Brimstone Coven - Black Magic - (6.5/10)
Published on January 28, 2016
West-Virginia based doom rock peddlers Brimstone Coven debuted with a 2012 EP that thoroughly channeled early day Witchcraft, so much that it could easily pass for unreleased material from the Swedish stalwarts. With their second EP II, the band seemed to carve out a path of their own, with a doomy rock painted in ritualistic strokes. Black Magic is their first full length, and sees the group take two steps forward and one step back.
Black Magic opens on a dark and evocative note, with a downbeat title track that feels like a natural sprouting of the seeds planted on II. Heavy on groove, with creepy vocal harmonies and moody atmosphere, it lays the groundwork for the ceremony that is sure to follow. It’s a shame, then, that the spell is broken by the stark shift in tone brought on by “Black Unicorn”, which is another page ripped straight out of Witchcraft’s playbook. Vocalist “Big John” Williams goes the extra step by doing his best Magnus Pelander impression, which is odd considering his otherwise unique voice.
As the album grows and transforms, the band’s other influences become clear, with bands such as Blue Öyster Cult, Pentagram, and even Led Zeppelin sporadically coming to the forefront. “As We Fall” is an ominous acoustic number for occult-minded hippies, while “Upon the Mountain” is an epic doom chant in the same spirit as II’s “Behold, the Annunaki”. On the lighter side, there’s a thumping 70’s biker rock side to tracks such as “Slow Death”, with strong shades of Secret Treaties. The heavier doom tracks stand in contrast to the 60’s vibes of “The Plague”, and the change of styles can be immersion-breaking at times. Brimstone Coven manage to make most of the different approaches work, but they sound best when they return to the gloomy well of doom.
In those moments where the hero-worship falls away in favor of the band’s own burgeoning sound, Black Magic is intoxicating and deeply atmospheric. The at times imitative approach is a damn shame, and as with their previous EP’s the truly great material falls a few songs short of fulfilling the album’s full potential. Brimstone Coven have found their forte in groovy basslines, dark psychedelia, and eerie vocal harmonies. Hopefully they will have the confidence to shed some of the more direct musical references in the future, and in doing so reach the higher tiers of occult rock revivalists.