It’s always hard to review an album like Morbid Angel’s Covenant. For the most part, Covenant is considered a classic album of the early death metal scene, and as a result it’s difficult to truly listen to it or review it objectively. Stripping away the album’s reputation, Covenant is revealed as a good (but not great) album from death metal’s formative years.
The album kicks things off right from the start with “Rapture,” easily one of the strongest songs on here. It’s fast, thrashy, and it’s got some [...] riffs. It’s the perfect way to start the album, and if every song on here was as good as it, Covenant might be worthy of 5 stars. But alas, it’s not to be…
The next song is “Pain Divine,” a good song, not as good as “Rapture”, but still an enjoyable listen. “[...] (The Promised Land)” (great title!) mixes it up a little bit with a slow, slightly doomy intro, before breaking into a furious barrage of fast riffing and blastbeats. It’s a great song, and the solos of Trey Azagthoth make it all the better.
Unfortunately, here’s where the album starts to slip. “Vengeance Is Mine” is fast and brutal, yet ultimately forgettable. “The Lion’s Den” is slightly better, reclaiming the passion found in the first three songs. However, the next song, “Blood On My Hands” is utterly unremarkable.
If there’s one saving grace on this album, it’s defintely track seven. “Angel Of Disease” was originally written as a demo track but rerecorded by Morbid Angel for Covenant. I’ve heard some say that it seems out of place here as a result, but in reality, it’s the one song that saves this album. Starting off with some terrific soloing, “Angel” soon breaks into a barrage of catchy riffs and ridiculous pace changes. The guitar solos on here are simply incredible. At six minutes in length, I’d venture to say at least two to three minutes of that is pure soloing, which makes for an awesome track. Six minutes is over far too soon.
Coming off the adrenaline high brought on by “Angel Of Disease”, the next song, “Sworn To The Black”, continues right where “Blood On My Hands” left off. That is, of course, utter mediocrity. “Sworn” is simply boring. It’s got decent riffing, decent soloing, but it’s all just decent.
Finally, we have the closing duo “Nar Mattaru” and “God Of Emptiness.” “Nar” is a creepy instrumental intended to set the mood for the final track, and to be honest, I think it works pretty well. Once “God Of Emptiness” rears it’s blasphemous head, it’s an interesting affair from then on. The song is slow and doomy, with some bizarre spoken vocals. As a Morbid Angel song, it’s not that great, as the slow pace and lack of decent soloing make it somewhat mundane. As the final track however, it works well at closing off the album, being so unique and doomy.
As the closing chants of “Bow to me faithfully…” fade away, one is finally able to realize the simple yet fundamental flaw of Covenant: there’s simply a glaringly obvious lack of good songs. At 10 tracks in length, one of these is an instrumental, one (“God Of Emptiness”) is too bizarre to work as anything but the closer, and three (“Blood On My Hands”, “Vengeance”, and “Sworn”) seen too much like filler. What you’re left with is five thoroughly enjoyable Morbid Angel songs. Not only is this far too few for a full-length album, but considering “Angel Of Disease” wasn’t even originally written for Covenant, it’s definitely dissapointing.
However, one shouldn’t be too hard on this album. The good songs are really good, ranking right up there with Morbid Angel’s best works. The riffs, while being somewhat of a mixed bag, mostly come out ahead. The guitar solos, especially on “Angel Of Disease”, are simply magnificent. As a matter of fact, I’d go as far to say the guitar solos on here are the best of Morbid Angel’s career thus far. Unlike on Altars Of Madness, Trey’s shredding on here is right where it should be in the mix, and has just the right melodic touch to make it something really special.
David Vincent’s vocal performance on here is also notable. While he favored a tortured, higher pitched rasp on previous albums, Covenant sees him unleash a slightly deeper growl on some tracks, which gives the music a nice brutal edge. The drumming, while nothing really remarkable, holds everything together nicely and shows off some nice fills every now and then.
Unfortunately, the high quantity of forgettable tracks really drags everything down. Had Morbid Angel taken the time to write more standout tracks like “Rapture” and “[...]“, Covenant definitely could have been a lot better. Sure, all the right elements are in place, and it’s definitely an enjoyable album, but there’s simply too many forgettable moments on here to warrant “classic” status. If you want to experience Morbid Angel at their absolute finest, I’d recommend picking up their debut, Altars Of Madness. That album does not have a single forgettable song on it. Covenant, unfortunately, just has far too many.