Covenant, Massive Ego, Empathy Test and My Hysteria @ O2 Academy Islington

17th March 2018
Review by Victoria Fenbane
Photography by Jo Blackened

Sweden’s’ Covenant recently returned to the UK for their first tour in 5 years, before they cross the Atlantic for a tour of the US with Grendel. Since they last performed in the UK they have released a new album, ‘The Blinding Dark’, and front-man Eskil Simonsson has had a dramatic haircut. On the London date they were supported by the fantastic UK line-up of Massive Ego, Empathy Test and My Hysteria, put together by Flag Promotions.

Tonight was My Hysteria’s debut show, and Islington O2 Academy is an impressive venue to debut in! Never mind the impressive line-up following them.

Lead singer Alessio is no stranger to the stage, having previously fronted post-punk band In Loving Memory.

Martin provides the programming/synths, as the two of them played their set.

My Hysteria are a synthpop/futurepop act with songs influenced by time spent in the iconic Slimelight nightclub, across the road, with closing song ‘7:30am’ being a perfect example.

My Hysteria was fortunate that a large crowd had come down for their very early set (5:45!), who enjoyed their energetic set.

My Hysteria will no doubt be getting more bookings for support sets in the near future.

I first saw Empathy Test in 2015, and since then they have been rapidly rising stars.

Covenant specifically requested them as support on this tour, as have many other respected artists such as Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection, and Adrian Hates of Diary of Dreams. Despite being main tour support, Empathy Test were third on the bill in London, but their indie-synthpop with highly emotive lyrics draws the crowd, and the venue is rammed when they take the stage.

Over the past few years, Empathy Test’s performance has become less introverted, and vocalist Isaac banters with the crowd between songs.

Joking about the matching floral shirts of Sam (keyboards) and Christina (drums) looking like accidental armchairs, his voice being rough after 8 shows in 9 days, and that Massive Ego are stealing their slot.

They make up for the early set time by coming on stage 10 minutes early and fitting in more songs.

The energy in the room ignites when they play ‘Bare My Soul’ and continues right through to when they close with ‘Here Is the Place’.

Empathy Test will be touring Germany and Russia in April 2018, and I will only get bigger, so catch them at smaller shows while you can.

Empathy Test Setlist:

Vampire Town
Safe From Harm
Bare My Soul
Holding On
Losing Touch
Here Is the Place

Massive Ego are a British band, signed to a German label (Out of Line), who seem to play few UK shows, so it was the first time I got to see the full audio-visual experience.

They have great energy on stage and frontman Marc’s impressive makeup is in full glory, with their brooding, yet glam darkwave sound, and slick visuals.

Unfortunately German rapper Belzebub  did not join them on stage for ‘Haters Gonna Hate’, instead, they showed him on a large screen singing his parts, but it was still a great show.

I’ve listened to Massive Ego’s most recent album ‘Beautiful Suicide’ repeatedly, so was pleased their set consisted entirely of songs from there.

Massive Ego Setlist:

Ghost in My Dream
Beautify Suicide
She Uses Sex
Low Life
Kates in a State
For The Blood in Your Veins
Haters Gonna Hate

After three great performances, the audience were more than warmed up for the headliners.Covenant are considered one of the ‘big three’ of futurepop, along with VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk, so the excitement of seeing them live was tinged with trepidation that the show might not live up to past experiences.

There has been talk of Eskil’s change in hairstyle leading to a Samson-like decrease in powers. Thankfully this turned out to be untrue.

After an abstract synth drone intro, during which the near-black stage was filled with as much smoke as a Sisters of Mercy show, Covenant took the stage.

The live line-up comprised of Eskil, Daniel Jonasson (from Dupont) and Daniel Myer (Haujob, Destroid etc), and opened with dance floor filler ‘Like Tears in Rain’. Eskil’s all-important voice sounded fantastic, to my great relief.

The second song of the night was the iconic ‘Bullet’, and I feared they were going to peak early, but it segued smoothly into ‘I Close My Eyes’ from latest album ‘The Blinding Dark’, bringing this album into a new light to me.

Next was the first setlist surprise of the night; ‘Figurehead’ from Covenant’s second album ‘Sequencer’, released way back in 1996.

They continue onto more early EBM material with ‘Edge of Dawn’, ‘Shelter’ from their 1994 debut album ‘Dreams of a Cryotank’ and finally ‘Leviathan’ from 1998’s ‘Europa’ album.

Many in the crowd are ecstatic about hearing the 90’s material since they are expecting a set of futurepop noughties era Covenant, interspersed with the last two albums.

They slip in ‘Sound Mirrors’ from ‘The Blinding Dark’ in at this point (possibly to allow us to catch our breaths), followed by the anthemic ‘Ritual Noise’, which despite being overplayed in clubs sounds fresh tonight.

There is one more EBM treat to come with 1996’s ‘Stalker’. ‘Call the Ships to Port’ ends the main set and ‘We Stand Alone’ brings the evening to a close.

It was an excellent gig, and I look forward to seeing Covenant again. They did not disappoint!

Covenant setlist:

Death of Identity
Like Tears in Rain
I Close My Eyes
Edge of Dawn
Sound Mirrors
Ritual Noise
Stalker (Club Version)
Morning Star
Call the Ships to Port

We Stand Alone