eventually, I satisfied my earliest curiosities vicariously through writer Grant Morrison, who, himself, has worked with sigils and magical symbols in his personal life, but also, most interestingly, in the framework of his creations; this is perhaps my greatest source of inspiration, and thus sigils are weaved into the fabric of all the music I create, all the writings I author, everything I wish to imbue with the frequencies of the great hidden yonder between the stars.

Well, we have a lot of fascinating things here, that while explanatory in nature, might shroud Ævangelist more than reveal. What should we close on?

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”


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Categories
Covenant Records Premiere

TEMPLE OF ABANDONMENT stream their new monolithic demo of suffocating funeral death doom

If you can get a breath of air long enough during the impenetrably suffocating atmosphere created by Vancouver BC’s TEMPLE OF ABANDONMENT to say the name of their brand new demo then count yourself lucky. The periphrasal title “Chasm of the Horned Pantheon: Through Your Death, They Live” already sets the stage for such horrifying and depraved imagery before even a note of music is heard. A journey of ferocity and fear is about to begin …

Initially the menacing cruelty attacks from every angle as we are met with bursts of death metal fury. This is no slow plod to the gallows. This is no painful wade through a roiling bog. Those will come later – There is plenty of time for agony after you’ve been pounded into dust. Only after a relentless knife-slashing of dual solo frenzy are we afforded some solace of suicidal serenity. Wails of pure sorrow and despair greet the unfortunate listener as the next formless void of “Crypt Born (Tenebris Devorantis part II)” opens at the song’s mid point. Finally we’re left with only a twitching, plinking guitar perceptible in the distance to match the fragility of the mortal coil. This is real suffering put to audio and it is almost unbearable … until the merciless execution returns to snap your neck with riffs summoned from the death doom mire.

And that’s where the death-march descent into the abyss of the “Black Ibex” begins. A chanting ritual to summon the pitch crepuscularities that linger beyond our perceptions. Don’t be fooled. This is not tranquility, but a moment to inhale and give in to the crushing melancholy of self-destructive leads, wretched torturing reflection, and ultimate submission to the void. At last, the ritual is complete and there is blood everywhere …

There is death doom and there is funeral doom, but rarely has such a perfect unholy union of sound been conjured into existence as it has on this so-called demo tape. Temple of Abandonment has superseded most peers in relentless execution and atmospheric immersion. Featuring stalwarts of extreme music from such forces as CHAPEL, NECROHOLOCAUST, DEATH WINDS, and AHNA, there is a multi-layered texture to the music that evokes truly unexpected twists and turns throughout.  A maturity achieved by most bands deep into their career is on display here, and ostensibly this is just the beginning. Tread lightly, as this tape should come with a warning label ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’…


COVENANT RECORDS is honoured to release TEMPLE OF ABANDONMENT’s “Chasm of the Horned Pantheon: Through Your Death, They Live” CVNNT-002 into the wild, as our inaugural first release. Interested parties are urged to contact covenantfestival@gmail.com for wholesale access to this hideous juggernaut of a tape.

Recorded by B. Decorby
Mixed by Kris Stanley
Artwork by Anne O’Neill

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Interview

SANGRE DE MUERDAGO exists between worlds and speaks with the poetry of a collective folklore

Pablo Ursusson is the creative heart of SANGRE DE MUERDAGO, a folk group birthed out of the mysterious romance inherent to his native Galicia, a remote region on the northwestern edge of Spain. Over the years, rotating backing lineups have revolved around him through the band’s album cycles, but Pablo has always remained a calm centre, providing confident voice, gentle guitar, and dancing hurdy-gurdy. The band has steadily grown with each release, touring Europe, North America, and recently even Asia. They’ve recently returned to North America shores for the third time, and are playing a string of dates up and down the west coast.

Ian Campbell (CROOKED MOUTH, HARROW) travelled to Vancouver, BC, to play as a backing member of NIGHT PROFOUND at a concert featuring Sangre De Muerdago, and Oakland California’s LATONA ODOLA. Before the music began, Ian and Pablo sat in the green room talking about folk music, the particularities of Galician music and soon paused so Ian could record it as an interview on behalf of the Covenant group. What followed was talk of language, poetry, DIY ethic, and mistletoe.

We pick up the conversation here:

Ian: We just spoke a bit about Sangre De Muerdago being recognized more abroad before you were accepted at home in Galicia. I’ve watched the band grow, starting off in the neofolk scene, releasing your first album via Brave Mysteries on cassette, and now you’ve grown to the point of touring in Asia. It seems like the band has graduated from its small beginnings into almost a sort of world music group. What are your thoughts on that?

Pablo: I’ve listened to folk music my whole life, and once we got to record the first demo and then the first album, that’s when I got to know that there’s a neofolk scene. I didn’t know about it before, and we definitely don’t come from there. I know that part of our audience is from there, I’ve got to know very beautiful people in that scene too and we’ve made friends with a few very interesting bands. But, the general feeling of our band is being in a sort of no-man’s land, belonging to no scene at all, but at the same time, belonging a little bit to all of them. Our audience is always super diverse and there are people from many different musical backgrounds. Even the musicians who play in Sangre have many musical backgrounds, so it is a nice mixture.

We never had any target. I think when your band plays a specific genre or you are deep into a scene you have things to target. Probably you want your album reviewed in this or that magazine, released on this or that label, or to play at certain places. But, we’ve released albums with such a diverse spectrum of labels, we are signed to nobody, we have a couple of offers on the table from bigger labels, but we like the motion things are going and we are happy. We get to record, play around the world on different continents. Last year we went to Asia, which was a total surprise, but of course we’d do it! I’d say our aspiration is simply to play music and go around the world with it.

Ian: I’ve been amazed watching you guys grow and seeing the things you’ve been able to do with very little outside support. I always wonder “how do they do that?” but it’s just organic, I suppose.

Pablo: Yeah, I’ve been playing music for many, many years in many, many bands, from punk to everything else, and always with a very strong DIY spirit just because we wanted to do things on our own. And, somehow with Sangre it just worked the same way. We just do as much as we can ourselves, and, slowly, things just happen. The band recorded the demo 11 years ago already, which is quite a long time. I’ve never had a band that’s survived this long, or got to release 4 albums. I think the maximum with my other bands has been 2! Then we’ve always moved on to something else. But Sangre became some kind of life-commitment many years ago and I think we’re just not the kind of people who like to sit down and wait for things to happen. We like the make the things happen. If no one is knocking at our door, we open the door and go out. The first time we came to North America nobody knew us.


Absolutely nobody, I’m pretty sure! But, we got invited to the Stella Natura festival, and that was a good excuse to book three weeks of concerts around the west coast of the United States and I did it all myself. I just made contacts, wrote people, and made it happen.

Ian: Before I started recording this conversation we were talking a bit about your homeland of Galicia and Galician folk music. I was wondering about the language itself. Is it a dialect of Spanish?

Pablo: No, not at all, it’s a language of its own. It is one of the four official languages of Spain.

Ian: I’ve heard that under the Franco regime that languages like Basque were actually banned from being spoken-?

Pablo: So it was with Galician as well. The language was very damaged during the dictatorship. Brutally damaged. All the teachers from Galicia were sent to other parts of Spain to teach in Spanish and Castellano. And then they would bring teachers from the south and other parts of the country to teach the Galician kids in Castellano. And all the smaller languages spoken in other areas like Basque, Catalan, or Galician, suffered a lot.

Ian: Folk music and language are very obviously tied together, and it’s interesting to me to see how folk music has been tied in many places to a sort of cultural rebirth, for example the Irish incorporating a lot of Gaelic into their music as a sort of remembering of who they are. I feel like Sangre might be taking part in that sort of phenomena for the Galician language.

Pablo: My reason to speak and sing in Galician is that to sing this music that I write from the depths of my heart, this is the deepest way I can find to feel it is singing Galician. I don’t think I would feel the same way about the songs if I were to sing them in English, or Spanish, for example.

Ian: You’ve had a few songs in English over the years, though.

Pablo: Yes! Only 2. “Haunted Glow,” from the demo [and re-recorded on Deixademe Morrer no Bosque]. That was a song written by Jorge, who was a founding member of the band, who passed away in 2009. He wrote that song, and he wrote it in English. We don’t have to force things to be in a certain way. Same as it happened with the other song, “Paths of Mannaz.” It just happened that I wrote those lyrics one day, not necessarily thinking that it was going to be a Sangre song. Those lyrics came to me in English. I’ve spoken English for many years, my wife is German, we speak a lot of English. It became my main language for a long time. So those lyrics just came naturally in that language and I didn’t want to force them or translate them. And I liked the piece and thought it would be good for Sangre even though it was written in English. No other reason than that.

Ian: So it could potentially happen again in the future?

Pablo: Absolutely! It hasn’t happened since then, but of course it could. Sometimes I even think of writing a song in German because I’ve lived in Germany for six and a half years. But, when we talk about it, it always winds up as more of some kind of a joke!

Ian: This question relates a little bit to language too; the name of the band, Sangre De Muerdago, meaning Blood of the Mistletoe. I know about the Mistletoe’s connection to Nordic myth, being the plant that can kill Baldur, the invincible god of light. Is there a mythic connection in Galicia? The name to me can conjure many images, and I’m wondering if there’s a specific one for you.

Pablo: I’d say it is a compound of different things that brought us to that name. We really wanted to have the name of the plant in the band’s name because of all the mythology and also the medicinal side of the plant, the Druidic tradition, and so on. And, also the singularity of the band itself, often in the folklore it is considered a plant in-between worlds, between earth and sky, because of never having roots on the ground, always being a parasite plant living on other plants. It’s been said the mistletoe stands between realms.

Ian: It certainly fits with your idea of not belonging to any one musical world…

Pablo: Somehow, I never thought of that, good point!

The plant appears in many traditions. In the Druidic tradition the mistletoe is one of the most sacred plants. They gather it only with little golden sickles, and it can never touch the ground. It has many different medicinal properties. And also, the druids only gather the mistletoe from oaks, and not when it grows on other trees. They consider the Oak to be the king of the woods, so the mistletoe is the crown of the king. And they are collecting that crown.

When we recorded the demo is when we baptised the band. We had it very clear that we wanted the word Muerdago in the band’s name, and we ended up with Sangre De Muerdago.

Ian: The last thing I wanted to ask you about was the process of adapting poems by national poets. The new album has the song “Longa Noite de Pedra,” which I know is adapted, and you’ve had several other songs that have taken inspiration from Galician poets. This would seem like a very daunting task to me. Do you find it to be difficult?

Pablo: Well, each song has a different story. I’ve adapted 3 poems into our songs. The first one was by a poetess called Rosalía de Castro (Sangre adapted her work into the song “A Xustiza Pola Man” from the Braided Paths split with NOVEMTHREE). She is quite a literary and historical figure in Galicia. She lived in the 1800s and was a one-of-a-kind woman. A very independent, strong writer, and at the same time she had such roots in Galician history and the way in which she describes things.

That poem is really visceral. It is a story of the vengeance of a mother who loses her children because of social injustice. She loses her children because some powerful people kick her and her children from their house and they end up living in the woods and roaming around, and in the wintertime the kids die from hunger and cold. Then the mother takes vengeance. It’s an incredible poem, it gives you goose bumps. I had always wanted to write a song for this poem. And one day it happened.

The story of the second one, “Longa Noite De Pedra,” happened because the poet, Celso Emilio Ferreiro, is just such an incredible writer. He’s one of the main writers you read in school when you’re studying Galician literature, language, history, and such. It happened that a couple of years ago that I came back to one of his books I had read while I was in school. I’ve turned 40 this year, so of course you perceive everything in a very different way. When I read his poetry 30 years later I was very touched and I could somehow relate to him and the way he wrote about the land itself; the woods and the stones, and the collective folklore, and all the myth and mysticism that we all carry in our hearts through growing up in that part of the world. There’s a very specific feeling in the air in Galicia. We have some words that don’t exist in any other language. So there’s that. That thing. He can turn it into visuals in this magisterial way.

Same story with the third one. Manuel Maria is unbelievable. I can picture my Galicia in Maria and Ferreiro’s words very, very strongly. And the stories are very different. Ferreiro’s is a story of suffering and the death of human freedom, and the Maria’s is just the most incredible love poem I’ve ever read.

Actually the song (“O Amor”) is just an extract of the poem. I love those words so much that somehow I wanted to put them into a song. And its not something I force and think “I want to adapt a poem,” it just happens sometimes.

[We hear Latona Odola begin to play inside the venue]

Ian: That seems like a good ending point, I think they’re playing now, should we go watch?

Pablo: I’d love to!


Sangre De Muerdago is touring the world promoting their new album, Noite, which is available on multiple formats, and comes highly recommended.

SANGRE DE MUERDAGO

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Categories
Premiere

AOS SI unveils “Oratio Draconis”, an unheard offering of Other-Worldly Music

After whirling whispers, swirling rumours, and teased samples, it is the pleasure of the Covenant to share a first glance at the premier offering from Aos Si: a video for “Oratio Draconis” from the upcoming new album titled “Otherworldly Invocations: Vol. 1”, out soon on DUMAH Records.

Sayeth Aos Sí vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Cú of the song and its vision:

“The Dragon is one of the most ubiquitous mystical creatures. Archatypically a coincidentia oppositorum; the Destroyer and Creator of man. The Dragon has woven itself into the navel of our ancestors minds and has presented itself to me in trance as Quetzalcoatl, playfully wayward in a torus Taijitu. We honor and revere.”

This video is the manifestation of yet another conspiracy between a Covenant circle band, and long-time collaborator, Mexican visionary mastermind, Cold Poison.

Let your prayers rise and fall into the Dragon’s trance!

Aos Si is the mysterious and self-described Ætheral Otherworldly Music emanating from the inner Covenant – Equally ancient yet free from the bounds of time and place.

AOS SI
COLD POISON 
DUMAH RECORDS

Categories
Interview

WITCHES HAMMER is back from the grave to reclaim the Throne

This summer at Covenant Festival IV in Vancouver BC all hell will break loose. BLASPHEMY, INCANTATION, PROFANATICA, and the like all on the same stage will usher in one of the darkest, most savage events in recent Canadian history.

However, another dimension exists to this gathering that is even more profound. The ancient speed metal gods WITCHES HAMMER will return to the stage for the first time in 29 years. Many know of the band as a pre-cursor to several Ross Bay Cult bands, mainly through re-releases and nostalgic forum posts, but lack a deeper appreciation for the absolute true spirit of uncompromising metal they possessed.

Original guitarist Marco Banco (TYRANTS BLOOD, ex-BLASPHEMY) takes us back to the wild west and reveals a time when the genesis of something exciting was just starting to take off. Listen up and take a history lesson from one of your betters. Soon the next generation will know!

COVENANT: Alright! So we know who you are, most people reading this at least have an idea, and anyone in this city is aware of your impressive resume, but now we’re here to talk about WITCHES HAMMER!

We know that a gang of Delta miscreants started the first speed metal band in Western Canada, but for the uninitiated can you provided a quick blow-by-blow, highlight-reel of the band’s brief history?

MB: Alright. So, a brief history:

There wasn’t a lot of like minded kids into heavy music back in the front early 80’s.

For instance, in my junior high, the kids that were into Judas Priest, Sabbath, KISS, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, Saxon, Maiden etc. weren’t down with Motörhead the Sex Pistols, Plasmatics, Cirith Ungol and groups like that. So we started to drift into a micro scene that was our own.

We still all had no out, but the 3 or 4 of us that wanted our own thing started seeking out the strange bands whose albums were being sold in the back of Kerrang, Enfer, and zines like that. Started making our way into the city to the import shops just find something unique, heavier, faster.

That’s how what ended up being the metal scene we all hang in today started.

Just young preteen punks and headbangers looking to carve out our own piece of turf.

When I started playing the stupid guitar, of course I sought out the few and far between to make noise with. It was cool having something not too many people were into. In fact, they hated it. So you know your headed the right way. Steal their Led Zeppelin and Nazareth, cool.

Excellent policy I thought.

When I figured I had enough chops to get a bit more serious, I put an add in the Straight (local arts & culture rag) for people into Motörhead, Exciter, Culprit and stuff like that. The only person that answered was Ray. He and his brother were the coolest guys on the block and just happened to be into all the same shit I was digging.

We called ourselves Death, then Oblivion, then I happened on The Malleus Mallificarum in the school library. So I lifted it and the speed metal scene was on.

COVENANT: At this point WITCHES HAMMER is a band practically revered as mythological among underground cultos. Folks like us (in our late 20’s early 30’s) have only heard rumours and read interview questions of the old days: chaotic house parties, wild violence at gigs, and a forward thinking attitude that seems to be a thing of the past. Can you give us a bit of a glimpse into what harsh METAL looked like in the Vancouver area in the mid 80’s?

MB: The things that are interesting from back in those early days, to me anyway, was that we weren’t clean, old enough, or polished up to be taken seriously by the metal and heavy rock scene.

That was when Helix, pre-glam, Van Halen, Maiden, and Rush were massive. The early eyeliner, hairspray metal days. Those dudes looked at us with our greasy hair, ripped up poor clothes, and just thought we were punks.

We played way too loud and way too fast, so they told us to fuck off and take our punk rock crappy attitude with us.

No problem, I didn’t like those sweet smelling douchebags anyway.

So off we fucked into the dregs of the East end [of the city], and cut our teeth opening up for far superior acts like DOA, Death Sentence, SNFU, The Accused, and Verbal Abuse.

Those cats got it right away, those were the first crossover shows, and those other glammy creeps were out of the picture.

Of course, performing our very first show, my first EVER live show with Exciter, Exodus, Metal Church and Sacred Blade was a huge deal for us, and especially because that was the era where every gig like that was laying a foundation, building on momentum. The Metallica “Ride the Lightning” tour had completed tore the city’s music scene a black hole. What emerged was an army, literally overnight, of people breathing this new found energy: our era, our niche, our generation had its sound and it was profound.

So with that we had our bridge between the outer municipalities and into the city. We hit it hard. The kids started renting halls and putting on wicked sold out shows. We weren’t old enough for the bars; well, we could play the bars with the punk bands back then, but the kids our age couldn’t come to the gigs. So metal shows were underage teenage riots. Thrown at house parties on the weekends and rented skating rinks and halls the next.

That’s where it was at: independent, DYI, very cool, I thought.

 

COVENANT: As the first speed metal band in Vancouver/Western Canada, what kind of challenges did a band like WITCHES HAMMER face in an otherwise barren wasteland of uncompromising heavy metal?

MB: The challenges were; We were really young, uncompromising, and hated authorities, especially promoters. We weren’t really trying to appeal to a larger audience outside of our style. We felt it was necessary to be completely rigid in our approach. Because things were so new, it seemed that if we let up on our ideals, it could be lost with a whisper to sleazy pimps and pushers. So we held on with an iron grip

COVENANT: In that relatively brief career you played with some top-tier legends like Exciter, The Accused, SNFU, Exodus, and Metal Church. What are some of your favourite memories from those old gigs?

MB: Favourite memories for sure were the first 2 shows we performed at:

When we hit the stage to open for the Exciter gig in ’85 that I mentioned, I was 15 years old. So of course this was quite overwhelming, as apart from performing at junior high school events, this was a near capacity crowd of raving denim and leather fire-breathing maniacs!!

Daunting to say the least.

An excellent way to cut our teeth I think. Into the storm head on, whatever happens happens.

The other great memory for me personally, was opening for Death Sentence and Verbal Abuse at John Barleys in the east end. That’s where the crossover style began in Vancouver. The hardcore punks accepted us full on, we really enjoyed that whole complexion and style. Suited us well. That’s where we fit in best at the time. Not to mention, in ’84 and ’85 there weren’t any other speed metal or thrash metal groups around yet.

We were it.  Our niche was bored out into the fabric of the underground music scene.

COVENANT: By the 90’s the band seems to have dissolved fairly unceremoniously (with an unreleased record nonetheless!) What lead to the end of that era and the long dormancy to come?

MB: From 13 to 19 years old, people change a lot. So did all of us. Some of just up and left the province, I joined up with Blasphemy, Mike Death went to Procreation, John onto Armoros and Procreation. Not to mention, we’d run our course at that point.

The scene was dying out. Violence at the shows a year prior was out of control. So for many people, it just wasn’t worth it anymore to bring your girlfriend and buddies out to see a band, and instead just get your teeth knocked in by skinheads or various lunatics that figured the pit was the place to assault anybody without issue. It had to burn out.

The days of sold out underage gigs weekend after weekend from around ’84-’87 were gone at that point.

COVENANT: You have Canadian Speed Metal, Stretching Into Infinity, and Dead Forever which are all postmortem WITCHES HAMMER releases, and seem to get more and more complete with each one. Explain how these compilations/unreleased albums came about. Where was this material hiding all these years? And which one stands as the definitive statement on what the band was all about?

MB: They weren’t really hiding. We just weren’t very approachable or compromising in our self promotion.

We really truly believed rigidly that the DIY underground scene was where it was at. It was an attitude that was really just an aggressive testosterone fueled teenage angst, Fuck the industry, we’ll just steal it, kind of of attitude. That was that.

COVENANT: The return of WITCHES HAMMER is huge! In the past 10 years many bands once-thought gone forever have returned to the stage. Some wildly successfully, and some less so. Personally, what do you hope to achieve by bringing WITCHES HAMMER back from the dead?

MB: I don’t really have any hopes of silly nostalgic reverence. I’m just going to perform as always.

However or whatever goes down is the way it should be. I’m cool with getting John and my music done. It’s cool to jam with Ray. Great performing with the boys. It’s a good time.
We will record these songs. See what’s left over. Hit a few festivals and shows.
That’s about it I figure. See what happens.

COVENANT: We’ll quit living in the past and look towards the future. The time seems right to give a new breed of fans raised on the internet a taste of what was. What forces awoke the slumbering beast that is WITCHES HAMMER? Tell us what is coming next from the band. Can we expect new music? More live appearances?

MB: I despise living in the past. I absolutely cannot stand looking back at past accomplishments. It bores the hell out of me.

This came about because John [original drummer, who died in 1997] and I had written a host of riffs and song we never recorded.

I would have took them with me to the dust if Ray, Yosuke [of Nuclear War Now! Records], Mike Death, and Steve hadn’t convinced me to do this for Big John’s memory. This is a part of his  legacy as the man that helped to create what we call extreme metal in Vancouver

So I would say now that I will light that torch for him

COVENANT: Our thanks to you Marco! Until Covenant IV, we eagerly await to see what you all have up your sleeves. This will be something to behold! Until then please leave us with your final thoughts on the matter …

MB: Thanks for having us guys. Covenant has always been a cool thing since its inception.
We’ll catch you deathbangers, firebreathers, Witches and destroyers in the Covenant pit … into the pentagram!