It starts gently enough. Opening track “Fathom” spends plenty of time setting the scene and tone, with softly sung vocals, the sound of sea and wind, and the most sedate of tempos. It’s at once a very deceptive introduction, soon giving way to heaviness and violence, but also utterly in fitting with the broader feel of Covenant Of Teeth. What Morrow have created here is a deeply emotional, passionate mix of crust and post-metal, self-described as emocrust, full of heart and power. It’s an unorthodox mix, but the band make it sound so utterly natural and captivating that you wonder why more people aren’t making music like this.
Combining crust and post-metal might sound an odd mix, but Covenant Of Teeth makes the two genres seem like natural bed-fellows (and it’s worth remembering that post-metal titans Neurosis started life as a crusty punk band). The sense of grace and majestic sorrow that post-metal can so wonderfully express is demonstrated early on, with the slow build-up on opener “Fathom”, a track that is content to take its time even after its introductory segment is over. The cellos of Nicole add an extra tension to an already intense build-up, and when the music comes to a head, switching cleanly in to more traditional crust tempos and d-beat rhythms, the sense of catharsis is immense.
With Covenant Of Teeth containing four reasonably long tracks (the shortest, “Forgiving Grin”, is eight minutes long), there might be a danger of burn-out during the record, with the moves between the two styles losing its impact as the record goes on. Thankfully, that is not the case, as Morrow use all their experience to find plenty of different avenues to explore; it’s no surprise to learn that members of this band are involved in acts such as Archivist, Carnist, and Light Bearer.
What is most impressive about Covenant Of Teeth is the atmosphere it creates. By this I don’t mean the sense of catharsis or tension that arises at different points, but the overarching theme and feeling, which is certainly aided by the album’s narrative – it’s the kind of record that rewards exploration and digging further in to the world it creates. There is something earthly about the album, as if these songs have been been drawn from somewhere deep within the earth; they tap in to that wider sense that connects all living beings, of a sense of belonging and justice that goes beyond politics but arises from something much deeper, more primal. It almost feels post-human, not in the sci-fi sense that usually implies, but in the sense of what will remain of this planet after humanity’s inevitable extinction. That it’s handled with intelligence (both musically and otherwise), and without a reliance on empty sloganeering, is a great credit to all involved.
To go back to my earlier question, perhaps the reason more people aren’t making music like this is because it isn’t as easy as bands like Morrow make it seem. As natural and flowing as every shift and transition is, there’s evidently been considerable time spent crafting these songs. Nor is it, intellectually, easy music to make, I imagine. It is music for difficult times, for hard questions, and as such is perfectly suited to the world today. Stunning artwork, too.