Cult Series Day 2: Nine Covens keep the black metal assault shrouded in mystery

Nine Covens

Anonymity is something that’s basically absent from the music world. Like, I don’t listen to even a second of modern pop music because I find it that dreadful, yet I know way too much shit about some of the, uh, artists because everything about their lives is exposed. Too much info out there.

Metal is not immune to the overload. Like, last week we all found out Dave Mustaine is pissed at Men’s Wearhouse. Why do I need to know about this? Why can’t I live the rest of my life without that information? So it’s nice when a band comes along that eschews all the media attention, all the whoring out of useless and mundane details, and simply decides to reveal nothing about themselves. I can see where that approach also could be met with skepticism because what if the band’s art just isn’t that good and they don’t wish to plaster their names on it? I can see that being a reason, so it comes down to digesting the band’s work and deciding for yourself.

We first came to know of the band Nine Covens last year when they released their debut “…On the Coming of Darkness,” though we didn’t learn much about the forces behind the group other than them taking their name from the English witch/magician George Pickingill. Apparently the group was comprised of noteworthy musicians from the UK extreme metal scene, but none chose to reveal their identities. So, if that was true and these figures really are well-regarded musicians, their choice was an interesting one. After hearing their debut, it was clear they weren’t hiding because of their creative output. It was solid, dark, yet melodic black metal that might not wow the underground kvlt enthusiasts, but sure was good enough for someone like me. It was a nice debut, one that I never imagined would get follow-up treatment quite so soon. Yet here we have “On the Dawning of Light,” the band’s second album and an entry in Candlelight Records’ cult series.

4pagebooklet-DWLike their debut, the band still isn’t saying who they are. Has there been turnover in their ranks? Did they add any guests? Who knows? We don’t even know who was in the group in the first place, so forget all of that. As for the music, it’s still melodic, wrenching, adventurous, and even approachable. It has elements of Nachtmystium, Craft, and even a band like Wodensthrone, though this band’s songs are not nearly as long and sweeping. Nine Covens keep their explosive output in check with their longest track just topping seven minutes and most of their songs landing somewhere between four and five minutes. Nicely done because they never overstay their welcome. This also is an album that the more time I spend with it, the more I like. There is an epicness and a passion that is catchy, and while they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel, they’re playing their music with gumption and grit.

The record opens with “Origin of Light,” a melodic and sinister number is full of churning guitar work and throaty shrieks. “As Fire Consumes” has a stirring lead line and also some punk rock attitude. It’s crunchy and punchy, yet it’s also sort of accessible. I know that black metal isn’t supposed to be, but I think that’s archaic thinking. “At the Ocean’s Strand” has more punk fury but also a sludgy, cataclysmic feel. The vocals are delivered with more of a growl, and some of the guitar work reminds me of Immortal. “The Mist of Death” has a mystical beginning, as the song takes some time to set the stage, but then it grows harsh, forceful, and atmospheric.

“The Fog of Deceit” has some of the best, most memorable guitar work on the entire record, and the lead line very well may get stuck in your head like it has in mine. The drumming is a little different on this one as well, getting a little jazzy in spots, and the song overall is perhaps their most riveting work to date. “To Quench a Raging” explodes out of the gate, with deeper, growlier vocals, a renewed dedication to speed, and throat-mangling shrieking that sounds both agitated and evil. “White Star Exception,” the album’s longest track, is an instrumental that’s contemplative, cosmic, and whirring, and it’s the track that makes me think of Nachtmystium’s two “Black Meddle” releases. “Over the Ocean’s Way” also is spacious but has its moments of thorny intent and outright violence. Closer “A Burning Ember” sounds frosty and wind chilled, which always goes over nice in the winter months, and it’s a crushing ending to a really interesting record of modern black metal.

Nine Covens have opened their campaign with two impressive records that breathed some life into the black metal scene. Their new one indicates they have a ton of gas in the tank and vitriol to burn, so that’s a good thing. We may never know who is behind this band, but as long as they keep making records like this, who really cares who they are?

For more on the band, go here: http://ninecovens.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/

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