Oh, Ghost… what have you brought upon us? Since the masked Swedes hit paydirt with their patented brand of Scooby-Doobie Doom™ via Opus Eponymous back in 2010, there’s been an influx of retro-rockin’ stoner doom bands looking to drive their own Mystery Machines™ over well-navigated roads. Granted, for each one that wows us, there are several more that we wish would just go away. Wheeling, West Virginia’s Brimstone Coven are a relatively young band, having only formed just four years ago, but here I am with the band’s third album, Black Magic. Is this a strong enough album to send our favorite groovy ghoulies packing?
Not quite. Mind you, you wouldn’t know it from the opening title track. The groove set by drummer Justin Wood, bassist Andrew D’Cagna, and guitarist Corey Roth harkens back to early Black Sabbath while dipping their toes slightly into Pentragram‘s waters. Strengthening the vibe is “Big John” Williams’ voice, reminding me a bit of Bobby Liebling (Pentagram) with a little bit of Ozzy thrown in. Once the chorus hits, though, you’re left with a big surprise in the form of three-part vocal harmonies between Williams, D’Cagna, and Roth. All three are capable vocalists who compliment each other nicely, and set quite a tone for the song. It doesn’t hurt that the transitions between riffs are as smooth as blood-red silk, ebbing and flowing with ease.
The good doomy vibes continue on through Black Magic‘s next four tracks. “Beyond the Astral” is a good blend of Sabbath and The Doors, aided by the silky-smooth voice of Williams. “Black Unicorn” has a bit of Jimi Hendrix in its urgency and drive. “Upon the Mountain” plods along at a murky crawl, once again elevated by those beautiful vocal harmonies. But things hit a bump in the road on Black Magic‘s second half, where a strong sense of deja-vu hits and hits hard. Another problem is the placement of songs. “The Plague” and “Forsaken,” two very slow, lumbering numbers, are back-to-back, dragging the album down significantly. So much so that, by the time that album closer “The Eldest Tree” rolls around, I’m already nodding off, and it’s not from the stoner vibe from the album.
Produced by D’Cagna at Sacred Sound Studios in Ohio, Black Magic sounds warm and robust, even with an average dynamic range score of 7. The bass is full and pulsating, the guitar has just enough treble and mid-range to cut through the thick drums, and all three vocalists sound great on here. I just wish the songs would grab me a bit better on the second half of the album, as the first half contains some rather heavy, incredibly-played retro-doom with some serious heft. The songs could also shorten a bit for better impact, as the album feels much longer than its 54-minute run time.
But I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy parts of Black Magic. There is some Satanic charm to be found here, and the vocal harmonies are pretty damn good. Maybe with some editing, Brimstone Coven will be on to something. As it is, I will keep an eye out for their next one.