(One of our loyal allies, Conchobar, had the good fortune to attend The Covenant Montreal festival on April 13-15, 2017, at La Salla Rossa, and was kind enough to share the following impressions of the event, along with his photos of the performances.)
“Ye Who sow discord, where are you? Ye who infuse hatred and propagate enmities, I conjure you by Him who hath created you for this ministry, to fulfil this work…”
Montreal is one of my favourite cities in this strange, fragmented nation of ours. After the calamity that befell the ill-fated Messe des Morts VI in November, we had an easy decision regarding a return trip after looking at the line-up for Covenant Montreal. Covenant has been active since 2015, the inner circle being composed of members of Auroch/Mitochondrion, Crooked Mouth, and other acts.
Night the First
Sparguntur glacies et Tenebrae…
Neige et Noirceur opened the festival with a ritualistic dark ambient set featuring a range of eccentric instruments, shrieking vocalizations, and eerie chanting. This was a perfect mise-en-scène for the night, and an excellent reflection of Spiritus‘ capacity to create a wide range of sonic landscapes. More Natura Mortis Sonoris than Les Ténèbres modernes, their short-but-powerful set was at once imaginative and haunting.
The Black God and the Barren Wasteland
Raw, energetic and furious, Tchornobog‘s death-inflected black metal roared to life immediately following. It was great to see Markov play live so soon after the release of this debut. The thickness of Tchornobog‘s sound is an interesting juxtaposition with the ethereal minimalism of Aureole, and it carried well in a live setting.
One of the major draws for me was the chance to see Chthe’ilist live. Where else can one find Legend of Zelda-inspired madness in the world of metal? Le dernier crepuscule was a favourite album of 2016. and the band’s lineup reads like a who’s who of instrumental archmages in the Quebecois scene, sharing members with Beyond Creation, First Fragment, Serocs, and Zealotry (among others).
The band was an incendiary whirlwind of technical virtuosity, and, with “The Voices from Beneath the Well”, summoned the festival’s only moshing. The solo tradeoffs here between Phil Tougas and Claude Leduc were inspired and inspiring, and Phil Boucher’s virtuosic drumming and Antoine Daigneault’s frenetic, creative bass work were also unbelievably good.
This was the first real surprise of the festival for me. I am a huge fan of Kevin Hufnagel, but actually find a lot of Dysrhythmia‘s music slightly sterile. And while I do like more recent stuff like Psychic Maps and Test of Submission, Veil of Control left me cold. TL; DR? The live performance was fucking masterful. Clinically precise, yes, but also hypnotic, mesmerizing, and brimming with vibrancy.
Night the Second
…per os collis humiliabitur
Crooked Mouth was a last-minute addition to the bill after 11th-hour cancellation of the dark folk show at the festival. Opening night two with a deeply ritualistic-style set, Campbell and company performed an industrial-accented introit which to me sounded like an elegant drawing down of David Tibet in his incarnations both as Nurse with Wound and Current 93 (Music for the Horse Hospital / Sounds From the Horse Hospital anyone?). A very short but excellent set and, like Neige et Noirceur, an excellent mood-builder.
If you haven’t heard Ossuaire, make a point of checking out their recent EP La Diatribe Infernale. Metal Noir Quebecois is assuredly one of the most fertile black metal scenes in the world, and has a distinctive, melodic edge that manages to combine the raw with the riff in icy fusion. An excellent, distinctively evil live performance, brooding and dark. FFO Monarque, Délétère, Ende, White Death.
“Es drohte mir ein Abgrund tief”
A writhing, horrifying wall of dissonance and complexity, gold-masked Imperial Triumphant’s set drew mainly from Abyssal Gods and recent EP Inceste, featuring excellent renditions of “From the Palaces of the Hive”, “Dead Heaven”, and “Oblivion in Morsels” (among others). Ever imagined being beaten to death by gold foil wrapped around scalpels and trepanning saws while listening to Penderecki‘s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima? Wonder no more. Incredible and harrowing.
From Akudim to Nekudim
Perhaps the magickal highlight of the festival as a whole, Gevurah‘s deeply esoteric and occult performance was a masterful evocation of qliphotic nightmares. Commanding absolute silence throughout the set through the sheer oppressive heaviness of their music and mystical austerity of their stage presence, Gevurah became a veritable embodiment of the sephirah of awe, fire, and strength. Outstanding performances here of “The Fire Dwelling Within” and “Temple Without Form” from Hallelujah! made this a pretty appropriate Good Friday ceremony.
It’s hard to describe the palpable sense of malevolence that this two-person act from Ontario conjured so effortlessly. On the heels of the last deeply qliphotic performance, Sortilegia somehow managed to ‘outdarkness’ the kabbalistic theurgy of Gevurah. An amazing vocal and guitar performance by Koldovstvo in chilling crone paint made every shadow in the place come alive with threat. The undertaking of an actual ritual in the midst of the performance made this a true Limen Tenebrae Lucis.
Night the Third
Shattering the walls of impermanence
Stellar performance here by relative newcomers Intonate, whose 2016 debut The Swerve deserves considerably more attention. Very talented and definitely a band to watch for; big future ahead, I suspect. FFO: Gorguts, Obscura, Ulcerate.
Paroxizhem‘s muddy and cavernous sound once again brought shadowy nightmares to life in La Sala Rossa. Performing a large portion of 2016’s Abyss of Excruciating Vexes, this brooding abomination of a band slithered through their series of filthy chthonic dirges. Unclean excellence.
Phobocosm are extremely solid performers, and were superb at the Ulcerate show in November in Montreal. Their ominous doom-accented death made for a very clean counterpoint to the loathsome sound of Paroxizhem. Cold and almost industrial in feel, this is a band that has truly mastered sonic balance across all channels.
The Singularity is Fear
The energy here! Unbelievable. Standing in for regular Artificial Brain frontman Will Smith, vocalist Paolo (Encenathrakh, Gath Šmânê) was so engaged, generous, and frenetic; his energy and enthusiasm were absolutely contagious. Not unlike Dysrhythmia, I liked the ‘live sound’ of the Infrared Horizon tracks better than what I’ve heard so far of the new studio album.
Highlights here included “Will”, “Absorbing Black Ignition”, and “Infrared Horizon”. The musical pyrotechnics and prestidigitation of Dan, Sam, and company were also phenomenal, of course. I am not sure what else to say about this except to say watch Paolo‘s crowd interaction, and also him beating himself bloody with his mic in the following video:
The stars, like dust
I think we always secretly hope that the final performance will be the apex performance. Gorguts. Lost for words.
Luc Lemay embodies the ferocious spirit of metal at its most innovative, fearless, and adventurous. This band is a molecular machine that is far more than its component parts, elegantly weaving sonic tapestries of far-flung desert temples, rubbled libraries, ancient plains of war, dying galaxies. This is where you really felt like you were in the hands of master troubadours; bards of Homeric talent.
While I am a fan who leans towards the music of Gorguts in its latest incarnation, it was a true treat to have the guys finish their incredible set with “Orphans of Sickness”.
Covenant was superbly planned and organized, and was a great experience. I would wholeheartedly recommend that people consider making the trip to attend for the next iteration.
“Behold your sentence! Behold that which forbids rebellion to our wills and doth ordain you to return unto your abodes. May peace be between us and you, and be ye ready to come, each and all, as ye are called to do my will.”