Morbid Angel reached a major milestone as their 1993 release Covenant turned 20 years old. Being one of the band’s biggest records, they chose to perform the record in its entirety and highlight this grand moment.
Band vocalist and bassist David Vincent explained how this idea came about. “It just happened to be the 20th anniversary so it seemed like a fitting time to revisit it ourselves.”
“We’ve had some of the songs from that record have been in the set over time. It’s difficult putting a set together. Once you have so many records out, then you look at some of these things and this is how it goes. Doing a themed tour like this…I know a lot of bands do it, but it almost gives you a chance to be like ‘here’s what we’re doing..’ and here’s the theme of the tour. We had additional material following the Covenant set. Some of these songs we haven’t played [in a while] and some we’ve never played. We’re having a good time.”
Many of the songs from that record have not been regular songs in their set list or simply have never been played live. They spent time relearning the tunes as part of this special moment.
“Everyone in the band is an accomplished musician so it was just adjusting a few things, rehearing and everyone owning their parts. Obviously Timothy (Yeung) and Thor (Anders Myhren – Destructhor) were not on that record but they’re both accomplished musicians. There were no challenges. It was just getting everything where it fits in and everyone owns it as much as any other material.”
One member missing from that era is drummer Pete Sandoval, who has not performed with Morbid Angel for a few years. While some fans may have missed his lightning fast drumming to the classic tunes, Vincent summed up his thoughts on his former band mate.
“Listen, I don’t cry over spilled milk. Life presents challenges and real men look at the challenges and find a way to navigate through them. Life is like a minefield. You can get caught up in one thing and blow yourself up, or you can navigate through things the best that you can. That’s the best answer I can come up with.”
Covenant was Morbid Angel’s first record that came out originally on the major label Giant Records, a then-subsidiary of Warner Brothers, which had on its roster such acts as Kenny Rogers, Oingo Boingo and Brian Wilson. A surprise choice to sign with at the time, they found themselves with a golden opportunity unlike before, despite having no real track record for signing metal bands of any sort and especially death metal.
“We had a very good team. Our manager, it was his deal. He worked on that and that was a big win. But it’s no individual that just did this. It’s not just the band. The band, the band’s management, our support crew, the label itself, the people who took the chances on us….it’s a lot of people that it takes to make some of these things happen. Somehow the stars aligned and we got an opportunity and we took it. It ended up part of the ride,” he said.
Vincent recalls the time working on the Covenant record. “Reminds me how old I am!
No, listen, all of these records again…everything we’ve done had its place in time. That was reflective of where we were at that time. Fond memories. That was an awful lot of opportunities that opened up for us with that record. We had some great videos. Obviously we were part of the Warner Brothers family for that and they managed to get us into…it was an admission ticket into a larger swimming pool. You don’t get life preservers but you get permission to swim in a larger pool. We’re thankful for the opportunity. We had a very good team and they were part of it.”
They chose to work with producer Flemming Rasmussen on Covenant, known for his work on the Metallica records. Vincent talked about how that came about.
“We talked about doing this a little different. We still recorded at Morrisound…the tracking. We thought it would be neat to bring in someone else. He hadn’t done anything quite…I mean Metallica, they’re a heavy band…they’re not Morbid Angel. I think it was interesting for him. We all had a good time. We all got along real well with him. I really enjoyed working with him. He’s a great guy.”
Rasmussen had his ways of recording but generally gave the band the freedom to do things their way. But throughout the recording, he did have little things he wanted done his way in order for him to capture their sound.
“He came over and was very specific about how he wanted the drums to be recorded. He listened to us and he went into the studio. That was his biggest thing is how to get the drums. At this time, there were no Pro Tools. This was on two inch tape. So he was very specific and was there throughout the process of the drums. He made a few suggestions but we had the rest of it down. His main concern was getting the drums down in such a way that where he didn’t have to do so much work splicing tape and making sure the takes were organized in such a way where he could do what he needed to do during the mixing process.”
No one could have predicted the impact the Covenant record would have upon the death metal world and its influence it would have on future generation of musicians. 20 years later and it is still one of the more common records which has had its impact felt.
“Listen, obviously everybody’s out to conquer the world. But we’re much more internal with the way we think about things. We look from within rather that look at what someone else is doing and try to follow. We’ve always paved our own way. And this was no different. But obviously we had these additional opportunities that opened up for being part of the Warner family. Big video budgets and larger touring opportunities – we were looking forward to doing the best we could pushing what we do as far as what we could push it, and retaining our identity.”
“A lot of times when people get put into a certain situation, then some things about their artistic integrity change. We were bound to determine that would not be the case.”
Despite the success of Covenant, Morbid Angel is arguably one of the biggest death metal bands around and continues to influence musicians of all eras. Vincent gave his thoughts on Morbid Angel’s impact on death metal.
“We have our own sound. In all honesty, back in the early years, I think everybody had their own sound. Things are a lot more amalgamated and homogenized these days. When we were doing what we do, we sounded a lot different. I’m thinking about a lot of the other Florida area bands, like Chuck Schuldiner, Obituary…some of the other bands….we all sounded different. I think it’s about we did our own thing and they picked up on it.”
by Rei Nishimoto