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What it sounded like to me in '98. - 85%

Gutterscream, June 3rd, 2009
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Nuclear Blast

"How do you know if you like something the first time?" my friend Kerry asks me as she reads a list of discount magazine subscriptions. She checks Glamour with a jerk of her pen. The question strikes me as odd, kinda like asking someone if they can tell if they like the new Ben & Jerry's flavor the first time 'round. "I just listen and see if the music does anything for me, just like you do with any new music you buy. Sometimes I don't like it the first time. Sometimes it has to grow on me."

Kerry listened to (hair) metal during her high school years, but her evaluation of a band rode on how cute the members were. "Do you like this?" she asks, marking off Entertainment Weekly. "Yeah, sounds good so far." I say, inspired, as initial track "Bizarre Cosmic Industries" barges through with a slightly epic flair. "What do you like about it?" I scan the bio. "Well, it's got atmosphere," I say, and I think she probably thinks I mean something about gravity. "Hear that piano chime in? That's something you may not expect, especially from this line-up." "Who's in the band?" she asks almost excitedly, as if she may recognize someone. I read off stage names that were formerly in bands like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Mayhem, and Arcturus and toss her the b&w band photo. She looks at me like I have three heads and shoves the picture back to me. She especially likes drummer Hellhammer's pseudonym and says she's going to name her first born after him (which she didn't - reneger!) . "What else do you like about it?" she says. "I'll let you know," I say. "I haven't listened to the whole thing yet."

"Planetarium", "Dragonheart", "The Last of Dragons", "Planetary Black Elements", and "Chariots of Thunder" trounce through, and I'm surprised she manages to sit through all that without killing herself. "Well?", she asks. While unconsciously looking at the cd player I say, "not many blast beats at all, which is grand...", and I can tell by her look she has no idea what a blast beat is, and I don't do impressions. "There's lots of good keyboard harmonies, adding more atmosphere to the songs. The beginning of "Bringer of the Sixth Sun" has a cool ring to it, kinda like In Flames. It's got a good production from Woodhouse Studio in Germany. Nagash's vocals are cool, almost legible in a deranged sorta way." I ask her if she heard those background female vocals in "Dragonheart" and she silently mouths 'no' without looking up from her subscription checklist. "Well, that's more atmosphere," I say. She picks up the inlay. I continue, "yeah, it's a good album...complex songs without getting too intricate." She says, "Why does it say 'Covenant of Norway'?" and I respond, "Probably means there's another Covenant out there." I look at her suspiciously, "What'd you think?". "Whatever", she says, powered by absolutely no interest, and checks off New Woman.

I guess they weren't cute enough for her.

Originally written in '98 for some magazine, but I don't remember which. Sometimes I had to write four different reviews of the same album for four different zines. Now that's a pain in the ass.

Astral - 95%

The_Ghoul, June 24th, 2008

There comes a time when a community gets so schismed that the two sides become enstranged to the point of unrecognition. It appears to have happened in the case of "traditional", or heavy/speed/power metal, and "extreme" (death/black) metal. When bands are brave enough to include influences from "the other side", they often get blasted to no limit.

That being said, Nexus Polaris is by no means speed metal or power metal. It's not even blackened speed or blackened power metal, which would be understandable. Sure, it has a few power-y riffs here and there, but this is mostly experimental black metal. And no, Kalmah or COB do not qualify as power metal or speed metal and comparisons between Nexus Polaris and them is not tantamount to a comparison between Nexus Polaris and power metal.

The actual music is really great, being both morbid and astral, like some macabre astral opera. Riffs ebb and flow, jumping out only to quickly concede to the orchestral swells. While I normally hate Sarah "fatass" Jezebel Deva's singing, here it is used appropriately, in ways tastefully, unlike Cradle of $hit. What to expect here could be construed as black metal, but is has melodeath influences (think Dark Tranquility, not At The Gates) as well as the aforementioned power metal influences. However, it is solidly in the black metal camp, as many riffs bear resemblance to In the Nightside Eclipse or, even though Sinful would come along much later, Sinful's epic opus ÎÌÓÒ. That being said, a cosmic opera would not be a far off description of Nexus Polaris. I'd even go as far as to say that they did what Arcturus tried to do on The Sham Mirrors, but with much more success and listenablity. Not that The Sham Mirrors is a bad release (far from it actually) but that Nexus Polaris is that good.

If you like black metal with lots of melody, riffs, and epic swells, get Nexus Polaris.

Nexus Polaris - 97%

Henceforth, May 31st, 2006

I'm a follower of the Covenant/Kovenant throughout its existance, from the violent genesis in 'Times Before The Light' to the electro-moody music in SETI. I'll point out and actually review this album.This album reaches a peak of musicianship and songwritting that dwells in fields between Power metal, some Black metal taint and instrumental passages.

WARNING: If you look for straight forward Black Metal, go look somewhere else!

'The Sulphur Feast': The album opens with with an oriental atmosphere on this song. As a dark chorus brought by Sarah Jezebel starts. After an intro, pedal drumming kicks in, mirroring a strong guitar riff. After this, a more rythmic section begins and runs Around 1:35 a guitar solo begins sliding onto a rebirth to the starting point of the song. The bass doesn't have much prominence, but it IS perfectly audible for a tamed ear. At 2:27 a more epic atmosphere starts with some keyboard work untill it reaches a nice, closed-up riff. Nagash's vocals are quite unique and less scratchy than in ITBTL.

'Bizarre Cosmic Industries': This song has a lot brighter beginning and a more droning continuity. Something to crack your neck to untill it slides into an excellent keyboard work and quiet riffing, a nice passage that makes this quite memorable, and a good drumwork [and i don't mean in it the brutal, black metal way]. It has many sections that have a more quiet atmosphere untill the machine-like chorus starts. A bit more quiet bass work than in the previous song.

'Planetarium': Probably my 2ndfavorite song in this cd. It starts with some shout outs off the riffing and a lot more decrepit atmosphere. A fitting lyric decision for this kind of melody. No Jezebel's vocals on this one.The bass work has a lot more prominence, due to the more sharp guitar work on a much higher pitch that fits into Nagash's vocals that seem demented!. The drumming is mid-paced, with some cuts onto the rythm. A terrific work, the guitar work seen on the beginning of Sulphur Feast spans once more around the 2:50 mark.

'The Last Of The Dragons': A song with a much faster pacing, good keyboard work [that may remind you of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant by Dimmu Borgir], faster, mid-deep shrieks. Some sporadic solos and ongoing guitar-keyboard sections. Neat 2:31, a dynamic speed kicks in, onto 3:00 where the song breaks after a solo. Then the oriental mood spans, the rythm slows down and a different, much more decadent atmosphere kicks in. Probably the song where Nagash has more versatility [from slithering growling to demented screaming near the end]. Nice audible bass, unlike many metal records out there.

'Bringer of The Sixth Sun': To a non-Covenant listener, this may be the most memorable song. This is unlike any other song on the album. The guitar riff might strike you as folk-influenced, and the keyboard work resembling to some of Stormlord's older work. This contains a much more mood than the rest of the songs, an epic surrounding and a speed-up at 3:20 containing a solo that. Galloping riffs around 4:10 mark, less of Nagash's vocals, that tend to be more poignant towards the end. It ends up nicely with Jezebel's vocals setting a nice epic feeling. A real masterpiece.

'Dragonheart': Kicks in with blast-beat influenced drumming brought by Mayhem-famed Axel von Blomberg [aka-Hellhammer]. To some, this may be the more Black-Metal-thought-out song, yet it belongs to a much different field among a different vein, towards more a Therion approach. Around 3:00 a couple of strikes on the listener. Jezebel's work is fantastic on this song, it has some less versatile, yet effective drumming.

'Planetary Black Elements': This song has a potential of being exhausting, yet the originality of the guitar work erases such possibility, if you think of several parts of this song, the female vocals are the ones with the most importance throughout this song and make a nice setting for the faster paces throughout the second half of the song. Not my favorite, but still worth listening.

'Chariots Of Thunder': My favorite song. This has a 'preview' of what some of the songs in Animatronic would be. It begins with a reciting by Nagash. This song contains not such audible bass lines, a bit tired drumming and a slower pace. This song can be an outro filled with some rythmic work on the music and asonant vocal work. For this song, you must really be in the mood, or else you might skip it. It contains the second best guitar work on it towards 2:30 [first being the 6th track] and brings forth some industrial sampling seen only rarely on the opening of this cd. Shrieky, calm vocal work by Nagash. This has a more hope-bringing atmosphere towards the end [opposite to the cliched Black Metal idiosincracy] with some militar drum continuance. Excellent close up!

Overall, it's an excellent album if you look for something experimental and memorable. You might give this a few spins before digesting it if you're a Black-Metal-only listener. You may love this album or you may be bored by a more saturated sound. I recommend this to anyone seeking for epic, riff inffluenced songs. Worth a buy, definitely.

This Is Very Flawed. - 65%

Lunar_Strain, May 11th, 2006

And, here, we have an album that seems to get alot of hype.. A hype I did not get.

This album, to me, was boring. And in no way, was it Black Metal. The songs on this are composed in a way that it resembles Power Metal than Black Metal. In fact, there is nothing "Black" about this album. What we have here is.. a problem. While I like The Covenant/Kovenant, I detest this release.. and i'm here to say way.

We all know that Black Metal ia supposed to be aggressive. Sure, Melody is fine in Black Metal, but when the sound is overpowered, it cannot be called "Black Metal". It cannot be deemed Black Metal is the music in general is not Black Metal, and that is what we have here. There are alot of things wrong here, and one of them is the guitar work. The guitars sound.. eh. They're mediocre, but it's the riffage that has major problems. These riffs are so resemblen to that of COB, Kalmah, TOC ( Throne of Chaos ), and other bands like this. Yes, I just named Power Metal bands. Why? Because that's what these riffs sound like. Not Black Metal, not Death Metal, nothing like them at all. These riffs are Power Riffs, and the show no agressionfor the music. This, is a problem.

Here we have the drumming.. ah, what a shame. Hellhammer is one of the best drummers around, but here, there is no talented showed. We have simplistic drumming techniques shown here on this release, and not one song on them has aggressive beats to them aside from "Dragonheart", which peaks at the beginning with a nice Blast Beat from Hellhammer. Although, the guitar work tends to take the headbanging mood away from you while listening to it. I'm not bashing Hellhammer, but his drumming on this release was just a waste of time and talent.

The keyboards on this release are just simply annoying. They're weak and slow, never taking me anyway with the atmosphere that they're supposed to be setting. The only interesting and nice piece you here from Sverd's skills on this album in the Piano interlude on the "Bizzare Cosmic Industries" track. It's solid and profound, but once it ends, the song dies with it.

Sometimes you can barely hear the keyboards on this track, because Sarah Jezebel Deva has to overcome them with her annoying choir "ooh's and aah's". Being that this was an "attempt" at Black Metal, she has no place in the genre at all. Her vocals are not, in any way, helping to build up an atmosphere to the music. They're just there, like a noise in the backround. It's not fitting the the music at all.

.. And now we come to Nagash' vocals, which are, as always, a pitiful attempt at being Grim. He doesn't even shriek, he just sits there and gnarls and grunts into the mic, most of which, aren't even gutteral or intellegent. Nagash could communicate with a Neanderthal with the way he performs on this release. He may put in a decent sounding piece here or there in a few spots here or there ( and I do mean a FEW ), but the rest are just dumb.

Conclusion: Aside from wasted talent, pointless riffs, poor vocals, and absolutely no bass present, I do not recommend this to anyone unless you're a hardcore fan of The Covenant/Kovenant. This album is weak, boring, and in no way is it a Black Metal release.

Black Metal Masterpiece - 95%

ExPresidents, February 16th, 2005

The Covenant's Nexus Polaris is a layered and complex album with superb production that has set the standard for years to come. From Lex Icon's searing vocals to the majesty of Steinar Sverd Johnsen's beautiful keyboards to the blistering drum mastery from Hellhammer, this album is quite possibly one of my favorites ever. The bands sound is so cohesive on this album that every song sounds like a new masterpiece, never treading over the same path all the while pushing a new threshold in every aspect. Lex's vocals shine on every song while Sverd's keyboards enhance every track, especially his piano work on Bizzare Cosmic Industries which would later set the mold for his piano work on Star-Crossed from the album The Sham Mirrors by Arcturus. The layered guitars of Astennu and Blackheart mesh together perfectly and create a dark atmosphere that has become The Covenant's signature sound on this album. Topping it all of is Sarah Jezebel Deva's soaring vocals floating in and out of the album, but never making it too effeminate even for the most hardcore black metal fan. In fact, I consider this one of her most amazing vocal performances from any band she has ever sang for.

Nexus Polaris will reshape and remold the way you perceive black metal in general, and will leave you wanting more. The only thing I still cannot grasp is that this album was released 8 years ago, definitely engraving their place in the history books for many, many years.

Very well done and excellent black metal. - 94%

Minion, November 14th, 2003

This is the last release the band would ever do before losing their name, and it is an excellent portrait of symphonic black metal before everyone and their grandmother jumped on the bandwagon and tried to make it. Nexus Polaris is one of the classic, if oft overlooked, symphonic black metal albums of our time, and should not be missed by anyone.

First, the riffs are awesome, though they do tend to suffer from "Valhalla Syndrome," a.k.a. repetition. In black metal, though, variation is not among the most available tools of the trade, and so this doesn't matter, especially since the band are experts of taking one riff, modifying it here and there, and somehow making it a whole new monster. Hellhammer is of course a fantastic drummer, and here he really shows off his talent instead of the constant wave of meatbeats he gives us in Mayhem. The female backing vocals blend in perfectly with the music and complement it very nicely. Finally, Nagash blends the vocal mastery of Dead and Garm into his own style and delivers a solid performance on the mic.

The songs themselves are well-written and do not repeat a single riff more than necessary. The background vocals do get a bit overused and repetitive, but the guitars and drums will usually drown it out, so you don't have to focus on it more than you should have to. Black metal, as I said earlier, does not exactly offer the riffing variety that, say, progressive metal does, but the band does make use of what it has. Time signature changes even show up, which, I assure you, is a good thing. The keyboards do have a time catching up, but overall it isn't noticeable. Each song is solid, so there is nothing in need of skipping throughout the whole album.

At the end of the day, Nexus Polaris is worth a purchase. Sure, it has its flaws, but then again, few albums don't. This is symphonic black metal that doesn't suck, and fans of the style Dimmu Borgir abdicated for a more droning, mallcore sound will love this.