The 21st century thus far for better or worse has been littered with throwback-themed acts; bands that are by no means “legacy” but aim to sound like it. For some it makes for an interesting and nostalgic musical flavour, for others it’s a copout for a lack of creativity or a sign of the genre at large running completely out of fresh ideas. One of these acts that’s been around for close to a decade now is Brimstone Coven, describing themselves straightforwardly as a “retro-hard rock/heavy blues band” and summing this familiar stew up uniquely to themselves as “dark occult rock”. Despite the myriad of contrivances one could easily anticipate from how they summarize themselves, the West Virginia three-piece insists nonetheless that they have concocted “a vintage sound and style of their own.”
Their fourth release, The Woes Of A Mortal Earth, lays Brimstone’s purported neo-retro mix out bare for critical ears to measure up for themselves. “The Inferno” is a hazy trip back to 1970, a riffy blur of the dark psychedelics of Black Sabbath and the cowbell-driven distorto-drive of Mountain. “When The World Is Gone” decelerates down to a gothy stoner pace, the raw, simplistic drums pounding away hypnotically behind the song’s crunching power chords. “Live With A Ghost” is essentially the same deal, albeit more aggressive; one can hear smidgens of early Metallica (and perhaps later in the stripped-down Load/Reload days) if it were performed at half the original pace.
“The Darker Half” launches things up to an active pace, perhaps being the most original song of the six on Woes and surely the most melodically memorable. “Secrets Of The Earth” follows, starting with a brooding bass intro and breaking into an Iommi-esque riff collage dynamically offset by layers of easing, trippy vocals. It is precisely this formula on “Secrets” that most clearly summarizes the essence of Brimstone Coven, leading into one last six-string-soaked stoner slog with “Song Of Whipporwill” before departing on a fitting, isolated bass note.
Brimstone Coven isn’t doing anything groundbreaking on this record, but it is a release that will surely satisfy the hardcore niche audience of stoner/retro metal freaks out there. After four albums, they still show plenty of potential for growth and development, whether it be shifting in a heavier direction, something more contemporary, heavy or not or just sticking to this particular formula to the end. Whichever way it goes, the next release will be interesting.