If Brimstone Coven isn’t my favourite occult rock act, then they’re definitely right up there with the likes of Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony and Electric Wizard. Chances are, you’ve heard those names before, but this Coven is likely more unfamiliar. I certainly hadn’t heard of them before stumbling in on a mid-afternoon set at the final edition of Days of the Doomed, mere days before they signed with Metal Blade. Their first release for the label was simply a compilation of their two previous independent albums, but still made its way up to numero tres on my Top 10 Albums of 2014. Yes, it’s that good.
While some of their contemporaries are a tad too cheesy to be taken seriously, Brimstone Coven gets it. Big, meaty, proto-doom riffs a la Pentagram are complemented by eerie three-part vocal harmonies, without any cloaks or candles to be found (except in their new music video.) When it comes to this coven, it’s certainly a case of substance over style.
Black Magic begins with the title track, a sinister slice of retro doom anchored by rumbling bass grooves and vintage guitar riffs. The chorus grooves and swings with some soaring vocals that put them above their peers. The band doubles down on black with second track “Black Unicorn,” this one faster off the bat, an up-tempo retro attack that recalls the Swedish riffs of Graveyard or Witchcraft.
“Beyond the Astral” is the longest song on here at a shade under seven minutes, but simple Sabbath worship, this is not. A mid-paced march ensues with some Pentagram-sized riffs…and OK, maybe just a smidge of Sabbath, if you had Geezer and Iommi singing along with Ozzy. “As We Fall” is something I don’t recall hearing from these guys before—a full-blown ballad. It’s got that sleepy, sixties psych-pop feel, albeit with subject matter that most artists of that era wouldn’t touch.
“Slow Death” is actually pretty fast-paced, an up-tempo shuffle somewhat akin to Deep Purple, while “The Plague” doesn’t destroy everything in its path with its jangly, folksy pop. Note to dictators and military torture experts: this is how you make death and disease more pleasurable.