Saturday, February 01, 2014

Review: Coven - Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls

Coven are a band straight from the era where "flower power" and "peace" were the dominate forces of the mainstream. Bell bottom jeans, shaggin' wagons, shag carpets, peace signs and happy tie-dye colors littered every corner of this generation, from albums to posters to almost anything you could imagine. In a time so overtaken with love obsessed hippies, it was unheard of for people to be seen dressed in all black and wearing inverted crosses. The words "witchcraft", "Lucifer" and "Satan" were still under massive superstition and ridicule; if you were into the occult, you kept this trait private. Coven were among the first, if not the first, band to delve into the black arts and present them to the public via music. Their debut full-length album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, features the members of the band wearing inverted crosses, all black, showing the sign of the horns (which predates Dio by many years) which later became a signet for metal, and even performing a ritual at an alter wearing Satanic style robes on the inlay of their vinyl. When taking a deeper look into this album and the music that lies within, what else caused this album to be scorned by the general public?

Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Release Date: 1969
  1. Black Sabbath
  2. White Witch of Rose Hall
  3. Coven in Charring Cross
  4. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
  5. Pact With Lucifer
  6. Choke, Thirst, Die
  7. Wicked Woman
  8. Dignitaries of Hell
  9. Portrait
  10. Satanic Mass
Total Playtime: 45 minutes, 55 seconds










Rating: 10/10







Coven are a band straight from the era where "flower power" and "peace" were the dominate forces of the mainstream. Bell bottom jeans, shaggin' wagons, shag carpets, peace signs and happy tie-dye colors littered every corner of this generation, from albums to posters to almost anything you could imagine. In a time so overtaken with love obsessed hippies, it was unheard of for people to be seen dressed in all black and wearing inverted crosses. The words "witchcraft", "Lucifer" and "Satan" were still under massive superstition and ridicule; if you were into the occult, you kept this trait private. Coven were among the first, if not the first, band to delve into the black arts and present them to the public via music. Their debut full-length album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, features the members of the band wearing inverted crosses, all black, showing the sign of the horns (which predates Dio by many years) which later became a signet for metal, and even performing a ritual at an alter wearing Satanic style robes on the inlay of their vinyl. When taking a deeper look into this album and the music that lies within, what else caused this album to be scorned by the general public?

I actually wasn't familiar with Coven until one of my friends played me a couple tracks off of this album a few years ago. I probably had the general first impression that people who aren't really listening to the album have, it was okay. Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls is an album that you really have to sit down and sink your teeth into to get the full effect. Mostly since the songs are so up-beat and joyous one would never guess that they're centered around Satan, voodoo, witchcraft and other occult themes if they weren't paying attention to the lyrics or weren't exposed to the track listing. I've done various digging around on this album and the mythical air that surrounds it since my first exposure to it, and I was surprised to find that Coven are indeed the first band to ever have used the sign of the horns. I've yet to find a picture of Dio donning this symbol that predates the release of this album, where the members of Coven are seen making various Satanic symbols with their hands on the artwork on the inlay and back cover of the vinyl. As far as my knowledge carries this review, it also seems as tho Coven are the first to do a few other things; record a genuine Black Mass, wear inverted crosses and even record a blast beat. You're probably saying to yourself either "that's bullshit", "why haven't I heard of them?" or both if you've yet to be introduced to Coven. Well for one, it's not bullshit. Most audiences have probably not been exposed to the band, even after nearly 45 years since their initial formation, since this album was pulled from shelves not long after it's release due to the highly controversial nature that each track bathes in.

The vocalist, Jinx, creates a powerfully theatrical performance throughout the entire album. Her vocals reach operatic highs, whispering lows and everything else in between the two polar extremes, all the while embellishing each song with detailed stories of spells and voodoo ("Choke, Thirst, Die"), soul selling ("Pact with Lucifer"), black magic used for revenge ("Coven in Charring Cross") and much more. Her vocals are lavishly emotional, rivaling some of the greats of the era; Janis Joplin namely, but less gruff in tone. Often there are chants present, and Jinx's voice reigns high above the two male members of the group due to her emphasis and theatrics, especially during "Coven in Charring Cross" and "Choke, Thirst, Die".


The guitar throughout the material acts on it's own and is almost always heard lacing the songs with grooving solos through the right speaker, while the main substance of the album is made up by the deep woody bass and drums. There is a piano that fills in the left speaker with exuberant compositions that give the content most of it's up-tempo quality; along with the excitement in the main vocals. The cymbals and snare of the drum kit stand out magnificently with complimentary beats that thump to a moderate tempo in the background, they synchronize themselves primarily with the flow of the vocals and when vocals are not present they glue themselves to the bass.

For it's time, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls has an excellent sound quality that has held up well over the years. The only aging it's received is the prominent fuzzy low grade static that gives a vinyl like quality, which was of course the original format in which it was recorded on. The final track on this album is of course "Satanic Mass", which is a thirteen minute black mass ritual that was recorded live for the material. This is the first time an authentic black mass had ever been made available to the public, and causes this record's occult status to skyrocket to uncontrollable proportions.

Truly unlike anything of it's time, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls will leave a lasting impression on any listener it receives, entrapping them with it's gleeful hymns that represent Hell infernal. Many of the tracks embed themselves in the audience's psyche with their catchy bass riffs and memorable lyrics, "Choke, Thirst, Die", "Portrait", "Coven in Charring Cross", "Wicked Woman" and "Pact with Lucifer" namely. Another little item to point out is the track "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" spells out the word fuck with the first letter of each word. This album is laden in occultism, from the very lyrics and themes to the vinyl gatefold it came enclosed in. I even took the time to reverse some tracks off of this album, and although I was disappointed to not find any hidden backmasking, I must say that "Coven in Charring Cross" sounds eerily wonderful backwards. A must listen for all metal lovers, it may be light and frothy for some but these are black metal's true roots, like it or not. Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls is the introduction of Lucifer and Satanism into rock n' roll.

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  1. Very informative and well written even to an ole hippie like me. When it came to "Coven" everyone looked the other way.

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