Friday Night: Covenant at Numbers

Covenant, The Break Up Numbers August 31, 2012

I couldn't believe that this was Covenant's first Houston show, and much thanks must go to Roberth Ehlinger of The New Beat and John Housman and David Spade of Past Present Productions for making it happen.

It cannot be overstated just how popular they are in the goth club scene. I would dare you to find a single Underworld-goer that does not own a copy of Northern Light. It's quite simply one of the finest EBM/future pop recordings ever done, and tracks from it never fail to fill the dance floor. This proved as true live as it does in the hands of the spinners.

I've remarked on many occasions how bands like VNV Nation and Nitzer Ebb all take a page from the book of televangelism, with their front men dancing the line between pop stars and popular prophets. Covenant's Eskil Simonsson is certainly no exception. Dressed in a sharp suit and a thin tie, he sauntered out like a combination of Dave Gahan and Mephistopheles Smith before grabbing the mike and letting loose that iconic voice.

Still, I felt bad for the Swede in this heat. He lost the jacket fairly early on and often broke for water at the back of the stage.

As to be expected, the show started off with the opener from last year's Modern Ruin, and though the record itself is pretty dig-worthy with its more industrial touches than Skyshaper, the crowd really didn't jump together until 2002's "Bullet" came blasting out.

At that point Numbers became a wave of black movement, shouted lyrics, and undeniable ecstasy. It seemed to loosen up the people and made them much more receptive to a later number from Modern Ruin like "Judge of My Domain" that frankly, is one of the weaker tracks from the record.

Still, they kept the energy extremely high, especially when they busted out "20 hz." I was standing next to Paul Fredric of Asmodeus X at this point, who mouthed every lyric with perfect pitch and precision, but looked at me like I was an idiot when I asked the name of the song as it had slipped my mind.

Let me give you a little advice. If you're going to an EBM show in Houston, go visit Asmo's Facebook page and ask Paul if he'll be there. It enhances the experience like nothing else.

In addition to me realizing that I could trace his own work over the years based on which Covenant album he was listening to at the time, I got an in-depth look into the mind of a master of electronica when Daniel Jonasson began having trouble with his rig that required an onstage tech to fix.

"I know what Eskil's thinking," yelled Paul in my ear. "He's thinking, 'I'm going to fucking kill you for this. I told you not to bring all that extra crap on stage. I am going to kill you!'"

The execution of the show was somewhat odd, though. Even as the music was timed perfectly with an impressive laser light show that shot out over the crowd and mesmerized them as they danced through the machine-made smoke, the action on stage was barely lit, and getting a good look at the band wasn't really possible.

It sort of gave off the impression that they didn't want to be seen, and while different, it was a bit distracting.

In addition, the acoustics in Numbers are just not good enough for Eskil to stop and give his philosophical musings. I have no idea what he said between songs, but he seemed very sincere and happy about it.

Eventually it worked itself out, and the night progressed quickly and enjoyably, with a solid mix of club hits that electrified everyone. "Call the Ships to Port" is another guaranteed dance-maker, as is "Dead Stars," which was their final encore.

To my everlasting delight, they played some choice early cuts from Dreams of the Cryotank . Songs like "Edge of Dawn" and "Voices" have a playful, lighthearted energy and a youthful lyrical mindset that is adorable.

That being said, Daniel Myer of Haujobb, a touring member of Covenant since Clas Nachmanson left in 2007, absolutely stole the show when he took lead vocals on 2010's "Lightbringer."

It was like a different show had literally been dropped down in the middle of the performances, and in some ways it was a better show. Myer has that same solid build and energy that makes Ronan Harris such an unstoppable force, and engaged the crowd at the edge of the stage into a frenzy of chanting and call and response.

He utterly owned every inch he was allowed, which wasn't much due to a very hot feedback zone, but he was definitely the king of a small kingdom. I would kill for a professional-quality live recording of the song from Friday. It'll go down as one of the single greatest moments in live goth in Numbers history.

Personal Bias: I sleep in an old, soft Covenant shirt. I instinctively hear "We Stand Alone" in my head around 1:30 a.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays from repeated exposure at Underwold events. Plus, this is the first show in six months I bothered to get a babysitter for. Yeah, heavily biased towards.

The Crowd: Good mix of goth scenesters, including many local members of the Gothic Council, but a lot of them were also over at Dean's watching Provision and Vertigo Blue open for Crunk Witch or had gone out the night before to see the Stage Frights. Everyone else was dressed as barbarians or frat boys for some reason.

Overheard in the Crowd: Paul again, "What the fuck was that, man? What the fuck? So is it like, the Haujobb part of the show now, and we'll return to Covenant after this commercial break."

Bonus: One of the additional keyboard players from the VNV Nation Automatic tour was working the merch booth.

Random Notebook Dump: "Why would a woman have so little regard for her vagina that she would mount the Numbers floor during an interpretive dance?"


Modern Ruin Bullet Judge of My Domain 20 hz Voices Edge of Dawn Kairos Like Tears in Rain ??? -- I went outside for some air and got caught up in a conversation with Alano Capelo, formerly of Immaculate Black, missing two songs. Stalker Lightbringer Call the Ships to Port


Happy Man Dead Stars

See a video of "Dead Stars."

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