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covenant leavingbabylon
Artist: Covenant
Title: Leaving Babylon
Genre: Electro Pop
Release Date: 6th September 2013
Label: Dependent Records


Album Review

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
(Revelation 18:1-3)

This is from the Book Of Revelations in the New Testament of the Bible, also known as the “Lament Over Fallen Babylon“. Babylon is a symbol used in Scripture (as well as in modern day art, for that matter) for false religion, profane worldliness and impenitent sin. And then there's of course the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament: The story of god scattering humanity “upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, so that they would not be able to return to each other“. A story about cultural heterogeneity, of man challenging god, punishment for pride, and last but not least the confusion of tongues. That's where COVENANT build a bridge to modern day society in the so-called information age with the increasing speed and complexity of our communications and a war of knowledge and information. Check the news for Prism, NSA and Tempora as the latest examples.

Once again COVENANT use a strong leitmotif and symbolism for a new album. Think of 'Europa' (1998), 'United States Of Mind' (2000) or the last album, 'Modern Ruin' from 2011 – Covenant very often had the big picture in mind and combined it with the personal, the inside world so to speak. 'Leaving Babylon' follows this tradition but in an even more sophisticated and more ambitious way. The Babylon theme is arguably the strongest motive COVENANT have picked for a new album project so far, and one that perfectly mirrors the present-day world with its overflow of content and communicational overkill.

The album is bracketed by its two title songs. The introducing 'Leaving Babylon' is a dark mid-tempo song with a pulsating beat, airport noises, a robotic voice and singer Eskil Simonsson repeating the line “We're leaving Babylon”. The finishing 'Leaving Babylon II' is actually a ghost track, hence not listed on the cover, and a beautiful ambient track that slowly creeps towards the ten-minute mark. Between these two landmarks a new COVENANT unfolds, a COVENANT that is much more open and, I dare to say, more mature. Not that COVENANT's previous works were immature, this band surely has always been among the more intellectual and sophisticated in their genre. But on 'Leaving Babylon' COVENANT reach out to realms they haven't reached out for before, at least they reach further than before. That's one big plus of this band. With every album they change, tweak and expand their musical spectrum a little more. For example, a song like 'I Walk Slow' is a novelty for COVENANT as it makes considerable use of acoustic and electronic guitars. Yes, guitars! Eskil Simonsson's singing sounds very intimate and close here, not sure if it works for me personally but it's surely a track that stands out.

There are of course also some typical COVENANT tunes; first and foremost the single 'Last Dance' which has already panned out as a dance-floor hit this summer. Bad news is that there are almost no other instant club hits on the album, at least bad news for everybody who loves instant club hits. 'Prime Movers' might be a candidate but it also screams for a remix to fully flower out its club potential. As an album track it is perfect as it is, and by the way the backing vocals sound as if NITZER EBB's Douglas McCarthy would have joined as a special guest. But it is indeed Eskil's voice with some extra treatment. The charismatic singer explores his scope even a little more than on previous albums, and especially the moodier songs give him enough space to excel. The mid-tempo funk of 'For Our Time' is a fine example. The brooding, dark ballad 'Not To be Here' is another one. 'Not To Be Here' must be one of the saddest songs COVENANT ever have done, even though this is a band which is not really short of sad songs. During the verses the strange, droning noises and the sparse piano sounds embed Simonsson's quite narrative and very direct vocals perfectly, just to let the voice rise to a very fragile, discreet chorus. A very haunting song, and nothing but pure beauty!

'Thy Kingdom Come' is also an interesting song, not just because it is indeed a great one! COVENANT started to perform this song live as far back as 2008 but for some reason the song didn't make the cut for their last album, 'Modern Ruin'. Now it is finally featured on 'Leaving Babylon', albeit in a heavily revised version with new lyrics. And the re-written lyrics are actually pretty Babylon-esque as the verses feature many lines from older COVENANT songs – I wish happy trainspotting for die-hard fans. Worth mentioning are the spinet sounds in the intro which create a somewhat medieval touch before the songs evolves into a quintessential COVENANT song.

A true stand-out amidst a great album is 'Ignorance & Bliss'! Especially the first minute will send shivers down your spine; it's a true reverence for the old masters of KRAFTWERK and with all its precise and precious synth sounds a feast for all who love electronic music. It sounds as elegant and smooth as only COVENANT can do it, and the main melody that kicks in shortly before the two-minute mark is nothing but euphoria set to music. But all the euphoria is partnered with musing, melancholic lyrics (“I’m longing for all the things I will never get / I’m longing for all the things I had and lost”) and the emotional vocals drive the sparkling and oscillating layers of sound to an astounding, momentous finale. What a build-up! And what a break-down! In the last few seconds COVENANT let the song collapse and just fade away, and the listener is back down to earth. It feels rather like being stamped to the ground after the elevating grandeur of hymnal melodies and driving beats. It feels like the Babylonians must have felt after their god confused their language and scattered them all over the face of the earth. This feeling of loneliness in the middle of a Babylonian babble, in a tremendous flood of voices and sounds is a theme which pervades this album. It's a theme that is equally biblical as much as it is a sign of our times. After the modern ruin it is time for us for leaving Babylon.

Excellent album!


Tracklist

01 Leaving Babylon - 03:18
02 Prime Movers - 04:54
03 For Our Time - 04:21
04 Thy Kingdom Come - 04:44
05 I Walk Slow - 03:03
06 Ignorance & Bliss - 06:35
07 Last Dance - 06:16
08 Auto (circulation) - 06:42
09 Not To Be Here - 06:30
10 Leaving Babylon II - 09:48 [ghost track]

Ltd. Edition Bonus CD:
"Jag är fullständigt tung" - 76:39


Line-up

Eskil Simonsson – lead vocals, composition, lyrics, production, synths
Joakim Montelius – lyrics, composition, production, synths, additional vocals
Andreas Catjar – keyboards, guitar, composition
Daniel Jonasson – keyboards, composition
Daniel Myer – programming, composition


Website

http://www.covenant.se / http://www.myspace.com/covenant / https://www.facebook.com/pages/Covenant-OFFICIAL/156626197713557


Cover Picture

covenant leavingbabylon


Rating

Music: 9
Sound: 9.5
Extras: 10
Total: 9.5 / 10





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