Right off the bat, you can tell that Joakim Montelius is somebody who is just out to make good music, without pretense or limitations.
As a programmer and lyricist for the Swedish electro-industrial trio Covenant, Montelius has helped cut quite a name for his band in the underground. But last year, with three albums under their belts, the United States of Mind LP saw them branching out in a barrage of other directions.
Like Metropolis labelmates Apoptygma Berzerk and VNV Nation, their sound has become more inclusive of lighter EMB synthesizers and dancefloor beats. Montelius explains “We have been influenced by underground dance music throughout our recording career and personally I think those influences are most apparent on [Covenant’s 1996 LP] Sequencer, but at the time most people didn’t understand where that sound came from. As the very fast-moving dance scene evolved, we did too, and as it gained in popularity, more people recognized our sources.
“At the same time, bands like Apoptygma, VNV Nation and others of the same generation traveled along a similar path. In the case of VNV and Apop, we are also personal friends and perhaps influence each other even more.”
But while several tracks on United States… are sweaty dance floor romps – the driving single “Tour De Force,” the house-y groove of “No Man’s Land” – others show just how multi-faceted Covenant is. “After Hours,” with it’s Depeche Mode-ian chorus and harmonies, is pure pop brilliance. “Unforgiven” is a light drum ‘n’ bass number and “Still Life” ventures into ambient soundscapes and spoken/sung vocals akin to Underworld’s Karl Hyde. With everything going on, the melodious voice of Eskil Simonsson and the band’s dramatic production keep the album cohesive.
“United States Of Mind, as you can tell by the title, is all about diversity and freedom to be and do whatever you feel like, at any given moment,” says Montelius, explaining that with the new album, they endeavored not to limit their sound, but to allow it to grow. “Covenant is not about shutting people out, it’s about letting people in. Practically everything we ever listened to is represented on [the album], but transformed into our own
vision of these styles. That’s why it sounds different, but still typically Covenant. It’s our own, personal melting pot.”
Unlike other bands in their genre, Covenant – on tour in support of United States… – doesn’t supplement their concerts with live musicians. “[We are] an electronic band, everything we do is programmed when we make the music, so I can’t see the point of messing that up with a `live band,'” Montelius says. “We play keyboards, trigger samples, sing, and make the place explode. That’s what we do, and its more than enough, believe me.”
What he and the rest of Covenant anticipate most upon their return to the states, however, is the growth of the country’s industrial scene. “Three years ago we were still one of very few European band touring in the U.S. in this scene, but now it’s a different situation. It’s really exciting to come back…we’ve been waiting to do this way too long now.”
Covenant w/ And One and Icon Of Coil. The Trocadero. 1003 Arch St. April 10, 7 p.m. $17. Call (215) 922-LIVE for info.