Covenant Northern Light

Those darling, rosy-cheeked Swedes once again prove why they're leading the pack of current electronic/EBM acts. Who would've thought they could follow up 2000's United States of Mind so perfectly without making the same record? This time they relieved themselves of the sole responsibility of production and enlisted Jacob Hellner (of Rammstein and Clawfinger, to name a couple). Although the bulk of his work has been with heavier acts, his presence is surely felt on this album. Eskil Simonsson's rich vocals are in flawless form and the synth and rhythm programming is so polished that it could blind you in the dark. Take the first single "Call the Ships to Port" and its infectious energy, which easily compares to USOM's "Dead Stars," or the slower and just as catchy "Bullet," with acoustic piano and a synth bass line that hooks you and reels you right in. Even the opener "Monochrome" is essentially a one-chord wonder, with only a slight variation in the chorus, but it works and it works well. The common element in all the 11 tracks, and what essentially separates Northern Light from so many others in this genre, is that the synth textures are so well crafted and smooth, and every ingredient in the mix is of the right proportion. At times this record salutes the darkness of Depeche Mode's Violator period but weighs more heavily on the EBM elements. (Metropolis)