Whereas your run-of-the-mill metal festival is usually conceived within particular genre niches or covers a broad musical base, Vancouver’s Covenant Festival [buy tickets here] aims to bring together bands bound by ethos rather than sound. With a philosophy devoted to organizing ‘a proper gathering of Death’s music’ by presenting three evenings of North America’s most challenging and spirited underground sounds, this year’s inaugural Covenant Festival, running from June 11 – 13, marks a milestone in Vancouver’s extreme music scene, and should be on the radar of those that like their music dark and heavy across the Pacific North-West.
Day 1: Thursday June 11th – The Hindenburg
The first band of the weekend will be Squamish-based collective Harrow, whose blackened-folk hymns will undoubtedly prove a suitably ceremonial initiation of the festivities. With their recently released full-length Fallow Fields, accompanied by a tape release of The River EP, Harrow have further developed their heavily introspective yet transcendent combination of folk and black metal, producing a compelling sound fundamentally tied to the Cascadian region in which Covenant will take place. We recently spoke to Harrow’s main composer Ian Campbell in an interview you can read here, and are very excited to see how the band bring their spiritualistic sounds to stage.
For fans of Agalloch, Skagos and Alda.
Gazing back to a time when heavy metal and hard rock bled into one another, often in the conspiratorial creation of esoteric art, The Order of the Solar Temple will be adding its own brand of dark magick to Covenant’s devilish atmosphere. Drawing heavily on the occultic 70s vibes of Blue Öyster Cult, from their ghoulish keyboard choirs and sacrilegious howl of Matt ‘Macabre’ Emery, as well as early heavy metal’s denim-clad rhythm and rebellion, Order of the Solar Temple will prove a vibrant and darkly seductive addition to Covenant’s proceedings.
For fans of Blue Öyster Cult, Mercyful Fate and The Devil’s Blood.
Reinforcing the eclecticism and devilish devotion at the heart of Covenant will be Vancouver’s very own heavy metal warriors Spell, whose thundering 70s-inspired groove and devotion to the power of rock ‘n’ roll will throw the spirit of the NWOBHM into the deadly Covenant mix. Forming as Stryker back in 2007, the trio was reborn as Spell in 2013 before bringing last year’s debut The Full Moon Sessions to life, a heady and hypnotic concoction of Halford-style vocal acrobatics and heavy metal worship. Sure to conjure a magickal experience for those who witness their Covenant appearance, Spell is spreading the word of heavy metal in a world that seems to have forgotten, and are sure to be an enchanting presence this June.
For fans of Judas Priest, Cauldron, In Solitude
When Fenriz name drops a band, you know it’s in your best interests to shut up and listen. The Darkthrone legend and font of metal knowledge has ecstatically praised heavy metallers Christian Mistress, who will be travelling from Portland, OR to be the first of a select list of international artists to perform at Covenant Festival. With two full-lengths to their name, including the grimy perfection of 2012’s Possession, the band has quickly made a name for themselves on the strength of their arsenal of the finest rock ’n’ roll riffs, squealing leads and solos, and the husky croon of vocalist Christine Davis.
For fans of Pentagram, Cathedral, Witchfinder General.
Day 2: Friday June 12th – The Hindenburg
The first of an array of performances by the organizers behind Covenant Festival, Auroch’s appearance will not only showcase the deadly talents of Vancouver’s own purveyors of malevolent and technical death metal, but pay tribute to the DIY ethic and essence of the weekend. With the band’s sophomore full-length Taman Shud seeing release on Profound Lore as well as vicious performance opening for Nile and At the Gates in the last year, Auroch is quickly becoming an internationally recognized force of sonic and philosophical extremity, and their prowess will be for all to witness when they decimate the Covenant stage.
For fans of Immolation, Incantation, [early] Cryptopsy.
Another act descending on Vancouver from Portland, OR, the downright diabolical, degenerate and depraved Weregoat will inject a dose of old school black/death metal filth and full-moon lycanthropy into Covenant’s proceedings. Channelling the down tuned riff-worship of Left Hand Path era-Entombed and unhinged, primal savagery of proto-black metallers Sarcofago while spewing forth enough blasphemy and bestial perversity to make Baphomet blush, Weregoat will offer Covenant-goers the chance to lose themselves in a primitive and wild-eyed frenzy.
For fans of [early] Entombed, Blasphemy, Teitanblood.
Demonstrating unequivocally that extreme metal in the suffocating, subterranean and dense Albertan tradition is alive and well, Dire Omen will be making the journey out west with the express intention of conjuring their sinister sacrament at Covenant Festival. With the release of their first full-length Wresting the Revelation of Futility last year, the young trio distilled their chaotic sound into a more focused yet still terrifyingly imposing concoction of murky death metal and black metal misanthropy, and if their appearance supporting Mitochondrion last year is anything to go by, Dire Omen will be formidable in bringing this unforgiving extremity to stage in Vancouver once again.
For fans of Antediluvian, Portal, Mitochondrion.
While Covenant’s second night will also be closed by a band hailing from Oregon, the apocalyptically vicious sound of Ritual Necromancy will provide a merciless contrast to Christian Mistress’ upbeat heavy metal vibrancy. Offering a rancid and potent brand of death metal, these Portland old schoolers will smother Vancouver in a smog of atmosphere and intensity, led by the cavernously guttural bellows of J.F. While only forming in 2008, Ritual Necromancy’s 2011 debut Oath of the Abyss unequivocally demonstrated the band’s vast experience and ability, and offers a forward-thinking yet devastatingly heavy sound will resound with the challenging ethos at the heart of Covenant Festival.
For fans of Incantation, Immolation, Portal.
Day 3: Saturday June 13th – The Rickshaw Theatre
Possessing both perhaps the best death metal band name of the century and an arsenal of utterly break-neck riffs, Garotting Deep is yet another force to emerge from the Vancouver underground’s grisly circle. The solo project of P. Fiess (who by this point in the festival you will have seen on stage in many different guises), Garotting Deep truly brings its name to life with their gruesome, foetid brand of unhinged death metal filth. Unholy Noise has been spinning their recent Void Asceticism split, released in alliance with Sweden’s FŌR, to death, and with the band’s impending appearance at Covenant we are expecting an unholy descent into the most stinking depths of depravity.
For fans of anything dark, fast, and gruesome.
Vancouver’s own addition to the epic doom troupe, Funeral Circle’s Covenant appearance will be a heroic display of the sound pioneered by Candlemass back in ’86, yet that has grown into a mighty and invigorating force all of its own. With their self-titled debut back in 2013, the band crafted a dark and fantastical slab epic doom that stands proudly alongside the masters of the genre, with tales of sorcery, barbarism, and battle aplenty, and the riffs to back up their storytelling flair. Funeral Circle will add a touch of the mythical to Covenant’s esoteric atmosphere, bringing a sack load of guitar solos, Conan references, and thundering rhythm along with them.
For fans of Candlemass, Solitude Aeternus, Solstice.
Perhaps the most acclaimed of BC’s modern extreme metal pantheon, Mitochondrion has gained something of an enigmatic status as a result of their combined vitriolic assault and rare live performances. When the band do take the stage however, Mitochondrion’s implacably dark and vehement presence proves an encapsulating and hypnotic experience, with the band creating an utterly crushing wall of swirling noise in their summoning of tracks from both 2008’s Archaeon, 2011’s Parasignosis, and 2013’s Antinumerology, On the back of a spate of recent appearances including Montreal’s Messe Des Morts festival and a full European tour, the band is honed to absolute razor-edge precision and will undoubtedly prove one of the most deadly and enthralling acts to grace Covenant’s stage all weekend.
For fans of Portal, Aevangelist, Dodecahedron.
Finding the right band to close the three days of death worship and sonic savagery that Covenant Festival will offer was never going to be an easy feat. The festival organizers however conquered the challenge, and secured what is guaranteed to be the triumphant return of the legendary Edmonton-based war metal monstrosity Rites of Thy Degringolade. With what will be the band’s first performance since the release of 2005’s mighty Ode to Sin, Rites of Thy Degringolade is set to bring not only their merciless sound to life for the first time in a decade, but to close Covenant festival with a performance that epitomizes the truly special nature of an event that is going to change Vancouver’s extreme metal landscape forever.
For fans of Revenge, Conqueror, Axis of Advance.
* Also performing at Covenant Festival will be Scythe Bearer [Friday 12/06], and The Nausea, Deathwinds [Saturday 13/06].