Brimstone Coven – Brimstone Coven (Metal Blade Records)

Thursday, 4th September 2014
Rating: 7/10

Essentially, if you want to get signed these days, become a retro rock band. DR would like to say it’s that simple, but it’s really not – some varying degree of talent and songwriting acumen is required. The downside, of course, is that it lessens the impact of bands who otherwise would be legitimate and/or worthy, like Wheeling, WV’s Brimstone Coven, who yet another in a long line of retro do-gooders looking for their piece of the (weed-spiked) pie. The band’s self-titled debut has been snapped up by Metal Blade, who for all intents and purposes, will use the band and album as a back-ended push for priority acts like Mount Salem and Gypsyhawk.

Predictably, the whole thing sounds a little too ripped from the 70s, right from the production values to the riff templates, which corner Sabbath and other various fuzz rockers such as Blue Cheer and Pentagram. Vocalist “Big John” Williams (we checked out some pictures – he’s not overweight, although a hefty doom/retro singer would be cool to see for once) has ample amounts of loose change and jean jacket swagger; the type of vocalist who probably kills at karaoke and can also carry a melody, which he does on “Cosmic Communion” and the space-truckin’ “The Black Door.”

As stripped-down of an album this is, the band still conjures up a few notable riff-rock moments. The slow grind/jangle of “Blood on the Wall” is the album’s best Masters of Reality moment; “Vying” has the most ominous churn of the bunch, and “The Folly of Faust” scratches and claws its way past the seven-minute mark to become the album’s apex, a lurching, be-deviled rocker that should serve as a template for better things down the road if the band wants to get out of the retro box they’re already painted into. Chances are, though, they’ll be in this bin for quite some time…

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