Performed by: Coven
Written by: Jinx Dawson
Track Length: 10
Where to buy: eBay
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today, I present Henry Zeo Covert’s review of the new album by the legendary Goth metal group Coven. Take it away, Henry!
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
Coven was a band that always fascinated me. Since becoming immersed in Black Sabbath in high school, I would, on occasion, read of “real” Satanic bands (unlike Sabbath, whose lyricist Geezer Butler mined occult imagery but was no “devil worshiper”). Two such groups that invariably cropped up in my readings were Black Widow and Coven. While it’s true Black Widow (and even Sabbath on at least one occasion) would perform mock black magic rituals on stage, Coven was the first rock band to perform a genuine black mass on record, with a lengthy (and somewhat startling) track, “Satanic Mass”, on the B side of their very first album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls (1968). Coven’s first album also included as its opening track “Black Sabbath”, a tune filled with exhortations to witches enacting dark rituals. This was a bit removed from the band Black Sabbath’s 1970 eponymous track, which was more a cautionary tale about Satan. Coven’s image and thematic influence, if not their sound, paved the way for Sabbath’s classic first three albums, all written and recorded a year or more after Coven’s first record.
Led by singer/songwriter Jinx Dawson, Coven was truly the preeminent underground occult-rock band, and as their influence grew, they continued to be criminally underrated. Their second, self-titled, LP (1972), showed a more melodic sensibility (foreshadowed by Witchcraft‘s “The White Witch of Rose Hall”) emerging with the sublime “Nightingale” and the hit single “One Tin Soldier”, the theme song to the film Billy Jack (and a track not written by the band). Coven was strong in this area; their tunes were passionate and Jinx’s soaring vocals wrung every nuance of melody from their evolving slate of material.
By their third musical offering, the classic Blood on the Snow (1974), Coven had steered the lyrics largely away from overt occult concerns, but their tunes had reached a melodious bliss, led on a crest by Jinx’s amazing voice and delirious range. Leaving behind more of the heavier, more diabolical sound and lyrics, Jinx’s words were still captivating – from the mournful (“Blue Blue Ships”) to the sanguine (the title track). A high point of this album was the slightly “adult contemporary”/country-flavored “Lady O”, possibly their finest tune to date. Blood on the Snow was a seminal embodiment of underground rock of its era, in some ways comparable to Dust or Lucifer’s Friend, but with strains of The Poppy Family wafting in. Ignoring the radio-forged juggernaut that popularized this term, Coven’s third record to this writer is what truly constitutes “classic rock”. Unfortunately this was to be their penultimate record – until now, that is.
Coven’s dissolution is largely an area of mystery to me, but Jinx Dawson emerged in the new millennium ready to reassume the mantle of torchbearer for the Coven name, concept, and back catalogue. After amassing a dedicated and loyal following online, and reissuing Coven albums that had previously been unavailable on CD, she issued Metal Goth Queen – Out of the Vault, an album of previously unreleased material, including Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin‘s final recorded track, “Black Swan”. Everything seemed to flow from there, as if Jinx had a master plan for a glorious comeback. And, apparently, she did, as the pieces came together for her reunion with original Coven members Steve Ross (drums), Oz Osbourne (bass; no relation to Ozzy), Chris Nielsen (guitar), and Rick Durrett (keyboards), and the induction of new musicians into her wicked fold. And so, over three decades after the last Coven release proper, the Godfathers of Occult-Rock have released a new album, Jinx, named for the Godmother of Goth herself.
This new CD not only obviously showcases Jinx’s stellar talents front and center, but also those of Ross, Osbourne, Nielsen, and Durrett, as well as new collaborators and guest musicians, such as the groups Wolfpack 44 and We Are Hex. Two past Coven tracks, “Wicked Woman” and “Black Swan” have been reworked. The former is a very modernized, much heavier, production, while the latter brilliantly exploits the dark melodies that made the original so indelible. The remaining tracks veer from bone-crunchingly heavy to eerily ambient to the aforementioned melodic bliss of classic Coven, creating a tapestry of Jinx’s shifting moods and musical eclecticism.
The opening track, “Prelude”, leads off with an evil dirge, an ambient harbinger of the horror show to come. This segues into the doom-laden riffs of “Out of Luck”, which boasts some priceless melodic breaks amid the churning swamp of heaviness, and showcases some ferocious screaming by Jinx (King Diamond, move over, buddy…) The third track, “To the Devil A Daughter”, is an almost grindcore-like tune, with some ear-shattering wails from Jinx. “Wicked Woman ’13” is a massive makeover of the Witchcraft Destroys Minds… classic, and is notable for its bashing heaviness and demented vocals. “Danger/Ju Ju Goat” is the album’s first really melodic piece and is a beguiling slice of pop, punctuated by sinister exhortations to the titular JuJu Goat.
The bone-crunching tracks are well-executed, but my weakness for the melodic side of Coven points me in the direction of the tracks “Epitaph”, the aforementioned “Black Swan”, and “Quick and the Dead”. And they do not disappoint. “Epitaph” reminded me most of classic Coven. Epic in construction, this is Coven songwriting at its finest, conjuring the vibe of the band’s more legendary works. “WDMRS” (think hard on what this is an acronym of) is another thrashing rocker, with We Are Hex (an act I plead unfamiliarity with) collaborating with Jinx. Strong, but not one of my favourite tracks. “Quick and the Dead”, however, is another modern classic, the longest track on the album, and filled with that archetypal Coven vibe, with some wonderful guitar jams (courtesy Chris Nielsen). The elegiac strains and characteristic Jinx Dawson soaring melodies of “Ave Satanas” (a sort of truncated sequel to “Satanic Mass”) are both thoroughly accessible and a bit chilling – the perfect album closer.
Coven, the 2013 model, while similar in the most important ways, is a much more advanced and rougher beast than in the 1970s. As in their past lives the band juggles angelic tones with daemonic noise; melodious vocalisms with lyrics torn from the pit. These paradoxes form the fabric of Coven and always have, making them one of the most unique acts ever assembled. Jinx’s lyrics are interesting as always, laced with her trademark witchery; at times playful, at times sinister. The musicianship is stellar; the players tight; the keyboards throw daunting shapes; and the guitars swing from pure drone to acidic shredding with ease.
The panoply of sounds found on Jinx is fitting for a rebirth of Coven for the 21st century, exploiting the very sounds they helped pioneer. Along the way, one can hear how Coven unmistakably paved the way for acts such as Danzig, Mercyful Fate and Christian Death. Now the influence comes full circle, as Jinx can stand proudly alongside the work of any of the band’s extreme progeny. And so Jinx Dawson and Coven are back, at long last, in fine form, and out for blood. Progenitors of Goth and black metal, they can proudly take their most overdue place in the pantheon of rock pioneers. Their previous charms inform much of Jinx, but their sound is updated to fit proudly alongside the numerous modern acts Coven spawned. We can only hope that the band will tour to support the album, and a new generation will at long last have the chance to experience the wicked magick that is Coven live, and to exalt in the raw performing power of the eternal Queen of Darkness, Jinx Dawson. Ave Jinx! I give this album an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 Tentacles!
Henry Zeo Covert – Minion (Reviewer/Columnist)