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Covenant: Nexus Polaris

I've gotta tell you honestly: my first encounter with black metal several years ago left me scratching my head. I remember getting swept up in the incredible guitar arrangements and the blinding speed of the players, and thinking, "Yeah...this is great!" And then the vocals set in, and a large question mark appeared in the air over my head. What on earth is that supposed to be?

Well, time has shed some perspective on the black metal sound, and it's easier now to appreciate it: although undeniably not for everyone, the potential for grand theatrics and bold emotional delivery is there in high volume, waiting for the right people to come along and make the perfect black metal album.

Whether or not Nexus Polaris is the perfect black metal album will be a bone of contention with many people; black metal purists will be upset by the lack of anti-Christian lyrics, as well as the copious use of keyboard orchestration. Folks like myself, however, will find a tantalizing and absorbing album that greatly expands the genre's capabilities.

Covenant does for black metal what Voivod did for thrash over a decade ago: they have updated it, taken it into the space age. Clean-toned guitar arpeggios bring a crisp level of clarity to "The Sulphur Feast", weaving into the inevitable bombast with precision. "Bringer of the Sixth Sun" is a perfect marriage of black metal fury and symphonic melody - memorable and catchy guitar lines dance with piano interludes - and it also contains some of the best lyrics to come from a black metal band yet. ("I drank a goblet of fire/I cut out the prophet's tongue/but still the sun refused to move.") And "Planetarium" must surely be one of the best black metal songs ever recorded.

Along with a few other select titles - Mithotyn's "In The Sign of the Ravens" comes to mind - Nexus Polaris has the potential to lift black metal up to the next level; a necessary thing if the genre is to survive. It's one of the few such albums which should appeal to people who normally don't like this style of metal. This is where your next $15 should be spent, true believers.

Added: January 1st 2004
Reviewer: SoT Archives
Hits: 2893
Language: english

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