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Making It Three in a Row - 90%

lonerider, March 3rd, 2019
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Earache Records

Following Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick, Covenant is the third of Florida death metal pioneers Morbid Angel’s early albums to be universally regarded as a genre classic. (Abominations of Desolation, though not published until 1991, was originally recorded in 1986 and shows a band still looking for its true identity.) That was not always the case though, as at the time of its release, Covenant was met with a fair amount of skepticism, the same fate that had already befallen Blessed Are the Sick. To the naysayers, neither of those two albums were worthy successors to the much-revered masterpiece that is Altars of Madness: they were deemed too slow, they supposedly had too many pointless interludes, they had too much of a modern approach (or what was supposed to be modern at the time), their production sucked and so forth. Hard to believe nowadays, but it actually happened, folks.

Of course that skepticism has long since vanished and Covenant, just like Blessed Are the Sick before it, has claimed its place in the figurative death metal hall of fame. Rightfully so, I might add. From the opening firestorm named “Rapture” to the closing trio of “Sworn to the Black”, “Nar Mattaru” and the brilliant “God of Emptiness”, Covenant is everything a Morbid Angel album should be and then some. For some reason, I have always regarded the last three tracks as sort of connected, with the surprisingly catchy “Sworn to the Black” – a mid-paced, march-like track – introducing the theme of ancient evil and demonic invocations, and the truly eerie instrumental “Nar Mattaru” perfectly setting the tone for “God of Emptiness”. The latter is arguably the most unusual track on the entire record, due to its persistently slow, crawling pace almost bordering on doom or sludge metal, as well as its hymnal, ceremonious quality. It conjures up images of occult lore, forbidden rituals and the summoning of some potent evil entity, which, when it finally manifests itself, commands its human servants to “bow to me faithfully, bow to me splendidly.” Singer David Vincent even chants these lines with a clear singing voice instead of using his usual raspy growl, enhancing the ritualistic atmosphere of the song (and more than justifying its appearance on an old “Beavis and Butthead” episode). This is amazing stuff right there.

There is another track that may be responsible for the album being initially deemed too slow: “World of Shit (The Promised Land)” starts off with a sludgy main riff and somewhat muddy guitar tone before picking up steam and evolving into a more or less typical Morbid Angel speedster. A lack of speed absolutely isn’t an issue on Covenant, with most of the other tunes taking no prisoners and charging forward with blistering velocity. “Pain Divine” even features a nice little lead guitar melody at around the half-minute mark, bringing back memories of older tracks such as “Visions from the Dark Side” from Altars of Madness. “Lions Den” then takes a more measured approach, sporting even more nifty guitar leads as well as gruesome lyrics about hapless Christians being literally thrown to the lions and other savage beasts in a Roman circus arena. Yummy.

The musical performance of the band is flawless bordering on spectacular, especially in the case of drummer Pete “Commando” Sandoval, whose powerful and awe-inspiringly swift double kicks are as unrelenting and precise as a sewing machine. The riffs and occasional harmonies delivered by fretboard wizard Trey Azagthoth are another highlight, even though his deliberately atonal solos will always be a point of contention and very much an acquired taste.

Covenant is another classic of Floridian death metal and cornerstone of Morbid Angel’s mostly exquisite discography. That being said, I shall have to subtract some points for the slightly overlong “Angel of Disease”, which, as a reworked version of a song that was originally written sometime in the 1980s, sounds palpably different from the rest of the album and, much like “Abominations” and “The Ancient Ones” on Blessed Are the Sick, is a bit of an outlier. The rest of the material, however, is excellent throughout. Not only does it boast good songwriting along with the requisite brutality and just the right dose of technicality; after all, those things are to be expected from a band with that much talent and instrumental prowess. What sets Morbid Angel’s Covenant apart from most other Florida death metal releases is its downright evil atmosphere, which, while being firmly present on the band’s first two albums, is kicked up a notch on their third full-length. Morbid Angel manage to convey an arcane, otherworldly, truly menacing vibe that many a full-fledged black metal band would kill for. Call it occult, call it satanic, call it ghoulish, call it what you will: it adds another layer to the music and elevates the album to another level. If you’re one of those “Morbid Angel wimped out after Altars” types, no one will convince you otherwise. Anybody else would be well-advised to give Covenant a try. It is, after all, Morbid Angel’s third consecutive slam dunk from their classic period.

Choicest cuts: Rapture, Pain Divine, Lions Den, Sworn to the Black, God of Emptiness

Rating: 9.0 out of 10 points

A beast of an album! - 88%

KTMboyz, February 22nd, 2019
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Giant Records

I'll be honest, when I first purchased Morbid Angel's third album, Covenant, it didn't exactly sit well with me. I found it muddy, slow and weak compared to the hard hitting, clean and punishing death metal I was used too. However, I grew to love the album over time simply by changing my expectations and changing how I looked at it. Rather than looking for the standard old school death metal traits, I began to appreciate what Covenant did offer: atmosphere, sludge, doom, evil and more.

With that out of the way, I'd like to talk about why Covenant is great. I mentioned earlier that the album was "muddy". Some may argue that it is a production issue. Whether it is or not, the sludgy sound adds to the overall atmosphere, to a point where the album simply wouldn't work without it. The songs sound like they are about to morph into a horrid monster who's oozing, decomposing and falling apart while most old school death metal songs, in my opinion, would be best represented by a cleaner warrior-like monster. It's a strange analogy, I know, but I'm trying to say that Covenant's punishingly heavy A# riffs are strengthened by its disgusting sound.

The album's poetic, satanic and symbolic lyrics are assaulting the listener non-stop, thanks to David's low and beast-like growl, taken from their last album Blessed are the Sick. The vocals change on the seventh track: Angel of Disease, where he seems to be going for a more Altars of Madness (their debut album) sounding vocal technique. Speaking of Angel of Disease, that song switches things up a little by going for a more punk-ish vibe. It's long, different and gives the listener a break from the usual format.

Near the end, we find Nar Mattaru, which I feel is the weakest song. It acts as an interlude in order to build atmosphere and prepare the listener for the next track: God of Emptiness (I. The Accuser, II. The Tempter), which is in my opinion, the strongest track on the album. However, I found Nar Mattaru rather disappointing. I know that Morbid Angel are capable of creating great atmospheric interludes, just take a look at their sophomore album, it is filled with great transition tracks. However, Nar Mattaru is repetitive, too long and there just isn't enough substance. Its more of a noise track.

Finally, we're given what I believe is one of the band's greatest songs: God of Emptiness (I. The Accuser, II. The Tempter). Its sludgy, slow and heavy as hell. The overall feel and lyrics sum up what Covenant is all about, thus making it the perfect way to end the album, fading out with an ominous chant and haunting riff.

It took me a while before I could fully appreciate this album but now I see clearly... Morbid Angel's third album is a an absolute beast! While there isn't a whole lot of variety, it still holds up as one of the best old school death metal releases ever. I compared it earlier to a decomposing and horrid monster. Like this monster, Covenant assaults you from start to finish and holds absolutely nothing back.

A masterpiece of death metal - 98%

mikey22, January 29th, 2019

Morbid Angel's Covenant is one of those music albums that will forever be considered timeless. Even to this day this album can still can go toe to toe with any uber technical death metal or death/grind around and the reason is because this album, this monstrous beast is simply filled with such fervent hatred and animosity. Continuing on from Blessed Are the Sick. Morbid Angel's Covenant is a vastly different album while Blessed was slower, more grandiose in presentation, this album is simply an all out attack. While Blessed Are the Sick was more subtle and experimental in its approach to death metal, this album while lacking the grandiose of Blessed makes up for it in the seething hate and violence it possesses.

The guitar and bass work is extremely solid on this album. With the opening of Covenant you hear a gradual crescendo into the pummeling riff of "Rapture" and Vincent blurting out, "Confront me unholy ones/ Bastard saints scorn of the earth." Many of the riffs are extremely evil sounding. For example that overlapping tremolo picked harmonic minor riff of "Pain Divine," also the opening b flat 7th chord that opens "God of Emptiness" to the slower more doom laden riffs of "Sworn to the Black," "God of Emptiness," and "World of Shit." The guitars used are six string and for majority of the tracks they utilize e flat tuning, while tracks like "World of Shit," "Blood on my Hands," and "God of Emptiness" use drop b flat tuning. It's a very nice contrast to hear completely different guitar tunings throughout the album meaning this album retains freshness and diversity. Trey's solos are as always chaotic as ever. Sometimes he will play very melodically for the soloing and sometimes he'll switch it up and just throw in whammy dives, extremely quick scale runs. The best example of the melodicc, slower pased solos are the solos played in "Sworn to the Black" and "Vengeance is Mine." In "World of Shit" the first solo is extremely chaotic and noisy while the second one is more melodic. He literally switches up the soloing style in the same exact song; one is chaotic and unpredictable while the second one is melodic, slower paced, and haunting. While "Rapture" combines the best of both worlds having an extremely technical solo while doing the speed scale runs and violence while being melodic.

Unfortunately David Vincent's bass is buried under the frenzied guitar work of Trey Azagthoth but it does shine at certain moments. You can hear it in songs like "God of Emptiness" and "Sworn to the Black," but his vocal work more than makes up for it. His vocals are absolutely bestial and quite guttural for the early 90s. In my opinion he peaked on this album displaying his strongest vocal effort superior to Altars and Domination. His lyrics are more minimalist than Blessed yet more filled with hate and anger. While on Blessed his lyrics were more themed around the celebrating and rejoicing of human sin here it's a no holes bared anger blitzkrieg against human sins and religion.

Pete Sandoval though is the star of this album. He exhibits some of the fastest blast beats and double bass work of his time. His fills are omnipotent and are very impressive. He keeps the music rolling and throws in some advanced fills that will shock the listener every time. The production of the drums are phenomenal not sounding clicky or plastic but rather warm and organic. By good production I mean you can hear every cymbal and snare hit he does and boy it does sound good. Although not as adventurous as Blessed it does need to be. The music is more violent and stripped down to deliver a maximum punch and Pete Sandoval exceeds what needs to be played for the drumming. He blasts away and hits the drums as hard as possible while maintaining strong sense of time shifts and rhythmic changes.

Overall this album is a phenomenal death metal record that I have bought twice (because my first copy was burned out) and will always be considered timeless in my eyes and by other death metal fans. The atmosphere is different than Blessed while Blessed was about celebrating and rejoicing in the sins of man. This album is about hatred for organized religion and disgust for humanity itself. It harkens back to their Altars of Madness days but with much stronger production and the musicians have become far more advanced in what they play and how they play technically. What is shocking is this is the best selling death metal album of all time. It probably helped that this albums songs were featured in Beavis and Butthead and that it received heavy promotion from Giant Records. No wonder this beast sold 155 thousand plus units in the USA alone. Still this album is not watered down death metal in anyway and that is what is so impressive about its sales numbers. It is an incredibly hate filled and bestial monster of a record that will stand the test of time years from now. To simply put this is their peak, their masterpiece, far surpassing Altars of Madness, though Blessed Are the Sick is not far behind.

Highlighted tracks: Rapture, Pain Divine, Lions Den, Sworn to the Black, God of Emptiness

Morbid Angel - Covenant - 85%

Orbitball, January 28th, 2013

A trio for this one featuring a great lineup with David Vincent on vocals/bass, Trey Azagthoth on guitars/keyboards and Pete Sandoval behind the set. One of the greatest albums at the time here, displaying top notch death metal with utmost intensity and utmost originality in musicianship. Also flooding the Floridian death metal scene, Morbid Angel however was formed during the very early 1980's with a different lineup. What's most important here to discuss would be what did the band do to achieve such high marks during the time of its recording? I will explain this now.

First of all, "Rapture" opens up the way to hearing what's riff-wrenching in it's utter ideal strength, the music itself on each track (10 tracks total) features music that is unequivical ranks. Not only does "Rapture" set the pace here with Trey's wrenching riff-writing the whole way throughout the release. Bar chords, tremolo picking and lead playing triumph, he dominates in every way. David Vincent behind the vocal duties seems to be their best with him in the band. Burly vocals and plenty of blast beating by Pete, tempos fluctuate all over the place. "God of Emptiness" displays a slowed down song of wretched, thick and death sentencing riffs.

This album is a follow up from "Abominations of Desolation", another Morbid Angel album that deserves a lot of respect. But our focus will remain here. "Covenant" seems to me to be one of the greatest releases by the band because most of album has its' achievement in riff writing, vocals and lead guitar playing. What stuck with me most were the riffs not as much as a the leads although Trey is really a great guitar player. If Morbid Angel left out the a few more leads on this one, I would've given it a higher rank. But because I felt there were too many leads, I'm going to have to come day and say "look at, the riffs are amazing, but the leads were chaotic and just everywhere."

"Covenant" holds its own in the time where death metal was emerging in Florida where these guys are based out of. I immediately liked this album because of the first song. But after hearing the whole album, I was mostly impressed with ALL of the rhythms. They are very catchy, thick, low tuned and grinding. David Vincent's vocals fit well with the music and Pete Sandoval did a great job behind the set with all of the tempo changes in the guitar playing. This trio put forth an awesome recording with Flemming Rasmussen working magic with the mixing, production and engineering.

I had to own this album after hearing "Rapture". That sucked me into the grind of this overall dominating piece of work by one of the best lineups that Morbid Angel has ever had. Maybe it wasn't the greatest in the lead department though I deem Trey as being an awesome riff writing musician for the band. He paved the way to making this a great release with his skill behind the rhythm section. David Vincent to me has always been their best vocalist and when he left the band, I kind of lost interest in them in all aspects. Anyway, if you like death metal well played out and finely recorded, "Covenant" hits home with a positive outcome.

Shining dark majesty. - 97%

Empyreal, June 3rd, 2011

In 1993 there was a great, powerful ancient force that rose up and devoured the death metal scene whole! This…is Covenant.

Morbid Angel was such a great band. Their first three albums in particular are some of the finest death metal anywhere, and this one in particular is amazingly good. This is one of the classics; an album that succeeds at being both an atmospheric piece and a brutal, intense musical maelstrom. Built on a basic foundation of chugging, pummeling guitars, rough growls and blistering, hellish melodies, Covenant becomes something greater than just another basic death metal album.

What keeps drawing me back to this is the sense of underlying, subtle melody used. This is a very pugilistic and straightforward album on the surface, with the songs being short and concise, with the tempo varied between midpaced and fast, but underneath all of the bludgeoning guitar antics there also lies a complex, seething and hate-filled sense of melody. On every song, the band blasts and writhes like an angry lion, but underneath the aggression is a forlorn, bleak and at times very frightening sense of arcane melody, slow and desolate and yet somehow dually angry and wrathful, like said lion has been possessed by some otherworldly force of nature.

Like take a look at “Pain Divine” – a fairly speedy, blasting burst of aggression, and it even has a catchy chorus. But below that lies the wickedness of Trey Azagthoth’s guitar leads, which sort of run below it, like water beneath a host of heavy rocks. Or on opener “Rapture,” where the band combines staggering, maniacal drums and grinding riffs along with a more feral and primal sense of weirdness that cannot even be described in text – to me it sounds like a volcanic eruption, or perhaps a crazed madman, possessed by some hellish force, carving 666 into his flesh before going and burning down a building. That is what this song evokes. Malicious, evil and carnal. “World of Shit” is sludgy and doomy, and between the mountainous riffs there are cavernous sections where the band reaches up from some dark abyss and tries to pull you down. What’s down there? Find out for yourself.

It goes beyond even the sense of melody and into the playing itself. Morbid Angel on this album was really pushing boundaries as a band. These days people will listen to this album at face value and expect it to be fast like Altars or brutal like whatever pre-processed crap is shoveled out these days by bands playing ‘how fast can we pro-tool our albums into oblivion.’ But Covenant is a different beast, and should be listened to differently, and with a more careful ear, a lot of subtle layers are uncovered. There is an organic, natural feel to the playing and songwriting here that reminds me of the classic Thrash bands and sometimes, as on “The Lion’s Den” or “Angel of Disease,” with their heavy, concentrated pools of riffing, of even Sabbath and Priest – it’s not about the sound alone, but about that natural feel I mentioned. To me, it sounds like these guys were listening to all the classic bands and thinking ‘how can we make this sound way more fucked up than it is already?’ There’s a hugely traditional bent to the grinding of the riffs, like this is some weird hairy Czechoslovakian cousin to the traditional bands, the sound taken to a new sonic extreme. I would have loved to have been around back in those days, witnessing the historic madness that drove these guys to make this music as weird and insane as it is.

The album continues along with standout moments like the excellent, far-reaching lead at around the 2:30 mark on “Blood On My Hands,” or genuinely catchy choruses as on “The Lion’s Den” or “Pain Divine” – again showing the rather mutated classic-metal influence, like they heard a few songs years ago and felt like trying to recreate the experience in their new form. This might sound like a knock against them, but I think it makes the album even more jarring and off-kilter because you wouldn’t really expect it, although obviously also setting the album up for more commercial appeal. This forms the first layer of the album, which will eventually reveal the more hellish, twisted complexities I have been talking about throughout this review.

Another thing that really works with this is that the band always sounds just seconds away from going complete nuts, just becoming completely unhinged and going on a rampage – but it is always kept in control, and this gives the album the effect of a strange, hellish abyss just held closed by a few seams barely holding on. This is especially evident on the fast songs like “Rapture,” the raving “Vengeance is Mine” and the grinding madness of “Sworn to the Black.” The insanity of Pete Sandoval’s manic drumming is kept in check just enough for him to sound coherent, and the guitars, as snarling and pelting as they are, are reined in by the songwriting just enough so you can see them in full detail – weapons of murder and malice. This was a band on the verge of insanity, and even if they weren’t, they did a good job of making it sound like they were.

But the biggest reason this album sets itself apart from other death metal is the last two songs. “Nar Mattaru” is an incredibly affecting and nifty instrumental piece that takes you to a musty Sumerian tomb where there might be something lurking around the corner, but you’re too scared to go look until the massive, seething dark entity “God of Emptiness” comes and stares you in the face. This is a thoughtful, pensive and yet horrific construct of monolithic guitar dirges, crashing drums and hungry, howling vocals, topped off atmospherically with David Vincent’s amazingly dark, deep intonations: “Like a snake I’m slithering…through my world divine,” and then “BOW TO ME FAITHFULLYYYY…BOW TO ME SPLEN-DID-LYYYYY…” This could have been so tacky, but here it is affecting, powerful and completely singular. Probably the best song Morbid Angel ever did, and what a way to end an album!

This is a classic, and also a work of death metal art that proves the genre can do much with even just the bare minimalistic elements of the sound. Covenant is a towering achievement, and while I don’t think it’s quite the songwriting clinic that Altars was, it easily bests everything else the band ever did (although Blessed is amazing in its own right…). This is a layered and complex work that just gets better with time. Music is about what it makes you feel, and the places it takes you, and Covenant reveals more horrors packed in its 40 minute runtime than most bands do in their entire careers. Some bands just write lyrics about Roman coliseum fights, misanthropy on the world stage, masochism, devil-worship and ancient Lovecraft-esque deities, but Morbid Angel grabs you by the throat with Covenant and makes you experience those things as if they were happening to you. This is a masterclass of terror, a work of atmospheric genius. Bow before it now and forever.

A bullet train to bedlam - 75%

autothrall, April 22nd, 2011

You don't get a chance to review the best-selling death metal album of all time every day. Just once is enough, and if the various arcane and mechanical procedures factoring into this selection are to be believed and up to date, that album is Covenant, the third full-length from Florida's maniacal Morbid Angel. Much like Blessed Are the Sick, this is an album I've long held to be overwrought with excess acts of fellatio from the death metal audience. It's not surprising, as it arrived in that fragile space and time when many brutal subordinates were first exploring the genre. Just in observing the raw numbers it pushed, it's rather obvious that Covenant wound up in the hands of many who had no previous contact with such extremity. But this success might also be partially attributed to the album's visibility, as it was the first of two released through the then-major (now defunct) Giant Records.

I'd also draw attention to the fact that this album is like a cheetah running the 100 yard dash against a motley band of tortoises and beached whales. It's energy might not have held out indefinitely against its shelled and blubbered competitors, but it didn't need to. One burst rush at the finish line, and we have our Gold medalist. Covenant is pretty fucking fast, enough that Pete Sandoval might have turned it into an infomercial for weight loss had be been so inclined. It's perhaps not so explosive and impressive for 1993 as Reign in Blood and Darkness Descends felt in 1986, but it makes the majority of Blessed Are the Sick sound like an overnight IV drip bag. That's not to say the speed necessarily translates into quality. Like its predecessor, I had a subdued reaction to this when it was first released. There were clearly some good moments to be found throughout the 40+ available, but there are definitely a number of full tracks I feel no adverse reaction to skipping entirely, though I've felt more of a 'growing' attraction to this than the sophomore which confounds me today with its fanatical and formidable palanquin of diehard devotees.

The first impressions the album leaves are admittedly rather mixed. I was very psyched that the band had returned to the lethal ballast of Altars of Madness, and yet I found not a single riff throughout "Rapture" to reach said quality, not even the morbid weave of the messy lead. The exhaustion of Sandoval is admirable, but ultimately hollow with no good guitars affixed to it. Thankfully, "Pain Divine" compensates once the first few rhythms burst by into the solemn melodic snaking around :30, and I rather enjoy Vincent's vocals on this, which bear a ghastly countenance not unlike the early Death albums. "World of Shit (The Promised Land)" changes gears to a punishing crawl manifest through thicker bass and a swampy sequence of notes that foreshadow much of Domination and Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, but I'd attest that I like the slower segments than the faster. "The Lion's Den" has a similar flow to it, though more thrashing and concrete, while a few of the other tracks like "Vengeance in Mine" and "Blood on My Hands" have little more than wild, wretched leads to balance off their ceaseless, banal brutality.

Once you dig a little deeper, there are a few more interesting pieces in wait, like the versatile and inspiring "Sworn to the Black", my favorite song of the whole album for its steady, warlike fervor and the slice of the leads. "Angel of Disease", an early Morbid Angel tune being repressed here from their unreleased demo/debut album, is likewise curious, opening with a fairy splattered heavy metal sequence before some great grooves akin to those of the Altars of Madness era. Don't much like the vocals though. "Nar Mattaru" is a mere synthesizer sequence to herald the closer "God of Emptiness", which is yet another quality piece that serves as precursor to the following album, albeit with interesting vocals cast in a deeper, almost demonic narration that makes the listener feel as if he or she were traveling through a dimensional tear to a plane of twisted, formless horrors that will soon devour him/her.

Covenant is produced just as cleanly as Blessed Are the Sick, but there's something absorbing and unusual about its sound. Simultaneously organic and mechanical, the former through the rich and functional fabric of the guitar tone, the latter through the precision with which the band is known to perform. I'm not always able to make it through the play list without skipping at least 2-3 of the tracks, but for the most part it's a solid experience. For all its momentum, there are not as many moments of distinct atmosphere or delicious riffing as Altars of Madness, but it was clearly aimed back in that direction, and certain individual segments stand to memory in the near two decades since their conception. The lyrics are decent, flush with the concepts of the first two albums, and I also love the classical occult appeal of the cover image, which I'd consider more iconic than the music itself. Is there enough hereto justify it as the greatest seller in the whole of the genre? I think not. But at least that acclaim has been placed squarely upon the laurels of something somewhat exciting, something that doesn't suck.


Stoking Hell’s Flames with Sound Waves - 90%

Five_Nails, August 19th, 2010

This being my first Morbid Angel album, and with little other perspective on band’s earlier and later music like the widely adored “Alters of Madness” or the grossly despised “Heretic”, I can’t help but be blown away by the band’s aggression and whirling cyclic style in “Covenant” that creates a chaotic environment with such precise instrumentation.

I’ve used the word straightforward to describe bands before, and I’ll probably keep on using it until I find a more fitting term for such belligerent musical antagonism as was the influential direction of thrash metal and has become a major concentration in extreme metal. For some bands straightforward means aggressive, scene-stealing, and upfront in a way that the music grabs one’s attention, assaults the senses, and through a more accessible general structure offers a focus on artistic rhythmic deviation to demonstrate technical prowess on top of the established technique. For other bands straightforward means a very focused, driving, and aggressive sound with a strong cyclical constant that captures the listener’s attention with an unrelenting intensity where little elbow room is given for deviation. Morbid Angel combines both these sounds artistically involving a focus on a rhythmic constant through harmonic guitar tempos that lead and follow proficiently in “Rapture”, “Pain Divine”, “World of Shit (The Promised Land)”, and “Angel of Disease”, then drives these riffs with rolling double bass kicking, snare cycles that lead the vocals and tend to roll their hits at the end of patterns like in “Vengeance is Mine” and “Blood on My Hands”, blast beats that fade in and out along riffing leads as heard in “Rapture”, and finally utilizes drum kit rolls and fills that deviate conclusions of patterns as in “Sworn to the Black”. In “Pain Divine” this approach adds a new forcefulness to the crisp snare hits following the already violent delivery of the spiraling leads as both a rolling double quick march and a vicious charge during each drifting drum cycle. Between the blasting opening pace and the slowly growing riffing section snare hits become a strong focus in the movement of each cycle as they become the most obvious guide through the center of the whirling riffs. As the song progresses deviation between multiple cycles becomes more apparent as rolls and fills are added to the drums’ percussive rhythm. Morbid Angel perfectly layers the textures of each blast, roll, and fill as drummer Pete Sandoval slowly begins to incorporate the deviations within each cycle culminating in a deviation after every blast beating cycle by the song’s close. This superb delivery offers a constantly rising intensity in “Pain Divine” that is a firm, unrelenting pace and a build to a tumultuous climax.

The riffs are mostly down-tuned brooding harmonies with progressions focused in a more upfront direction toward the overall patterning of each song than toward multi-stylistic progressions like those of Death’s later work. Progressions come in a more basic form emphasizing stylistic deviations at the end of riff cycles and uplifting the percussion section like in “Rapture” and “Blood on My Hands” where the riff template remains generally the same while the ends of riff cycles are the focal point of deviation. Solos, like in “Pain Divine” and “Vengeance is Mine”, break the riffs with long shreds that wail more than wind over the top of the band with stead upward surges pulling away from the remaining sonic vortex. Breaking from this style in the rest of the album, “Angel of Disease” hinges on soloing to become an integral part in the movement of the song as each drive and drop is punctuated by a screaming guitar which leaves and returns to the newly created formula perfectly as though each guitar took the scenic route to the same destination.

A couple of weak points in “Covenant” would be in the vocal and bass departments. Though the lyrics compliment the music well hinging on the expected themes of questioning religion, the horrors and events of Hell, violent acts, and violent acts involving members of different religions both on Earth and in Hell, the vocals have trouble complimenting the music with a hollow sounding guttural that is more comparable to hardcore punk vocals with an extra rasp than full on guttural technique. Where the vocals do compliment the music is in the stomping “Pain Divine” and the slower “The Lion’s Den” where growls come off strongly with a more prominent and powerful delivery, but this doesn’t hold true for every song as the desolate “God of Emptiness” is vocalized very gravely and really hurts the ambiance of the later spoken vocals. “Angel of Disease” is vocalized through layered yells that border screams. This kind of chanting delivery muddies the mix in a few places and sounds rather out of place in the mix, but after a few listens did grow on me. The problem with the bass guitar sound is evident from the beginning of “Rapture” through to when it takes center stage during “Angel of Disease”. There isn’t an bass guitar until “Angel of Disease”. The guitars riff, harmonize, and solo so loudly that the bass center to the band is nonexistent even when balanced according to the unrelenting percussion section. Here and there, bits of bass can be heard in the opening of “The Lion’s Den” or “World of Shit (The Promised Land)” when the band slows it down, but it isn’t until “Angel of Disease” when the bass shines in the breaks and takes center stage in the dropping progression beginning at 2:57 while the guitars quietly solo around the bass lines and prepare to rise again later in the song. Like in most death metal, the bass guitar’s part seems nonexistent but when it does come up, it shines among the rest of the band members. The vocals on the other hand, though proficiently executed at times, still are not up to par with the rest of the music and in too many places fail to compliment the intensity of the rest of the band.

Morbid Angel’s “Covenant” is a very proficient display of death metal technique and musicianship that solidifies the band’s importance in the genre. With a strong focus on straightforward riffing and more complex rolling drum rhythms, Morbid Angel shows off skillful songwriting and musical ability while still playing in a very direct style.

Covenant - 40%

Noctir, June 28th, 2010

Covenant is the third full-length from Morbid Angel. It was recorded in Morrisound and produced by Tom Morris, with additional input from Flemming Rasmussen. The material was then mastered, by Rasmussen, back in Copenhagen at Sweet Silence Studios. Of course, many know Flemming from his work on Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, etc. And, in a way, it is somewhat appropriate since Covenant can be compared to Master of Puppets, to an extent. Both are the third album by their respective creators, and both represent the point where the bands' styles were simplified for mass consumption. Of course, this was Morbid Angel's first album on a major label, as Covenant was released in 1993 by Giant Records, in the states. They also made two promotional videos, for "Rapture" and "God of Emptiness".

Though I don't recall seeing either video until a year or so later, those were the first songs that I heard from this album, played for me by an acquaintance from school. Already familiar with Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick, I was eager to get my hands on another Morbid Angel album. I didn't care about the new label, nor was I concerned by the fact that they had made videos. I was only interested in the music. Still, after a few months of listening, the weaknesses began to show through. Whereas I would always listen to the first two in their entirety, I found myself skipping past some of the tracks on this one. That wasn't a good sign.

"Rapture" served as a good opener; it was simple yet effective. "Pain Divine" built on this with intense drumming and a great tremolo riff that would have fit well into some of the Black Metal of the era. "World of Shit (The Promised Land)" slowed things down, for the first half, but sitll managed to keep my attention. "Vengeance Is Mine" is where things began to get a little boring. Certain issues with the production start to become more noticeable. For one, the drums are way too loud in the mix, and it seems that the songs rely far too much on Pete Sandoval's drumming to carry them along. It's also clear that David Vincent's vocals are a lot more monotonous than on the previous albums. He mostly keeps to the lower end of his range, robbing the songs of a once-dynamic element. Also, regarding the production, the guitars are even muddier than on Blessed Are the Sick, and there's something about this that always bothered me.

As the album continues, "The Lion's Den" is another fairly boring song, seeming too catchy for its own good. The songwriting has been simplified for Covenant, almost as it they were attempting to appeal to a broader audience. The song structures are more basic and, overall, less engaging. And, somehow, the absence of Richard Brunelle seems to detract from the listening experience. "Blood On My Hands" follows suit, containing one or two interesting riffs, but never realizing its full potential. "Angel of Disease" is another re-recorded song from Abominations of Desolation and, though I appreciate the different vocal approach (and possibly different guitar tuning), it almost sounds as if it's from a separate session. While it is one of the more interesting songs on the album, I think that very fact ruined it for me, since I ended up listening to it over and over. With "Sworn to the Black", the deep vocals and mid-paced riffs return. The album is very tiring by this point, as many of the songs sound far too similar. And, again, the memorable and catchy nature of many of them is irritating after the first few listens. After a brief ambient piece, we finally reach the end.

"God of Emptiness" attempts to be dark, epic and filled with a sense of doom. It comes close, at certain moments, but it fails in the end. The gargled vocal effect is detrimental to the overall atmosphere, and some of the riffs are useless and boring. The song is also very repetitive, repeating the same few verses instead of taking a few minutes to write something else. Of course, with the awful effect on David Vincent's voice, it wouldn't really matter what was being said. As the song reaches its conclusion, it improves a bit with another slow riff and come clean vocals, though not too similar to what was found on "Fall From Grace". The album ends on a decent note, possibly leaving many listeners with the impression that Covenant was better than it really was.

Throughout the album's duration, there are far too many parts where the pace is slow yet the drumming is overactive. The drum fills and double bass are quite excessive. Oddly enough, though the band had simplified their sound a bit, they managed to overlook the kind of simplicity that was really needed. The slow riffs should have been accompanied by sparse drumming, and more effort put into developing their ideas instead of playing six variations of the same song. The clearer production only made the songwriting flaws more evident, as well.

Covenant isn't a terrible album, but it doesn't deserve the praise that it gets, either. It's enjoyable, in its own way, but can be very boring an monotonous. While I can listen to Altars of Madness or Blessed Are the Sick multiple times in one sitting, it's difficult to make it through this one without skipping through half of it. This is a simplified version of Morbid Angel, streamlined and aided by an assortment of catchy riffs in order to appeal to the masses. This was their attempt to grow beyond the underground and, to an extent, they succeeded. Unfortunately, it cost them their dignity and tarnished their name. They would make the full transition on their next album.

Bow to Morbid Angel splendidly for this one! - 95%

I_Cast_No_Shadow, January 29th, 2010

There are few albums which have had huge impacts upon me, and Covenant is one of those albums that have helped me amend my list of favorites. Honestly, I never thought I would be liking an old school death metal sounding album again after I was by then into bands like Cenotaph, Internal Suffering, etc. and technical death metal was on the top-notch of my preference, counting the fact that Altars of Madness couldn’t thrill me entirely before. When I inserted seriousness upon this 1993 album, I was merely in a what’s-wrong-in-giving-it-a-try temper, and Covenant just answered a lot more than that expectation of mine.

I believe Covenant plainly describes how the entire death metal genre should be, with characteristics such as straightforwardness, brutality and ferocity. While many may not agree that this is the best from Morbid Angel, I’ve always considered this to be more superior that what they did before and what they have done after this.

Morbid Angel had been a sort of experimenting with their previous releases, and when it comes to Covenant, it’s straight from hell. Second after second, riff after riff it incessantly deliberated the mastery of the three gentlemen – Trey Azagthoth, Pete Sandoval and David Vincent. I sense it is one technical piece, though simplicity has outlined the whole sound, and they haven’t aimed to make the songs sound technical, in purpose.

Trey Azagthoth doesn’t need any foreword, he is a legend in what he does, and his magnificence in riffing and soloing are intelligently portrayed in here. It is his key job that has had my crush on this one – the riffs that are dark but still sound uncomplicated. The opener “Rapture” riff is truly superb, it could raise hair in the back of my neck, and in the first listen itself, it hypnotized me and ordered me to love this form of death metal. His brilliance in guitar works continues to be more intense as the album moves on, where “The Lion’s Den” and “Sworn to the Black” enclose some of the most intelligently created riffs. Songs like “God of Emptiness” and the beginning of “World of Shit (The Promised Land)” exhibit relatively slower paced doom-metal-like parts, yet they do not distract the rage of the rest of the album.

David Vincent has gifted this record which the most guttural sounding vocals of his, amongst all Morbid Angel albums. His malicious throat attack has explained his strong existence in the album, as his bass lines have fairly drenched in Azagthoth’s low and masochistic guitar riffs. In exception, the early made punk-sounding “Angel of Disease” was the one track in which his high pitched rasps didn’t quite impress me, in amid the lowness he has pursued all over the album, and that was my least favorite track.

It is brilliantly disclosed why Pete Sandoval is known as the best drummer in the death metal genre. Right till the end, he is slamming with the same fury, His feet never halted, and he was constantly supplying the intensity to other instruments.

The production is quite raw, but this rawness has actually worked quite well to make it sound more wicked. The sound effects in the song “Sworn to the Black” and the frequent airplane-like sounds in few tracks have also worked fine. I detest such unnecessary effects, but this time they have not hampered anything to the unremitting brutality that these tracks permit.

As a whole, this is indeed a classic death metal album and my favorite one from Morbid Angel. If Hell would have background music, this Morbid Angel album would suit it the best.

The greatest Morbid Angel album? - 90%

MetalSupremacy, August 30th, 2008

Lots of people consider this to be Morbid Angel's best album, and I can see why. There are several good reasons why people think this.

First off, the musicianship. Everything on display here is fantastic - Trey Azagthoth's handling of both riffing and soloing on the entire album works fine, in fact, it works great. His guitar work here is awesome, especially on "Rapture", "World of Shit (The Promised Land)", "The Lion's Den" "Sworn to the Black" and "God of Emptiness". And Pete Sandoval isn't known as one of the best drummers in the entire death metal scene for no good reason. Everything he does here is fantastic. Brilliant rolls, fills, and all of that. It's amazing that anyone can play so fast and for so long - same goes for Trey, these two guys are truly gods in the world of death metal.

And of course, there's David Vincent and his brilliant guttural growls. This is the first album where his vocals are truly guttural - on Altars of Madness, they were more of a rasping snarl, although deep enough to be pretty much growling, on Blessed are the Sick they were deeper, but not quite guttural. But here they are truly guttural, and this fits with the music perfectly. Demonic, vicious, malevolent, and determined, Vincent growls his hatred against Christianity and his belief in Satan throughout song after song, never losing the intensity.

Indeed, one of the most defining qualities of this album is its extremely overt satanism and anti-Christianity. Not quite in a Deicide like way, but it comes close to that level on numerous occasions. Blessed was anti-Christian too of course, but in a much more controlled, calmer way that was less overt and more, well, secretive. Altars was overtly anti-Christian and Satanic a lot of the time, but certainly not all of the time. Of course there were songs like "Chapel of Ghouls" which were extremely satanic, but on Covenant this seems to have been taken to a whole new level. Virtually everything here is stepping away from the Sumerian influences of Blessed are the Sick and some parts of Altars of Madness and right into the brutal satanism that defines a lot of this kind of death metal. Everything here is filled with scorn, hate, and venom for Christianity and by extension, probably all monotheistic religions. And I ain't complaining, this fits the music perfectly and I agree with a lot of what is being said.

So, does the album live up to its reputation as Morbid Angel's best? Is it a true classic of death metal?

To the former, I'm not entirely sure. To the latter, I can resoundingly say yes without any doubt. This may not be Morbid Angel's absolute best album - and it may indeed be slightly overrated. But regardless of this, this album is still a true death metal classic that is truly memorable and awesome in a great many ways.

So, onto the songs.

The album opens brutally with "Rapture". Opening with a fade in to a heavy riff, the brutal riffing starts shortly afterwards. To those of you who hated the numerous breaks and the intro to Blessed are the Sick, rest assured that there is none of that here. This album is pure death metal from start to finish, virtually, with the only exception being "Nar Mattaru" which is a very short instrumental track before the final song on the album, God of Emptiness. So, Rapture goes through a couple of changes, with the riffing and drumming here being truly skullcrushing and brutal, and then David Vincent's voice kicks in at around 48 seconds into the song. This song also has an excellent solo with a slower paced, headbanging riff underneath it. Great opener.

Next is "Pain Divine". While less memorable than the first song, this song manages to do one thing extremely well - it is extremely ferocious and brutal. It opens with an incredibly fast played riff and brutal blast beats and barely slows down for the entire duration of the song. Not great, but still very good.

After this, the awesome song "World of Shit (The Promised Land)" is up. This is a truly brilliant song, and amazingly, it combines two Morbid Angel traits: Sludgy slow riffing and brutal fast riffing. The interesting thing here is that most Morbid Angel songs are one thing or the other - usually, most are fast, with just a couple of slower, sludgier, doomier songs on an entire album. On this album, this is the only song that has any truly slower moments apart from "God of Emptiness". However, unlike God of Emptiness and most other sludgy, slow Morbid Angel songs, "World of Shit" is not consistently slow. It starts out very sludgy in a sort of slowish, mid paced way. And even when David Vincent's vocals kick in at around 31 seconds in to the song, it still stays slow, for the moment. Then, at about 1.10 into the song, the song suddenly speeds up significantly. It then stays this way until the end of the song, pretty much. Excellent song overall.

Next is "Vengeance is Mine". Again this song is fast, but thanks to the unusual nature of the previous song, it is not boring. This song is truly demonic, satanic, and anti-Christian. Very aggressive and brutal as always. Well done, and very good, but not exceptional.

Now we get "The Lion's Den" which is easily one of the best songs on the album. Very aggressive and fast again, but more interesting and longer than the previous song. Extremely anti-Christian in an overt, vicious way. Excellent song.

Then there's "Blood on my Hands" which is again very good. Here the riffs are just a little bit slower than the previous two songs. This is excellent however since it gives the album more variety without making it too slow. Certainly, this is still brutal and fast in most aspects. Not as memorable as "The Lion's Den" but still excellent.

This leads into the next song, "Angel of Disease" - which is, to be brutally honest, my least favourite thing on this album. The biggest reason for this is that this song feels totally out of place next to the other songs. This is an old song, re-recorded from something done years earlier. It's almost punkish and doesn't feel right with the rest of the album at all. The production actually seems worse, and David Vincent is even using his older. raspy snarl here rather than his deep guttural growl which he uses on the rest of the entire album. Which is fully eight songs. As such, this song is horribly outdated and feels way out of place next to the other songs, which are all new. I generally skip this song. It's not actually bad at all, it just doesn't fit with the rest of the album, IMO.

Thankfully, we are then back to the excellence of before with the brilliant song "Sworn to the Black". The pounding riffs, although a little slower than those on some of the other tracks, are incredibly skullcrushing and brutal. The solos on this song are also fantastic. Easily one of the best songs on the entire album.

Finally, after the short instrumental interlude that is "Nar Mattaru", the fantastic final song of the album, "God of Emptiness" - begins. This is a truly awesome song, and this isn't just because it's sludgy and slow and thus different. It's because this song is dripping with atmosphere, it's incredibly brutal and heavy despite being slower, making it fantastic to headbang to, the riffs are great, and the vocals are amazing.

Considering the incredible speed and blasting of the previous songs on this album, "God of Emptiness" seems to be a little odd a choice to end this fast, aggressive album with. Yet it all comes together wonderfully. This also opened the gateway for Morbid Angel to start adding one, or two, or more sludgy songs on each following album. After all, this is the first truly slow song Morbid Angel had even done at this point. Sure, there were slower moments on some parts of Blessed are the Sick and for the first minute of World of Shit (The Promised Land). But this song is consistently slow and sludgy, which sets it apart from all of those songs.

I still cannot decide for sure if this is the best Morbid Angel album, or if Altars of Madness is. But it's certainly a classic of their discography and of death metal as a whole. This album is mandatory for any death metal fan.

Vengeance Is Their! - 96%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, September 21st, 2007

Usually the third album of a band is the best one and I must say that, in my opinion, this Morbid Angel's effort belongs to this theory. The third album often mixes the influences from the early works with the experience they accrued during those years. Ok, now imagine the brutality of their first work mixed with the doomish influences of their second one with the experience and, more or less, you have Covenant.

This album is simply great. The songwriting is always inspired and the musicians are incredible. The very early influences still can be found in the first track “Rapture”. Here the first things you can hear are the great technical guitar work during the rhythmic parts and the fast drums one. This song features fast bass drum and an incredible violent guitar work, so evil but very catchy.

The production is quite raw but extremely evil and purposely meagre. The instruments sound so obscure, especially the always fast bass drum; in this album Pete Sandoval is incredibly fast with that one…no relax for his feet. Never! The solos, as usual, seem to come from another world: they have a strange, weird melody but everything results also very catchy.

“Pain Divine” is incredible with its blast beats and up tempo, they are mixed perfectly. Here David Vincent is awesome both during the refrain and the other parts. The drums are like a fucking train and the solos are fucking fast, with tremolos, tapping parts and so one. A perfect song.

“World Of Shit (The Promised Land)” (what a fantastic title!) is extremely doom at the beginning but after few seconds, the violence is unleashed with fast drum rolls and blast beats. The solos melodies are incredible, but the real songs-masterpieces come with “Vengeance Is Mine” and “Lions Den”. In these tracks Morbid Angel reach the top in speed, song writing, blasphemy and technical parts.

Seems that no one can stop the fury of a crazy drummer and the fast solos. Vincent's growls, so inspired by Cronos but heavier, describe the tortures and the deaths of the Christians, operated by the Romans in the arenas. Oh, fuck…simply orgasm for my ears and my mouth when I sing those lyrics.

The only track that stands out from the other ones (in genre and songwriting, surely not in beauty) is the punkish “Angel Of Disease”. This is quite different, with no too common melodies for a Morbid Angel album. I don’t like it to much but it has great and neverending guitar solos! The doom melodies of “God Of Emptiness” close this album.

In conclusion, my favourite Morbid Angel album. It's a perfect mix of their two early works with a great evil production and fucking obscure lyrics. I cannot stop listening to it…a milestone of a different way of playing death metal, more based on the technical, evil and weird instruments’ work.

“Beasts awaiting, restless…circus victims panic struck; Christians standing breathless…scream arena butchery!!”

A Truly Brutal Album - 95%

Zoanthropic_Paranoia, February 15th, 2007

This was the first Morbid Angel album that I ever picked up in a store and bought (however I did buy "Blessed Are The Sick" the same day but I listened to "Covenant" first). I had heard of Morbid Angel before of course and had heard a few tracks off the "Heretic" album however I like to explore the roots of metal bands and through word of mouth I heard that "Covenant" was a truly awesome listening experience. I must say, those words have never been truer.

Most Brutal/Technical Death Metal bands try to be over the top and too technical for their own good, however in the case of Morbid Angel they create something in "Covenant" that is both extremely technical but not over the top and too extravagant for it's own good.

Each track on this album has at least one fantastic guitar shred solo if not more. The drums of Pete Sandoval pummel through your ears like a heart attack. Morbid Angel has created something truly relentless here. Instead of rehashing the same thing over and over again like so many Death Metal bands do anymore. Morbid Angel reinvents themselves on "Covenant" and it shows. Not only have they progressed musically and technically but they have progressed as a band as a whole. The music just seems so much more together on this album than any of the previous ones. They don't reinvent the wheel or anything like that but they have transcended the line they created on "Blessed Are The Sick" and the result is astonishing.

It's hard to imagine a Death Metal world without Morbid Angel. “Covenant" stands among the 'classics' of Death Metal albums. It is an album one can come back to for inspiration fifty years from now and still get a feeling of awe from it.

When regression and progression come together - 97%

Noktorn, September 2nd, 2006

By 1993, Morbid Angel had cultivated an impressive following. So impressive, in fact, that they, like a number of top tier death metal bands at the time, had begun to recieve attention from mainstream media outlets which had recently begun to take note of extreme metal. This was in no small part helped along by MTV's playing of such artists on their 'Headbanger's Ball' metal show. But more importantly was Earache Records' (one of if not the largest extreme metal specialty labels in the world) attempted partnership with Giant Records (a subdivision of Warner Broters, Inc.). This partnership was a move to theoretically bring metal into the mainstream and accordingly increase revenue for both labels.

Morbid Angel's third album, 'Covenant', was one of the first products of this unadvised marriage, as well as the first extreme metal album released on a major label. With an emphasis on the 'extreme'. Any fears that one might have had over Morbid Angel toning down their musical assault for a major label would be immediately alleviated upon hearing the opening riff of 'Rapture'. Even more unusual is the fact that the LP included an explicit content label, the only Morbid Angel album to carry it. The later pressings of 'Covenant' omit the label, however, which makes it seem more like a marketing ploy than a 'legitimate' tag.

The band had changed significantly in the time between 'Blessed Are The Sick' and 'Covenant'. Second guitarist Richard Brunelle had left (for, in his own words, simply not trying hard enough), leaving only the savage trio of David Vincent, Trey Azagthoth, and Pete Sandoval. This reduction in manpower resulted in songs that were faster, simpler, and many, many times more aggressive than their precessors. 'Covenant' is quite possibly the most violent release in Morbid Angel's lengthy catalogue.

I'd imagine that 'Covenant' was quite a surprise when it came out. Coming off the heels of 'Blessed Are The Sick', a slower, more elaborate and grandiose album, 'Covenant' seems to be a direct continuation of their debut, 'Altars Of Madness'. It lacks the complex structure of it's parent, but makes up for it in pure, seething rage. The intense vitriol of 'Covenant' is really what sets it above most other DM albums. There's something excruciatingly vindictive about 'Covenant'; one could say it almost approaches brutal death metal at times.

'Covenant' opens up with yet another Morbid Angel classic in the form of 'Rapture'. The tremolo riff that opens it is instantly recognizable and utterly vibrating with the misanthropy that defines the album. It has a tension-laced quality of repressed anger that immediately explodes in a fury of double bass drumming. However, the song truly ignites when David Vincent's vocals begin to roar over the blast beats (very likely some of the fastest at the time). As a companion piece to this track, we get another crucial track in the form of 'Pain Divine', an obscenely fast and terrorizing number that is devastating even now.

Before we go on, let's examine the legendary David Vincent's performance on 'Covenant'. His basswork is, as usual, buried in the morass of Trey Azagthoth's furious guitar work, but his vocals in some ways peaked at this album. Impressively guttural for 1993, he seems to be vomiting his lines with absolute frenzied conviction. There are portions on this disc where his animalism reaches dizzying highs and he transforms into some raving lunatic whose only mission is the destruction of mankind. His lyrics, fitting the pattern of the album, are also stunningly heartless and brutal ('Confront me unholy ones/Bastard saints scorn of the earth/I summon thee now poison me/Death under will burn in my soul/), and yet at the same time more minimalist and sparse than the more detalied works of 'Blessed Are The Sick'. They still exhibit Morbid Angel's familiar praise of strength and power, but it is in this case derived from a metaphorical casting aside of shields and instead taking up an additional sword against not just Christendom, but versus the whole universe, it seems.

This LP rarely slows down, but it is certainly devastating when it does. 'World Of Shit (The Promised Land)' gives a warning in the form of the sort of sewer-riffage that would make appearances on later Morbid Angel albums like 'Domination' and 'Gateways To Annihilation', albeit in a rawer form more remniscient of contemporaries such as Obituary and Autopsy. It is however still laced with Azagthoth's distinct style of riff-smithery that is unmistakable in its innate grasp of rhythm and tonal dynamics. Of course, the impatience of 'Covenant' refuses to stay down for long before the song bursts into it's frenzied blasting assault on all things decent. Perhaps a word about the nature of that blasting is in order, to properly describe its evil.

Pete Sandoval was (and in many circles still is) known as the essential center of metal drumming. His work on 'Covenant' may be the pinnacle of his abilites. His speed is unmatched on tracks like 'Rapture', and his choice of rhythms is, as always, flawless when mirroring guitar or vocals, on, for example, 'Vengeance Is Mine'. Notable is his increased used of non-ostinato snare rhythms that function well at accenting the guitars. His technical work on this album is not tremendous, but it need not be: 'Covenant' is designed to be a simple, primitive album, and it functions well in this regard. However, perhaps what drives his performance up so tremendously is the incomprehensibly fantastic production of his kit. Every sound it emits is an utter joy to hear due to its very skilled production. The snare is sharp, flat, and slightly loose, increasing the sustain and beauty of that element. Cymbals are well recorded in all their different shades and timbres. In toms, a tonal distance and preservation of their individual tonal properties is an excellent quality. Finally, his bass drums are deliciously untriggered and possess that menacing rumble of marching armies that make early 90s death metal such a joy to listen to.

'Covenant' rarely lets up, but still maintains each song's unique qualities. Mention any song from this album to a Morbid Angel fan and they will grin and poorly replicate a rhythm, lyric or melody; with parts as giddily transgressive as the miniscule drum/vocal break of 'The Lion's Den', who could resist? In fact, almost all of these songs are known and loved by Morbid Angel fans, and, to a lesser degree, the metal scene as a whole. 'Covenant' is chock-full of tracks that routinely form part of Morbid Angel's set list: 'Rapture', 'Blood On My Hands', and 'God Of Emptiness' are omnipresent at an MA concert. Perhaps the oddest song on the release is 'Angel Of Disease', the punky rhythms and vocals of which are clearly the result of much earlier writing.

The album concludes with the two part feature of 'Nar Mattaru' (the usual Morbid Angel ambient track of keys and bass drones) and 'God Of Emptiness', one of the most famous tracks Morbid Angel ever released. Surely the introduction to many metalheads due to its appearance on an episode of 'Beavis And Butthead', it still stands as one of their crowning achievements. The only song that stays at a low tempo throughout, 'God Of Emptiness' slithers about describing the tale of the fall from grace of man. The quality that makes this song so essential is almost unquantifiable; is it the 'progressiveness' of such a track on a release that is mostly defined by its good-natured regression? Is it the subject matter that is blasphemous yet utterly logical and clean? Either way, the track is brilliant on its own merits and works as the perfect end to a stunning album.

While 'Covenant' isn't quite as loved as the first two Morbid Angel LPs by the community at large, I consider it nearly flawless in its own right. While the chance of another album topping 'Altars Of Madness' is slim, 'Covenant' does a fine job at surpassing it in utter uncompromising brutality towards everything in its past. A mandatory release historically, philosophically, and artistically.

Covenant - 95%

C_Dub, October 11th, 2004

Indeed, I will waste no time on this one. Morbid Angel are the masters of Death Metal, of course one of the first and most definitely the breakthrough Death Metal band. I myself have heard all of their albums, and I must say, every one of them is just bad ass, an awesome, Covenant, is no different, but indeed unique. Morbid Angel comes to your with their fourth Full Length album "Covenant". Coming after three very impressing albums, this one had very high expectations.

It starts out with an awesome song in "Rapture". You can feel the Brutality coming and then it kicks right in with the drums hitting and kicks into that speedy, brutal riff, that is most surely one of the best to mosh to. David Vincent is just awesome in this album, his Vocals are one of my favorite, and the best, no doubt, in Death Metal. He gives the feel of power and supremacy. Yet he has that agonizing shrill in his voice and yell/scream. Not really a growl, even better. Of course, who is, there is Trey Azagthoth, The Master. His guitar playing on this album is awesome. He delivers song after song with crunching riffs and speedy solos that everyone can enjoy. Then there are the drums. Pete Sandoval, the "Commando", is as awesome as ever. I always thought he gave an awesome performance, his fast tempos, excellent rolls and fills just add to the power of the album. Every single song, from "Pain Divine" to "The Lions Den" to "Angel of Disease" is just brutal, fast, and harsh. It's so sick and amazing.

The stand out tracks for me is of course "God of Emptiness" probably one of my favorite Morbid Angel song of all time, somewhat a slower pace, but awesome. "Rapture", "The Lions Den", and "Angel of Disease" are true stand out tracks, for me. There is one however, as anyone who has listened to this album has noticed, titled "Nar Mattaru" that is just so different, but in a good way. The song itself is not much, very minimal yet very mysterious and eerie. I am still not sure about this track, it seems to fit, even though you don't think a doom-ish track like this would. Sort of an impending doom feel, which bleeds into the final track "God of Emptiness". Definitely check out those songs.

Now the lyrical content is indeed interesting. I love reading them as the music plays along and it adds so much more atmosphere for me. I can see images of a man on fire from the song "Vengeance is Mine" or an a man defying God in "God of Emptiness". Most of the lyrics, to sum it up, are filled with anger, disgust, hate, and pain. Indeed they are written wonderfully though, fitting in with Vincent's vocals.

I think this album stands up to the previous three and challenges the throne for the best with "Altars of Madness." This is my personal favorite album by Morbid Angel, a must have for any fan of this band, Death Metal, or Metal in general, hell rockers may even enjoy it. If you take the time to devote just a little more than 40 minutes of your time to this album, listening to every part: Guitars, Drums, Vocals, of course Bass too. Read the lyrics and "feeling" the power, it is without a doubt worth the money you paid for it.

An amazing album indeed.

Covenant - Greatest Death Metal Album Ever - 98%

alteredstate, August 28th, 2004

Morbid Angel has been one of the leading forces of the death metal genre and one of the more innovative bands in death metal, and Covenant is their finest hour. This album takes what Blessed Are the Sick was and improves on it. But this album isn’t Blessed Are the Sick Part 2, it stands on its own as a great death metal album.

One of the first things I noticed that separates this from the previous Morbid Angel releases is that the lyrics aren’t predominantly of the “hail satan” nature. The lyrics deal with a broader array of subjects like ancient times, organized religion, and revenge. But for those of you who just love the satanism in Morbid Angel, don’t worry, it’s still there in songs like “Rapture” and “Angel of Disease”.

The songs are more diverse in this album too. The lightning fast drumming, the shredding guitars, and the terrifying vocals are still there, but on songs “World of Shit (The Promised Land) and “God of Emptiness” there is the presence of a slow groove and melody. And on “God of Emptiness”, vocalist/bass player actually sings melodically! But it only adds to the dark atmosphere of the album (as if there wasn’t enough).

Songs like “Rapture” and “Sworn to the Black” feature some of the best work from technically accomplished guitarist Trey Azagthoth. Pete Sandoval still is the master of the drums and has the fastest feet in metal. In songs like “The Lions Den”, the double bass drumming is so fast, it sounds like a lawn mower engine. Dave Vincent sounds like he is possessed by the devil himself as he spews terrifying lyrics. Needless to say I am amazed at the musicianship on this record. Everyone gives 110% and the brutality is present throughout the entire record. This is a record that I suggest all extreme metal fans should purchase right now!

Godhead...Sheer Godhead!!! - 100%

corviderrant, February 28th, 2004

This for me was the last really good, consistent album MA released, and I don't care what anybody says otherwise. The production, by Flemming Rasmussen, could have had a more immediate drum sound (less echo, more in your face) , but everything else works for me just fine.

"Rapture"...fabulous opening riff that gets my attention and speeds up my heart rate with every listen, with Trey's trademark odd syncopation and sense of groove making my head bang and my hands air guitar uncontrollably every time. And then when the blast beats kick in and David opens his mouth...ohhh, MAN is that evil!!! David was at the apex of his ability on this album, and his vocals are the (Un)Holy Grail of death metal; deep, guttural, and distorted, yet still almost perfectly coherent. Every syllable dripped contempt, anger, disgust, sheer vehemence. Lots of shredding all over this tune, Trey owns it and how.

"Pain Divine"--"Welcome to the state of Gods!" Another blaster with intense riffing and more of Pete's flawless drumming, but not as fast as you'd expect. What this lacks in speed it more than makes up for with its overall merciless delivery and precision, until right before the solo section when Pete steps on the gas and mows you down with a short yet sweet blast part that hits like a baseball bat to the head! Trey really goes berserk on this one.

"World of Shit (The Promised Land)"--OOF! A horridly evil, lurching doom riff launches this tune into a nice Sabbathy feel, with David declaiming disgust for the world before him--until all hell breaks loose with the most light speed blast beats that Pete had ever recorded at the time! And unlike many drummers today, he alternated snare and kick strictly and perfectly even at these insane tempos. A whirlwind of roaring guitars and mixmaster drumming!

"Vengeance Is Mine"--Another vicious, pedal to the floor number that exudes evil and hatred, perfectly suiting the title. I cannot emphasize enough how frightening David's vocals are.

"The Lion's Den"--"Where is your god, as your friends now meet their end!" Ohhh, yeah! This one always gets me banging in no time flat, with Pete's relentless double kick fuelling the song's misanthropic message concerning ancient Christians perfectly. The middle bit, where everything but the vocal and drums drops out, shows all just how Pete does, playas! That ending riff, with its chugging 32nd notes and chromatic descent, trills and all, makes me break out in a demented grin because it just feels so good!!!

"Blood on My Hands"--ACK...yet more terrifying blast beat destruction from Mr. Pete Sandoval that outdid everyone out there at the time and still does to this day. And more syncopated 7-string riffing from Trey--this was the first album he used that instrument on and made it work for him and how--who makes that thing sound more mean and ugly than most wankers do these days.

"Angel of Disease"--A throwback to the "Altars" days, this sounds like, and has the ultimate slow groove section, where David steps out a little on the bass, right before the cooking solo section that inspires reckless bouts of wild headbanging.

"Nar Mattaru"--A creepy sound collage that sets the mood and stage for the ugliest, doomiest MA tune ever..."God of Emptiness" is godhead. That opening riff--hell, that opening CHORD, an open B flat 5, sounds like it came from the depths of Hell Itself!--says it all. And David is at his venomous best, condemning the weak Christian god in no uncertain terms "I offer fantasy/And you, "Creator", blind with envy!" The spoken parts are sinister as all get out, and I really like his sung vocals at the end of the song, whic he pulled off live too. Deep and sonorous, and carrying a sense of heartbreaking yearning that only Lucifer, and all those who are outcast like he was, knows.Pure perfection...

This, again, was the last really good MA album for my money, and DAMNED if it isn't perfect in every way for me...

Good music marred by muddy-as-hell production - 85%

BabySchraiberJesus, August 15th, 2003

First of all, this is my first review. Second, I can't believe that there are only 2 reviews so far for this album. Perhaps it has the curse of being on a major label. However, Morbid Angel didn't take everything that normally comes along with that. Now, understandably, MA's earlier releases had subpar production, but this one quite baffles me. Why, when you're on a major, do you let yourself sit with this muddy nonsense? I guess they didn't want to make their music spiffy clean and be accused of selling out. However, regardless the crappy production, this is a great album. With a good pair of headphones, you can actually hear it pretty well, too.

Now on to the actual music. Covering a relatively large amount of ground for a death metal album, with tempo changes aplenty, disonnant solos, and tons of tremolo and alternate picking. The album couldn't really be considered "brutal" as a lot of death metal is, though it is at times very fast. I think that the production is to blame for this, as it takes away some of the in your face factor. Too much low end!

However, Trey Azagthoth obviously knows his way around a guitar, and you can sense that he can play, perhaps, even better than he lets on. His guitaring is definitely very influential in death metal, and if you don't believe me, just take a listen to this album. You'll hear shades of it in everything from Nile to Opeth. Pete Sandoval solidifies his place as one of the most accomplished drummers in metal, playing awkward times, fast blasts, and some unbelievable double bass work. He makes it sound so easy. The vocalist/bassist with the coolest name, David Vincent does his duty on the bass here, providing a nice rubble to Trey's guitar.. at least when you can hear it. His vocals are very harshly growled, and on the first listen, I felt they were off time with the music, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.

On the bad side, some of the riffs are just plain boring. Just alternate picking the 6th/7th string (I don't know which guitar he used on this album) in a manner that could work with more intese production (see: Reign in Blood) but it totally fails here. Also, sometimes Pete shows off just a little too much, but this is pretty rare.

To sumarize, this album is pretty rockin', but is marred by muddy, too-much-low production. But the instrumentation is how death metal should sound!

Horrible drumming, mediocre riffs - 48%

UltraBoris, March 15th, 2003

Well, this sounds like about a sixth-rate Pleasure to Kill ripoff. That's really what the riffs are. There's a lot of single-note repetition riffs... one note eight times, another eight times, etc etc. Apparently this is typical "death metal" riffage... but damn if that doesn't sound anything like Possessed, Nocturnus, etc etc. This isn't really an awful album, it is just pretty mediocre. There's one good song on here (Angel of Disease) and then a lot of songs which are generally similar sounding and all pretty mediocre.

The riffage varies in quality, with some occasionally brilliant ones coming in, but generally they are buried beneath a pretty horrible rhythm-guitar tone that de-emphasises the individual notes and goes for a blurry incoherent sound. Oddly enough, the album goes on it gets better, with the guitar tone clearing itself up slightly on the last few songs compared to the first few.

There are some decent riffs. For example, at 1:57 of "Rapture". Below that squealing "solo" is a solid midpaced riff. Also, the solos are pretty damn good. That's the highlight of the album - the lead guitars. But the riffs are just boring as fuck.

Oh and the drumwork - this guy needs to seriously be shot in the head. Do we need a fucking fill every three seconds? I won't bother to name specific examples, they abound. But, what the Hell - first few seconds of Pain Abound. The drums are far too loud in the mix, and what would be actually a halfway good riff is ruined by the interference - of course the riff at 0.26 is far inferior to the one before it, and is again one of those bad "death metal" type riffs. This wouldn't be a bad song, except it's just so... boring. It sounds like a rejected track from Reign in Blood, as it moves forward at the same pace from beginning to end, with the distracting drumbeat underneath.

World of Shit starts off promising - a decent intro riff, though it sounds completely out of tune. This is not in standard tuning, and is probably two off (C or whatever tuning) and the guitar tone is quite forgettable. It's not particularly heavy or dark or scary, it's just kinda there. But still, the slow part is decent, and the song only gets atrocious when it speeds up at 1.08 - this is total grindcore right here. Go ahead and tell me this is death metal, and let me show you Zombie Ritual. The tick-tick-tick drumming is irritating, and the guitar is very generic. "Let's play fast to see if we can catch up with the drummer." Again, the solo is kinda cool, and there is a cool riff at around 2.14. There is another great riff at 3.05, which however quickly disappears into terrible noise, before coming back once more at the end. Yay for the "modern" idea that you're supposed to throw in everything but the kitchen sink when you're out of good solid ideas and the ability to cohesively link them together.

There's a lot of Slayerisms in here... Vengeance is Mine starts off with a similar riff to Rapture - that Divine Intervention styled "Angel of Death or War Ensemble, but without the really interesting part" riff. It's the guitar, really - the notes just blend into each other, and there isn't a good sharpness from note to note. The riff loses distinction and kinda melts. This would be a great song, as the riffage at 0.48 is solid again. The one at 1.45 is much less so. Again, the drummer feels the need to throw in that silly fill all the time. Just contrast that riff with the main riff of the song, which comes back at 2.25 - that is a pretty damn good riff, and if they turned the distortion down from the over-saturating setting, added some viciousness to the guitar tone, and shot the drummer, this would be a good song.

The Lion's Den has a good intro riff, but again disintegrates into indistinguishability soon enough. Then the riff at around 1.47 pretty much sums up this album as a whole: that Kreator-style ripoff riff. Same note 4 times, different note, 4 times, then another 4 times... notes coming in 4's. Don't believe me? Listen to "Ripping Corpse", the riff after the chorus at 1.32. Now imagine THAT guitar tone transplanted to THIS album.

Blood on my Hands... this is starting to get very repetitive, with a lot of very similar riffs. I'm sure the distinctions are there, but the album does suffer from Reign in Blood syndrome, where a lot of the songs just run together without any really distinctive ideas. Another forgettable song, filled with mediocre riffs. Though at the end it gets kind of interesting, with the choppy riff at 3.20 - yes, they discover that by adding more dynamic variation to their guitar, they can increase the quality of their riffs. If it doesn't blend together and fuzz out at the edges, it's more discernable and better. However throw in the awful drumming at 3.31... that's terrible.

Angel of Disease. Whooaaa, now this is where the album momentarily picks up. This has a lot of sections that are solid headbanging material, and if I didn't know any better I'd say it was an Exumer cover. The guitar style picks up a lot, with the riffs being a lot sharper and a lot more defined. Also, there is a lot of tempo changes in the song - like at 1.48, that is a thrash break that would make Sodom proud. "Angel of Disease!" The middle part sounds like something taken from Carnivore... then that leads into a blazing solo. Wow, if all Morbid Angel sounded like this, then they would be quite the good band. Did I mention the drummer is nicely complementing the riffs? Nice fucking riff at 3:46 in after the main solo, and then we go back to the midpaced stuff, with a few fast parts lasting only a second or so thrown in - but oddly enough this works. The only bad part of the song is the 30 seconds of random noise at the end. Otherwise, we have a winner that the rest of the album should aspire to.

Sworn to the Black goes back to the generic style that made the rest of the album so forgettable. Another generally forgettable song - though the solo is very interesting at around the 2.00 point, and there is some decent riffage immediately following it. This isn't as bad as some of the other songs on here, but the beginning and the very end are certainly blending in with the rest.

Nar Mattaru - I'm not gonna ask.

God of Emptiness is another interesting one, but I don't mean that in the good sense. It pretty much turns into a laugher halfway through. It starts off with some slow doomish riffs, but immediately the drummer decides to get all creative on us. Just... shut... up and let the guitars do their thing. Unfortunately this song doesn't really go anywhere. It is sort of like Black Sabbath, but not really, as it lacks the true overwhelming memorability of the riffs. There's a weird middle section that speeds up a bit, and the vocals suddenly get a whole fuckload more evil, but even that can't really save the rest of the song, which just plods along, looking for Saint Vitus but ends up sounding more like Type O Negative... especially that almost self-parody part at "Bow to me faithfully, bow to me splendidly" part... this is death metal?? Oh man, I almost died laughing, what a way to close the album.

So every once in a while this band does get creative, just not in the right way. Too many silly drums, and by the end it really goes off the deep end, with that keyboard piece and then that... oh man, "bow to me splendidly". That makes "Satan's coming 'round the bend" (Black Sabbath of course) sound like the epitome of seriousness. The riffs could use a lot of help, and also the album would benefit from having more than ONE good song on here. It's like that one song is an aberration as it sounds almost nothing like the rest - most of this album is eminently forgettable.