Brimstone Coven was not a band I was familiar with before receiving ‘Black Magic’, their second album and the first whilst signed to Metal Blade, but their sound was one that was instantly recognisable. From the first chord of the eponymous album opener an image of flares, beards, long hair and kaftans of decades gone by is summoned with a sound straight from the Seventies heyday of The Old Grey Whistle Test; the riff is heavy, the bass pounding, and the drums heed the cry of “more cowbell” and take it to heart. So, what is it that may well set this band apart from so many other bands that are drifting through the smoke of the ongoing retro movement that is continuing to built up so much momentum? The guitars, well, they’re bloody good, but no better than say Kadavar; the rhythm section is solid, but no more so than the engine that drives Orchid; and the occult themes are ones that can trace their lineage straight from Black Widow to Blood Ceremony. Indeed, ‘Black Unicorn’ follows up the opener with lyrics that could well have been penned by Geezer Butler and co., whilst they were waiting for their first recording contract. What sets Brimstone Coven apart from the crowd, and will hopefully draw them the audience they deserve is the vocal harmonies that they display. Even more than the soon to re-emerge Beelzefuzz who had stunning two part harmonies, Brimstone Coven manage the all too rare three part harmonies, the ethereal sound lending a heady and rarely heard sound to the album.
‘Beyond The Astral’, with its lyrics of voyages through outer space care of the inner being is given a massively trippy feel by the subtly layered vocals that owe little to the skills of an engineer, but all to the abilities of the singers who must surely have absorbed the influence of the Haight-Ashbury scene into their very DNA, all set to a riff that must have been played on a battered Gibson SG and pumped out through vintage valve and tube amps. Not all is Iommi worship though, and ‘As We Fail’ is a far gentler tune, as much influenced by The Byrds of long bygone psychedelic Los Angeles as the Metal of industrial Britain’s yesteryear. Hell, if they turned off their amps and switched their instruments for acoustic guitars they could well be a modern challenger to the psyche-folk legends of Crosby Stills and Nash, especially in numbers such as ‘Upon The Mountain’ with its mournful plea for the spirit of Mother Earth to take her children home.
Those who are reading this and thinking that the album has no place on the pages of Ave Noctum, and should be consigned to some folk worshipping site, fear not, there are riffs aplenty and more than enough to get heads banging. ‘Slow Death’ has a positively infectious beat and simpler vocal style, the harmonies only being brought in to highlight and accentuate single lines of the chorus rather than dominate the sound-scape, whilst bass, drums, and guitar all get featured lines before gelling together into a glorious jam, whilst ‘The Seers’ has more than enough of a Pentagram feel to have traditional Doom fans grinning, if a happy Doom fan isn’t an oxymoron that is. Closing the album is ‘The Eldest Tree’, opening with the cry of ravens on the wing before foreboding guitars accompany the brooding chants of some Dennis Wheatley inspired magic ceremony. Whilst many contemporary acts would have down tuned the guitars and upped the fuzz, the band instead play surprisingly cleanly, again giving ‘Black Magic’ a sound that will help it stand out from the crowd.
If occult rock is your thing, Brimstone Coven have added an excellent album to the genre. If you want an idea of how good I thought it was, before submitting the review, I sought out their bandcamp page and purchased the first album. Yes, us reviewers do buy stuff you know, and when we do, it is truly a testimony to the quality of the band!