Love it or hate it, so-called 'occult rock' is one of today's burgeoning sub-genres. We say 'so-called' as some of those involved appear to have read a few Dennis Wheatley novels, liked the covers and formed a band. To unearth the roots of occult rock, however, we need to go back in time to the late 60s, and what we find is a group who took their subject matter very seriously indeed.
Released in 1969 (crucially pre-dating Black Sabbath), Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls was the debut from Chicago’s Coven and is generally regarded as the ground zero of occult rock. That Sabbath were a million times more successful both in terms of sales and in receiving credit for taking diabolical themes to the mainstream is but a twist of fate.
Coven issued two further albums to little avail, but their legend lived on long enough to capture a new audience in the internet age. Spurred on by this renewed interest, the band reformed in 2007 and have finally completed this, their big comeback. Fronted by fiery-tongued diva Jinx Dawson, Jinx finds Coven in surprisingly sprightly form. The demented vocals, loopy guitar solos and fruity rhythms of opener Out Of Luck are instantly recognisable but they’re strangely contemporary too. Things really have come full circle.
Elsewhere, the jaunty harpsichord and fuzz guitar interplay of Epitaph and the quirky Black Swan (as featured on 2008 compilation Metal Goth Queen – Out Of The Vault) emphasise the traditional Coven sound, but there are deviations. The almost industrial backbeat and metallic guitar driving To The Devil A Daughter, and the virtually unrecognizable reworking of debut album nugget Wicked Woman may leave some older fans cold, but in the end the sheer quirkiness of the whole thing wins the day.
The glitterball groove and funky basslines of Danger JuJu Goat, for example, are simply irresistible, while the searing harpsichord and Hammond organ hoedown on the epic Quick And The Dead is wonderfully eccentric. Even the church organ grind of closer Ave Satanas has its own unique charm. A righteous return.