Morbid Angel - Covenant
Earache Records
Death Metal
10 songs (41:10)
Release year: 1993
Morbid Angel, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The third album from these legends of Death Metal is pretty damn awesome if not quite up there with its illustrious parents. It doesn’t have the transcendental purity of Altars Of Madness, nor the artful meanderings of Blessed Are The Sick. What it does have, however, is excellent songwriting, a wagonload of amazing riffs, and the first proper usage of the band’s now trademark churning sound, a morass of guitars and drums atop which David Vincent’s snarl struggles not to get sucked into. It’s far more straightforward than Blessed..., and far less so than Altars..., an uneasy truce between the sounds of the two spat forth and reshaped into something quite compelling in its own right. Let’s face it, nothing will ever top Altars... in the esteem with which it is held, and neither is Covenant as good as the uncanny art of Blessed.... Yet when I choose an album from the band to throw on, it’s this I choose as often as not, a recognition of its brilliance and sheer enjoyability. That cover art defines it, an adventurous occult trip that will leave none unshaken, leave no neck unexercised...

As a blueprint for many future death metal bands to plunder, Covenant is flawless. Listen to the barely-restrained riffs and crashing drumwork of opener Rapture, a neverending tidal wave of metal that easily washes all pretenders away. It almost sounds sped-up in retrospect, fast-paced growls and Commando Sandoval’s typically supersonic battery more than matched by Trey Azagthoth (‘George’ to his parents, of course) and his never-silent guitar. Whether wailing in satanic solo or riffing with malicious skill and style, Trey is for the first time the only guitarist on a Morbid Angel album, and as the band’s lead composer without a doubt the star of the satanic show. His input is what makes the likes of Pain Divine so beautiful with their piledriving bursts of intensity, technical twists and turns adding excitement to an already gloriously action-packed ride.

And what a ride it is! The grinding crawl of World Of Shit (Promised Land) adds ominous proto-Behemothic heaviness to proceedings, whilst the unhinged gut-wrenching thrill that is Vengeance Is Mine a simply astonishingly good track, a powerful steamroller that makes it pretty clear why this is apparently one of the most popular Death Metal albums in the world in sales terms. No-one could resist the rampant technicality of The Lion’s Den, complete with some of the album’s catchiest riffing and a wonderful moment when Vincent intones ‘whips crack!’ atop unaccompanied double-bass, before the song spins into wild speed and harsh snarls of ‘kill them all for Satan!’ This is the most occult Morbid Angel have been lyrically, and the most bloodthirsty too.

It’s also, sadly, the last absolutely 100% killer album that they would produce to date. Every single track, from the meandering prog-tinged melody of Angel Of Disease to the ghostly chorus of Sworn To The Black and the subtly catchy rhythmic patterns that catch your attention without meaning to, is absolutely excellent, death metal done at its very best. Even synth interlude Nar Mattaru is captivating (something you can’t say for many Morbid Angel keyboard works!) and the track that it leads into is simply breathtaking, the devastating God Of Emptiness an epic tower of dread, complete with effect-laden spoken word sections that simply work as they should. Despite being largely a malicious atmospheric piece, it doesn’t let up on the excellent riffs, nor can you quite describe the amazing moment when Vincent suddenly switches to clean singing, his deep intonation a hymnal chant worshipping gods that mankind no longer remembers. Death metal these days is either full of riffs or atmosphere, almost never both – Morbid Angel’s part in the creation of the genre and the elevation of it to uncanny art is often paid lip service to but rarely fully worshipped. Masterpieces like Covenant, then, are a reminder to all of what a great band they are... should the comeback due later this year even approach the brilliance of this, you can expect much rejoicing indeed from the death metal legions.

Killing Songs :
Rapture, Pain Divine, Vengeance Is Mine, The Lion’s Den, Angel Of Disease, Sworn To The Black, God Of Emptiness
Goat quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Morbid Angel that we have reviewed:
Morbid Angel - Kingdoms Disdained reviewed by Andy and quoted 76 / 100
Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus reviewed by Jake and quoted 86 / 100
Morbid Angel - Entangled In Chaos reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Morbid Angel - Formulas Fatal to the Flesh reviewed by Tony and quoted 84 / 100
Morbid Angel - Domination reviewed by Tony and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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