By Harold Shand

Posted to Schenker newsgroup

Here it is then. First up, it's just called Covenant (no "The"). The sleeve is very science fiction, shades of that '30s sci-fi pic, Metropolis: with lots of disembodied heads floating around what looks like the a cross between the planet Saturn and the Millennium Dome. Yes, very topical. There's a pic of the chaps on the back: MS and PW looking rather more exotic than the others. Pete going for a Japanese geisha-type hairstyle. No, I ain't kidding.

The music: everybody is right on top of their game. The biggest difference is that PM seems to be singing in a lower register than normal on some of the tracks. Love Is Forever is a fairly subdued opener - some interesting lyrics ("whippets" and "flatcaps" get a namecheck - in honour of our friends in the north perhaps, ie north of Watford). Schenker's playing is superb. Unravelled is even better: a nice clipped guitar sound (curiously reminiscent of Muddy's Gold off the Chocolate Box album) and a very bitter Mogg lyric about marital dischord. Miss The Lights is slower and very powerful: some familiar themes creeping in here, lyrically and musically, but they've earned the right to cannibalise themselves. Haven't they? It also contains the priceless Mogg lyric: "You better get down on those pinky knees".

The biggest difference you notice at this stage is the backing vocals (no idea whose doing them, as I haven't seen the credits), as there seems to be more of them. Midnight Train is a fairly standard no-nonsense rocker a touch of the Pushed To The Limit's, except better Schenker really slips his leash on this one. Fools Good checks in at 5.35 and is more of an epic, a few more time changes and Mogg really putting himself through his paces. The Middle Of Madness is shorter and much poppier - a very strong chorus and some nice backing vox. You could really imagine old Jimmy "Love Lost Love" Dewar doing in the honours on this one. Whatever happened to him? The Smell Of Money is great - one of the best things here very bitter, very broody, very heavy. Again, Phil's lyrics definitely have some extra bite this time around, and Schenker lets fly. Also, worth mentioning that there are keyboards on the album, albeit sparingly, but, again, no idea whose doing the honours. Rise Again is another medium rocker - with a fairly standard riff and lyric (lots of "coming back from the dead" imagery). Serenade is lighter and frankly less gripping than what's come before. Similarly Cowboy Joe and The World & His Dog don't quite hold the attention as well as Unravelled, Miss The Lights or Smell Of Money - the standout tracks after a couple of listens. But it's still early days...

Overall, it does miss Ron Nevison and it does, sometimes, miss Paul Raymond, but that's probably got more to do with you being used to their involvement in the past. Anyone who's stuck with them for this long will not go away disappointed, and Schenker fans, in particular, should have a field day. The live stuff I haven't had a chance to play yet, as my missus is sick to the back teeth of UFO and I don't want the band cited in divorce proceedings....

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