Brimstone Coven – Black Magic
Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: January 29, 2016
Each year the metal scene gets off to a slow start with new releases, but the final week of January 2016 is a mother lode of heavy gems. Included in the metal deluge is West Virginia traditionalists, Brimstone Coven. The band’s name alone should give some insight into their style and sound. If you are thinking late 60’s – early 70s proto-metal with elements of occultish doom and psychedelic flourishes, you would be dead on the money. Think Black Sabbath‘s debut album meets New York’s Dust, or Pentagram jamming with Blue Cheer.
One listen to the band’s newest album, Black Magic, and you are called back to another era. Even the recording of the album is undiluted and raw in its production. The record wheels out under the Stonehenge-heavy guitar riffs of founder Corey Roth and the plodding stick work of drummer Justin Wood. Almost immediately Andrew D’Cagna‘s bass chases after the rhythm like air bubbles seeking the surface. Vocalist John Williams is the last to join in with a voice perfectly suited for the band’s dark style. One of the aspects of Brimstone Coven‘s music that sets them apart are the three-part vocal harmonies. The rolling guitar and cowbell recall a bit of Leslie West’s Mountain.
If you can forgive the band for beginning the album with two songs with “black” in the title, you can easily fall in love with the retro groove of “Black Unicorn”. The song is a more uptempo track than its predecessor, and Roth’s warbling guitar solo adds a psychedelic touch to the track.
Next up is the airy swing of “Beyond the Astral”, which begins with an almost jaunty rhythm and where the band’s vocal harmonies are a notable highlight. This segues into more of a driving rocker with a definite Tony Iommi nod in the riffing, and even some classic UFO in the bluesy and sometimes lumbering vibe of the song. This is followed, in contrast, by the languid ballad, “As We Fall”.
In comparison to the ghostly harmonies and sluggish gait of “Upon the Mountain”, “Slow Death” is a positively peppy jam that recalls a bit of a Cactus feel with Wood and D’Cagna capturing the spirit of drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert.
“The Seers” pays homage to that classic Sabbath groove, with beefy riffs and a filthy bass line. The song is elevated, once again, by the soaring vocal harmonies of Roth, Williams, and D’Cagna.
For some reason, I can see Quentin Tarantino utilizing the dramatic and broody atmosphere of “The Plague” in one of his films. Contrary to the song’s title, the music has a folky feel to it that adds an eerie undercurrent of creepiness.
“The Elder Tree” closes the record out in a haze of droning, chanted vocals. The song has the feel of a ritual sacrifice in the offing, and the guitars and rhythm section just hammer away at your cranium.
D’Cagna produced Black Magic at his own Sacred Sound Studios in Ohio and he does a fantastic job of keeping the retro vibe of the proto-metal era without burying it in fuzz. Black Magic is an album steeped in vintage doomery that harks to a bygone era without devolving into poor imitation. Brimstone Coven manages to pay homage to the past while adding its own bit of dark sorcery to the mix.
In short, with Black Magic, Brimstone Coven have captured a sonic journey that spans decades.