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I had been eager to find this for a very long time, having heard the re-recording by the Kovenant and thought it was mediocre.
I was lucky to come across it, and boy am I glad I did. This is a masterpiece of early, raw Norwegian Black metal during the 1990's. Here we have an album that is raw, with scratchy guitars, muffled drums and softened keys powered by a young Nagash who provides gargling Vocals from the back of his throat.
Now, I said the production is raw, and it is, but the drums are mic'd very well. The snare is heard clearly, the symbols are also audible, as are the foot pedals. The drumming isn't half bad, either. Nagash does a decent job with the footwork as well as the rolls and fills. His blast beats are also on time, and paced evenly within the songs. Everything on this album, in every song, seems to flow well, and I think it is mostly due to the drumming.
The bass is inaudible, which is disheartening, but the guitars are well performed, the scratchy tone is not too light, but not exactly crunchy, either. From what I can tell, there aren't too many chords going on here, but alot of riffing based on tremelo-picked scales that seem to follow the some of the synth parts (or lead them; Dragonstorms is an example).
Speaking of the synth, this is nowhere near the keyboard-infested sounds of Nexus Polaris (An album I still find disappointing) or the later re-recording of this album and S.E.T.I (all recorded after this band underwent it's name change). Nagash's piano playing is not on par with the faster paces on the re-recording, and none of the ridiculous techno pieces are here at all. In fact, it seems alot of the keyboard pieces that are missing from the re-recording are actually played by an acoustic guitar (e.g. The Chasm, Storm Of Shadows, Night Of The Blackwinds).
The vocals are well performed, but nothing spectacular or over the top. The same, normal vocal performance heard by Nagash on many of his recordings, though I will give him credit here, as these vocals are much better than his ones on the "Drep De Kristne" album by Troll.
I highly recommend this album, if you find it.
I think everything that a classic symphonic black metal album should have, is in this record. It has brutal distorted guitars, thundering drums and simple-but-amazingly well-done arrangements for synth. The vocals are based on high pitched black metal shrieks which utter dark and epic lyrics. There's a lot of diversity here. Mixing slow paced obscure songs with fast relentless war anthems gives as a result a real dynamic classical sound. It is a shame that this album is too little known.
Each song is played quite competently by Nagash and Blackheart, putting the emphasis on effectiveness over virtuosity or skill. The music speaks for itself and there is no need to show unnecessary technical stuff. "Towards the Crown of Nights" starts hitting your ears with furious double-bass patterns and killer guitar themes. If you listen carefully, you will notice an odd feeling which is hidden between the music as though it has been recorded in a forest or something. "Dragonstorms" shows aggression upon the contrast of mellow riffs on heavily distorted strings. Along the track list you can find many different expressions, for example the gloomy and depressive tune of the main riff of "The Dark Conquest" or the storming war sounds of "From the Storm of Shadows". The first one moves over repetitive slow patterns that create black atmospheres while the second overwhelms with successive waves of vicious dissonances and masterful orchestral touches. "Night of the Blackwinds" is similar to "The Dark Conquest" but less dark and stranger.
The record comes to its climax with the next two songs. "The Chasm" strikes with beautiful and embracing guitar harmonies and powerful drumming taking to a middle section of great contrast with incredible grim and medieval feeling. "Visions of a Lost Kingdom" is the definition of darkness, for it merges together layers of clean guitar arrangements over heavy bass and thick compressed guitars with synth voices and string ensembles of stunning beauty. This is one of the darkest songs I have ever listened to. "Through the Eyes of the Raven" shows the more melodic side of Covenant but with some outbursts of lethal aggression.
The title track "In times before the light" it’s just a wonderful, epic and dark anthem. The synth brass section makes this song sound like a devouring monster eating everything in his way. Finally, "Monarch of Mighty Darkness" is a melodic one that seems like the peace after the war or something like that.
This powerful album it's never monotonous or boring, it always keeps you interested with great riffs and arrangements. Highly recommended for dark symphonic-black metal lovers.
Covenant's debut album has been one i've enjoyed for a while now. I first heard this album's remix, The Kovenant - In Times Before the Light, back in 2002. I realize both albums were made at 2 different times. Though some things that dissapointment in the earliar one that sound great on that later release was the use of synthesizers. It sounds a lot colder. Though apart from that one thing that dissapointed me the original Covenant is pure black metal art.
Every song is far more raw. The overall atmosphere is a lot darker than on future releases. Don't get me wrong. On the new remix version the atmosphere is very fitting and dark as well. I just feel the original is a lot darker and more fitting on terms.
This one also features a less electronic form of Covenant/The Kovenant unit. The synth sound a lot more orchestrated on this album. It sounds out of place in tracks like Dragonstorms, but it's a very defining element that continues to make the music interesting.
Nagash's drumming (assuming that's what Battery is supposed to mean on the original CD) is a lot more unique and progressive apart from other black metal releases with similar drum patterns throughout the entire album. Also what i enjoy is it's less electronic. Also his vocals as well merit reward. They are really harsh, not as android sounding as i feel from the newer version. Blackheart's guitar chords are a lot darker and more evil on this album as well.
Upon listening to the original it's as if being in a dark symphony while the evil powers and spirits are suffocating you. This album is pure harsh, cold, darkness so authentic it'll scare the shit out of Emperor. If you can find this gem i suggest getting it the second you can!
Covenant, or The Kovenant, a band that went the way of Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir: first releasing a few critically acclaimed releases, then quickly taking turns for the worst; a new musical direction, a more commercial sound, and then being spat out by the collective black metal underground with much revisionism going on in regards to the quality of their earlier outputs. For example compare the Satyricon reviews on Larm written before and after Rebel Extravaganza. Of course, knowing there was a (group of) commercial asshole(s) behind a release does justly diminish the chances on a good rating.
Hence also my slight ambivalence towards 'In Times Before the Light'. I remember that in my 'symphonic black metal is superior to other forms of black metal'-days I really loved ITBTL, although not as much Nexus Polaris, which featured Sarah Jezabel Diva, the then by me much adored guest vocalist for CoF and Therion. Having progressed musical taste wise (thankfully, for the most part), I can however still say I like 'In Times Before the Light', even though I notice a few shortcomings now.
The album itself consists of black metal, with fuzzy guitars and a prominent role for atmospheric keyboards. It's not fully a 'wall of sound', but the continually present keyboards and tremolo guitars do aproximate it. Together with the raspy vocals that were so typical for the third wave of black metal, they create an atmospheric spherical soundscape; with clear direction, perhaps slightly simplistic overall, but not bereft of subtleties. For example, often the keyboards play along with the guitar lines, yet they occasionally deviate to add deph to the soundscape.
It's clear that Covenant took elements from Satyricons early works, although Satyricon didn't have the keyboard sound so thick over the whole of the music. Both Covenant and early Satyricon had the fuzzy tremolo guitars, and at the same time acoustic-sounding guitars coming forward at times. The soundscape is built on the interplay and repetition of the riffing.
However, to compare ITBTL outright to Dark Medieval Times would do injustice to the album. Overall, for a band that used too much keyboards for the like of the hardliners, the atmosphere is quite well done compared to several third wave bands who started to (over)utilise synths.
If the album has a weakness, it's that several songs are not overly discernible from eachother. On the other hand, consistency is a plus here. Overall, it's a very likeable album, yet far from a great album in terms of originality.