“Black Magic”

By The Great Sun Jester

Brimstone Coven’s sophomore effort from Metal Blade Records, "Black Magic", reaches further and leaves a deeper mark than their stellar 2014 self-titled debut. This West Virginia-based outfit is rightly gaining notice in a crowded musical field thanks to a retro-themed approach that, nevertheless, insists on remaining resolutely original. They achieve this thanks to their ability to coherently unite a variety of influences under one banner. Strongly psychedelic elements comfortably coexist alongside beefy guitars, strong melodies, and a swinging rhythm section. The production further builds on the throwback feel without relying on any studio sleight of hand in achieving its effects.

The title track has a strong, subterranean bluesy rumble with multipart harmonies. Clarity and focus are crucial parts of Brimstone Coven’s line of attack – melodies and lead work are imbued with a degree of complexity while still remaining condensed, individual passages flowing seamlessly into each other and no single element ever overstays its welcome. The primary riff in “Black Unicorn” doesn’t lean as heavily on melodic strengths, but looks to bulldoze listeners instead. Clarity and focus remain hallmarks of the band’s approach, but this riff might weary some, even with brief instrumental breaks changing things up. The line between hypnotic and overly repetitive can be thin.

Brimstone Coven brings listeners back to more diverse ground on “Beyond the Astral”. The multipart vocals contrast better against the band’s groove-centric stomp than any preceding track and the various musical movements fuse seamlessly into an impressive whole. “As We Fall” has the same melodic strengths distinguishing the album’s strongest tracks, but the jangling guitars and distant vocals give it a hazier atmosphere than the earlier songs. “Upon the Mountain” is pure Strum and Drang, plodding doom with elongated melodies and a droning vocal melody. While lack of variation undermines “Black Unicorn”, “Upon the Mountain” succeeds thanks to the comparative stability of its groove. “Slow Death” is the closest yet Brimstone Coven comes to pure boogie and has an appealing edgy bounce. 

“The Seers” is another methodical riffer with fantasy-themed lyrics distinguished by their poetic flourish. There’s more than a little of the band’s Hawkwind influence shining through, but the band plays with far more physicality than that iconic English outfit. The drumming, in particular, is a highlight from first song to last and thunders away memorably on this song. Brimstone Coven revisits softer strains on “The Plague” and crafts a chilling apocalyptically themed ballad from its evocative marriage of music and lyric. “Forsaken” begins with a disjointed intro before segueing into another deceptively powerful riff-driven track. The band makes tremendous use of space in their songs and the album’s penultimate track is no different – you can hear the album’s best illustration yet of that skill in action listening to how the lead guitar wraps itself around the song’s primary riff and improves the overall experience as a result.

The album’s finale, “The Eldest Tree”, is thankfully no widescreen effort to end the album with some pretentious last statement, but its power is somewhat subverted by lack of variation. Some will surely find the song’s circular riffing to have a trance-like quality, but others will likely hear it as dull and unimaginative. The instrumental breaks save it, however, thanks to their dramatic juxtaposition with the verses. Brimstone Coven isn’t going to make everyone happy, but the vast majority will recognize what is more apparent than ever – this is a band with objectively endless potential. Nothing is outside of their wheelhouse or outside their purview. While it may not be a perfect album,"Black Magic" surpasses the band’s debut and lays claim to their long term legitimacy as one of rock music’s best new bands. Highly recommended