Review: Brimstone Coven – 'Black Magic'

When I hear of a Sabbath\Floyd sounding four-piece out of West Virginia classing themselves as ‘occult metal’ then I get a bit suspicious. West Virginia, to my mind, isn’t necessarily known for its demon metal, but then I’m told that the 35th State is the home of the Mothman, screaming Jenny, the Phantom of the Flatwoods, as well as other tales of terror, then it’s becoming plausible that there is enough going on in sleepy Wheeling, WV to inspire the dark forces needed to make the Brimstone Coven a reality.

Brimstone Coven have self funded and released two albums previously. The first was self-titled, and the second was sequentially entitled ‘II’. The two albums were re-released in August 2014 by Metal Blade Records as a double-header, so that’s another album to go track down.

First thing that strikes you is the album cover. The background is the deepest black and the artwork is of three witches, tangled around a burning cauldron and ready to strike. So far, so good. There are ten songs on the album, and looks like there’s going to be a vinyl version, so very good. But how does it sound? From the start, this album seems completely familiar, with a warmth of a recording style of the early to mid 1960s. Have you heard this somewhere before? That’s likely to be your first thought. The next thought will be a quick check of the year when this was recorded. Nope, definitely released in 2016.

The first track, ‘Black Magic’, is so laid back it’s almost horizontal, but it’s right there and hits the spot. It’s easy, heavy, repeated slow riffs, layered one on the other, building to the summit of the inevitable solo, building into other solos. Tony Iommi made a career out of this, but this isn’t a homage to Sabbath. This is completely in the groove. As we move into ‘Black Unicorn’ it’s a more up tempo affair, but its again totally in character with thick, distorted riffs breaking into wails at the end of the bars, with clean vocals over the top. The tone is perfect, and about two minutes, in we get the heavily distorted solo and it just fits the overall song, not breaking the vibe. The third track is where I started to get right into this album. ‘Beyond The Astral’ is a superb track that takes about a minute to get going, runs for about seven minutes, and goes crazy with solos at about the five minute mark. Tales of deception in the shadows and time bound secrets just have to wait as we are rocking out. Awesome track, and the highlight of the album for me.

‘As We Fall’, is a far more upbeat. Well, as upbeat as impending death can be, I guess. This is a far more of a Californian sound that we heard in the late sixties and very early seventies. It breaks into a solo that is just right, and this is a beautifully crafted song. It flows into the next track, ‘Upon The Mountain’, where we drop back into a more sombre tone, deep throbbing distorted riffs, and ponderous bass with vocal harmonies. This song gave me room spins, as there seems to be a wall of sound that builds throughout it. It’s like a chant, a coven, or an incantation. About three minutes in, it drops to a monotonous riff with the only melody being the vocal. Then, in chimes the guitar, soloing over the top, and if we aren’t in the groove enough, we are now being pummelled by cowbell. How much effort has gone into this album? It sounds amazing. The mix is just spot-on, and the songs are like adventures. I keep checking the progress bar as we have had so many changes I think we might flipped songs but this trip up the mountain is an epic. Next track, ‘Slow Death’, sounds like we know where this one is going to go, but I am wrong. It opens with an upbeat, open hi-hat, jazz feel. Slow death..” let’s consider the lyrics:

 “Girl, you’ve got to go, you’ll be the death of me, and that I know. You kill so slow and say you love me as you dig the hole”

So, standard song about relationships then? You know, I hear so many bands where they ‘crush’ you with unclean vocals about all sorts of demonic behaviour, but it washes off easily. There is something undeniably creepy about such morbid lyrics played to an upbeat jazz feel, but on it goes with the guitar taking the lead, then bass, before the guitar snatches the lead back and breaks into the solo. We have the mental image either of the chase or the ongoing worry of being topped at any point. Great track. It deserves to be recognised for the way that Brimstone Coven has put this winner together.

‘The Seers’ starts with a riff that puts us straight into Sold Our Soul territory. It has a very similar feel to the next song ‘The Plague’. ‘The Seers’ is very much in tone and in step with the rest of the album, but largely goes over territory covered in the first two tracks. ‘The Plague’, on the other hand, is a masterfully constructed song that takes on the happy subject of the four horsemen overseeing the demise of mankind. If you are on a date and stick on this track, you should be aware that you are unlikely to get anywhere. Although its a mellow acoustic opening with a synth string backing we get:

“Corpses flood the city street, cold black hand of foul disease, devils dance and demons sing, while victims writhe in agony”.

Then the horsemen enter in demon steed, and it all goes shitsville from there. The song breaks, and the tone lifts, but the feeling of doom, betrayal, and hopelessness remains. The solo drops in, echoed and played out somewhere in the distance like a beacon, the only highpoint in this dirge. This is quite a track and right up there as a favourite. The end choruses all seem so positive after the opening but, wow, well done! Great song, well put together, but where do Brimstone Coven go in West Virginia to be inspired to write these lyrics?

The penultimate track is ‘Forsaken’, which is probably a fitting title after surviving the plague. This is a straight up five minute riff and solo song. Again superb tone and song construction, and the mix remains perfect, as it has throughout the album. It’s the last track, ‘The Eldest Tree’, which is the weakest point of the album for me. By ‘weakest’, I mean that it’s an opportunity missed, as I’ve been through nine tracks, and expected a lot more! Its a lazy riff, dropped and languid. The song just does not really go anywhere, and takes about six minutes to achieve that. Two high points though. The first is the interlude in the middle where we are reprieved from the monotone riff. The second good thing is the lyric,‘twisted trunk of treachery‘, which is so whacked out to be spectacular. Overall, least favourite on the album.

There’s three simple things in my mind that the big guns of metal always did and these are; great artwork, solid songs and maintain the tone throughout the album. This album has all three although, as I said, I felt the album just drop a little bit of vigour in the last song but my expectations were very high given the first nine songs.

This is a very easy album to recommend that you seek out and buy, and please buy in the most appropriate way that benefits the artist. Next thing is that I strongly encourage you to try and get this on vinyl because this album deserves vinyl. I hear you, you don’t have a turntable/deathdeck, and your neighbours don’t like loud music. This is important, get this in vinyl, buy a turntable, and move home if you need to! This album needs to be played loud. Last point, support the unusual. This isn’t cookie cutter music as it is well thought out, planned and executed. You need to get out and support this music when and where you can. All hail Brimstone Coven!

Brimstone Coven are:- “Big John” Williams – vocals Corey Roth – guitar Andrew D’Cagna – bass Justin Wood – drums

Review by Craig Grant

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