Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Covenant - Brave New World

Let us return to that kitchen prep hall I mentioned in the last review, where my younger brother and I are listening to a lot of HIM and that one song by The Kovenant, among other things. We were in a used record store buying used CDs, as was the custom back then when people still listened to CDs. My younger brother decided, entirely on a whim, to buy an album by Covenant titled “Northern Light.” The Kovenant, spelled with a “K” was unknown to us back then, we thought it was the same band and even though neither one of us could identify a single song on the album my kid brother, adventurous as he is, decided to pick it up.

We loved it.

You see, we were also listening to a lot of VNV Nation in that prep hall and Sweden’s electronic band Covenant, spelt with a “C,” is a fine contributor to that whole music scene. We were a little thrown off at the clear difference in style compared to “Mirror’s Paradise” by Kovenant, and it took a year or so before we discovered the small, but important spelling difference.

I had thought this mix up was a silly mistake made exclusively by the two of us, but no, apparently this was actually a big thing. Kovenant, of Norway, used to be Covenant but were sued and forced to change their name to “The” Covenant, but that did not work either because there was already a Dutch metal band called The Covenant, because of course there was, so The Kovenant was the final name for the Norwegian metal band discussed in the last review.

Nonetheless Covenant, the Swedish one, and their 2002 fifth studio album “Northern Light” was enjoyed among one half of the Kelly brothers so much that my same kid brother went out and got their at the time new album “Skyshaper.”

We loved it.

“Skyshaper” came out in 2006, and holy shit, that was eleven years ago, where has the time gone.

I really enjoyed songs like “Call the Ships to Port,” “We Stand Alone,” and “Invisible and Silent,” off of “Northern Light” so it seemed doubtful that a better offering of music could have been put forward by the Swedish electronic band, but Covenant delivered with “Skyshaper.” From the fantastic opening of “Ritual Noise” to the satisfying ending of “The World is Growing Loud” a more or less perfect electronic album exists. There are a great couple of humours, but somewhat introspective songs like “Happy Man” and “The Men.” More than anything the track that stood out to me was “Brave New World.”

As someone who makes the effort to read a lot, my natural instinct when someone utters the words “Brave New World” is to make a connection to Aldous Huxley. In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” technology has made it possible for people to be produced in labs and everyone is sedated into numb happiness. That is not what is being described in the song by Covenant.

The “Brave New World” the idea, the term, the expression, has become a vague colloquialism to broadly mean “the future.” Much like how “Utopia,” which is Greek for “nowhere,” and Thomas More was attempting to describe a civilization that was the total opposite of English society, but now the word is thought to describe paradise; Huxley’s “Brave New World” now simple means a radical, often assumed, technologically advanced, super society. This is the “Brave New World” which we are engaging when listening to Covenant; Covenant’s “Brave New World” is the promised land.

“Where is the promised land?
Where is the brave new world?
Where do all dreams go when they die?
Oh, we can move the streets today.”

Covenant in this song is describing the disappointment and the surprise that the future world is not what was expected, it is not paradise, it is not brave or new, or really anything to be thrilled about. The future just ain’t what it used to be.

There is a verse describing growing isolation:

“The lights are fading out,
Before our eyes.
We lose each other,
And we celebrate the peace.”

Another describing a lost sense of purpose:

“Our lives are changing,
Faster than we think.
We flow like dancers,
Crashing in the dark.”

And another about pollution, physical and psychological, very topical:

“Another morning broken,
Shattered sheets of lead.
Clouds the size of oceans,
Inside and above our heads.”

There are not many words outside of the three verses listed above. The chorus repeats many times, asking the same three questions and no answer is ever given to the rhetoric. It feels very natural for a song of the nature and style of “Brave New World” to be repetitive; it is an electronic song and as such indulges into the hypnotic and atmospheric sounds. The “celebrated” beat is naturally both catchy and symbolically able to lull the listener into a complacent state of relaxed acceptance.

I would argue that the overall symbolism of this song is mild, but the sound is wonderful and attractive, and that is such a fine offer of art it leaves so little to demand more. The fact that there is anything of a conversation of value put forth is encouraging in its own right, Covenant could have elected to be a purely instrument/synthesised band but they elected to enrich their music, and us the listeners, with little drops of poetry, and in the end that is pretty much exactly what we all want in our music.

That random purchase by younger brother really worked out for the best.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

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