In my opinion, symphonic black metal is one of the tougher genres to be in. Not only are you expected to have the speed and technical ability for black metal but also be able to add in soaring orchestral parts that blend well with the songs and add to the overall dark feel of the music. Sign of Time from Blood Covenant is one of those albums that has high points and low points but does have moments of brilliance and showcases a band with a lot of promise.
Blood Covenant was formed by Segor and Garegin in 2001 and originally known as a thrash/death metal band called Iron Cross. Iron Cross went on to release a demo in 2002 and then after some personnel changes and a move to have Segor on vocals, Blood Covenant was formed and released the album Day of the Lord. The next few years saw more personnel changes and the release of Blood of the New Covenant (2007) and the single “At the Cross” (2009), which included the Armenian folk instrument the duduk.
Upon first listen, what becomes readily obvious is that even though the song titles are in English, the vocals are not. I’m certainly not an expert but from what I was able to find, the vocals are a mix of Armenian and Russian. Languages in song can convey a certain atmosphere and feeling to the music and this mix fits with the black metal genre and leaves even this English-speaking listener feeling as if this was a normal situation. On the whole, the one aspect that surprised me the most was the abundance of the orchestral/symphonic parts. I would have preferred more emphasis on the black metal and less on the symphonic. Funeral of the Dark Kingdom and Golgotha are both instrumental pieces that are strictly symphonic. Both are very well done from the church-like feeling in Funeral.. to the sorrowful feeling in Golgotha that seems as if it would make a nice addition to a soundtrack for a film on the life of Christ.
Throughout the album, the metal instruments, the guitars and drums, seem to be pushed to the back with the keyboards and symphonic elements dominating the mix. Drums are a bit muddled and do show some repetitiveness common in the genre with several of the songs showcasing very similar ultra-fast drumming. Some of the vocal parts really caught me off guard as well. The song Sign of Time features a section where the chorus is higher-pitched clean signing that reminded me of 1980’s hair metal bands, certainly not what I was expecting on a black metal album. Likewise, the song Faithful has high pitched death metal style vocals most akin to shrieking that didn’t appear anywhere else on the album. Unfortunately, neither of these approaches seem to work as well as the vocals on the rest of the album.
The band has released Hayr Mer as the first single and video from this album while I would have liked to see At the Cross or Unseen War as the song released to spark interest in the band and the album. As an instrumental, At the Cross is Blood Covenant at their symphonic best. Where one would expect vocals is the sorrowful sound of what I imagine is one of the traditional Armenian instruments and it works very well at conveying the feeling of those who would have been weeping At the Cross. Guitars and drums work well within this song and for a significant part of the song a piano helps mesh all of the sounds and carries the song forward. In contrast, Unseen War shows more of the black metal side of Blood Covenant with its driving beat, galloping drum lines, strong guitars, choir-like choruses, and intimidating spoken sections. The spoken sections of Unseen War really add to the creepy feeling of the song and the good guitar work throughout the song, showcases the talent of the band and then the song fades out with an extended orchestral piece that almost turns into a march.
Overall, I do like this album and the more I listen to it, the more I hear and appreciate the skill behind the music. As I mentioned, some of the vocal parts don’t seem to fit within the genre and take away from the listening experience, but those are relatively few. While the orchestral/symphonic parts come through clear, I really think the production and mixing hamper the listening experience and somewhat hide the abilities of the band.
Written by John Jackson
1. Intro (Instrumental)
2. Sign of time
3. Unseen war
4. The call
5. The funeral of the dark kingdom
6. Fall Babylon
7. Hayr Mer
8. At the cross
9. Corruptible reflection of reality
Record Label: Darknagar Records, 2011
Segør [Sergey Areskin] – Vocals/Guitar
Garegin [Garik Amyan] – Drums
Armen Hovhannisyan – Bass
Mark Areskin – Guitar
Narek Onanyan – Guitar
Hasmik Hovhannisyan – Keys
Iron Cross, demo 
The Day of Lord 
The Blood of the New Covenant 
At the Cross, single 
The Blood of the New Covenant DVD 
Sign of Time