Changing the Face of Metal
CoC interviews Lex Icon of The Kovenant
by: Adrian Bromley
Brace yourselves, metal fans; the band formerly known as Covenant, now called The Kovenant, is going through a little bit of a transition period. Call it reinvention, if you will. Call it out of this world. Call it just plain -weird-.

Guitarist Lex Icon (formerly known as Nagash) explains the transitional mode that the Norwegian outfit -- which once had a prestigious line-up that included individual members of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Mayhem and Arcturus -- went through to get to their third disc, _Animatronic_.

He begins: "I think getting where we are right now with the band, in terms of what our music sounds like on _Animatronic_, was an easy change for us. We have always been that way before, we like to do different things within the music of The Kovenant. If 10000 people say yes to a sound or style, we say no."

"We also wanted to just make things happen for us", Lex Icon continues. "In a way, it is kind of a brand new start for us with what we have now. [The band is now a trio, rounded out by bassist/vocalist Psy Coma (formerly Blackheart) and Von Blomberg (formerly Hellhammer) on drums. --Adrian] We wanted to put back some magic into the extreme metal music scene because we feel that a lot of that has been lost within the scene, at least over here in Europe."

With _Animatronic_, out goes guitarist Astennu and keyboardist Sverd (both from Dimmu Borgir) and in comes a wide range of variety and song styles, an abrasive slew of musical creations that brought about definite change. _Animatronic_ is far from the black metal roots of its two predecessors (1997's _In Times Before the Light_ and last year's _Nexus Polaris_), but still rampant in style and emotion. Be a little skeptical if you will of these changes (which also include a name change, as they were forced to change the spelling of their name due to the Swedish outfit of the same moniker), but take note: Lex Icon felt that they were necessary to help strengthen and shape The Kovenant's sonic attack.

"All of these changes through the years are important for us, but playing what we play now is very important. We have molded our music. When we started off we were very young; we played black metal and we thought it was so cool. It was. The second record came along and we got signed on that particular sound from _In Times Before the Light_ and it was very difficult. We felt restrained a bit and not able to really take the music where we wanted to. We couldn't freak out in any way with the music because we felt pressure from the listeners and the label. But on this record we felt we had to show off a bit and that is exactly what we did. We are showing the metal community that we are supplying an edge to their music."

And how have changes within the band affected things? There has been a good and bad point to all of this, right? "Yeah, things have happened. We fired all of the other members who weren't into the band, or who weren't dedicated enough or just didn't submit material to the band. With them gone it wasn't really like we lost anything important to what we were doing. The band has always been myself, Psy Coma and Von Blomberg. It was interesting to work on the music as a trio. I mean, Psy Coma and I have always written all the music, it just seemed a little strange this time out that it was just the three of us working hard to make this record come together."

Within a listen or two, fans of the band will no doubt notice how much the music of The Kovenant has shifted. A lot more keyboards, samples and abstract industrial ideas wedge themselves between the veteran black metal ideas of the band. It's basically a new appearance, with almost the same kind of sound. Sort of. With songs like "New World Order", "Prophecies of Fire" and "Spaceman", you pretty much get the gist of what you're getting yourself into.

Is Lex Icon proud of how the record turned out? "The record didn't really turn out as experimental as we wanted it to be", points out Lex Icon. "It turned out to be more metal in the end. Next time out we'll pretty much follow the same style of music, but the psycho parts will be more psycho and the metal parts more metal. With the other albums we felt we had to create a certain music style, but with the new one and our future work we are going to do what we want to do, rather than what people want or expect us to do. We have taken a lot of ideas from the odd stuff that we listen to, like Jamiroquai, jazz and fusion, except we've just dressed it up in metal music."

I admit to Lex Icon that after a few listens I was a little uncertain of just what the band wanted to achieve with _Animatronic_, but within a week or so of it blasting from my stereo, the sounds and ideas of the new release have come into focus. This is shaping up to be one of the surprise albums released in 1999 in my books. It's brilliant; I've read people writing this and I'll say it too: you'll either get it or you won't. There is no in-between with _Animatronic_. Lex Icon agrees, too. "We've had a lot of flack from a lot of bands in Norway, Sweden and Germany because they want to pull us into what they are doing and we don't want to go that way. A lot of people are not really understanding us, I think. We may be going off course in terms of the music we used to play and what we play now, but we have always known and had a true grasp of what we do as a band. We don't do anything stupid and add something for the hell of it. Rather, we are very confident about what we do, and when we set out to do something or make a change to something in our music, we go full speed and don't look back." In more depth about the making of _Animatronic_, he says: "If you listen very carefully, you'll notice that this record isn't about being technical. It's more about things with power. The direction of what we do has always been clear."

And his thoughts on the black metal and metal scene in general over the years? "I'm not very much into it right now. I'm not impressed with what bands are doing. I spit on the whole metal scene right now. The whole black and death metal scene, and even the extreme metal scene, have mutated into this Frankenstein monster; it's totally out of control and I don't think people really know just what is going on anymore. So we sort of wanted to get away from it all and start fresh. I think this new album is a whole new type of metal for a whole new generation. At least that's what I'm hoping. We're just playing "millennium metal" and having fun doing so."

In closing, I ask him his thoughts on the recent suicide of Grimm (Borknagar/Immortal). He says: "I think people just saw it as a suicide, like "Oh, he's dead", and moved on. I really didn't get affected by his death, to tell you the truth. I met him a few times, but there are a lot of people who die from suicides all the time. People seem to get caught up in what they do, as was the case with Grimm, I think, and we don't want that to happen to us. We don't want to have the Frankenstein monster turn on us. That's why we ventured out and tried to do something different this time out."

(article submitted 9/12/1999)


ALBUMS
10/14/2003 Q Kalis 7.5 The Kovenant - S.E.T.I.
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